Due to Microsoft’s recent price reduction, and what seemed like a worthwhile deal at Curry’s (an extra wireless controller and a couple of games thrown in for free), I somewhat unexpectedly became the owner of an XBox 360 Elite last weekend.
Not being a gamer, particularly – though I don’t mind having the facility for games thrown in – I’m more interested in the XBox for its capabilities as a Media Center Extender. In theory, at least, you can store all your digital media on your home network, and watch or listen to it through your TV, by way of the XBox. (There are stand-alone extenders that aren’t also games consoles, but they seem to be less available here than in the US, they cost nearly as much as an XBox, and the massed opinion of the Internet seems to think that the XBox is technically the best media extender anyway, so the choice was fairly inevitable.)
If I want to explore that possibility, then the next thing I need is a home network capable of transferring media information fast enough. Now, I already have Wi-Fi and it might do the job – but video would be pushing the capacity of a Wi-Fi network somewhat, and I’m not especially keen to have to run an Ethernet cable from the office upstairs to the living room downstairs so, remembering some mention of Ethernet through the power cables, I looked it up.
It seems there’s more than one system, but HomePlug appears to be the name to look for. I found a UK company that produces HomePlug products, and ordered a couple of Solwise 200Mbps HomePlug AV Ethernet Adaptor with Simple Connect & Mains Through. Try saying that without your teeth in.
Obviously while part of the appeal of going for something like HomePlug is that it should save the hassle of cabling, another part is that it’s a cool technical toy. Ethernet through the power cables! Obviously that is going to save the planet and stop all wars, instantly!
Unfortunately I have to report that it isn’t so.
The doohickeys duly arrived on Wednesday, and I rushed home to plug them in and enjoy the thrill of watching something that I could perfectly adequately have watched by using the built-in capabilities of the television, but doing so via the network from my PC upstairs! Please contain your excitement.
Today, thanks to a long Ethernet cable I was able to substitute in instead, I arrived at the definite conclusion that the reason that the picture – and the whole network connection with it – inevitably failed after a few minutes of watching was because the HomePlugs, despite being sold as suitable for AV use, couldn’t cope.
Maybe if you want to try them elsewhere, they will work for you, as they do seem to be a wee bit susceptible to “other stuff” on the power supply. Debugging my power supply is a step too far for me, though, so they’re going back. It’s a bit of a disappointment, as I really wanted them to work – obviously, as I was prepared to spend money on them. Looks like I’m back to good old CAT5 cable; I may have to do a bit of DIY to put it in, but it’s a lot cheaper, and it works.
For the moment, that’s it, and I can watch digital TV (which I could do anyway), listen to my ripped music (slightly more convenient now) and watch old movies downloaded from the Internet Movie Archive (not previously possible without burning DVDs); but the nebulous plan is to get a Windows Home Server machine at some point (maybe something like this one), put some real disk space in it and actually reduce the number of DVD boxes I have lying around.