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21st Century - Home Networking

Last response: in Networking
December 3, 2008 6:26:30 PM

I feel this question is best posted here, though it engenders larger questions of varying degree across the spectrum of personal computing.

I am fed up with our current computing infrastructure.



There is so much untapped potential that it is painful, and unfortunately, the status quo is only maintained by existing companies. Rarely, if ever, do independent large corporations innovate (Though we have seen impressive examples to the contrary by both Google and Apple in recent years). I digress however...

In starting, I would like to say I reject the notion that a Computer belongs at the desk. I feel the residents of Tom's Hardware will understand this sentiment far more than the rest of the world.

With as powerful as my computer is, the ability to be both an Administrative and Entertainment powerhouse, I am annoyed beyond belief the extent of what things I *cannot* do.

I hope though that perhaps you all may have some answers to my questions, questions that the modest search engines have failed to help me with.

My System

To give you a little understanding of my computer use, I will let you know that I am a College student in Engineering. Approaching graduation, my computer use is divided into four primary categories:

- Music, Movies, and Television (Copied my CD's onto my computer, Copied my DVD's onto my computer, and have a Television Card)
- Administrative Work (Office Applications for productivity)
- Gaming
- Designwork (CITRIX client CAD design through my university. Upon graduation this will be replaced most likely by my own CAD program or hopefully a similar VPN network like CITRIX)

My computer is primarily used under FreeBSD, with a 10% partition for Windows that I may play PC games, use Adobe Flash, and *better* access CITRIX VPN.

My Needs

I would like to have the ability to make my TV/Projection System act as a remote desktop for my computer. In that respect I mean that I would like to be able to stream Music, Movies, and Internet Browsing directly to my TV, using a remote and/or wireless keyboard for interface.

Some prominent beginning examples exist out there:

Apple TV - Not really interested in it's limitations / cost association / Itunes.
D-Link - All that I have seen are configured for Windows Media Center.

This leads to question number 1:

Question 1 - Does there Exist a system that can wirelessly mirror a computer environment on TV/Projection system. If so, are there limitations to the quality of Video/Audio media that can be presented. From my understanding of TV's, their value comes from their size and ability to present crisp images. If I am streaming from a remote local network computer, will I lose all of that quality? Moreover, can this be done cheaply, without having to go to the expensive extent of mounting a full desktop computer behind my TV.

This leads directly into my next personal need: Home networking.

While TV's are making strides in connecting to computers, one thing that is still lagging (it seems to me), is the idea of client side vs. server side processing.

Ideally, when I go home, I would like to have an ultra-cooled server hiding in some closet upstairs. Laden with a couple terabytes of information, this server would be able to run up to three virtual desktops at one time.

From this position, I would be able to access the server remotely via Netbook/Laptop-esque machines, small portable that I would have with me most of the time.

Some of this is already possible, as using a specially encrypted packed, one can turn on their computer at home and access data/programs. It seems though that this software is still in it's infancy, as speed is a considerable issue.

In a roundabout way, what I am getting at is that Laptops and Desktop computers are getting *too* beefy. Too large, and not just large in size, large in power consumption, processing needs, all of that.

Question 2 - Is it possible to have a central home server while having ancillary satellite laptops with very little processing power of their own, that merely *connect* to this Virtual network? The major areas where this still seems impossible is in areas such as gaming and visual applications, where client side video processing is still integral. Is there a better way we can do this?

I imagine I have rambled a lot. The core point I would like to drive home is that I do not want my desk to be the center of my computing. Rather, I would like some hidden out of sight location to do all the work, all the processing, and be able to wirelessly interface those aspects into my TV, Laptop, and hopefully, Mobile Phone, with an emphasis on the distinction between Laptop and Mobile phone growing smaller and smaller.

I would like to note that this entire post is based solely on my own perceptions of the computer field. While I consider myself advanced in the aspects of computer management, I am well unaware of recent advances in networking among other topics, that are very relevant to my perceptions. If I am wrong, tell me I'm wrong, but at the same time, please help me find a tenable solution. Cheers

TLDR: Don't want computer at desk, running FreeBSD, want TV to connect wirelessly to server, want to run home VPN network.
December 4, 2008 8:51:53 PM

Look up the concepts and ideas behind Cloud Computing. A lot of what you want is already in develop by major compaines like Dell, HP and Google. The idea of replacing the existing structure where users have a powerful home based PC in favour of a stripped down thin client that connects to a 'super server setup' is on the way...sloooowly.

However being able to do everything server side with nothing done client side is the next step after Cloud Computing.

As for your dilemma with the media system...can't you just run a video cable from your PC to your TV and enable Mirror mode in a duel monitor setup??
December 5, 2008 1:53:36 AM

Yes, but moving my desktop computer to my living room every time I want to watch a movie from my computer is... ehhhhh.

I'd accept having a SFF computer as an intermediary and pipe the video stream over ethernet, if possible.
December 13, 2008 12:26:55 PM

I have been looking for exactly the same solution.

My thoughts are that computers need updating all the time and i only want to have one that i keep up to date, clients can be older and cheaper (ie micro atx clientrs with flash disks, or cheap portable netbooks both running some vnc application over wired or wireless network)

The server doubles as a games computer and resides in the living room with hdtv and smaller 22" lcd which allows me to play games on headphones without stopping people watching tv, allows PVR functions to HDTV and also to 'Haupaggue MediaMVP's' - small hardware mpeg and mp3 encoders that plug into tv's artound the house, extending my PVR system.

The Games/PVR side of things is set up very nicely - i only use Vista and GBPVR for PVR function.

What i would like is a 'zero client' approach where i can build a cheap nano itx pc with just RAM and have it boot from network and straight into VNC or similair. I want an 'office' pc elsewhere that only needs to be able to access websites and use office software. Anyone know how i could acheive this?

Joavery: You could try keeping your server/games machine central and local to your living room. Its not too hard to keep a pc quiet with watercooling or just lots of good fans and heatsinks.

Look into GBPVR and either MediaMVP's or the Popcornhour A-110 - both of which can have the same customisable GBPVR menus distributed around the house wired or wirelessley. The popcorn hour can accept any format and is HD.

With your laptops i would have thought a cheap laptop with linux and vnc would the job?