[Theoretical Build] File server, NAS, or...? (Wireless)

Background Info
I enjoy sharing media files between family and friends. However, I find my method of connecting an external hard drive each time I want to share is a bit unrefined. I was eyeing NAS solutions for well over 2 years now, but still am hesitant and perplexed due to their high price.

All I want to do is share files (documents, miscellaneous), and stream music and videos. I have experimented with Windows 7's Homegroup/Network Sharing but it doesn't quite work the way I want; plus, I want a low profile/power/heat/noise and always-on and accessible solution. Researching around, these options may or may not suit my needs the best: a DIY file server; a DIY NAS; a pre-built NAS.

Getting To The Point

Question 1
What hardware components would I need if I wanted an efficient and inexpensive 24/7 file server solution (documents, music, videos)? No torrenting/RAID/optical drive/transcoding.

Question 2
When serving content like HD video, which computer handles the burden: the server, or the served?

Question 3
If in Question 2, the server handles the burden, would I need to install, on the server, audio and video codecs/filters for the streaming to work? I will be using Media Player Classic HomeCinema with madVR and LAV filters.

Question 4
Is a hard drive placed in a pre-built NAS sufficient?

Wireless Router: D-Link DIR-615 (IEEE 802.11n, IEEE 802.11g, IEEE 802.3, IEEE 802.3u)


Approximate Purchase Date: N/A
Budget Range: N/A
System Usage from Most to Least Important: 1) Sharing files over wireless router. 2) Smooth video streaming (480p up to and including 1080p; AVIs, MKVs, etc). 3) Music streaming (MP3, OGG, FLAC, everything).
Are you buying a monitor: No
Parts to Upgrade: N/A
Do you need to buy OS: No. Will be using Linux/Ubuntu ideally if going the route of NAS/File server; home computers vary between Windows XP x86 and Windows 7 x86/x64.
Preferred Website(s) for Parts: newegg.ca, ncix.ca, tigerdirect.ca
Location: North York/Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Parts Preferences: N/A
Overclocking: No
SLI or Crossfire: No
Your Monitor Resolution: One laptop at 1280x800; Two laptops at 1366x768; One desktop at 1920x1080

Must be quiet and draw low power and heat. Will be on 24/7.
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