I download quite a lot of movies & TV shows off torrents, and with good reason, too. I refuse to be a slave to pay-per-view ripoff schemes, courtesy of OSN, and pay for a season-old TV series, or a 6-month old movie hit. I'm one who prefers to be entertained 'in time', which means that I'm able to watch the latest episode of "The Event" or "Stargate Universe" within 3-5 hours of it being aired in the USA. My main issues was that my viewing happens wherever my Desktop is placed, due to a very restrictive home network setup.
(Apologies to anyone who's already 'been there, done that' if you find this boring!)
After considering the possibilities of accessing my growing video collection on my PC, I've come to the conclusion that something as full-fledged as a Network-Attached Storage system would be quite an expensive investment, especially if you're talking about 2 Terabytes (or more) of media that you're planning to share across your home network.
In my previous post I talked about Apple bridging the gap between a desktop PC and a Home Theater PC, and that given the restrictive nature of the Apple TV ecosystem, the full capabilities of an HTPC had not been realized, and that even though it's 'dirt cheap' price tag is appealing, it's still restricting me to whatever IT wants me to watch. A mac mini, while fully capable, is quite a price jump if you're just considering an HTPC, and using a gaming console would still be restrictive, to some degree.
Enter the world of Open source freeware!
Boxee and XBMC are both opensouce multimedia players designed to covert your PC into a fully-capable HTPC. Crack open an Apple TV with one of them (or any other compatible ones, for that matter) and not only do you get a supercharged HTPC, but one that's cheaper and as capable as the rest out there.
The main advantage of this kind of setup, to me, is:
1) it's a cheaper than a dedicated HTPC alternative to Apple TV
2) it'll allow me to stream my collection all the way to wherever I want it to play, no restrictions
3) it'll allow me to play any format on TV
I've tried Boxee on an older netbook running Ubuntu, and while it does play my movies, the playback is choppy and lags quite often, and that's because i'm using a netbook, and no other reason. But for me, that's a proof of concept that my 'enhanced' wireless home network does support this setup.
I use a Linksys as my main ADSL router, a pair of Powerline plugs and an older, Wireless-N capable Buffalo ADSL router which I'd modified to operate only as an Access Point. The result is near-complete WIFI coverage all over the house.
My next step is to 'modify' an imminent Apple TV2 with either Boxee or XBMC, and wireless enjoy the latest & greatest that the 'net has to offer from the comfort of my living room couch. Ain't technology grand??