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The final feature I tested was the Video playback. Once again, the main video menu showed my other UPnP servers along with content from my LinkTheater server. But any attempt to list content from the UPnP servers resulted in a message "There is no file in default movie folder". So whatever type of consolidation was being attempted was not working here.

UPnP Servers and Video Content

Figure 8: UPnP Servers and Video Content

I had much better luck with content located on the LinkTheater server. As described earlier, this box advertises support for a lot of different formats, and I tried a few. MPEG1 worked fine, and MPEG2 worked fine either through a decrypted VOB file or an MPEG2 file. I also downloaded a few movie trailers in DivX5 format that played properly.

Where I did encounter a few problems was with unsupported files such as motion JPEG files from my digital camera. These files would show up in the menu, but any attempt to play them would give an error. Furthermore, I would occasionally get into a mode where the video decoder was in a bad state and everything would play at half-speed or slower. This would occur after trying to play an unsupported video file and the only way out of it was to reboot the box. But as long as I stuck to good files, this did not occur.

There was one thing that disappointed me regarding video on the LinkTheater. When I first starting seeing network-connected DVD players hit the market, I'd assumed they'd be able to play DVD images across the network (silly me!) If they worked this way, I could copy my DVDs to a central library the same way I've done with my CDs. But unfortunately, once again, licensing restrictions from the DVD Consortium and/or the MPAA gets in the way of progress. While the hardware would support this, software locks it out.

So in order to get around this, consumers are forced to remove a DVD's encryption to bypass the restriction. I did this with several of my DVDs and found the LinkTheater played them fine. I also re-encoded a number of videos in Divx5 format for good measure. The re-encoding, while time-consuming, dropped the size of a full-length movie down considerably. Most of the DVDs I re-encoded went down to 1.5 gigabytes or less with a high degree of quality. Using this technique, one could fit quite a movie library on one of the new 300 GB drives that are on the market, which brings up another feature of the LinkTheater.

As mentioned earlier, the LinkTheater has a USB 2.0 port on the front panel. This can be used to plug in an external disk drive or USB key with media content. Once the drive is plugged in, it shows up on the main menu where it can be selected and browsed for content. Since the only port is on the front-panel, it's really designed for plugging in a USB key or a USB digital camera for a slide-show. But it would have been nice to have a port on the rear where one could plug in one of those external 300 GB USB 2.0 drives full of media content. Although you can do that now, you'll be stuck with an unsightly USB cable dangling off the front panel. By the way, the only format supported for external drives is MS Windows FAT 16 or 32. NTFS is not supported, which means you can't have files larger than 2 GB.

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