Since I'm lucky enough to have a network drop in my entertainment center, hooking the unit up was just as easy as plugging in network and A/V cables. By default, the unit acquires an IP address via DHCP, so if you have a DHCP server on your network, no configuration is required. If you don't have a network drop handy, you'll have to rig up a wireless bridge or something similar.
Buffalo supplies a media server to run on your PC. I installed it, but my main interest in these types of devices is use in conjunction with a media server running on an NAS device. Using a low-powered, low-noise storage device means that I don't need to have a computer running just to listen to music or watch a slide show.
To test it in this mode, Buffalo supplied me with a "Home Server" version of their popular Linkstation NAS. I won't review the Linkstation Home Server in detail, because except for the media serving capabilities, it's the same device reviewed in an earlier article. But to get started, and to get some content to the mini, I plugged the Linkstation into my LAN, powered it on, and explored it a bit.
Figure 3 shows the main menu from the Linkstation that deals with media serving. The basic idea is that you select a folder on the Linkstation that will be used for serving media content, then mount that directory from a PC on your LAN, and populate it with media files. Once the server catalogs the media files, they will be available to be served up to a compatible device such as the LinkTheater mini.
Figure 3: LinkTheater DLNA Setup
To test out this process, I mounted the shared directory from my Apple iBook and populated it with several movie files, several MP3 files from my iTunes directory, and a number of photos from my iPhoto directory. Once I had done this, I hit the "Refresh" button shown in Figure 3, just to make sure that the media server had seen my new files.
Next, I turned my attention to the mini. When I powered the mini on, a message appeared on my TV: "Now downloading the firmware..." (see Figure 4). Along with this message I noticed a lot of activity on the network LED.
Figure 4: Boot Message
It appeared as if the mini was booting by acquiring a firmware image from the network. To test this theory out, I unplugged the network cable and tried again. Sure enough, it failed. So this tells me that to even turn the mini on, you need to have either a PC running with Buffalo's server, or a Buffalo NAS device on the net so firmware can be uploaded. Once the mini successfully booted, an initial menu screen was displayed, as shown in Figure 5.
Figure 5: Main Menu
There were only a few settings available under Settings: network settings could be changed, the screensaver timeout could be modified, and the amount of time pictures were displayed during a slideshow could be set as well. The "DLNA server" is designed to allow access to any DNLA servers located on the local LAN. The "Buffalo MediaServer" option allows access to servers on the LAN that use the proprietary "PCast" protocol by Buffalo.
Buffalo's own server supports both the DLNA standard and the proprietary PCast protocol. While it may seem strange to simultaneously support both, it appears as if Buffalo is straddling the fence a bit when it comes to standards. DLNA is built on top of the UPnP standard; my experience with various devices that support UPnP is that you get a fairly basic level of functionality with bland user interfaces. The PCast protocol used by Buffalo allows more features and a richer user interface.