About technologies for your digital home

For beginners and tinkerers

DLNA

February 25th, 2014

What is DLNA?

The network devices can discover each other and share the media using a UPnP (Universal Plug and Play) network protocol, which was developed by the UPnP Forum. The UPnP devices are “plug-and-play” and automatically establish hassle-free streaming of media without the need for manual setup around the house.

Sony founded a Digital Network Living Alliance (DLNA) in 2003. It is a non-profit organization with more than 250 member companies such as Sony, Panasonic, LG, Intel, Samsung, Sharp, Toshiba and Microsoft in the mobile, consumer electronics and PC business with the main goal further define interoperability guidelines between PCs, consumer electronics and mobile devices to enable sharing of digital media between multimedia devices.

Why do I need to use a media server?

Such devices, supporting UPnP or DLNA standard, can stream the digital media directly to your TV or its media player without needing to transfer the files.

DLNA allows the access from all your DLNA media players to your digital media collection.

However, you should remember, that the hardware requirements for your Linux media server will be a lot higher if the DLNA server will have to transcode the video for few coincidental DLNA media players.

Another advantage is that DLNA server makes ease of use of your media library.

How DLNA works?

I would like to explain this without going too deeply into the technical details; in order to simplify, there are two main components: Digital Media Server (DMS) to store as well as share digital content and Digital Media Player (DMP) is used to browse and play the media.

What is DLNA

The DLNA server (DMS) stores and streams your video, music files and pictures while the digital media player browses, selects and plays the streamed media files.

More details on this are provided on a DLNA technical overview page.

Audio/Video codecs compatibility and issues

Depending on which chip is installed in your media player, which audio and/or video codecs are supported with the hardware acceleration on your media player differ. The processor power may be used to decode the rest of the codecs, which may lead to higher or lower quality. Some of the media players’ vendors provide quite detailed information on which audio and video codecs are supported. However, the information on supported codec profile level (e.g. high, low) and the maximum video stream rate might be missing. If you are interested in that, some audio and video related forums can be highly useful.

In the best case, your digital content (e.g. video or audio file codec) is fully supported by DLNA Digital Media Player and you get what you desire(!) 🙂

However, not all DLNA/UPnP devices work with all servers. Often, this is caused by incompatibility between your media file codec and the media player (on TV, Blu-Ray player or game console). In some cases, the media server may improperly handle the media files codecs identifiers and ex gratia.

At this point, you may ask – what is the best DLNA media server?

There is a simple answer – the DLNA server, which supports the biggest part of your digital library codecs and which is able to transcode the rest on the fly, making them compatible with your media player.

 

The list of the DLNA and UPnP servers for Linux transcoding on the fly and their prices are provided below:

Part of Ubuntu Price Comments
LXiMediaCenter No Free Forced to transcode to a standard MPEG2
Mediatomb No Free
Plex No Free
PS3 Media Server No Free
Serviio No Free1/$25
TVMOBiLi No Free2/$30
Twonky No $19.953

1 The following features will be disabled in Free version:

  • ServiiGo (3rd party Android app for streaming content)
  • MediaBrowser (web-based player)
  • API (used for accessing content over the Internet)

2 10GB monthly allowance of streamed data
3 Free during first month trial