My stereo/home theater has really been transformed by the Popcorn Hour C-200. I had an A-110 earlier, but this is really even cooler. The C200 looks like a dvd player, and indeed it plays CDs, DVDs and BluRay disks. But it’s real purpose in life is to stream media from the network. I listen to my music though it, view my photos, and watch home movies, all without inserting a disk or tape, and even better, without having to go look for same. I’ve got it connected via a dedicated 801n link to my Synology DS509 NAS. On the Synology I’ve got 5TB of disk space in Raid 6. The disks are organized into a single volume, with three folder structures for music, photos and video. Since the Synology is just a Linux box on the inside, I run llink on it. llink provides a convenient user interface for browsing the collection and streams the results to the C200. The C200 itself can grab stuff from the network, either by a network share, or through llink, or from its internal hard disk or a connected USB device. If it takes too long to download stuff, I just copy it over via a USB device. It’s also linux based, so I can install my own applications on it and manage it remotely. This gives a huge amount of flexibility. It’s also cleaning up my setup, because it can replace a whole bunch of devices.
The main challenge with the C200 is that in keeping with its flexibility its software is very complex, and the team developing it has their challenges. When I got the device it barely worked, but with every successive software release it’s gotten better. So every two months you get a new software release, and you watch the device get some more capability. As one joker put it, he’s hoping the software will be finished before the hardware is obsolete. Yet in spite of considerable rough edges it’s so cool simply being able to browse my concert collection, and pick out what I want to listen to without having to go up and dig through my closet full of disks.
The only problem now is I keep having to watch my 250GB monthly limit with Comcast as I rebuild my music collection on the hard disks. I bet soon I’ll need to get an expansion cabinet for the Synology to add more disk space. A foot note there – when building a NAS like this, it’s highly recommended to get the RAID class disk drives – they will work better and longer.
The other useful and ever entertaining thing about the C-200 is the very lively discussion forum where users exchange ideas and whine about bugs. The forum is pretty crucial for learning how to get the most out of the device. Definitely a superior toy!