Tech Talk: Making the connection

Your house could already be more wired than you thought, thanks to the router that connects you to the internet
Your house could already be more wired than you thought, thanks to the router that connects you to the internet
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Apps can link your electronic media, says David Behrens.

SUCH is the proliferation of mobile devices that many of us now have libraries of electronic media scattered around our homes like giant unkempt filing cabinets. In my case, there’s a music library on my phone, another on my main PC, and around 10,000 pictures on a hard disc. There’s also a digitised video collection swishing about somewhere.

None of this is a problem – until you want to watch your media on a different device. That’s the point at which you should start connecting them together. Streaming music, pictures and video from one device to another is easier now than ever, and lets you watch, for instance, a slideshow of your holiday photos on your TV instead of crowding your family around a computer screen.

There are many ways to send media around your home but the easiest and most cost-effective is to make your existing hardware – your phone, tablet and PC – do the work. It’s not the easiest task to accomplish (especially with Apple devices, which are notoriously untalkative to non-Apple products) but neither does it require an electronics degree.

Start by nominating one device as a “hub” that can communicate with all the others. I’ve found my Android phone is ideal for the purpose, running a free app called Bubble UPnP. The initials stand for Universal Plug and Play, a system that lets networked devices discover each other and share data.

It takes Bubble just a few seconds to display a list of content available for sharing: a media library on the phone itself and two more on PCs in different rooms of my house. These were installations of Windows Media Player and similar programs which index music, videos and photos.

Bubble then generates a list of devices it can send the content to. Again, the phone itself is one; more usefully, the £30 Raspberry Pi pocket computer attached to my TV is another. All you do is select a source and destination, and content streams wirelessly from one to the other.

Significantly, Bubble did not list my 
iPad on either its source or destination 
lists – but if you want to use yours to 
watch pictures or videos stored 
elsewhere on your network, there are now several free or nearly-free apps that will oblige. AirPlayer is one of the more popular; it scans your network for compatible devices and then lets you play music and movies as seamlessly as if they were stored on the iPad itself – no matter what the file format.

Take 10 minutes to check out one of these apps this weekend; you may discover your house is already more wired than you imagined.