Last week, we modified a Windows Media Center PC to stream video formats such as DivX and XviD to an Xbox 360 console. But what if you want to stream to an Xbox 360 from a plain-old XP Home or Professional system? We got you covered.
by Joseph Moran
Last week, we looked at a way to modify a Windows Media Center PC to allow you to stream of video formats such as DivX and XviD to an Xbox 360 console set up as a Media Center Extender. But what if you want stream video, (or audio or access photos for that matter) to an Xbox 360 from a plain-old XP Home or Professional system?
It turns out you can do that with Microsoft’s Zune software (the download and instructions can be found here), but just as in the Media Center Extender scenario, it provides access to only a limited number of formats. Fortunately, a free media server called TVersity (still officially in beta) offers a simple way around this problem. Like the MCE Encoder software we looked at last week, Tversity can transcode your videos from their native formats into WMV streams suitable for playback on the 360.
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Start by downloading the Tversity software — which you’ll find it at tversity.com/download — and installing it on your XP system (the software may also work with Vista, although it’s not officially supported at the moment). Pay close attention to the system requirements outlined on the download page because there are specific requirements and recommendations (i.e. you need Windows Media Player 11 rather than version 9 and a reasonably fast CPU) when transcoding video and using the 360 as the access device.
If you’ve been playing DivX and XviD files on your system then it probably already has the proper codecs installed, but the ones you’re using may or may not be compatible with TVersity. Within the Comments section of the download page, you’ll find links to a host of Tversity-recommended codecs for various media types.
Once Tversity’s running on your system, you must tell it where to look for your videos or other media. You should find TVersity’s program icon in your Windows tray: Double-click it to open up the program window, click the green plus character near the upper left corner, and then choose Add Folder. Then type the location of the folder you want TVersity to have access to and specify a title for it (unfortunately, you can’t browse for a location and instead must provide the full path to the folder).
Now it’s time to verify that the Tversity server’s running properly and test its network connectivity. Open up a browser on the Tversity system, point it to http://localhost:41952, and you should be presented with an interface similar to the one you just used to add media. Next, look up the IP address of that system using IPCONFIG and try to access TVersity from the browser of another networked system (using the TVersity system’s IP address instead of localhost). If you can’t reach the TVersity server, chances are it’s running a firewall that’s preventing access. If so, consult your firewall documentation about how to create an exception for TVersity or open up port 41952.
If you can successfully access your TVersity server from another computer, you should also be able to get to it from the 360. Note that if you’ve previously used your console to access a PC using Zune software, you’ll need to disconnect it before the console will recognize the Tversity server. You can do that by going to the System tab and selecting Computers, Windows-based PC, and then Disconnect. Otherwise, go straight to the Media blade, select Video, and then Computer. At the screen asking whether you’ve installed media sharing software, choose Yes, continue. After a moment or two, the console should find your Tversity server — select it, then choose My Video, then All Video, and you’ll be presented with the contents of the folder you added earlier. Just select the video you want to play and sit back — it may take 10 to 15 seconds for the video to start as TVersity begins transcoding and buffering video.
As you may have already gathered, using TVersity to stream previously downloaded videos to 360 is only the beginning of what the software can do. You can use the Tversity server to access live Internet content by specifying URLs to video, audio or images — including RSS feeds — and you can do it not just from the 360 but also from a variety of devices ranging from mobile phones to other game consoles like the Nintendo Wii, or Sony PS3 or PSP. (The exact capabilities depend on the particular device being used– consult tversity.com/support/devices/ for more details on supported devices.)
Joe Moran is a regular contributor to PracticallyNetworked.