Why Every Modern Family Needs a Media Server

Note: This article was originally published on Seagate’s Digital Den blog here

I spent a good part of the holiday season collecting family pictures, videos, music and storing them on a Media Server.  Getting everything running was free since no additional hardware was required and the process was very easy.  However, it was time consuming since our files were scattered across multiple computers, phones, cameras, SD cards, CDs, DVDs, VHS tapes, MiniDV tapes, USB drives, cloud drives, etc.  This is not an indictment of Media Servers but a reflection of how many devices and how many storage mediums most people have recently used.

Why Bother?

  1. Forces you to collect and organize your precious family photos, videos and music.  Ours were scattered across computers, phones, cameras, SD cards, CDs, DVDs, USB drives, cloud drives, etc.
  2. Forces you to take inventory and determine what areas need improvement.  In our case we were surprised that we only took photos at our last vacation and that we hadn’t saved any family videos in almost 5 years.
  3. Forces you to collect and centralize your family’s music.  Our old CD collection is now greatly enhanced by our son’s iTunes collection.  This has given us a nice collection of oldies and contemporary tunes.
  4. Breathe new life into your old CD and DVD collection.  Stop hunting through your old discs and make them more accessible at the click of a button at any time.
  5. Access your pictures, videos and music on all your smart devices (TVs, phones, computers, tablets, internet radios, etc.)
  6. Access your entire music collection from your internet radios.  We have three different models of internet radios and all of them have support for playing files from a Media Server.  All of them allow me to pause my music stream and resume when I return to the same room.
  7. Your Media Server will provide you with enormous storage with no monthly fees without tying you to a particular cloud storage option.
  8. Once collected your files will be easy to back up and transfer since everything will be in one place.  I was quickly able to transfer my entire music collection to a USB drive for my car.
  9. You may already have the equipment required (comes with modern routers, modems and NAS drives) like I did or you can easily add it to your network for a modest price (~$100).
  10. You’ll watch more precious memories of your loved ones and get more use and enjoyment out of your music collection.
  11. You’ll have a better process for collecting your photos, music and videos from now on.

Why not use Cloud Storage?

Media Servers provide many advantages over Cloud Storage such as price, speed and security.  Some of these advantages are:

  1. Cheaper since you can buy terabytes of storage for approximately $100 without any monthly fees.  Many like me will already have an existing USB or NAS drive that they can use for free.
  2. Faster since you are not limited to the speed of your internet connection but only by the speed of your network.
  3. Available even with your internet goes down.  Our service was recently down for a day but we could still access our Media Server since it is on our local network.
  4. Does not use up your internet download limit.  Most ISPs still have those pesky download caps.
  5. More control over security than using a cloud service.  I’ve made my Media Server available only from our LAN for now.
  6. Many smart devices (internet radios, set top boxes, etc.) do not have support for cloud options but do have support for Media Servers.

I’m using the cloud as a complementary service with limited storage for my insensitive data.  Specifically, I’ve copied only my music collection to the cloud since I’m not worried about security for these files and I can access them from some music streaming apps (Groove, iTunes, etc.) when I’m away from home.

How to do it?

  1. Check whether your modem, router or NAS drive have a built in DLNA or iTunes Media Server.  My ASUS RT-AC66 router came with both as did my Seagate Central 2TB NAS drive.
  2. Store a few files on each of your Media Servers to see which works best for your client devices (phones, TVs, computers, tablets, internet radios).  I found that my  Seagate Central 2TB NAS drive‘s DNLA Server worked best with my devices.
  3. Collect all of your videos, photos and music.  If your family is like mine you’ll have to check multiple computers, phones, cameras, SD cards, CDs, DVDs, USB drives, VHS tapes, cloud drives, etc.
  4. Rip your CDs and DVDs so that the files are in formats that can easily be used (MP3 for music, MP4 for videos, etc.) by your Media Server.  CDs were easy to rip with Windows Media Player which is included with Windows 10 but I needed to download an app to rip my DVDs.  After some experimenting I found that HandBrake was the best for my purposes.
  5. If you have short video clips you may want to join related clips to make your collection easier to navigate and enjoy.  I used FreeVideoJoiner to do this.
  6. Assess your collection and organize them appropriately. For my vast photo collection I organized them in subfolders by year; music was organized by artist and album while my video collection was small enough (after joining related ones) to keep them in one folder for now.
  7. Copy all of your reformatted and reorganized files to your Media Server in the music, photos and videos folders.
  8. Install Media Server clients on your smart devices (phones, set-top boxes, etc.).  I used BubblePNP for our Android phone and set-top box, Roku Media Player For our Roku box and Smart Player for our Windows Phone.
  9. Test and enjoy your Media Server collection from all you smart devices

Summary

A Media Server is a great and underutilized way to collect, store and enjoy your media files throughout your home and when you are on the go if you wish.   Some people may need to buy an inexpensive USB or NAS drive but no dreaded monthly fees should ever be required.  If you’re lucky like me you probably already have everything you need and you can access your precious pictures, music and videos from any smart device at any time for free!

The Expert Guide to Sheridan College's Applied Computing Programs

Sheridan’s School of Applied Computing in the Faculty of Applied Science and Technology (FAST) offers 11 excellent programs covering the whole spectrum of computing. With so many great choices the biggest problem for applicants is which of 11 seemingly similar program they should choose. The differences appear to be subtle but can be very significant. This post is an attempt to summarize our programs and help applicants to find the best program for them.  For an even quicker graphical summary, please refer to the following diagram.

The School of Applied Computing offers programs that cover different credentials including: 2-year Diplomas, 3-year Advanced Diplomas, 4-year Degrees and 1-year Graduate Certificates. It is often useful to consider our programs by credential level.

2-Year Diplomas

There are three, 2-year Diploma programs in the School of Applied Computing. All of these programs cover key Computer Science fundamentals in operating systems, networking, programming, databases and systems analysis. They also provide students with the soft skills that employers typically want, including communication and presentation skills. The three programs are as follows:

This program is a favorite of mature students with prior credentials.  The strengths of this program include:
This program is similar to the Computer Programmer (CP) program and shares many of the same course in web development, Java and C# programming.  The strengths of this program include:
This program is great for students who are interested in working in the Information Technology sector but do not want to focus as much on Math and programming. The strengths of this program include:
  • Heavy focus on skills needed for industry including Microsoft Office, C# programming, Networking, and communication skills.
  • Extensive coverage of support for PCs, Networking and Mobile devices
  • Provides 2 co-op semesters (total of 8 months)

Please note that currently this program does NOT provide pathways into our Advanced Diploma or Degree programs.

3-Year Advanced Diplomas

There are three, 3-year Advanced Diploma programs in the School of Applied Computing. All of these programs provide deep coverage of key Computer Science fundamentals in operating systems, networking, programming, databases and systems analysis. They also provide students with the soft skills that employers typically want including communication and presentation skills. Most importantly for many students is that all of these programs provide students with an opportunity for 3 semesters (total of 12 months) of co-op work experience. The three programs are as follows:

Computer Systems Technology – Systems Analyst (SA)

The big sister of the Computer Programmer (CP) program.  The strengths of this program include:

Computer Systems Technology – Software Development and Network Engineering (SDNE)

The big sister of the Computer Systems Technician – Software Engineering (SE) program. This program is similar to the Computer Systems Technology – Systems Analyst (SA) program and shares many of the same courses in web development, Java and C# programming.  The strengths of this program include:

This program is great for students who are interested in working in the design and configuration of advanced communication networks. The strengths of this program include:
  • Offering up to 12 months of co-op work experience
  • Providing a solid Computer Science core
  • Providing advanced coverage of networking design and configuration
  • Providing extensive access to an advanced networking lab with state of the art lab equipment
  • Providing a good pathway into the 3rd year of our Bachelor of Applied Information Sciences (Information Security) (BAISc) program

4-Year Bachelor’s Degrees

There are three, 4-year Bachelor’s Degree programs in the School of Applied Computing which cover highly sought after and rapidly growing fields of computing. All of these programs provide deep coverage of key Computer Science fundamentals in mathematics, operating systems, networking, programming, databases and systems analysis. They also provide students with a degree credential which can help with their career progression. Most importantly for many students is that all of these programs provide students with an opportunity for 3 semesters (total of 12 months) of co-op work experience. The three programs are as follows:

Bachelor of Applied Information Sciences (Information Security) (BAISc)

This program is great for students interested in stopping hackers from accessing critical and sensitive data. The strengths of this program include:

  • Offering up to 12 months of co-op work experience including an 8 month security focused paid internship
  • Specialized knowledge in a high demand and rapidly growing field
  • Excellent reputation as demonstrated by receiving the 2014 Association of Canadian Community Colleges (ACCC) Gold Medal Program Excellence Award .

This program is great for students interested in building apps for the various app stores or for their companies. The strengths of this program include:

  • Graduates are eligible to apply to more than 20 graduate programs at Canadian and international universities
  • Specialized knowledge in a high demand and rapidly growing field
  • Offering up to 12 months of co-op work experience including an 8 month paid internship

Bachelor of Computing and Network Communications

This program is great for students who are interested in obtaining a degree credential and working in the design and configuration of communication networks. The strengths of this program include:

  • Offering up to 12 months of co-op work experience
  • Specialized knowledge in a high demand and rapidly growing field
  • Strong partnership with Brock University which leverages the strengths of both institutions

Graduate Certificates

The School of Applied Computing has two, 1-year Graduate Certificate programs. Both of these programs provide specialized skills and knowledge to students with relevant prior credentials. The two programs are as follows:

This program is great for “creators” who have both creative and computing skills.  The strengths of this program include:

  • Preparing students for the exciting industry of Interactive Media in only 8 months
  • Providing extensive access to an advanced lab with state of the art equipment
  • Providing an inherently cross disciplinary focus
  • Providing solid coverage of both the creative side and technical/computation side of the industry

This program is great for students interested in a career as a Game Programmer.  The strengths of this program include:

  • Preparing student for the exciting industry of Game Development in only 12 months
  • Providing extensive access to an advanced lab with state of the art equipment
  • Dedicating the final semester of the program to building an advanced game for student portfolios
  • Providing an opportunity to work with students in the Game Level Design program of the Faculty of Animation, Arts & Design (FAAD) to help improve the look and feel of games

Final Suggestions

  1. Younger students coming directly from High School should be looking towards a 3-year Advanced Diploma or 4-year Degree Program since they provide invaluable co-op work experience and better credentials for career progression.
  2. Mature students should consider the Computer Programmer (CP) program with its 16 month “fast track” option if they have prior work experience or a Graduate Diploma or Degree Program if they have a prior relevant academic credential
  3. Please visit us at our upcoming Open House event to be held on April 23rd or contact the School of Applied Computing to schedule a meeting with an Academic Advisor for more information
  4. Please consult the attached diagram for a quick summary of all of our Applied Computing programs. Please note that the arrows depict pathways between programs and credentials
  5. If you are considering a career in computing, give Sheridan’s 11 excellent programs in the School of Applied Computing a close look!