InMethod has come out with a utility that if properly handled, could be the future of personal media. Right now, there are still some things they could do better, but their current iPhone/iPad apps allow you to play any number of media formats on a device that would otherwise be limited to a very specific few. On top of that, it allows you to stream files from a centralized location, such as a media center PC, on to your mobile device.
In testing this software, we deployed the OS X, Windows 7 and Linux (which is still in Alpha) version of the server. We tested these with both the iPhone and iPad devices, and a number of media formats, from .avid to the natively supported .mp4 files. Personally, I rarely keep any media laying around any more, as it all lives on my multimedia server that powers my home entertainment system.
Installation was really easy. The server install on both OS X and Windows 7, the only 2 supported versions currently was really painless. The installers can be found on their website . The installer set up the defaults that would allow the service to work right out of the box. It did leave the media completely unprotected by default, so I would highly recommend taking the time after the initial install to password protect the shares that are setup.
The client was also a breeze. Since this product is designed for the iPhone, and the iPad, the client is in the iTunes store. Installing it is as simple as clicking the 'Buy' button in the store. Some of the options may not be clear to the non-tech end user, but the default settings on both the client and the server will easily support most if not all of your media without any advanced configuration.
Configuring and Using it
Once you install server, you will need to setup the shares. There are only 2 sections of the configuration that I recommend visiting on first setup. The first is the "Shared Folders" section. There are two different ways you can configure a share, one is by a folder on the file system, the other being an iTunes Playlist. The later being one of the better features of this program, you can set up an iTunes Playlist with the files you want to share, without exposing your entire music/movie collection. This is great for exporting shares for kids or limiting access to what content can be viewed off the media server. The next section to visit is under the "Settings" tab. This is where you will enable password protection for your media. I *highly* recommend doing this, the last thing you want is the RIAA/MPAA knocking at your door for distributing your movies and video to "anyone".
A somewhat complicated issue with this product, is that while it is designed to work with iTunes playlists, and apple products, it can not play iTunes DRM format. This means that any video downloaded from iTunes will NOT work on this product. Apple clearly states that they do not allow the streaming of those files to "unauthorized" destinations, so this is not likely to change any time soon.
One of the bigger issues with this product is the bandwidth requirement for the "hosting server". This product doesn't currently support using iDisk or any other "cloud" type service. It requires a pretty big bandwidth pipe to push out the 1080p videos, or any decently sized video for the iPad devices. More than most residential lines get, which would make this rather impractical to stream video from your house to your iPad. My residential connection gets 2Mbit up, which was more than enough to stream videos to my iPhone though. Setting this up to stream from your house could require some configuration on your broadband router, or communication with your ISP to ensure that you are not in danger of reaching a bandwidth cap.
When launching the application, if you are on a local network with the media source (ie. machine running their server software), the client will automatically detect the server, all you need to do is provide the password. If you aren't on the same network (ie. the Internet), you will need the ip address of the machine hosting the server. This can be found at any number of websites online including WhatIsMyIP . Please keep in mind that you will need to configure your router to open the correct port for the server (Detailed instructions can be found on their website) before this will work properly. Once you put in the IP, or connect to the local source, it is as easy as selecting the video you want to watch. The client will tell you if the video file is a supported format, and if not, the paid client will allow you to convert it in real time while your watching the movie.
Typically, I don't recommend video streaming software to anyone with a non-technical background due to configuration and advanced Audio/Video knowledge requirement behind most products. However, InMethod has made this a very easy product for me to recommend to family and friends no knowledge of how video encoding works. This is a great piece of software to have around if you want to lay in bed and watch a movie while someone else is making use of the media center in the living room, or just want to sit on the park bench and stream your favorite TV show while enjoying the outdoors.