Linksys connects PC to Hi-Fi, wirelessly

MP3 in the living room

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Reg Kit Watch Linksys yesterday introduced its first Wi-Fi adaptor for TVs and Hi-Fi systems. The unit, the Wireless-B Media Adaptor, allows consumer electronics kit to play digital media stored on a PC.

The device connects to home entertainment systems using standard S-Video, and audio and video jacks. Plug the Media Adaptor onto your TV and the stereo, set up file sharing on your wireless-enabled PC and, using the Media Adaptor's remote control, you select the tracks you want to play, or photos you want to view. The Media Adaptor displays its menus and media options on your TV, says Linksys.

The adaptor will play songs on a one-off basis or by directory. Users can also create their won playlists, sorted by album, song title and genre, on the device. Linksys said it is talking to major online music providers to offer compatibility with their download services, in particular MusicMatch and Real Networks/Listen.com's Rhapsody. Presumably the idea is to enable streaming to the Media Adaptor, since the device has no hard drive to hold downloads. That opens the possibility of eventually using it without a local PC running in the background as a media server.

As yet, the device doesn't support video streaming - it's limited to MP3 and WMA music files, and offering photo slideshows incorporating JPEG, GIF, BMP, TIFF and PNG image files.

Pictures must first be converted to a format that can be displayed on a TV, a process carried out by software installed on the host PC. That limits this aspect of the Media Adaptor's feature set to Windows machines only, but Linksys told The Register that it plans to support other operating systems in due course.

Music sharing is similarly limited to Windows' own File Sharing technology, but since Linux and Mac OS X now offer SMB compatibility, it should be possible to use either OS as a music host. We'll let you know when we've had a chance to test the device.

Again, Linksys said it plans to add support for IP-based sharing and streaming technologies to the Media Adaptor. It could not say when, however.

The Media Adaptor is based on an Intel XScale PXA250 processor. In addition to 802.11b, the device provides wired 10/100Mbps Ethernet connectivity.

In addition to operating as a WLAN client, the Media Adaptor can also operate in peer-to-peer mode, allowing it to maintain a direct connection with the media-serving PC. That, says Linksys, ensures users with no Internet connection or wireless base-station can still use its gadget.

The Wireless-B Media Adaptor is available now in the US and the UK, for $199.99 and £160 (excluding sales tax), respectively. ®

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