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IPTV/VoD: How to set up your own home/office system

It's dead easy, mate

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1. Finding a new home for the kit

Luckily, your brand new shiny IPTV system won't need much space at all. The two PCs (web server and video server) can be hidden away under a desk, kept in a server room or tucked away under the stairs somewhere. Using PLC adaptors means you don't need cabling dangling around. What you will need is a space for demonstrating it on a TV. That could be on a desk, in reception or in a corner of the office with a couch.

2. Choosing the right set-top box

The most critical decision in setting up your system is what IP set-top box you will be using, as all of them run different software and have different capabilities. All of them connect to the TV using a standard scart cable or RCA sockets, and display PAL/NTSC video at standard resolution.

It's preferable if they have a web-based control panel, but many have proprietary configuration screens or use simple telnet. Firmware upgrades are best served with a remote TFTP server, such as that provided by vendors like SolarWinds.

The most popular choice of software is an embedded web browser, which for all intents and purposes does the same thing as a PC web browser like IE, Firefox, Opera or Safari. The developer interface tends to be a mark-up language, usually HTML/Javascript. The main embedded client software programs in use on IP set-top boxes today are Fresco/Galio (from Ant Plc), Opera, Escape/Evo (from Espial) and Myrio (based on Espial).

There are a lot of OEM vendors of IP set-top boxes to choose from all across the world. Some examples include Complete Media Systems, Amino, Kreatel (now Motorola), Vidanti, Tilgin (formely i3 Micro), ADB Global and Netgem. Most are open to the idea of directly selling 1-10 units at a time, although in many instances it is better to go through a central distributor like Garland Partners.

The cost varies, but you should be paying in the range of £100-250 GBP for each set-top box, including a remote control and/or keyboard.

In this guide, we will be using the CMS 1080 (from Complete Media Systems), running Ant Galio 2.0. The box itself supports video delivered in H.264 AVC or Windows Media. We will be using the former.

3. Setting up the network

IPTV runs over an IP network, which means it will work over your existing home or office Ethernet network. You'll probably already have a router or switch that your desktop PCs are plugged into, although it will be best to create a new, separate network for your TV as the traffic load is much higher than a normal data network designed for internet and/or LAN connectivity.

You can use any router or switch at all, as long as it supports multicast. Any £50-£200 product from the high street or online retailer will do. Check the side of the packaging or the manufacturer's documentation to see if the product you choose supports multicast natively (IGMP etc). Normal 100Mbit Ethernet is fine, although use Gigabit Ethernet if at all possible.

If you're running all the screens and video from one server (for example, a portable laptop demo), you can even just use a simple crossover cable. Don't try and run video over a wireless connection, no matter how good the reception is. HTML screens and menus will work fine, but processor-hungry compressed video is another story.

An IP set-top box is just another network client device. When it is connected to the IP network, it is assigned an IP address by DHCP just as a desktop PC would be (this can also be static). If your router doesn't act as a DHCP server, you don't have a network gateway, or are experiencing problems with a crossover cable, simply download and install a free DHCP server from the internet onto your web server PC.

Your PLC (powerline communication) adaptors create an Ethernet network over existing electricity cabling, which avoids the need to have wiring everywhere when you can’t use wireless. They generally come in pairs, and cost £100 to £200 from the high street, your ISP or online retailers. The first should be plugged into an AC plug near the router, and the second should be plugged in next to the set-top box. Both then have Ethernet sockets which you plug normal cat-5 cable into.

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