Playing Video Files on Your TV with minidlna

One of my presents from Christmas a few years back was a Sony smart blu-ray player. It was marketed as something that easily streams files from your computer. That is absolutely true for anyone that runs Windows, just point and click. With Ubuntu, it’s a bit more complicated. Enter minidlna.


First thing, install minidlna. Open a terminal (Ctrl-Alt-t) and type this in:

sudo apt-get install minidlna

If you’d rather use the package manager, just search for minidlna.


The configuration file is editable by running this in the terminal:

sudo gedit /etc/minidlna.conf

There are 2 settings to note: media_dir and friendly_name. The names used are pretty explanatory. Here’s an example of what to update:

# Path to the directory you want scanned for media files.

# Name that the DLNA server presents to clients.

Save and close the file. On the terminal run this to refresh minidlna:

sudo service minidlna restart

That’s it! minidlna is all setup to server the files and folders in your media_dir.

Networking Day 7: Extending your wifi range

General Wifi Range is 75 feet if the line from you to the router is completely open. Most of the time, you have lots of things between you and the router — walls, wires, pipes, etc. Many times you’ll find that 35 feet is where the signal gets tempermental.

There are two basic types of wifi extender antennae. Both types connect to the same connector that your basic antenna uses. You may need an adapter though. Some laptops do not have a connector for an antenna, so double check before you go out and buy one for your laptop.

Unidirectional Antennae will boost the signal in one direction only. The best use is when you have a clear line of sight, but are a distance away.

Omnidirectional antennae will boost your signal in all directions. This is helpful if you have a router in the center of your home and the signal in the far corners isn’t all that.

Wireless Access Points
This is like having a second wireless router. If you don’t have a wireless router, you can add one of these to your network to give you wireless access.

There are many reasons why you would add an access point.

  1. If you want to limit access to the internet for your child, just take the power cord to bed with you.
  2. Place it on the porch for access outside.
  3. The list goes on.

Networking Day 4: Wireless Router Setup

A wireless router is a wired router with 1 or more antennae. You should complete the setup of the wired portion before continuing. The router’s admin tool will have a wireless setup section that we’ll be working in today.

Most routers and devices use the “G” form of wifi. It’s technical name is 802.11G. It runs at up to 55 Mbps (megabits per second). The “B” form runs at up to 11 Mbps. The latest version, “N”, runs at up to 600 Mbps.

The speed of your connection will be the lower of the router and the device. So, if your router is “B” and your device is “G” or vice-versa, the fastest you’ll go is 11 Mbps. Just like many other things, you network is only as fast as its weakest link.

AP Name & Channel
The Access Point Name is the name that will identify the wireless network. It will only operate on the channel you select. If you notice that something is interfering with your signal, change the channel. 2.4GHz phones are bad interfering with wireless networks, but changing the channel does the trick most of the time.

Wireless Security
Under the wireless section of your router’s configuration, you can setup your security. WEP is the most common type of security used. It uses 128-bit encryption, the same level used by websites that take credit card payments.

Select WEP from the drop down menu and give it a 13 character password. The better the password, the better the security. A good mix of numbers, symbols, uppercase and lowercase letters is best. Try to use acronyms, like NASA or NFL, instead of words.

Windows and MacOS should have an icon next to the clock to setting it up. Tell it to connect to the AP name and it will ask for the password. Linux uses a utility called wpa supplicant which can be setup graphically or by the command prompt.

Where to purchase
You can get these anywhere. You don’t need all the fancy bells and whistles. The biggest question is whether you want wireless or not. If you’re going wireless, go with the “802.11G”.

One of the best places to purchase a used router is the flea market. It sounds a bit shady, but usually honest and good people work up there, and the price is 50% off the retail version.

WiFi Security

A lot of people have WiFi, or a wireless network. Sadly, many of the WiFi networks are completely open and anyone can log onto the internet and a home network without a password. This is a big security risk. There are plenty of options available, and you won’t have to buy anything extra.

The most common security for wireless routers is WEP security. This requires a 6 or 13 character password to access the wireless network. Without the password, you won’t be able to access it at all.

Almost every router has a web page built in that you can use to change the settings. To get to it, first you have to know the network address of the router; this is always the gateway address of any computer connected to the router. You can find it by click on Start->Run, then type ‘cmd’ and click OK. This should bring up what looks like a DOS box or command prompt. Type ‘ipconfig’ and press enter. Just type the ‘Default Gateway’ address into your web browser.

You should have a login page, if not, please leave a comment with the make & model of router and I’ll see what I can dig up about your router. If you’ve never ever seen this page before, then the factory password is probably still in place. Most of the time the username is ‘admin’ and the password is either ‘default’, ‘admin’, or should be left blank. Again, if none of these work, leave me a comment and I’ll look it up for you.

Once you are logged into the router, there should be a link labeled wireless, security, or setup; Click it. You should see a drop down box with WEP in it. Select WEP. You may have to save settings before you can enter a password, and if this is the case, make sure you are on a hard wired computer, not a wireless one. Make sure you choose 128-bit, not 64-bit which is inferior. Setup your password and save the changes.

You should be all set up. If none of these directions work, please leave a comment or google your make & model router for information on how to set it up. Most sites list step-by-step instructions.

Once you are secured, you won’t have people hoping on your network. Please note that this doesn’t mean that you wireless network is completely secure because everytime there’s new security, hundreds of people try to break it and many succeed.

If you live out in the country with no one around for 200 yards, you are safe enough to run the wireless without any security, but I advise you to set it up anyways, because you never know.