How many digital media files do you have? Hidden away in the darkest corners of the hard drive or on dusty external hard drives, there are probably more than you remember. All those CD rips, poor quality videos from the old camera with the 1M sensor and the pictures from all the mobile phones you’ve owned are likely hiding away. In an effort to remove this problem I spent some time a few years ago and dragged the files onto our home server, so we now have around 1TB of files sitting there in a vaguely organised structure with corrected metadata where it was possible to do so. Since then we’ve added a lot more and so I’m going to have to spend some more time moving things around, but that’s a price I’m willing to pay to keep things organised.

The bigger problem is how to access all these files? They live on a networked server but they’re still not easy to listen to or view.

I find it amazing that in 2012 there still isn’t a decent solution for allowing us easy, organised access to the files that I can simply install and forget about. All the advances in technology and still we have no complete solution for accessing media. It’s criminal.

I know there are protocols out there that can be used, but have you looked at DLNA in any detail? They’re complex, clumsy and designed by a committee to ensure a constant flow of certification fees. I always find it amazing that it works given how many places it can fail. It’s not open source and while well supported in open source products the detailed specification is closely guarded. I’ve run various open source servers that claimed to support DLNA but they all fail in some way or other and the experience has always left me wanting more. Even the closed source servers I’ve used have been poor in their interfaces and awkward to use.

As we live in a divided household, I’ve also seen and investigated the offerings from Apple. These are more elegant than DLNA but are even more zealously guarded. As they’re a private company I can understand why, but surely opening up the protocol wouldn’t be a huge problem? I really dislike iTunes and having to route all content via iTunes is annoying and means that DRM has to be strictly applied to keep the cash cow that is the iTunes store in business. Of course we have maybe purchased 2 tracks from the store and both are DRM free, so quite why we need to be corralled into the walled DRM garden isn’t overly clear.

Surely it can’t be that hard? When I return home and switch on my laptop it should seamlessly join the home “media network” and share the media it stores and have access to that stored on all the other machines it can see. I shouldn’t need to spend a lot of time configuring it, it should just happen. After all, it is almost 2013.