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What is DLNA?

Tuesday 3rd March 2009 by Andy Simpson in Mobile Phones, Mobile Technology.

DLNA Certified Logo

DLNA is all about the Digital Home and getting the devices you use everyday to work together. Chances are you’ve got a digital camera, but are restricted to watching your photos back on the screen of your PC, or you’ve got video footage on your camcorder that you have to stop and burn to disc, and then hope it will play on your DVD player. You’ve got a big screen TV in the lounge, but can only use it for TV and DVD’s. Getting them all to work now normally involves lots of cables, lots of patience and a fair bit of time too, but DLNA is hoping to change all that.

DLNA stands for Digital Living Network Alliance, and is basically a set of rules that electronics companies are all following in order for devices to talk to each other. I struggled to get to grips with it to start with, but if you look less at what it is and look more at what it does, you’ll soon see how its going to change how we use our devices.

What is DLNA?
The first thing to remember is DLNA is not a product itself (you can’t buy DLNA adapters for existing devices) the support for DLNA needs to be built into the software of the device you’re using, so for most of us its not gong to be something we can all use straight away – but the next time you buy a digital device its worth looking for one with DLNA support built in, just look out for the DLNA logo (shown above).

In order to use DLNA features there are a few things you’ll need:

  • A home network (wired or wireless)
    Most of us by now already have networks in place at home for accessing the internet, so you should easily be able to expand your network to incorporate more devices with minimal hassle. Some devices will only be able to connect wirelessly, and others will need to connect to your network using a cable.
  • Home media server software
    It sounds scary, but its not. There are several different media servers available, but these are becoming a standard part of PC operating systems, and most new PC’s should have one built in.
  • DLNA Certified products
    Certified products include mobile phones, PC’s, TV’s, Network Storage Devices, Digital Video Recorders, Audio Systems, Printers & Digital Media Players. You’ll need more than one obviously in order to really do anything, but no doubt over time most devices in your house will support DLNA.

What does DLNA do?
In a nutshell, DLNA allows digital devices to talk to each other over a wired or wireless network. It lets you access content from your PC on your TV, play music from your phone through your Hi-Fi, all with out having to plug anything in!

DLNA Website - Possibilites

Example of a connected home using DLNA

What does it allow me do?

There are loads of different ways that DLNA devices can help make your life a little bit easier, here’s a couple of examples.

You’ve been on a day out, you get home and want to look back at the photos on your phone. With DLNA devices, you can play your photo slideshow back on your widescreen TV, and when you’re finished you can send all your photos to your network storage device for safe keeping. Without DLNA, you’d have been restriced to watching them back on your phone screen or messing around with cables to transfer them to your PC to watch on your computer screen.

You’ve filmed your recent holiday and downloaded it to your PC, and you sent it to your networked storage device for safe keeping. When the family come round, you can all sit and watch it together, watching it back on your TV using just your TV remote to play it back – its that simple. Without DLNA, you’d have been restriced to watching them back on your computer screen, burning the film to DVD or messing around with cables to connect the camcorder to your TV.

For more possibilities have a look at the DLNA website.

In reality:

I’m sure you’re probably thinking this all sounds good, but does it really work? Honestly, Yes. To give you a better idea of what a simple DLNA network set-up would be, this is my current set up at home:

With this set up I can view photos from my phone and PC on the TV using my TV remote. I can play music from my phone through my PC or TV, and can control hte music playback from my phone or my TV remote. My Dad has a DLNA enabled laptop, and when he visits, he simply logs onto my wireless network and he is able to show pictures and music on my TV straight away with out having to set anything up.
Current DLNA certified Mobile Phones:

Currently there are only around 12 handsets in the UK that are DLNA Certified, the more recent of these are listed here:

Nokia N79

Nokia

Nokia N82

Nokia N95

Nokia

Nokia N95 8GB

phone

Nokia N96

phone

Sony Ericsson W705

phone

Sony Ericsson C905

phone

Samsung Omnia



To see what other devices are available have a look at the DLNA certified Product Range.

If you don’t have a Media Server installed on your PC, take a look at these solutions.

These aren’t the only options out there, but the one’s I’ve found easiest to use, although Orb is slightly different in as much as it allows you to stream your content over the internet to any device. Twonky and Home Media Server are simpler to set up and use.

If you have any questions or comments, or need anything clarifying – leave your comments below!

Related posts:

  • Synerman1

    Thank you very much for this information and the diagrams. This is one of the more simple ways of understanding DLNA and I really appreciate it.

  • http://tom.servehalflife.com Jens

    Thanks for the answer!
    Yeah i guess your right.
    Though it feels a bit retarded if you ask me, to make a function that only works oneway hehe
    Share files but not able to recive.
    I was kinda hoping it was gonna be as easy as browsing your media and update to see it there.
    But i guess not then ;x

  • Andy Simpson

    Hi, pretty sure that’s not going to work as your phone is the wrong type of media device..

    DLNA works on certain types of device being able to do certain things – so TV’s for example can navigate and display, but can’t share or store, mobile phones can normally share and control, but not display. PC’s can normally share, store and display.

    99% sure that this is the case with the Satio so you’re not going to be able to do what you wnat out of the box.. unless you can find a third party app that will enable this

  • http://tom.servehalflife.com Jens

    Hi guys!
    I found out about DLNA when i was trying a program (Mezzmo). It can make my PC act as a mediaserver. Now id like to connect to my pc from my cellphone (SE Satio).
    Anyone know how or in what menus to browse my pc files?
    If i turn on the media server in the phone i can view it directly in the pc, but i want it the other way around :\
    Thanks in advance.

  • Stuf

    Toni, iMediaShare is also available for Android. So far it is sharing only images but I believe there will be a more advanced version as it is the case with the iPhone. Monitor what these guys do at imediashare.bianor.com – it’s worthy

  • Toni

    There is a very nice Media Server for iPhone called iMediaServer. It works with PS3, XBox, Widnows Media Player and other DLNA devices. The best part is that it is free and you can give it a try.

  • Laurence

    Hi andy, thanks for the post. In using windows media player 12. How do I turn settings on and off for this being the server? What settings can I change which may improve the quality?

    Cheers

  • Andy

    Hi Laurence, I think its a settings or bandwith problem, I stream video to my TV using a PS3 (my 40w4500 doesnt support video streaming) and the video quality is fine. What software are you running as your media server? it might be that the software is sending the video at the wrong size/quality.

    try installing another media server and turning off the one you’ve got running now. see if that makes a difference

  • Laurence

    I’ve just brought a new sony bravia 37w5810 which has dlna. I’ve managed to connect my laptop to it and am able to stream pics, music and videos to the tv. The problem i have is that the video quality is awful, like a stretched mobile recorded video. Is there a setting that i’m missing on my laptop (zepto 2425w running windows 7) or is all dlna video grainy? I’ve taken to just plugging my laptop in via RGB cable as signal is perfect this way. I’ve been trying to see online what to do but no avail as yet. Has anyone had a similar problem and know how to fix it?

    thanks

  • Andy

    Hi Alastair, Sounds like you’ve got a similar set up to me. I’ve got the W series Sony TV and that doesn’t support video over DLNA, (from what I read when I bought mine, no Sony TV supports video streaming, but that might have changed now)

    As long as you have some media server software running on your PC, then your TV should see your pictures and music. As your TV is hooked up to your stereo, it does mean that you can play music from your PC through your TV and have it played through your Home Stereo.

    You don’t need windows 7 specifically, Windows media player has a media server built in, but it would mean that you have to add all your music to WM as well as iTunes, and it won’t really handle photos.

    Best bet is to download one of the free media server apps that i’ve mentioned in this post and have one of those running instead. Once installed, you’ll be able to tell them where to look for your music and photo’s, without having to duplicate any of them.

    Hope that all makes sense, but if you have any questions give me a shout.

    Andy

  • Alastair Simpson

    I am about to take delivery of a Sony KDL40Z5800 which has USB and ethernet connections and is DNLA certified. Once installed the TV will be connected to my Home cinema/ HI FI system.by cables.

    I have a large Itunes Library and Picture archive on my HP Slimline Computer which runs on Vista Home Premium. My computer is connected to a Netgear modem/router (by ethernet cable) but is also wireless enabled. Can I stream Itunes/ photos/ video to my new Sony TV and also take advantage of a cable free connection to my Hi Fi sound system or do I need Windows 7 software to do this

  • Peter

    I wanted to try moving the router to the living room and connecting the television to it then try to find a way to run the computer (in the bedroom) wirelessly, but my wife is getting stroppy.

  • Peter

    Apparently i already have a wireless router. The blu ray player finds my network but is unable to connect. Sky told me to contact Samsung and Samsung told me to contact Sky.

  • Andy

    No problem. Glad you got there in the end!

    Andy

  • Peter

    I have asked Sky to send me a wireless router. The Blu ray player came today.

    Thanks

  • Andy

    Hi Peter, from the sounds of it that will do exactly what you want, as long as you’ve got a wireless router.

  • Peter

    As an alternative could i use the dongle that comes with a blu ray player? I have been thinking about buying one. The following text was taken from the Samsung site.

    SAMSUNG’s BD-P3600 sets new standards in Blu-Ray connectivity with next generation performance. The BD-P3600 boasts super fast boot and load times, BD Live capabilities with 1GB storage. Also simply plug the included wireless dongle into one of the players 2 USB ports and you can wirelessly access BD Live content as well as stream all your multimedia content directly from your PC to your TV. As far as Blu-ray players go, the SAMSUNG BD-P3600 will exceed all expectations!

  • Peter

    OK Thanks for helping

  • Andy

    That sounds like an ADSL filter and is to connect the router to your phone line. You won’t be able to attach the TV to it, but you will be able to plug your router in. If your computer is wireless enabled and your sky router is a wireless one, you can move the router to the lounge and plug the ethernet cable into your TV instead of your computer.

    You’ll then need to connect your computer to the router wirelessly.

    If your router isn’t a wireless one, you’ll either need to replace it with one that is (£35 – £50) or call sky and ask them if they can upgrade it.

  • Peter

    I have a Sky router which is currently connected to my computer by an ethernet cable. There is another Sky socket next to my television which looks like it can be used to connect to the television, It is a little white box with ADSL written on it, there are two connectors, one for the phone and an empty one marked modem, this would need ethernet at each end.

  • Andy

    You’ve misunderstood me, the TV connects to your wireless router – not your computer. Your router will be the device that’s connected to either your cable modem or your phone line.

    Your computer can be where ever you want, but if your router is also in the bedroom then you will have problems. If it is, you’ll need to try and move the wireless router to your lounge so that you can plug the TV into it. As your computer connects to the internet wirelessly, your router can be anywhere in the house and nowhere near your pc

  • Peter

    But the television is in my living room and the computer is in the bedroom. If i have to connect them with a cable it would be easier to simply use the television as a monitor.

  • Andy

    I bought a new computer running windows 7 and i have a Samsung series 8 television with DLNA. The computer is in my bedroom and the television is in the living room. I would like to watch video and play music stored on my computer on the television. I have a wireless home network which i only use to get the internet on my laptop. My question is how do i stream music/video wirelessly from the computer to the television?

    Hi Peter, I’m assuming that the TV doesn’t have wifi built in (not many do yet) so you’ll need to connect your TV to your Wireless router using an ethernet cable. There will be a port on the back of the TV somewhere, just plug in an ethernet cable and connect this to one of the spare ports on your wireless router.

    Once that’s done, you’ll just need to go into the settings on the TV and make sure that it is set to look for media. On your laptop, you’ll need to make sure that you have a home media server running – windows media player will normally act as a media server for you.

    If you get stuck or need further clarification, post on the forums and I’ll talk you through it.

    Andy

  • Peter

    I bought a new computer running windows 7 and i have a Samsung series 8 television with DLNA. The computer is in my bedroom and the television is in the living room. I would like to watch video and play music stored on my computer on the television. I have a wireless home network which i only use to get the internet on my laptop. My question is how do i stream music/video wirelessly from the computer to the television?

  • http://mobileosgi.blogspot.com joritter

    Nice article! Here’s a report (incl. a video) on how Win mobile and Android phones can be extended by DLNA: http://mobileosgi.blogspot.com/2009/08/dlna-media-server-for-smart-phones.html

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