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Summary:

Two nights ago, I was pretty intent on getting at music on my Windows Home Server from anywhere but my home. While I was successful to some extent, I experienced failure as well. Using Firefly Media Server and the Fireplay add-in, I was able to stream […]

orb-palm-preTwo nights ago, I was pretty intent on getting at music on my Windows Home Server from anywhere but my home. While I was successful to some extent, I experienced failure as well. Using Firefly Media Server and the Fireplay add-in, I was able to stream music to any web browser — provided that browser supports Flash. That’s fine for my computers when I’m on the road, but it’s of no use when I simply want to use a handset. Neither my Apple iPhone nor my Palm Pre supports Flash yet, so I wasn’t happy with the solution in place.

I spent a good four hours researching my options between then and now. Many of you offered great suggestions and I hit those first: LogMeIn, Simplify Media, Orb, Webguide, and SqueezeCenter all got a look. I then kept sleuthing and found several other possibilities: LobsterTunes, icecast / ShoutCAST, Subsonic and more crossed my browser.

In the end, many of the solutions were constrained by the Flash requirement or offered solutions specific to a particular type of handset. Ultimately, I want total freedom in the devices I use, so a tool for a specific mobile platform isn’t the answer. So after several hours of research, I took VP’s suggestion and revisited an old friend: Orb. The software not only works with my iPhone and Palm Pre, but it’s among the easiest server solutions to implement.

orb-iphoneOver at the We Got Served wiki, I found all of the simple steps to get Orb running on my Windows Home Server box. Orb is pretty straightforward to get going and I’ve used it several times before, but I hit up the wiki just to sure I didn’t overlook anything. It was basically just a simple, standard Windows installation with very little configuration. All I really had to do after the installation was point out my shared Music folder to the Orb server. I also set up the family with user names and accounts since they have mobile devices and we have one centralized libary on the Windows Home Server now.

Once Orb is running, it’s easy to get at the tunes on an iPhone, but not so much on a Palm Pre. I’ll get to that in a second. For an iPhone or iPod Touch, you simply point your mobile browser at http://mycast.org.com, log in and start to navigate through the music library. There’s nothing to configure here — just pick your tunes and the stream will open up in the iPhone QuickTime application. That’s not the case with the Palm Pre.

Orb will try to use the built in music player of your mobile device and to be honest, I wasn’t sure what audio streams the Pre’s player natively supports. In fact, I couldn’t get any audio to stream on the Pre, even though I could hit up my library in the browser. Once again, a little research did the trick. The handy PreCentral forums have a great guide for getting Orb to work with the Palm Pre. The key is to configure Orb to send the proper audio stream. In the case of the Pre, that stream format is “3GP-AAC/RTSP fromat (.3gp)” If you don’t configure this correctly on your Pre, you’ll simply end up with errors when trying to play audio.

orb-palm-pre-stream-format

After choosing the correct stream setting, I was good to go. I tested the setup by turning Wi-Fi off on both of my phones. Using the iPhone, I connected to the Orb server on my WHS machine and began to stream some Big & Rich. Once that was playing, I used the Pre to stream some KT Tunstall from Orb. It worked flawlessly, although it confused the heck out of my ears. ;)

Thanks to everyone for the great suggestions and especially to VP for reiterating the Orb option. There are plenty of media streaming add-ins and server solutions out there, but for a diversity of devices, Orb is looking like the best approach for my needs. The beauty of this solution the large list of supported devices you can use with Orb — from feature-phones to smartphones to gaming consoles, it’s a solid solution.

Now that I have it working, I put a shortcut to Orb on both of my phones for one-touch music streaming capabilities. When I was originally purchasing the Palm Pre, I was lamenting the 8GB of flash storage since my digital media library is larger than that. Thanks to an always-on connection and the WHS box, I’ve put that concern in the Recycle Bin for deletion.

  1. Great that you’ve found the solution Kevin. I was going to suggest the iPhone app HP offers with their WHS boxes, but I might just try out orb myself.

    Two key questions I wanted to ask you about your WHS box though: do you keep it powered on 24/7, and do you have it plugged into a UPS?

    Thanks!

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    1. I’ve been shutting down the WHS before bed and firing it up again as needed during the day. I don’t have it plugged in to a UPS and I’m not sure I will. If I lose power at the house, I’ll have lost my FiOS connection as well, although there is a backup battery for that. Once my web connection is gone, I don’t see much point to having the WHS up and running. I’d have to put my router on the UPS as well. Too much hassle for too little benefit with my needs. Maybe I’ll change my mind on that in the future, but it’s not a priority for me just yet.

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  2. I know Orb works for Blackberry also. I had Orb streaming to my Blackberry 8900 a few weeks ago before I had to send the notebook back. I just finished configuring WHS and now know Orb ought to work like a champ.

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  3. You should dump your iPhone and Pre and just get a Nokia N series phone instead…their browsers support flash.

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  4. Dear Kevin,
    ORB rocks. It works on Andorid as well and you can stream video to your iPhone over 3G or Edge even if your ISP is not giving you a public IP address for your home server.
    Good streaming
    Stefano Somenzi

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  5. Got Orb up and running on WHS streaming to 8900. Had to open 554 on the router, and it won’t stream when I am connected over wifi, but it works over EDGE.

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  6. You’re making me want to set up a server now…

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  7. Thanks for posting this, Kevin! I’m in the same situation with my Pre, and I was just about to start researching a solution, so you’ve saved me a ton of time.

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  8. Thanks for the tip. I have Orb working and can: (1) watch TV recorded on my Windows Media Center, (2) listen to my music collection; (3) view my pictures; (4) listen to my favorite Sirius stations (which I added to my “Favorite Internet Radio Stations” via Orb).

    Also, if anyone is a Howard Stern fan and doesn’t want Orb, I believe you can still listen to Howard 101 via Shoutcast on the Pre right through the browser. All you do is Open classic.shoutcast.com in the Pre browser; type “Howard 101″ into the search box.
    Click on Listen Now.

    On last Pre streaming bonus, archive.org videos will stream to the Pre. Use the browser to nav to archive.org, click on “Moving Pictures” and select from the excellent selection of (mostly) classic films. I suggest the Cary Grant classic “His Girl Friday.”

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    1. This is specifically the reason I didn’t buy a pre…I pointed it to my website of mp4s from my Axis network camera and it puked on them (file type not supported).

      This is why I have an iPhone ONLY for it’s browser/sms and mp4 support. Only phone I found that was single click for my home/security system.

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