Thursday, 26 December 2013

Vantastic Video Project: Overview

Last fall we bought a new minivan. The kids were excited because looking through the brochures, they saw -- video screens! When I looked all I saw was the $3,000 price to upgrade to that package. And then I saw shiny DVD disks, dulled by salt and sand. Both the price and the ongoing damage were/are a problem for me.

Most adults travelling with kids will tell you that: (i) videos are a good idea and (ii) their kids are pigs create mess in any space they occupy. The VantasticVideo Project seeks to provide a compact mobile video solution that provides entertainment without adding to the chaos of stuff in the vehicle.

The Vision

I have a home server in my basement, and among the things stored on it are moves ripped from the DVDs I own into h.264 format as .mp4 format video files. Using these already existing files, I'd like to copy a selection of them onto a USB drive, insert them into some small computing device in the vehicle powered by the native 12V "power outlets". The device then can stream the video on demand using wifi to mobile devices (phones, tablets, computers), so that anyone in the vehicle can watch their choice of movie in their own time.

My Solution

The solution is composed of several technologies coming together, and a bit of scripting. So here's the gist of things, delivered by technology.

A raspberry pi (RPi) will serve as the computing device, powered through a mini-USB cable to a USB/power outlet adapter. Through a USB wifi interface, the RPi will provide home router capabilities (dhcp, NAT, client wap, routing) as well as minimal dns. Using a web server on the RPi, it will serve up web pages in HTML5 that are custom-built at boot time, when the USB drive is mounted to the web server's document root. Clients connect to the network, load the master index page listing all the moves, choose the movie's web page they want to watch and the movie is delivered though html <video> tags to enable viewing though the device's native format.

For my purposes I'm choosing h.264 because my kids all have Apple devices and that format is supported natively by their Safari web browser.

Telling The World

I don't have this built yet. As I go, I'll publish a note about my current chunk of progress. Hopefully I'll get it done, and it'll clear enough that you can build one too, and maybe extend to make it better.

So far there are two generic posts about getting the Raspberry Pi and loading the basic operating system. I'll update this post as I publish my progress.

Update: Raspberry WAP builds on the project to produce a wireless home router.

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