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What is DLNA?

DLNA stands for “Digital Living Network Alliance” and is a technology standard and certification that enables digital devices to communicate and share information with each other. It was started by Sony in June 2003 and has over 200 member organizations around the world. Thousands of devices are currently DLNA certified and more are added every year. DLNA tries to make it easy for the people to access and view digital information on one device even if it resides on another device. For example, if you record a video on a digital video recorder and want to view it on your TV, and both devices are DLNA certified, then you should be able to view the video on the TV without manually transferring the video files over to the TV with some sort of drive.

To use DLNA you need a server with DLNA support and another client device that also supports DLNA. Windows Media Player supports DLNA and some network attached storage (NAS) devices also support DLNA. In addition, there are many free and commercial software applications that can turn a device into a DLNA server. Not all DLNA server software supports every type of media, so be sure to check before setting up a certain application. Some only support music while others support music, photos, and video. The DLNA server is the device that has the data you want to access and the DLNA client is what you will use to access that file. One important thing to know before purchasing DLNA devices is that DLNA can only work if you have a network setup. The network could wired or wireless, but you do need some type of network for the DLNA devices to communicate over.

DLNA is a type of networking protocol called Universal Plug and Play (UPnP), which allows devices to discover and establish connections to each other. Universal Plug and Play classifies the devices that are connected into certain categories. The most important part of the Universal Plug and Play connection is the UPnP Server. This is also referred to as the master device and is what that stores the media that will be transmitted via the UPnP protocol. Major operating systems like Windows and Mac have programs that will make regular computers into UPnP servers and companies sell standalone servers that use UPnP. Mobile devices can also be UPnP compliant and act as server.

One limitation to DLNA is that only certain file formats are supported. For example, the image file formats that are supported for DLNA home devices are only JPEG, GIF, TIFF, and PNG. Now, that covers the most popular image formats for use on the Internet, but it leaves out formats like RAW, that many photographers use since it is a lossless file format. The media formats that can be used on mobile and handheld devices are slightly different than home devices, but if you stick to common file formats, you will probably be fine. Another limitation to DLNA is that Apple is not a member, so none of its devices are DLNA compliant. Apple developed its own proprietary protocol that actually uses the UPnP protocol too.


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