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How streaming? To anyone, or other clients on your LAN, or your buddies across the street or what? The Video stream is the one that I'm most concerned/interested with, because of the bitrates involved, you'll need quite the bandwidth for streaming anything of length or quality if it's outside your LAN. If all this is inside your LAN, you could use something like VideoLAN.org or MythTV to stream either one of these media types.
I'd like to stream to anyone - anywhere. I'm new to this technology, so any links, doc, info, etc. that you could point me to would be extremely helpful. Especially concerning bandwith, hardware, size of file, commercial software, open source software.
Hardware, not much really... You could go as drastic as you'd like, or keep it as simple as a beefed up Desktop.
As for streaming video to 'anyone anywhere' that's going to certainly be your hardest feat to decide on. Quality will fight for the front seat with size. There are some great codecs available, but making them universally playable will be hard to package together with the compression codecs. DiVX seems to have taken off quite well and I'd imagine it's on most computers by now.
Streaming a video though will require gobs and gobs of bandwidth. You are far better off, yet still require a lot of bandwidth, to have downloadable videos, not streaming. Nonetheless, it's your option.
As mentioned before: http://videolan.org
Has a streaming solution. It's not pretty, but it's free and open source. There are Linux and Windows versions of the VLC which is actually the all in solution despite the name. http://mplayer.org
Should certainly be mentioned. It's the best I've found to convert/compress video to something decent enough to put on a CD, serve up on a website and play universally on most computers. It's not a streaming solution though.
Is something else to look at. Although it's not a streaming application by itself, there are *Plenty* of applications written to include it's use.
And as mentioned above: http://mythtv.org
It works great for streaming on LAN's, and with a little crunching of mencoder/mplayer yourself, you could create videos small enough to stream over the net to another MythTV user. Not a pretty solution, but a working one nonetheless.
The audio it seems you've got, icecast is probably the way to go.
No I haven't, but I'll be sure to look into it. I don't think asking people to download a specific player is asking too much, depending on the content you are providing and to whom you are providing it. But generally, I think the QT player is pretty universal. You've got basically 3 anyway, QT, Real, and WMP.
Minimum bandwidth is variable. A 256Kb up would certainly not be sufficient for actual (constant not on-demand) streaming of any quality video. However, if you compress it enough, you could probably get away with that little of bandwidth to a few people, with OK quality (heavily pixelated at standard full screen resolutions).
Let me see if I can give you a real life example:
A 30 minutes episode of the Simpson's consumes about 400MB of HD space using MP4 compression. To stream this in real time to a single client would require about a 220Kb connection (steady, not peaked) TO the client. On a LAN this is a very small amount of bandwidth, however, via a WAN, that's nearly maxing out a good amount of a good upload connection. So I guess figure out how many clients you plan to have connecting at a given time, and multiply it out as I did above.
System requirements would vary somewhat, but not nearly as much as bandwidth. A couple of fat hard-drives, probably in a RAID+LVM setup, to allow for growth and integrity. 2x200GB should be enough to start with. You'd certainly need a decent CPU if you were planning on compressing/converting the video, and if you are planning on doing it on-the-fly (converting it as it's requested). An Athlon XP 2200+ or more should suffice for a bit, but look towards the future, and possibly go dual CPU. 512MB of good high quality RAM would probably be a good enough start. 2 or more NICs to allow for load balancing might be a good idea. Cool it and box it as you see fit.
For distro's I'd say Debian or Gentoo, this is after all going to be a server, a multimedia server, but a server no less. Debian is very well supported, even with the bleeding edge needs of some of the multimedia server applications you'll be trying out. Gentoo is also very well at keeping ebuilds up to date and ready to go in this area. It's really a toss up, but I prefer Gentoo simply because I got into it while it was still a pup and have seen it grow, where Debian was a mamoth before my time.