Why Wii? The HD version will only be launched in 2012. But you can see how popular Netfix streaming is, while most of the library are DVD's.
Why Wii? Sometimes you don't want to go to the center of the living room and watch the main TV. You don't want to sit in front of the desktop too often either. Sitting in front of a notebook is worse. Kids like their own quiet corners sometimes. I like my own space too sometimes. If you haven't throw away all your obsolete TV's, they are pretty good for Wii. Or you can pick up a decent monitor for pennies in the dollar on a garage sale. You can go to the garage with a Wii, and connect that to a TV that you didn't bother to throw away yet.
Why Wii? The Wiimote is something, though other consoles have been catching up. You can control the usual complicated media player maneuvers with your left hand. 5 year old kids surf channels and movies like a pro.
Homebrew is a generic term for all the alternative software for game consoles. For Wii there is the wiibrew.org. This site is not one of those who try to sell you something when it's free.
First you need to setup the Homebrew channel. Even wiibrew.org is not up to date. For all their methods, you need to buy a real game DVD, start playing at least once, save the game on SDHC card. Then you replace the saved games files with the hacked files.
The best is the Letterbomb method at http://please.hackmii.com/. There are videos and tutorials to help you. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YYDM3D5grp0 To get your Wii MAC, go to the Wii setup menu, at the Internet options. After all that is done, you go to the Wii calendar. You can find the email on Today or on Yesterday. You can see the letter with a bomb icon. You click on it and begin to install. You install Homebrew Channel, and I suggest also bootmii for many other things.
The site didn't work for my secure Linux and secure Firefox. You may use IE or the bundled cut down browser on Ubuntu.
The current System Menu Version of the Wii is 4.3 (U for US, E for Europe etc). You should update your system to 4.3, otherwise earlier systems don't even support USB2.0. Though if you or someone have installed some hacks before, they will be deleted during System Menu update.
The Wii treats storage devices differently. The most likely to work storage is the early SC, up to 2GB. Next best is SDHC, and it works on my Wii. Then it's USB drive or flash drive. I use SDHC throughout without problems.
The next one to install is Homebrew browser, from whom you can download other games and software via wifi. wiibrew.org has a page on it.
The Wiimote is something, though other consoles also have it. With it, a simple painting game becomes a multilayer strategy game, and they are like having fun painting on the wall instead of on paper.
For the media center bit, you should install mplayer-ce via Homebrew. WiiMC is better but it didn't work for me. Mplayer-ce plays at least .mp4, .avi (xvid) and .mov files. It plays all of them on SDHC cards. It doesn't play .mov files on USB flash drive. It only plays .avi files on my desktop via file sharing with SMB. It doesn't play photos.
If you don't use wifi to transfer files, you have to copy the files to flash drive or SDHC card, carry the drive or card to the console. My old camera is good at taking pictures but very slow in transfering the files. The USB connector is at the back of the Wii which is inconvenient.
The best method is file sharing. You play the files directly on your hard drive of your computer via wifi. You do not need to copy and carry the drives and cards around. Actually no files are copied. They are like streaming to your Wii immediately. For this reason don't use ftpii, where files are actually copied, and can be slow via wifi.
The easiest file sharing method is via SMB. The beauty of Ubuntu and Linux is that it's built in. You don't need to install Samba. There are several methods to config sharing on Ubuntu but the only one works for is to open a terminal, and then the command:
The app have nice GUI. You specify the folder to share where your movies will be, and select SMB as the method. You give the share a name, say wii, to identify it on the wii side. Leave the Windows tab alone as you are not sharing with Windows. I don't think you need it but I picked one of the user on the desktop as allowed user for the share folder.
On the Wii side you look for the smb.config file under apps/mplayer-ce/.
#Samba share1 (smb1:/) ip1=192.168.0.2 share1=wii user1= pass1=
Add the share name you picked to identify the path of the shared folder. The ip is you PC, typically 192.168.0.xxxx, depending on your brand of wireless router. I also add the user name that I picked and his login password for Ubuntu. This is probably not needed or wrong way to do it. But that's what working after a lot of trouble shooting.
That is not all. The firewall at the wireless router typically do not bother with network traffic within the LAN. Unfortunately Linux has a good firewall itself. The Wii, and anything else, is not allowed to connect into Linux.
Messing with the Linux firewall is messy. But there is firestarter, that I am already using. All you need to do is to set the inbound policy. You set it to SMB/Samba at the drop down menu, and the firewall will open the ports.