Flutterby™! : Audio frustrations

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Audio frustrations

2010-12-05 22:35:15.490627+00 by Dan Lyke 13 comments

I know I've whined about this before, and I've tried a number of things, but: Am I really reduced to buying an iPod to replace my CD collection?

I have our CD collection ripped to MP3, on a network share, available as SMB, NFS, and probably whatever the hell else I want to throw out there. I'm also willing to copy it to a device.

I have a Chumby, which currently works with SqueezeServer, but the web interface to SqueezeServer is buggy as hell, the whole thing is slower than I have patience for, and we have to fire up something additional to change the music.

There's allegedly Chumby LAN Music, but I can't get it working, I think I could debug it, but that still leaves us without something to browse the album covers (this is important to Charlene).

I want a device I can plug my stereo into that plays audio off the network shares and lets us browse the album cover art quickly and easily.

At this point, I don't even care if I have to buy a tablet computer or netbook to put in the living room, if I can figure out the right interface.

So: Do I need a faster house server so that SqueezeServer is fast enough?

Do the Squeezebox devices provide a usable fast front-end?

If I buy a computer to run this, what's a simple interface that lets us manage playlists and browse album art?

Am I really reduced to putting the MP3 collection into [yuck] iTunes and buying a mumbledy-mumble gig iPod, copying the whole thing over to that, and then plugging that into the stereo?

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comments in descending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment Re: made: 2010-12-09 06:55:33.756148+00 by: ebradway [edit history]

CompGeeks has an Argosy media player that can stream from Samba shares. It's $75.

NewEgg has it as well. It got 4 eggs over 96 reviews. But it does sound like navigation is a weak point.

#Comment Re: made: 2010-12-07 18:49:58.97409+00 by: dexev

meuon, thanks for the opportunity to plug radioparadise.com. Real DJ-mixed music, and 'open source' -- no ads, completely donation driven. It's my 'background' music, which is most of the time.

(But unfortunately not a solution to Dan's problem.)

#Comment Re: made: 2010-12-07 00:17:26.346816+00 by: meuon [edit history]

Dan, I was using a little netbook for that for a while. Problem is, I've become a headphone plugged into my N900 guy. I gave up because of that 95/5% problem Eric states. I could not come up with something that Nancy and I could both use, and our musical tastes are different. I find most vocals too distracting for background music. The world is too fragmented right now to make easy sense of. I'd listen to the radio if it wasn't full of nonsensical chatter and adverts.

#Comment Re: made: 2010-12-06 19:33:11.493199+00 by: Dan Lyke

At this point I'm actually thinking that a tablet computer or netbook running something with a file browser is the right way to go. Point it at the NAS share, plug the other side into the stereo, just let whatever the stock media player is on whatever OS ends up on the silly thing is do the playing.

#Comment Re: made: 2010-12-06 17:43:51.443874+00 by: ebradway

I think all of this technology is about 95% of the way "there". But that last 5%, as usual, is taking 95% of the time. I've been looking into adding something to our entertainment center that can stream Netflix. I already pay for a subscription. But for various reasons, the space beyond 3m of my desk functions 10-20 years behind the curve.

Yep... that's an answering machine attached to a land-line. The ginormous box with Sony on the front is a 36" SDTV, that connected to our Sony DVD player provides state-of-the-art 480i DVD playback. The audio is connected to the Harmon-Kardon amp via RCA audio cables but Dolby DTS is pumped through (the $1500 new amp doesn't have optical inputs). DTS simulates 5.1 through our 2.1 speaker system. Lots of other examples around the house as well... Like the huge rack of CDs occupying about 10 square feet (fortunately, my house is close to $100/sq ft since I live in Longmont and not Boulder).

My wife has a very low tolerance for technology glitches. When was the last time you heard someone complain about voice quality on cell phones? I heard it the last time my wife used one. I hear it every time she gets a call from someone on a cell phone. She doesn't even care for DVDs that much because they are more prone to dirt, crud and scratches resulting in movies that freeze in the last 15 minutes (evidently, an artifact of the DVD format being designed before movies started exceeding 2hrs regularly is that the first layer is only 2hrs long, so at the 2hr mark, the player switches to layer 2 and is more sensitive to crud). Watching streaming videos? It had better be perfect - no "loading" or "buffering" in the middle of dialog or it's back to VHS for me!

But back to the tech... the irony is that, with H.264 chips a dime-a-dozen, even HD video is relatively cheap to decode. So it's not the codec or prcessor. Disk space is basically free. My latest shopping puts the low end of spinning media at about $0.05/GB ($50/TB). Even in FLAC and raw DVD rips, a TB will easily hold 1000 CDs and 100 DVDs. So it's not the storage.

The NBox Media Hub (see also http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1ZhLjm7k9tk) is $30 on Amazon and provides HD video, audio and photo slideshows from USB devices. So it's not the interface with the entertainment center. The main thing it lacks is connectivity (and maybe that's what keeps it simple).

One symptom that it's just "not there yet" is that everyone is building similar capabilities into freakin' everything. The Xbox can do it all. BluRay players can stream Netflix and Pandora. Many TVs can stream video themselves. Even Western Digital is making devices (i.e., streaming video and audio are now add- on features for hard drives).

One "cheap" solution. Buy an NBox and a USB hard drive. Copy your media to it. Connect it to the TV and stereo. Only problem is updating the media.

#Comment Re: made: 2010-12-06 16:15:42.19812+00 by: Dan Lyke

In no particular order:

  1. I'm installing SqueezeServer on a faster machine now to see if that's a solution. If so, then maybe we just get a tablet for the living room (Finally, a use for the iPad?)
  2. Album covers is really important to Charlene, as is not having to start up her laptop to browse. Even with the widget, XBMC doesn't allow browsing from the Chumby, just pause and play (so far as I can tell).
  3. The 160 gig iPad Classic would handle our music library (I think we're in the 50-60 gig range, although I'm discovering things that apparently weren't digitized or got corrupted in one copy or another), but it'd require booting something in Windows or Mac OS to load stuff on to, it'd be nice if we didn't have to do that.
  4. The Airport Extreme answer seems to need a fairly beefy server, so maybe I'll muck around with Squeezecenter to see if I can get that working, 'cause neither of us wants to go further down the Apple path if we don't have to. (I'm happy to be rid of my iPhone and back on a device that works as a phone, and Charlene's iPhone is failing in annoying ways, first the WiFi failed, which she got replaced, now the Bluetooth has failed and her wired headset is no longer working, leading to similar sentiments from her).

#Comment Re: made: 2010-12-06 14:58:46.099217+00 by: topspin

Really over my head here but.....

XBMC is a beast that might suit you. GPL, lots of skins and options, and there's a widget that makes it work for a Chumby.

#Comment Re: made: 2010-12-06 10:39:39.625327+00 by: DaveP

Like Medley, I use iTunes and an Airport Express that connects to the stereo.

It's mostly okay for me, but then I treat iTunes the same as I did SoundJam, as just an app for playing music. I think I've synced my phone by plugging it into the Mac with a wire exactly once, when I first got it.

I would recommend against buying a mumbledy-mumble gig iPod. If your music collection is anything like mine, they don't make one big enough to hold it all at acceptable quality levels.

#Comment Re: made: 2010-12-06 01:17:09.760712+00 by: John Anderson

Right now, everything runs through iTunes in our house, with the primary listening device being an new- style AppleTV that's hooked up to the main television.

I've also got a SqueezeBox (which is going to get hooked back up one of these days, RSN). The key to getting that interface to not suck is putting it on hardware that's fast enough and getting the right skin on the interface. A little embedded NAS device thing wasn't fast enough; the 2.2GHz dual-core Athlon does just fine (that's the house server).

#Comment Re: made: 2010-12-05 23:31:16.579276+00 by: Medley

We use iTunes. And we stream from the main iTunes library to an Airport Extreme (or whatever they're called) plugged into speakers.

More precisely, we have 3 Airport Extremes connected to 3 different sets of speakers in the house... so the main iTunes library on my iMac streams to living room and/or kitchen and/or TLG's room.)

We can control the streaming from the iMac or by using the Apple Remote app on the iPodTouch, iPhone, or iPad. (There is no Apple Remote for MacOS, so.. the other Macs are underprivileged in this respect.)

But, we can load the library itself over the home network using any of the other Macs and play from it using that Mac as a driver - so Spouse can load the library on his laptop and play whatever he wants while I listen to something else.

That said, interface issues aside (of which there are many), the entire architecture is broken. I think, for instance, that all of my devices should be peers wrt the iTunes library once authorized, but instead the iMac is (kind of) the master and everything else is a step-child.

It kinda works, but it's irritating. And it's kinda slow given the size of our library (100G of music, then another 50G in podcasts and video.)

#Comment Re: made: 2010-12-05 23:09:25.119813+00 by: Dan Lyke

It may actually be fine on a faster machine, so if you do set it up I'd love to hear other experiences.

#Comment Re: made: 2010-12-05 22:57:28.032898+00 by: Shawn

Oh, sorry to hear about your troubles w/ SqueezeServer. I was going to look into setting one up once I get the box with my music on it back up - because there's a client app available on Roku.

#Comment Re: made: 2010-12-05 22:54:54.909188+00 by: Shawn [edit history]

It's not a local solution, but I'm currently in the process of copying all my music into a Premium MP3tunes* locker. From there I can stream it to any number of devices (including our Roku and Android phones), via the web, etc. (I think there may even be a Chumby app.)

And while I don't recall it offering the kind of features you're asking for (yet?), DoubleTwist* is a quickly-growing alternative to iTunes. Using it might open up some avenues that iTunes is locking you out of.