Revisiting the Squeezebox and other nerd audio stuff

I’m trying to price this thing out…. on the one hand an iPod touch and a used 802.11g Airport Express base station with SPDIF optical out is about $250.  This requires a laptop running iTunes to be on and feeding it the music which is in turn controlled by the iPod Touch “Apple Remote” app.  So this is one relatively cheap option, really.  

Another option is the Squeezebox Classic which also can be found for about $200 plus $200 for the Touch running iPeng Squeezebox Remote Control app ($10), so for ~$410 you have perhaps a slightly more robust playback system that is open source and can play FLAC or any other file format for that matter and doesn’t require iTunes, but still requires a server/laptop running SlimServer.  Sonos sells a similar setup and they also have a free iTunes app.  The one cool thing about the Sonos is that no laptop is required, it seems it can pull directly from the TC as a NAS but that would be $350 + $200 iTouch.  

Maybe the cheapest, and I think I might try this route first since I already bought the damn Time Capsule which functions as a pretty good NAS / Backup server… For $25 Rogue Amoeba sells AirFoil which allows you to send your iTunes stream to either an Airport Express unit or any other computer on network (AirFoil Speakers is a free download) which means I could simply stream directly from one of our newer Mac laptops to the old thing in the closet which is plugged into the Edirol UA-5.  It’s a free download with 10 minute tests.  All the data would be on TC or a USB drive.  This might be the solution I was looking for.

Okay.  I tested it.  It works.  So that’s an option.  The final option is just the $50 Airport Express, no iPod Touch remote, and simply stream from the laptop to the base station SPDIF > DAC > Analog Out and control on the laptop as a remote.  The fan on the old laptop is really loud.  If can figure out a way to quiet it down.

Okay. Weirdly the stream from 89.9 WKCR doesn’t work in Winamp under Win2k on the old laptop.  So I’m back to the iTunes Foobar2000 plugin scenario and that seems to work fine, it’ll play any internet stream I give it.  Oh well.

The Radio

So there are a couple of stations local to NJ/NY that I really like. One is WKCR 89.9 FM Columbia University, and the other which I first stumbled upon when moving to New York is WFMU 91.1 & 90.1 FM. When I was driving my stuff up through Jersey four years ago they had this amazing set of music from the 60’s (and if I had known about their webpage I would’ve been able to get the playlist). Both these sites obviously have live streams online, but for better quality I’m going to buy an actual radio tuner. Hopefully something compact with digital sync.

Which leads me to the question, how is it that with a fresh installation of Windows XP SP3 Windows Media Player cannot instantly play .PLS playlist streams? Why do i have to upgrade to WMP 11? or 13? How is it, that 10 years ago Winamp could play streams but Microsoft chose not to add this ability natively. I’m sure there is a way to make it work in WMP 9 or 10 but how in the world did Microsoft not see this as being important? John C. Dvorak had a good article in PC Magazine (his Windows 7 “wishlist”) expressing amazment that something as simple as VLC Media Player can do everything WMP can and more without requiring an upgrade or a reboot or Vista. And he has a reasonable point when he mentioned code base improvements. When I installed Leopard on my Core Duo it actually ran faster than Tiger. That was one of the biggest reasons I was hesitant, but now that I know OS’s can actually improve in speed over time on the same system, really it must blow Microsoft’s collective mind. Also, as aside do you know what plays them just fine?  iTunes.  Do you suppose people running Window’s have installed iTunes on their machines due to WMP’s shortcomings? I’m just punting here.

Still talking about music, I watched the bio-pic Control about the band Joy Division.  It was good.  The movie’s sound quality and sound mix in general were fantastic.  It co-starred Alexandra Maria Lara who I had just seen in Coppola’s Youth Without Youth, she played the French-Belgian ‘zine writer that Ian Curtis had an affair and fell in love with while the band toured Europe.  She and Sam Riley (Ian Curtis) were pretty good as the hot young couple that complemented Curtis’ life outside of Manchester to his young wife Deborah (Samantha Morton) with their daughter.  I don’t know what the moral was, except that it was sad, he was young and that epilepsy treatment especially at that time was still hit or miss.  Now to find a decent used tuner.