Saturday, January 06, 2007

Listen to the music

I love listening to music. At work, I use my own laptop like a (rather large) iPod - its a great way to zone out of the open plan hubbub. Currently I'm just about to hit 6000 tracks, which I mostly have on permanent shuffle. We're looking into sound systems for our house in Italy and although I think the Sonos system (described here by Joel Spolsky) looks fab, I also tripped over the Slim Devices Squeezebox and wanted to have a go with that first, as it's a lot cheaper.

Essentially, we've moved our music collection onto a network attached file server (from Qnap, which conveniently comes with the Slimserver software pre-installed on Linux). You can continue to rip CDs using Windows Media Player (just pointing it at the new network directory).

Slimserver indexes the collection (very slowly - what's that all about?) and then you're ready to go.

Setting up the Squeezebox was easy - apart from revealing yet again what a poor wireless network we have. Eventually I convinced myself to replace the ADSL/wireless router, replacing a Belkin which has never been very reliable with a Netgear Rangemax, which was a doddle to set up and so far seems solid as a rock. The Squeezebox is in the living room, plugged into the home cinema's spare input (DVD, Sky+ and now this).

The Squeezebox looks fabulous - sleek and white and not too small (or large). The music reproduction is fine as far as my aging ears nnd cheap home cinema speakers can tell; and I easily can re-rip my CDs at a higher bit rate. However needing a separate remote is a bit of a pain (that now makes FIVE remotes to lose). That's where Sonos wins - they have a beautiful (massively expensive) wireless remote that can control all your Sonos Zone Players using an iPod like panel. The Squeezebox has a complete phonepad of function keys, and the interaction with the display is not entirely intuitive.

Anyway, it all works fine (as long as we balance the Squeezebox on a box of chocolates - it must be in the worst place in the house for wireless, as far as possible from the base station and practically behind the TV). So now I have to work out how to build playlists, and then decide if I want to fork out double or treble for Sonos at the house in Italy.

Choices, choices!

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