PC’s and media revamped

These days, like everybody else, my media is increasingly on my hard disks. It is on PC’s, Mac’s, iPod’s and recorders of TV like Tivo although mine is a Time Warner supplied variant. As such, like everyone else I know, it has profoundly changed the way I view my stereo and my home entertainment in general. I don’t want to build a stereo from a stereo company. Nor do I want to buy one of these “home entertainment” PC’s. I have more PC’s at home already than I want/need. What I want is a super simple way to buy an amp and speakers (of good quality) and just plug them into a box that in turn, talks wirelessly to all of my PC’s and/or hard disks. Think of the box as a preamp, but it can be a lot simpler than old ones because the only sound source and media source is ethernet and 80211. I want my cell phone to support bluetooth to the box so that I can use it and its screen and keyboard/keypad to pick the album, artist, movie, tv show, etc to play/record and I want the box to support record like a Tivo, but on my hard disks. Why my cell phone? Because these days it has a good enough screen to show me a list of artists or albums or shows and I use one with a keyboard, but even without it, it has a keyboard and pointing and then there is just one device in my life. No more remote hell. I’m OK with the slightly painful iTunes style of DRM although it is irritating. In other words I’ll limit my personal use of the recorded media to 4 or 5 personal machines like laptops or iPods.

From my point of view, this is hard. I go into a PC store and they don’t understand amps or speakers and try to push little tiny tinny ones on me. They don’t understand wireless at all. I go into a stereo store and they think I still listen to sound from CD’s and video from cable or DVD’s when again, I typically want it on my disks. They will sell me a flatscreen for $5K or more without blinking, but ask for a 1 terabyte hard disk which should be <$1K and everyone just stares. One terabyte can store a LOT of movies and songs and shows. I also want great recording quality on my sound and the stereo stores seem to know nothing about this. I’m sure I’ll hear from Mac people about how this is all easy/possible on Mac’s, but I did go into an Apple store and wasn’t happy with their knowledge about amps and speakers and cabling and sound.

Apple does something that makes no sense to me at all. They think that the iPod is the sound source and I need a remote control for it thereforce. I want the iPod to be my remote control (when I’m in range of a sound system AND I have no headphones plugged in) and then talk to my “box” that is playing media. It has the UI I want. Lists the songs, albums, artists. etc. The clicker doesn’t. Even the iPod isn’t my favorite remote UI because I can’t type in the name of a song. Hence my desire to use my cell phone instead.

I have heard from Mac people since intially posting this telling me to use Airport Express and clicker. Also squeezebox. I’m going to look into squeezebox, but I’ve tried the Mac solutions (have an Airport Express at the apartment) and have yet to figure out how to get it to co-exist with my netgear wireless adaptor. I don’t want a clicker to be my remote control. I want a UI a lot like the iPod itself (screen, lists of albums, …) where I can pick and choose from the media using the remote. Not just pause, continue. I actually had planned to buy a Mac AS my “preamp” assuming it could do all these things (be my monitor, plug into my amp, be remote controlled by my iPod, talk to my terabyte hard disk using Rendevous, talk to my cable box). I asked the guys in the Apple Store for help on how to configure this and they were just clueless. So I didn’t.

In terms of why prior postings are closed to comments, I was the victim of some very unpleasant spam that turns into 1000′s of ugly comments with links to postings so these days I routinely close postings asap.

I have a posted comment about just using XML over HTTP. Yes. I’m trying, right now to figure out if there is any real justification for the WS-* standards and even SOAP in the face of the complexity when XML over HTTP works so well. Reliable messaging would be such a justification, but it isn’t there. Eventing might be such a justification, but it isn’t there either and both specs are tied up in others in a sort of spec spaghetti. So, I’m kind of a skeptic of the value apart from the toolkits. They do deliver some value, (get a WSDL, instant code to talk to service), but what I’m really thinking about is whether there can’t be a much simpler kindler way to do this.

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