Wrong Again

Okay, they’ve got it all wrong!


I’ve spent considerable amount of time over the last few weeks researching different products that might be able to solve the audio problem.  What I want is a system that will play my digital music files all throughout the house.  What I don’t want is wires, or CDs, or analog wireless speakers.  I want to use the 802.11 network in my house, I want it all digital, and I want to control it anywhere I’d like. 


Here’s what I’ve found.  There are numerous companies pushing expensive products today that will possibly make my dream come true.  They are basically repackaged PC sound cards in a box with a wireless adapter.  They let you play music and feed it into your stereo system.  Okay so far.  They all require running some product specific software that will stream the ‘music files’ to the remote device using the wireless network.  This software is usually installed on the machine that acts as the music storehouse, etc.  What they are basically selling is a pull-based technology.  In the room with the stereo you either use some sort of advanced remote control with a tiny screen or some remote and a menu system displayed on your television to select music to be played.  If you’ve got another device in another room, you can independently request a different ‘stream’ to play in that room on that device.


Unfortunately, that’s actually more than I want, and less at the same time!  While it is incredibly cool to be able to select different music from different locations, that’s not what I’m after.  What I want to do is broadcast.  I want a push model foremost so that when I select to play a song, it plays in multiple rooms on multiple devices all at the same time.


This is my dream.  You enter the living room.  There is not an incredible amount of hi-tech gadgets anywhere to be seen.  There is on the coffee table, or propped up on a counter or shelf, a stylistic Tablet PC that can be used for a variety of functions; show pics, play music, surf the net, etc.  The tablet itself stores the entire music library and plays the music out over the 802.11 wireless.  Elsewhere in the room and other rooms are small stereo systems that receive this broadcast and play it. 


I don’t want a remote with a tiny LCD panel to be my menu into my music selections.  I want the entire library there ready to go with brilliant colors.  I want to use my Windows Media Player, not some hardware vendor’s idea of good software package and UI.


I don’t want a menu blasted up onto a television.  Where’d the television come from?  There’s none in this room.  The television is not the ‘center’ of the house.  The television is located in one place specifically designed for watching movies.  A television is anti-social!  A music system is social.  You play music in the background while you chat with your friends.  


I suppose this is what you get when you put a bunch of computer-heads in a room and ask them to solve the audio problem.  First we get a solution focused on the PC.  Wrong.  Next we get a solution focused around the television!  Wrong again!  


You can’t have a conversation in front of the television.  Just ask my wife.  Now a Tablet PC can be social.  It’s just a control, something you can pass around.  You can pick it up and change the music.  You can hand it to a friend and they can type a note or find an article that they want to share.  You can all sit in a circle and face each other.  When you’re done with it you set it down and forget about it.


Now that’s what I’d like to see.



Comments (11)

  1. Kevin Dente says:

    There are products like this:


    Which sound like they do what you want…except that they share the 2.4Ghz frequency with 802.11b. Not sure if they interfere or not.

  2. Matt says:

    Thanks for the info. However, that’s kind of missing the point. The elegance and mobility of the tablet PC is lost if you have to connect another device that needs to be plugged into an outlet.

    I can already do this with 900Mhz wireless speakers. Its just that the reception is bad and the sound is bad, and you have to go to a fixed PC location in order to control it.

  3. Well, there are devices out there that modulate an audio ro video signal over ethernet. In theory, you could buy some of those ethernet –> w-lan devices, and the modulators, and hook them together.

    You’d need a backend PC somewhere on your network that has the output attached. You could then RDP from your tablet into the backend XP machine, and control media selections.

    This would be an expensive solution. the a/v to ethernet devices I’ve seen aren’t exactly cheap.

  4. Matt says:

    I found these devices originally which is sort of the impetus of my original post. For these you would not only have to have the device attached but also a stand-alone wi-fi adapter and of course two power converters. This, like with the wireless speakers requires special hardware attached to the sending machine, which sort of rules out the free-floating tablet pc. It just seems obvious that this should work with just the wi-fi 802.11 built into the tablet, and not require a bunch of expensive external devices, except of course on the recieving end.

  5. Ray Jezek says:

    You might want to use a portable media center rather than a tablet. Tablets are too big (I think) for what your trying to do.


  6. Matt says:

    I’m not seeing the Portable Media player marketted as something that has wi-fi capabilities, or something other than a toy that plays music and video. All good things, truly, but not what I’m looking for. I’m not looking for another device with limited feature set (unless its all the features that I want.) Then I’ll just end up with the equivalent of the remote-nightmare, little devices doing bits of somethings and not enough to matter; cell phones, PDAs, media-players, electric toasters, blech.

  7. The setup I’m playing with is to run Windows 2003 Server, with media services. I will run this on my ‘archival’ server. That server has all of my content. All CDs, DVDs (yes you can do that), images, audio, home movies, tv captures, whatever. You can broadcast as many interesting streams as you like. you can do this over your home WiFi, and pick it up wherever you like. It would be great if you had ultra small form factor computers to choose from like this one: http://www.oqo.com Then you could simply attach a couple of speakers, or just use headphones, and you’ve got a portable listening device. Add a monitor, and you’ve got a TV wherever you need it.

  8. Not 100% what you are looking for but neat none-the-less: http://store.yahoo.com/gloolabs/homepod.html.

  9. John says:

    I also share Matt’s vision and can not find anything either. I talk to the audio dudes at the local stereo/TV chainstore and they talk about the poor qualilty of wireless speakers (900mHz). An 802.11 solution would be ideal, but that would imply that the receiving end would need a processor to decode the mp3 and transform it to an audio signal and then deliver that audio signal to the speaker. I have found these but they are pull rather than push technology. So if I want to broadcast the same stream throughout the house (and outside in my patio), I’d have to set the remote control on every one of these receivers individually. Yech! Ideally, for me, these would be high quality speakers that would be installed in the ceilings like in a dept. store along with some well placed subwoofers. I want to be surrounded in the sound no matter which room I am in with the ability to turn up/down the volume in any given room. Still struggling to find the right solution. Any new ideas posted?

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