A couple of years ago I broke down and bought a Squeezebox. This really gave me the incentive to digitize my entire audio library (I settled on 192kbps fixed MP3 via the LAME encoder). The thing that makes the Squeezebox so cool, is the server software – which works with other networked MP3 players. I’m still using the 6.5 version of Slimserver, but will eventually move up to the 7.0 Squeezecenter.
You still need to be a little bit handy in terms of setting up a server, but the slimdevices story really makes it pretty easy to get to where you need to be for a nice integrated story. The UI on the device itself is relatively people friendly (ie: you don’t have to be a geek to use it), and the web UI that gives you the option to control your player from your PC totally rocks. The setup is way easier than building a PVR, such as a MythTV box – which I have also done. The server software is free, and you can try it out using some player simulation software.
The server software supports plugins. This allows a wide range of customization of the base server software. I like to have the weather displayed, and had selected the WeatherTime plugin. This required a free account registration, and the careful avoidance of signing up for spam at weather.com. Until recently this was working just fine, then I got an email indicating I was not using their service “correctly” and would have my feed terminated. I quickly realized how much I missed having the weather available.
It turns out that the WeatherTime folk have updated the plugin to pull from the Weather Underground, so I’m back in business. Simply grabbing the updated plugin (v1.9.5), restarting my slimserver, and configuring the city code (use the airport code) – was all I needed to do.
The squeezebox wasn’t my first networked player, the RIO was my first device. Certainly something ahead of its time. It was only recently that I was able to revive my old RIO and put it to use again, the slimrio project allows you to run an alternate firmware on the RIO and connect to the slimserver. You will need to configure the slimserver to automatically convert the audio to lower bitrate MP3s, this is actually really easy to do – another testament to how cool the slimserver software is.
If I had a better story for syncing data to my iPod, I’d consider storing my entire audio collection in FLAC. In the near term, I’ll continue to suffer using iTunes. Hopefully one day soon, the idea that we will see media convergence (and have easily available software to glue it all together reasonably) will be realized.