As I’ve mentioned earlier, my apartment building is soon making the move from analogue to digital TV. Through the same fiber optic cable the we’ll also get IP telephony and a lightning fast internet connection. All good, but as of now nothing has really happened. If I remember correctly, everything is supposed to be ready in September, but we’re already half way through August and the fiber cable is nowhere to be seen. Not that I expect it to be visible, but I know that they have to dig up the lawn to install the cable I have not seen any caterpillars yet.
Still it’s important to prepare for the new, digital world and find a replacement for my old Windows Media Center. Unfortunately, the new digital system will be closed, meaning that it will not possible to buy a digital tuner and a conditional access card reader and just continue to use the Media Center; I have to use the provided set top box. I can probably live with that, considering I don’t really watch much TV anyway these days and two of the channels I watch the most won’t be available on the new setup, at least not initially. I’ve got most of my music on the Media Center box, tough, and I’d like to be able to play music in the living room. But I don’t want to keep the Media Center just to play music, it’s a huge box and because it’s running Vista the startup time is too long when all I want to do is to jump around to a couple of tunes.
So yesterday I started looking for a home jukebox of sorts. As mentioned, startup time is important. It must be possible to control it with a remote control, a TV connection with a nice GUI would be nice and maybe even a small web server so I can control the system from anywhere in the world. It’s nice to know that I can play Rage Against in my living room when I’m in China or some god forsaken part of the world. I’ve already got VBOX, a small Debian server running behind the TV 24/7. It’s got a sound card installed and it should, at least in theory, be possible to control everything with a remote control, connect it to the TV and install playback software with a web interface. The problem with all this is that it’ll most likely result in a lot of dicking around because it’s working and the days when I could play around with things for days to get it to work are over it seems. From what I read, there’s also a challenge with the M4A format and all the music I’ve bought through iTunes are in that format.
So the next option then is a pre-built system and there are a lot of good options available, like the wireless sound systems from Logitech and Sonos. Probably great stuff, but very, very expensive and I really don’t need the wireless features as I can easily hear the living room speaker anywhere in the apartment. These systems also have problems with the Fair Play DRM on some of my iTunes music. I could of course just download MP3 versions of the songs and use them on the jukebox, but the hassle, the hassle…
Then, after an hour of so of browsing and reading, I finally realized how I could solve all this:
By connecting my iPod to the living room amplifier, I’ve got a fully functioning home jukebox right there. Retail price for the cable? $4.99. I even think I’ve got one laying around somewhere already. If I really hog wild and use an additional $49 on an Apple Universal Dock, I’ll get a remote I can use as well.