Off-topic: Digital music archive software question

RichardRichard Mildly bemusedMadrid, SpainPosts: 17,739Administrators, Vanilla Admin moderator
edited March 12, 2012 in Digital Darkroom
I'm starting to think about buying a new machine for my photography work. I'd like to turn my current machine (ThinkPad T61, XP) into a music server--it would be permanently wired to my stereo system and I would transfer my 300 or so CDs to an external drive, probably using FLAC or some other lossless compression scheme.

So here's the question: Has anyone used any media management software that supports a remote user interface across a LAN? The idea is to control the selection and playback on the music machine from our laptops, both Windows and Macs. Nice to have (but not essential) would be something that also has a UI for mobile phones (Android). It would also be nice if the media manager could handle the ripping to FLAC.

Any suggestions?

Comments

  • DeVermDeVerm Major grins Posts: 405Registered Users Major grins
    edited February 28, 2012
    There are two leaders on that front:

    - Squeezebox, owned by Logitec for a couple of years now.
    - Sonos.

    These systems are Wifi based and both do what you want except the ripping process. Squeezebox is the choice for audiophiles (the high end player is very good and the rest is surprisingly good) while the Sonos is more attractive to the Bose crowd. Sonos has great integrated units so player + amplifier and even units with speakers built in. The current Squeezebox offering on that end is just the "Radio" which is mono for in the kitchen or night stand (great unit though, very popular).

    For ripping the CD's I have found that dBPowerAmp is the best system. Make sure you get all the metadata which can be automatic mostly with that software. The "AccurateRIP" technology is the key to success for correct RIPs and the access to the commercial metadata banks provides the joy of correct titles etc. so that you can find your music easily later on.

    I have a master library in FLAC but have since converted it to iTunes ALAC which is also lossless. The squeezebox doesn't support that natively, so the server converts it to FLAC on the fly which is low-cpu demand with both formats being lossless.
    ciao!
    Nick.

    my equipment: Canon 5D2, 7D, full list here
    my Smugmug site: here
  • RichardRichard Mildly bemused Madrid, SpainPosts: 17,739Administrators, Vanilla Admin moderator
    edited February 28, 2012
    Thanks, Nick. I looked at both vendors, but unless I've misunderstood they are streaming music across a network--not what I want. Maybe I didn't explain myself well--the only thing I want to go across the network is the user interface to a music player/catalog manager, which will sit on a dedicated laptop wired to my sound system. I want a software only solution, as I have all the hardware I should need. I suppose in the worst case, I could try using something like Media Monkey and a remote desktop server on the music machine and some remote desktop client on the other machines, but I was hoping for something a little more elegant. ne_nau.gif
  • Dan7312Dan7312 Major grins Posts: 1,330Registered Users Major grins
    edited February 28, 2012
    If the laptop dedicated to the sound system is a windows, then Remote Desktop Connection might give you what you want. With it you can make the desktop/keyboard on the laptop appear on any windows system that has access to the network. It under accessories->remote desktop connection. Just us the ip of you laptop. Make sure you laptop is configured to accept Remote Desktop Connections though.

    There are actually some similar utililties that will work off a smart phone too or tablet too.

    oops, just noticed you had discard desktop connection already...

    Richard wrote: »
    Thanks, Nick. I looked at both vendors, but unless I've misunderstood they are streaming music across a network--not what I want. Maybe I didn't explain myself well--the only thing I want to go across the network is the user interface to a music player/catalog manager, which will sit on a dedicated laptop wired to my sound system. I want a software only solution, as I have all the hardware I should need. I suppose in the worst case, I could try using something like Media Monkey and a remote desktop server on the music machine and some remote desktop client on the other machines, but I was hoping for something a little more elegant. ne_nau.gif
  • RichardRichard Mildly bemused Madrid, SpainPosts: 17,739Administrators, Vanilla Admin moderator
    edited February 28, 2012
    Dan7312 wrote: »
    If the laptop dedicated to the sound system is a windows, then Remote Desktop Connection might give you what you want. With it you can make the desktop/keyboard on the laptop appear on any windows system that has access to the network. It under accessories->remote desktop connection. Just us the ip of you laptop. Make sure you laptop is configured to accept Remote Desktop Connections though.

    There are actually some similar utililties that will work off a smart phone too or tablet too.

    oops, just noticed you had discard desktop connection already...
    I haven't ruled out remote desktop stuff and in fact, I'm looking at what's out there right now. The music system will be my current XP machine. I've seen a number of products that will give me remote desktop access to that machine from another Windows machine, but I also want access to it from a Mac, and I haven't pinned that down yet. Something that runs in a browser on the clients would be ideal.
  • DeVermDeVerm Major grins Posts: 405Registered Users Major grins
    edited February 28, 2012
    Richard,

    Although I think you should reconsider streaming player because the sound quality is multitudes better than that of the PC sound card, you can do it with the PC and have a wifi remote. For this you just install iTunes and download their remote control app.

    Streaming is the norm like it was CD's before that. When we had CD's, one could also use 8-track cassettes but why find ways around the best and easiest solution ? Also, the streaming solution allows you to have multiple players, multiple zones, synchronize them with the same music or not etc. etc. It's a very flexible system and remotes are available for every gadget imaginable.

    With the Squeezebox server, you can also find squeezeplayers that can be run on an old iPod touch or even on the server itself for output on the sound card. I would even consider hanging an iPad in a special wall frame to function as player with the cover art etc. showing, plus touch control of the system. Sonos can do all that too.

    cheers,
    Nick.
    ciao!
    Nick.

    my equipment: Canon 5D2, 7D, full list here
    my Smugmug site: here
  • mercphotomercphoto Bill Jurasz Posts: 4,539Registered Users Major grins
    edited February 28, 2012
    Put all your music into Apple Lossless into iTunes on that notebook and have it stream to an Apple TV hooked to your stereo system. You can control the Apple TV via Remote software on iPads, iPhones and iPod Touches. I have this setup, its great.
    Bill Jurasz - Mercury Photography - Cedar Park, TX
    A former sports shooter
    Follow me at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/bjurasz/
    My Etsy store: https://www.etsy.com/shop/mercphoto?ref=hdr_shop_menu
  • RichardRichard Mildly bemused Madrid, SpainPosts: 17,739Administrators, Vanilla Admin moderator
    edited February 28, 2012
    mercphoto wrote: »
    Put all your music into Apple Lossless into iTunes on that notebook and have it stream to an Apple TV hooked to your stereo system. You can control the Apple TV via Remote software on iPads, iPhones and iPod Touches. I have this setup, its great.
    I would sooner chisel ones and zeros into granite than use iTunes on a Windows machine. It would be faster and more flexible. Works fine on a Mac, but sucks bigtime on Windows. lol3.gif

    I do appreciate the suggestion. thumb.gif
  • mercphotomercphoto Bill Jurasz Posts: 4,539Registered Users Major grins
    edited February 28, 2012
    Richard wrote: »
    I would sooner chisel ones and zeros into granite than use iTunes on a Windows machine. It would be faster and more flexible. Works fine on a Mac, but sucks bigtime on Windows. lol3.gif

    I do appreciate the suggestion. thumb.gif

    How about tossing that Windows machine into the landfill it belongs in and putting a Mac Mini in the stereo rack instead? :D I did that before the 2nd generation Apple TV. I hated having a keyboard and a mouse in the living room though. On the other hand, I didn't like the 1st generation Apple TV.
    Bill Jurasz - Mercury Photography - Cedar Park, TX
    A former sports shooter
    Follow me at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/bjurasz/
    My Etsy store: https://www.etsy.com/shop/mercphoto?ref=hdr_shop_menu
  • RichardRichard Mildly bemused Madrid, SpainPosts: 17,739Administrators, Vanilla Admin moderator
    edited February 28, 2012
    mercphoto wrote: »
    How about tossing that Windows machine into the landfill it belongs in and putting a Mac Mini in the stereo rack instead? :D I did that before the 2nd generation Apple TV. I hated having a keyboard and a mouse in the living room though. On the other hand, I didn't like the 1st generation Apple TV.
    lol3.gif Well, in case it's not apparent, I'm a hopeless cheapskate and don't want to spend much if anything. I already have some music on the laptop and play it through the stereo over a wire between the amp and the computer. The quality is acceptable. I just want to get rid of the wire running across the room and stop shuffling CDs.
  • DeVermDeVerm Major grins Posts: 405Registered Users Major grins
    edited February 28, 2012
    Richard wrote: »
    lol3.gif Well, in case it's not apparent, I'm a hopeless cheapskate and don't want to spend much if anything. I already have some music on the laptop and play it through the stereo over a wire between the amp and the computer. The quality is acceptable. I just want to get rid of the wire running across the room and stop shuffling CDs.

    iTunes on Windoze is pretty bad, I agree.

    A quick scan on Amazon shows me that it's either the Apple TV for $99.- which requires a MacMini making it a $600.- operation (while that also gets you video etc.) or you have the Squeezebox Touch which will work fine with the Windows PC (as far as Windoze can work fine) and costs $300.- Both can use similar devices for remote control. Sonos costs more.

    All the rest you will hate after a couple of days... been there, done that.
    ciao!
    Nick.

    my equipment: Canon 5D2, 7D, full list here
    my Smugmug site: here
  • RichardRichard Mildly bemused Madrid, SpainPosts: 17,739Administrators, Vanilla Admin moderator
    edited February 29, 2012
    Anybody have experience with RealVNC? It looks like even the free version has a Windows server and a Java client that should run in any browser, which solves the mixed environment problem.

    ear.gif
  • mercphotomercphoto Bill Jurasz Posts: 4,539Registered Users Major grins
    edited February 29, 2012
    DeVerm wrote: »
    iTunes on Windoze is pretty bad, I agree.

    A quick scan on Amazon shows me that it's either the Apple TV for $99.- which requires a MacMini making it a $600.

    Is iTunes on Windows so bad that you would not want iTunes on Windows to serve the Apple TV????
    Bill Jurasz - Mercury Photography - Cedar Park, TX
    A former sports shooter
    Follow me at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/bjurasz/
    My Etsy store: https://www.etsy.com/shop/mercphoto?ref=hdr_shop_menu
  • ziggy53ziggy53 Still learnin'still lovin Posts: 18,883Super Moderators moderator
    edited February 29, 2012
    mercphoto wrote: »
    Is iTunes on Windows so bad that you would not want iTunes on Windows to serve the Apple TV????

    Both my Pastor's wife and my eldest daughter had problems with their respective machines running slowly and locking up (Vista and XP, respectively). When I removed iTunes, the machines started being usable again.

    I was running iTunes on my much more current Win 7 box. When I saw the results of removing iTunes from the other machines, I also removed it from my machine and restored some stability.

    I have to surmise that iTunes for Windows is poorly written. (It did cleanly remove itself, however.)
    ziggy53
    Moderator of the Cameras and Accessories forums
  • DeVermDeVerm Major grins Posts: 405Registered Users Major grins
    edited February 29, 2012
    mercphoto wrote: »
    Is iTunes on Windows so bad that you would not want iTunes on Windows to serve the Apple TV????

    I think that once you have the Apple TV, or anything else from Apple for that matter, you will be glad to get rid of the Windows machines you have. Like the other poster wrote, there's good places where those belong like dumpsters, ditches etc. naughty.gif

    I just helped somebody sync ebooks between iTunes on Windows laptop and his iPad and it was really really bad but did work in the end... kinda...
    ciao!
    Nick.

    my equipment: Canon 5D2, 7D, full list here
    my Smugmug site: here
  • RichardRichard Mildly bemused Madrid, SpainPosts: 17,739Administrators, Vanilla Admin moderator
    edited February 29, 2012
    I don't see any reason to add new hardware to the mix, guys. The Windows machine is more than adequate for the task I have in mind. As a retired computer professional, I don't take sides in the flame wars--all computers are a pain in the ass in one way or another.

    I just installed the free version of RealVNC server on the Windows machine and was able to control Winamp on it from a browser tab on the Macbook. It's probably going to take a little tweaking for ease of use, since the ThinkPad has a higher resolution screen than the Mac, but that shouldn't be a big deal to sort out.
  • DeVermDeVerm Major grins Posts: 405Registered Users Major grins
    edited February 29, 2012
    You can select lower screen resolution by right-clicking in the desktop of the Thinkpad and selecting "properties". Big chance that the same resolution as the Mac is available, which would be the perfect setting.

    The best remote desktop I know of works with iPhone/iPad/iPod remotes and is called SplashTop. It even works with watching a movie, incl. audio. Splashtop will switch to the resolution of the iPad automatically.

    You are correct that you don't need extra hardware when the audio output quality meets your requirements.
    Richard wrote: »
    I don't see any reason to add new hardware to the mix, guys. The Windows machine is more than adequate for the task I have in mind. As a retired computer professional, I don't take sides in the flame wars--all computers are a pain in the ass in one way or another.

    I just installed the free version of RealVNC server on the Windows machine and was able to control Winamp on it from a browser tab on the Macbook. It's probably going to take a little tweaking for ease of use, since the ThinkPad has a higher resolution screen than the Mac, but that shouldn't be a big deal to sort out.
    ciao!
    Nick.

    my equipment: Canon 5D2, 7D, full list here
    my Smugmug site: here
  • BradfordBennBradfordBenn Constantly Amazed Posts: 2,506Registered Users Major grins
    edited March 3, 2012
    VNC or RDC is the easiest first step
    Richard wrote: »
    I don't see any reason to add new hardware to the mix, guys. The Windows machine is more than adequate for the task I have in mind. As a retired computer professional, I don't take sides in the flame wars--all computers are a pain in the ass in one way or another.

    I just installed the free version of RealVNC server on the Windows machine and was able to control Winamp on it from a browser tab on the Macbook. It's probably going to take a little tweaking for ease of use, since the ThinkPad has a higher resolution screen than the Mac, but that shouldn't be a big deal to sort out.

    Hello Richard.

    I believe I understand what you are trying to do but I want to spell it back to you as I got confused as the thread went on. You have a computer that is running a Windows XP OS.

    You want to place your audio, not video just audio, onto an external hard drive connected to your computer and connect your computer to your amplifier to reproduce your audio. The solution would allow for you to control your system remotely not transport the audio streams. It should also provide a way to manage your media.

    What you are describing is very doable and not that complex from my experience - which excludes Android but I believe that the same approach would work just don't know what software is available.

    You are looking for a Home Theater Personal Computer (HTPC) not a Media Server. I know it is splitting hairs. Like you I am frugal and have spare machines laying around so I see no reason to down convert to stream or waste my bandwidth when I can put the content local easily enough.

    Your solution of using VNC is right on and I use it personally at home to do the exact same thing you are doing. There are HTPC control apps such as Signal (http://www.alloysoft.com/) which I have not used, but the idea is to have a client that controls the player remotely. So what I have done is used my Mac and Windows machines to control my Windows HTPC using Remote Desktop. Yup just the built in remote desktop. There is a Mac client for it as well as the Windows client. I have also tried VNC with success using Tight VNC for laptops and Real VNC but I have not tried the mobile apps. The best results, both in terms of audio quality and controllability has been RDC to the media player computer. I am doing it right now.

    However in the past few months I have migrated to having a MacBookPro as my media server and HTPC for my office and that has worked ideally using RDC, VNC, and Remote with iOS. However you indicated that you just want a workstation that is a player. If you are still unhappy with that solution you can look at getting Media Center if you are a MSDN or upgrade to Windows 7 which has Media Center and then there is a standard for the remote but I am frugal and would do the VNC solution first.

    You also indicated that you are doing this as an archive solution if you are truly looking at archiving I would not use any compression as storage is cheap. The CD standard is 700MB which when ripped as a canonical stereo WAV file is 700MB. So 300 CDs at .7GB each still puts you at about 210GB not a very expensive drive. I can go through all the reasons it is better than a compressed storage but I think you get it. Now if you want to look at improvements in your connectivity so that the weak link is not the connection from your computer to the amplifier I can help you with that as well.thumb.gif
    -=Bradford

    Pictures | Website | Blog | Twitter | Contact
  • RichardRichard Mildly bemused Madrid, SpainPosts: 17,739Administrators, Vanilla Admin moderator
    edited March 3, 2012
    Now if you want to look at improvements in your connectivity so that the weak link is not the connection from your computer to the amplifier I can help you with that as well.thumb.gif
    Gonna sell me a $500 cable, Brad? lol3.gif J/K.

    You're take is exactly right and I'm pleased to hear that the solution I'm considering actually works for someone. You're right, of course, that technically it's not a music server (unless I'm the client). You're also right about the storage requirements being small enough that even lossless compression might be unnecessary. I haven't thought yet about how I will work the music archive into my overall backup scheme--archive size might matter there, dunno. I looked at the Signal app, which is kind of cool. It might come in handy if they do an Android version (or if I get assimilated and buy an iPhone :D), but it does not seem to have a browser based client, so it's not going to be my primary solution. I'm not really sure I need a mobile client at all--I just like to think as broadly as possible at the design stage to avoid painting myself into a corner a few years down the road.

    I appreciate the feedback and the information. thumb.gif
  • BradfordBennBradfordBenn Constantly Amazed Posts: 2,506Registered Users Major grins
    edited March 12, 2012
    I was thinking more of a USB audio output. It makes a difference compared to most of the built in sound cards
    -=Bradford

    Pictures | Website | Blog | Twitter | Contact
  • RichardRichard Mildly bemused Madrid, SpainPosts: 17,739Administrators, Vanilla Admin moderator
    edited March 12, 2012
    I was thinking more of a USB audio output. It makes a difference compared to most of the built in sound cards
    Not too sure what this implies. Adding a sound card that has a digital output means I would also have to put a D/A converter in front of my amp, which is an old school, strictly analog Marantz. Perhaps the card would also have an analog output, but the specs of the laptop's built-in D/A converter are pretty good. There's no obvious difference between playing a CD through the laptop and on the Pioneer CD deck. Things can always be improved, I suppose, but I suspect the differences would be marginal, maybe even undetectable to my aging ears. ne_nau.gif

    Edit: OK, so I looked at USB audio thingies, but they mostly seem to want to add fake surround sound effects, which does not interest me at all. They do have analog outputs. They're pretty cheap--are there any that really do improve sound quality? The laptop's CODEC is AD1984HD (24 bit, 192KHz), but I don't know anything about the D/A converter. headscratch.gif
  • DeVermDeVerm Major grins Posts: 405Registered Users Major grins
    edited March 12, 2012
    Richard wrote: »
    Perhaps the card would also have an analog output, but the specs of the laptop's built-in D/A converter are pretty good. There's no obvious difference between playing a CD through the laptop and on the Pioneer CD deck. Things can always be improved, I suppose, but I suspect the differences would be marginal, maybe even undetectable to my aging ears. ne_nau.gif
    [...]
    The laptop's CODEC is AD1984HD (24 bit, 192KHz), but I don't know anything about the D/A converter. headscratch.gif

    This is about what I tried to say at the start of the thread.. the sound quality of the internal audio is mediocre, however, for you it is good enough, in which case you don't need any additional hardware.

    The wifi streaming of audio and video is a step beyond the home theater PC that you're about to set up (I did away with it 3 years ago), and I guess all steps need to be taken.

    I would not be able to stand internal laptop DAC for 2 minutes. The difference with the D/A conversion in a Squeezebox or external USB DAC is like heaven from hell. It is not just which DAC chip.. it is the components used around it as much if not more, that define end results.

    Another thing is how you get the music on the PC to play in the bedroom, kitchen, garden etc. I need music wherever I spend time. This used to be done with heaps of cabling but all that is replaced by wifi too.
    ciao!
    Nick.

    my equipment: Canon 5D2, 7D, full list here
    my Smugmug site: here
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