Bringing The Web Into Our Living Room
Back in the spring, we moved homes. Our old house had this over the top Crestron system with audio everywhere driven by a multi-room audio system. At the heart of the system was a series of music servers from a company called Request. We had Crestron controllers in every room and whenever we wanted music, we'd just call it up on the Crestron and music would fill the room. The Crestron system controlled a bunch of other stuff including the TVs, heat, lighting, etc. It was total overkill. Fortunately the people who bought our old house wanted our entire Crestron system, so we sold the entire setup with the house.
When we moved, we want back to regular light switches, regular thermostats, and three separate entertainment systems. Each entertainment system has its own media cabinet with a smart amp that can switch audio and video. There are four inputs in each media cabinet; a sonos box, a HD/DVR/cable box, a HD radio receiver, and a Mac Mini. Each entertainment system has an HD flat panel display. That's the entire setup, replicated three times. Except the basement system which has an xbox 360 in it. I call that Josh's system although all the kids use it from time to time.
Each entertainment system sits on our house network. So all the devices in the media cabinet, at least the ones with a ethernet (sonos and mac mini), are part of our house network. This works great. If Emily buys an episode of Grey's Anatomy on her laptop, she shares it with everyone else and we can watch it on the Mac Minis. If someone pulls down an .avi file from the web, we can all watch it no matter where the file sits on the network.
We still have one Request server with all of our mp3s on it and the Sonos system is the way we access it. I thought that Sonos with Rhapsody and Request would be the killer music setup. And it is for the most part. We probably listen to Sonos 80% of the time in our home.
But the web is catching up. The thing I didn't realize when I set up this system is how much a difference the mac minis would make. We use them to play DVDs, we use them to play video we buy or download from the web, we use them to power screen savers on the displays when we are listening to music, and we use them increasingly to listen to music from the web.
This morning we started off in tumblr.
Tumblr let's you upload audio, here's the song I uploaded this morning. What you see in this picture is my tumblr dashboard set to just show the audio posts of my friends. We were listening to music from Bijan, joelaz, rachel, and a few others for about an hour. It was great.
Then we went to the hype machine to listen to my "loved tracks".
Both the tumblr and hype machine listening experiences are "social listening" experiences. They are experiences that are programmed by me and the people I am connected to via the web. We could have listened to my neighbor radio on last.fm as well.
When the web and all the people we know can start being an audio experience in our living rooms, it's a big deal. I realize that not many people have setups like this, but it shouldn't be too long before it's much more common. A mac mini costs $600. And it puts the web into your living room. Give it a try. I bet you'll like it as much as we do.