‘Simple’ home automations

Once in a while I want something specific, something to make life at home a bit simpler and therefore more enjoyable. But ever single time I think something should be possible, I found that no one (except some commercial companies) has created that which I seek.

Lets take Sonos as an example, because what I want is audio related, and has some similarities to what Sonos does.

What I want is (in my mind) simple. My desktop pc is not at the optimum location for my hifi set. I don’t have the cables to connect the two together, so I want some kind of streaming solution, but still able to control what is played from my desktop. It would be better if I can stream music to my Android phone if it’s wifi connected, and control what is played from my Android as well.

Sonos has a range of devices, all aimed at networked (wired and wirelss) audio devices. They’ve got players with speakers, players without speakers. A bridge to connect your wired network and continue on wireless. Devices and software to control all this without standing in the same room. The players can play audio files from a NAS, your desktop pc, or any other storage devices connected to the network. You can use the Sonos remote to control it all, or use software on either a PC or an iPhone/iPod touch (unfortunately, not Android (yet)). With these remotes and software you can browse your network music, select what you want to hear and make playlists.

The prices aren’t exorbitant high, but there are some other things I want that are also expensive, and it should be possible to create a similar solution using hardware I have lying around here.

First option, use a HTPC to play your music over your personal audio setup. There is enough software to turn a normal PC into a HTPC. One of the more populair ones is XBMC, which has a derivative called Boxee which is trying to get into the commercial market by getting preinstalled on some devices. So far so good, they can play networked music and video, you can hook them up to your hifi set and they’re cheaper then a Sonos solution. Unfortunately, I haven’t found any really working remote software for Android, or my personal Windows pc. Therefore, not really a solution.

Today I was looking at streaming my winamp music to other devices. Most notably, my Android phone. There is a piece of software that will allow my phone to control winamp (Winamp Remote). You’ll need to install some ‘server’ software on your pc, but then you can skip songs, pause it, change volume and a bit more. It even shows which song is currently playing. Now, if I can stream the winamp output to my devices, I should be all set.

Again, no such deal. Winamp Remote, based on Orb, seems like a brilliant piece of software. It has an Android app, it allows my Android phone to browse all the music I have on my pc, and it can even play that music, if I have enough bandwith. But it can’t stream the currently playing song in winamp to my device, or control Winamp remotely. And it just so happens to be that is what I want.

I can setup a shoutcast server, and connect to that server using streaming software on my phone, but that is getting a bit far out from what I really want. I don’t want to stream over the internet, just locally. With remote control of the player software. And I don’t always want to listen on my phone, I also want to use my hifi set.

For some reason, it seems that something simple is apparantly very hard.

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