Stream Your Home Music to Work... For Free

I have been impressed with Slim Devices' Squeezebox ( 4 mice, April 2004 issue ) and its predecessor, the SLIMP3, for some time. But even if you don't have $249 to spend on an awesome network music player for your stereo cabinet, you can take advantage of Slim Devices' remarkably good server software to stream your home music library to your work.

First, go to Slim Devices' download page and download the free Slim Server 5.1. It runs great on Mac OS X, but you can even run it on Windows or Linux if you like. Install it on the computer where you store your tunes and, if you're using iTunes, it will automatically pick up all your music and your playlists.

Once you've set the server up, you've got two options. The first is simply to use iTunes as a music streamer: open iTunes, press Command-U (for Open URL), and type in a URL for your sever in the format http:// [your-server-address] :9000/stream.mp3. iTunes will connect to your Slim Server and begin streaming -- nothing.

But that's okay. Now point your Web browser at the Slim Server (http:// [your-server-address] :9000/index.html). You can use the Web interface to add items to a playlist, play different tracks, the works. Once you start music playing via the Web interface, it will start playing (after a brief delay) via iTunes! Better yet, if you've got a slow connection you can go to the player settings in Slim Server and opt to have Slim Server re-encode your music at a lower bit rate, so that the music stream won't break up due to network traffic.

Want a slicker solution? Test drive Richard Titmuss' new, free Softsqueeze, a Java-based emulation of Slim Devices' Squeezebox hardware. You get the entire Squeezebox interface right within the app, meaning you don't have to keep switching to a Web browser when you want to change what songs you're playing. The same tricks, right down to the optional re-encoding of your music at a lower bit rate, will still work.

And if you really love your MP3 collection but want a remote-driven music player when you're sitting in your living room, I highly recommend Squeezebox. I can't imagine life without one.

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