How-To: Streaming stuff around your house

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In this increas­ingly wire­less world, it seems odd that it’s actu­ally kinda dif­fi­cult to get music or oth­er media from one device to anoth­er.

In my case, I have pho­tos, movies and music all stored on a cent­ral stor­age device on my net­work — a Net­work Attached Stor­age device, or NAS.

Get­ting to that media eas­ily with oth­er devices means I have to have a some­thing run­ning and act­ing as a serv­er to man­age access to the media. In my case, it’s a small win­dows based com­puter that acts as the serv­er.

Or should I say ‘serv­ers’ because to get my media streamed around the house is a feat that requires more than just one piece of soft­ware.

ituneslogo.jpgLet’s start with iTunes
I have that run­ning  and shar­ing its lib­rary (which is poin­ted at the media on the NAS). iTunes allows any oth­er copy of iTunes run­ning on my net­work (and that I’ve enabled Home Shar­ing on) to see the shared lib­rary and use the media on it.

So now any com­puter run­ning iTunes can play music from my shared iTunes lib­rary. This means my Apple TV (2nd Gen) can see my media lib­rary too.

But mov­ing a com­puter from sound­sys­tem to sound­sys­tem is a little clunky, so read on, gentle read­er, read on.

iPad, iPod Touch, iPhone
It’s fairly easy to plug your iDevices into most home sound sys­tem these days, so I won’t go into details on that, but that’s how I get the music to the room I want listen in.

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WiFi2HiFi

Now things get a bit more com­plex. Stream­ing media to these devices requires anoth­er piece of serv­er soft­ware run­ning on that serv­er box. And a match­ing applic­a­tion on the iOS device.

The iDevice is the receiv­er, and the Serv­er is, erm, the serv­er.

There are cur­rently three sol­id iOS receiv­er apps (and match­ing free serv­er soft­ware):

With all three, the basic prin­cip­al is the same:

1) Point the serv­er soft­ware (on the PC) at the dir­ect­or­ies you want to share with the iOS devices
2) Let the serv­er soft­ware build a cata­logue

Now things get a bit dif­fer­ent
With Air Video and Stream To Me, you just:
3) Point the app (on your iOS device) at your serv­er (usu­ally using an IP address).

If you’re using WiFi2HiFi, it’s easi­er — you just start the serv­er soft­ware, and it auto­mat­ic­ally detects your iOS device with the app run­ning and streams all your computer’s audio to it. So whatever you’re play­ing on your com­puter will be streamed to the iOS device.
4) With Stream-To-Me and Air Video, you have more con­trol. The match­ing serv­er soft­ware lets you view your media lib­rar­ies and select the media you’d like to stream.

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Stream-To-Me

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Air Video

As of this writ­ing, Air Video only streams video (with on the fly con­ver­sion or queued con­ver­sion), while Stream-To-Me sends most video and audio formats without con­ver­sion.

So depend­ing on your needs, you’ve got hard­ware and soft­ware options for get­ting your media to you using your exist­ing devices. Very cool, and con­veni­ent way to get your stuff to where you are.

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Hardware helps information be free

i1_300.jpgInform­a­tion wants to be free, an inter­est­ing phrase sum­ming up the concept that tech­no­logy has the poten­tial to be lib­er­at­ing, rather than oppress­ing. It was first used in the 1960’s and attrib­uted to the founder of the Whole Earth Cata­log.

Today, that phrase is often used to sup­port open file shar­ing activ­it­ies. And recently I found two hard­ware pro­jects that facil­it­ate the ‘free­ing of inform­a­tion’.
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Dead Drop
This one hit the news in Octo­ber of last year. Basic­ally a USB stick stuck in a wall. Hook up your device to it, and check out the con­tents.

I am ‘inject­ing’ USB flash drives into walls, build­ings and curbs access­ible to any­body in pub­lic space. You are invited to go to these places (so far 5 in NYC) to drop or find files on a dead drop. Plug your laptop to a wall, house or pole to share your favor­ite files and data. Each dead drop con­tains a readme.txt file explain­ing the pro­ject.

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Pir­ate Box

This one is new. It’s a serv­er, router, and bat­ter­ies in a port­able box.

Using the Pir­ate­Box is easy. Simply turn it on and trans­form any space into a free file shar­ing net­work. Users with­in range of the device can join the Pir­ate­Box open wire­less net­work from any wifi-enabled device and begin upload­ing or down­load­ing files imme­di­ately.

Usages
Aside from the obvi­ous, pop­u­lar, and ques­tion­able shar­ing of copy­righted soft­ware or media, how else could these be used? Here’s how.

Let’s say I’m in a mod­er­ately pop­u­lar ind­iband and I’m look­ing for ways to get the band in the news, and get our music heard.

i4_300.jpgWhat bet­ter, and inex­pens­ive way than to install dead drops (loaded with our band’s tunes, natch) around the major cit­ies that I’m inter­ested in tar­get­ing.

Then ‘leak’ the word to our fan­base, tech blogs, boing-boing, and our name is in the news, and our tunes are get­ting heard.

Or I’m an author and use the Pir­ate Box to serve out cop­ies of my books to people attend­ing my Book Sign­ing or speak­ing events.

Or I’m a cit­izen in a coun­try where the news media is con­trolled by the state… yes, you can see the poten­tial.

It’s cool to see this kind of tech being developed. The poten­tial uses and real-world impact are as vast as the ima­gin­a­tion, bey­ond shar­ing the latest Justin Bieber tune to my friends.
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Grocery lists made easy — seriously.

Yes, look at that head­line. Gro­cery lists. In a tech blog. What’s this world com­ing to.

But yet, if you bear with me for a moment, you’ll under­stand why this is cool.

You see, if you throw an iPhone or iPod Touch into the mix, you’ll real­ize that ‘ah, maybe that Brad fellow’s on to some­thing’.

So here’s the deal, for me the iPhone and iPod touch has not excelled at man­aging and shar­ing simple lists, like a gro­cery list. Which store car­ries what, and oh, is that what it’s really called or did you mean this. Con­fu­sion, at least for me, until we picked up (and shared via Apple’s iTunes Home Shar­ing sys­tem) Gro­ceryIQ.

Quite simply, Gro­ceryIQ is a list man­ager with a few cool bells and whistles:

  • Auto-sug­gest: Start typ­ing and Gro­cery iQ will sug­gest gro­cery items you can quickly select.
  • Bar­code scan­ning: Take a pic­ture of a bar­code with your iPhone cam­era to add an item to your list.
  • Favor­ites and His­tory: Add fre­quently- or pre­vi­ously-pur­chased items to your list with just a few taps.

Behind the scenes, Gro­ceryIQ relies on a loc­al (to the device) product data­base as well as updates which are hos­ted on the moth­er­ship — coupons.com.

When you’re build­ing a list, the app often calls home and tries to match the text you’re enter­ing with items it knows about. This is good, because I didn’t know there where quite that many vari­ants on Con­densed Milk.

1+1=5
Anoth­er cool fea­ture, and this is where it’s neat to have the app run­ning on two devices in the same house­hold. In this case it really does improve the usab­il­ity of the app when you share it. List shar­ing — from the FAQ:

You can share your list with mul­tiple people by send­ing an invit­a­tion to sync with them. If any­one with access to the list makes a change to it, everyone’s list will reflect that change. List shar­ing can be turned off at any time and will not delete or affect exist­ing lists. You can also invite more people to share a list at any time.

So by keep­ing your lists sync’d up, any­one at the gro­cery store can eas­ily see what’s miss­ing in the fridge.

And, since the Gro­ceryIQ also allows you to tag items as Favour­ites, it’s easy to build the list every week with com­monly pur­chased goods.

I know in our house­hold, since we’ve star­ted shar­ing the list, I’ve had a bet­ter suc­cess rate at the gro­cer by hav­ing a list that is actu­ally cur­rent 🙂

Oh, and this lively little app is only .99 at the iTunes App store.

How to find good music online with social media

In a recent post over at the Future Shop Techb­log I star­ted talk­ing about vari­ous Inter­net Radio ‘sta­tions’. Today I real­ized I didn’t talk about one of my ‘go-to’ online music sources blip.fm

It’s not your aver­age music ser­vice.
Blip.fm is a hybrid social media site and music dis­cov­ery ser­vice, focused around the concept of Blips. To quote the FAQ:

What exactly is a ‘blip’?
A blip is a com­bin­a­tion of 1) a song and 2) a short mes­sage that accom­pan­ies it. The way you cre­ate a blip is to first search for a song that you want to hear (or a song that you want your listen­ers to hear), then add a short mes­sage (under 150 char­ac­ters), finally you sub­mit it. Sub­mit­ting a blip is also referred to as “blip­ping”, so from here on out, when you read “he blipped my favor­ite track” it means “he sub­mit­ted a blip that had my favor­ite song attached”.

When you join Blip.fm, you assume the role of a DJ, run­ning your own ‘sta­tion’ with a playl­ist. As you explore Blip.fm music, you’ll see that songs were ‘blipped’ by vari­oi­us DJs. Check out their playl­ists (here’s mine).

You’ll see a list of blips that they found inter­est­ing, likely from oth­er DJs — a great way to see what tunes they thought were inter­est­ing.

Got Props?
If you like a tune you find on the main page, or listen to in someone’s playl­ist, then give that DJ Props:

What are “Props”?
On Blip.fm props are tokens of respect that can be giv­en from one DJ to anoth­er — say for blip­ping a good song or being a good DJ in gen­er­al. Every­one starts with 10 cred­its that they can use to give props to oth­er DJ’s. As you earn props from the com­munity, your props will increase and so will the cred­its you have to give. 1 props earned = 1 cred­it in your bank. The num­ber of props you’ve earned can only go up, but the cred­its you have goes down as you use them through­out the site. Check out our blog entry for a more detailed explan­a­tion.

Social Media Integ­ra­tion
Of course, it’s no good to be listen­ing to music without being able to share it. Blip.fm will send your tunes, as you listen to them, to the fol­low­ing Social Media ser­vices.

  • Twit­ter
  • Face­book
  • Friend­feed
  • Tumblr
  • Live­journ­al
  • Audi­o­scrob­bler
  • Ping.fm

In my case, I don’t usu­ally ‘blip’ tunes I’m listen­ing to my fol­low­ers — it could get annoy­ing after a couple of tunes. But, per­haps in the even­ing, I’ll feel like going ‘all DJ on my peeps’…hopefully they for­give me in the morn­ing.

So check it out, check out my playl­ist, and let me know what you think.

I get a new label

The fol­low­ing post is a Quick­Hit™ — an art­icle or post I found online and thought was import­ant enough to share dir­ectly with you. Of course, you’ll see my thoughts or opin­ions pre­pen­ded or appen­ded to this post, oth­er­wise I’m just scrap­ing con­tent, and that’s not the intent.

Accord­ing to this art­icle on Mar­ket­ing­Daily, I’m a Techfluential…though I could be a bit ‘old’ 🙂

Tech­no­logy and elec­tron­ics mar­keters may want to begin 2010 tar­get­ing a small but influ­en­tial group of con­sumers who have some undue weight when it comes to influ­en­cing the pur­chases of oth­ers.

Accord­ing to Dav­id Krajicek, man­aging dir­ect­or of tech­no­logy with GfK Cus­tom Research North Amer­ica, this group of “tech­flu­en­tials” is made up of highly con­nec­ted indi­vidu­als (index­ing mostly under 30) who like to share their opin­ions about products that make their lives easi­er.

Or am I just an opin­ion­ated guy that likes to talk tech?

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