Sunday, September 18, 2011

How to Have an Amazing Home Network for maybe a little less than you think

My house doesn't have giant stacks of Compact Discs, but I have over 10,000 songs that I can access instantly.  I don't have massive piles of physical DVD's, but I can access 10s of thousands of movies instantly.

There are many different ways to do what I have done, but let me walk you through how I choose to do it, and if you're looking to do it yourself, and maybe you feel a little technically challenged, my hope is after you read this, you will see that it is a little easier then what you may have previously thought.

MUSIC-  In the late 1990s portable MP3 players emerged that let you carry around about 500 songs.   The iPod was launched in 2001 with 1000 songs in your pocket, and then the iTunes store, all this set about a revolution in how we acquire, store, and listen to our music.

  I have my entire iTunes Library stored locally on my main computer, a beautiful IMac with a 27 inch screen 14 GB of RAM with a 2.93 GHZ quad core i7 processor.  (As beautiful as it is..soon it will be "just a device" with the advent of ICloud as Jobs said in the most recent apple keynote)  Anyways the files are all on the main computer and the software that manages and runs the music files is called iTunes.

I can listen to my music many different ways, I can sit in front of my computer, launch iTunes and just instantly search for the song/album/artist that I want, and play it.  My Computer is listening Zone 1 and what I am going to describe to you is called "air tunes"   (similar but not exactly the same as 'air play')

OK now here is where it gets really cool.  Apple makes 2 amazing pieces of hardware, the Apple TV and the Air Port Express(both cost $99).  Both of these plug into the wall and connect to your network automatically.  Once the air tunes device is plugged into the wall you can connect speakers to it.  Now when I sit at my main computer and launch iTunes I can see my ATV or Air port devices and thus can control them.  I have 4 Different Zones of music in my house.  Bedroom, office, family room, and living room.  Of the 3 zones that are not my computer, one of them is an ATV, and two are air port expresses.  On these two I have connected a pair of Bose computer speakers, they are small, yet provide rich sound.  The Apple TV is connected to my bedroom TV speakers.  OK so sitting in front of my computer using iTunes, I can now turn off and on four different speaker zones, this is awesome, but the problem is, every time I want to hear something different, or if I want to turn off the music, I have to run to my computer.  But what if there was a way to control your computer remotely?  Here's where it gets double cool:  The Apple IOS devices (iPod touch, iPad, and IPhone) have a free app available called "remote" and with guessed can now control your computer using a device that is always very close by...your iPhone.  And it's a beautiful experience, reaching out and touching your music, seeing the album artwork, and tapping on what you want to hear....and where in the house you want to hear it.  

To have this experience Your computer doesn't have to be as new or as powerful as mine, ...if you already have a computer and an IOS Device, you can add a zone to your house for only $99.

Movies   I have been collecting DVDS for 15 years, pretty much since they were launched in the mid 90's.  So how do we get all of these physical DVDs into my computer?  Unfortunately it is not as easy as music CDs, but it can be done.  It does take longer, but the end result is well worth it.   I am a Mac enthusiast and I am going to recommend a free piece of software that will rip your personal Dvds for you.  (I don't know/care about advice to anyone who owns a windows computer is to throw that computer in the garbage and buy a Mac.)  LOL, anyways the App is called "Handbrake"  Once all your DVDs are ripped, you can then put them in a folder and point iTunes towards that location.  Since each movie is about 1 to 1.5 TB in size, I strongly recommend going to Costco and picking up at least a 1 TB external hard drive to store these movie files.  I personally have a 3TB drive connected not to my computer, but to my Air Port Extreme Router.  So now we've got all our movies ripped and iTunes recognizes them.  Once again I sit in front of my computer and find any one of them and start watching it right on my computer.  Or I could do something much better.  Apple TV will take the contents of your iTunes library and stream it to your Television.  Since we already know that IOS devices have a "remote" app, I'll bring it to everyones attention that not only can the IOS device control your computer, it can control your Apple TV as well.  So I sit down in front of my TV and browse through hundreds of DVDs that I have made personal copies of!  The Quality?  Near DVD quality.  I have two TVS in my house and an ATV connected to each one of them.  Built into the software of apple tv I can also flip through all my photos, Rent HD quality new releases instantly, watch any MLB baseball game, watch netflix on demand, etc. etc.  Again, if you already have a newer TV with an HDMI input, a computer, and an internet connection, then for $99 you are Golden.

And that ladies and gents, is my home network!  Any questions, type them into google!  How do you manage/store/consume your entertainment media?  Let me know.


Brett said...

Similar things here, but not as many zones. Love it. So centralized.