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Spewed on: February 4, 2006
The Squeezebox
Iím kind of a cut-rate audiophile, and over the years Iíve devoted a lot of time and money to feeding my habit. This past Christmas, Karen did the feeding. She bought me a Squeezebox, a device that connects to your network and plays digital music files through your hi-fi. The Squeezebox is a very neat toy. It has lots of features, a cool-looking fluorescent display and it sounds great, too. The Squeezebox replaces our previous streaming music system, a Rube Goldbergian conglomeration of CD jukeboxes, custom software and Windows Media Encoder.

In preparation, many long, tedious hours were spent ripping our 400 CDs to extract their music data. The files were saved in a lossless, open-source format called FLAC. I wanted the files I was saving to mirror the data on the CDs as closely as possible, so I took the extra (and possibly pointless) step of ripping in conjunction with AccurateRip, which is software that compares your rips to rips other people have obtained from the same CDs. It turns out for a couple of reasons, that itís actually quite difficult to obtain an exact bit-for-bit copy of an audio CDís data, and AccurateRipís results were often not particularly helpful. At least half of my CDs were not even in AccurateRipís database.

Iím a tad anal-retentive about file tags (album and track titles, and so forth), so much additional time was frittered away correcting case, adding properly-accented characters, etc. In addition to the CD collection, we also have several hundred miscellaneous MP3 files, and I updated their tags, as well.

The music files ended up consuming about 100GB of the 160GB drive on which they reside. The drive is connected to a Linksys NSLU2 network storage device, which is a nifty little $80.00 box running an embedded version of Linux. The NSLU2 serves the music files to the Squeezeboxís server application, SlimServer, running on a Windows PC in the basement. SlimServer, in turn, streams the music files to the Squeezebox. The NSLU2 also performs nightly backs-up to a second 160GB drive.

While I was at it, I decided to spiff up the rest of our aging hi-fi.

Seven years ago, I bought a pair of PSB Stratus Bronze speakers. Iíve been very happy with their sound — and looks (although theyíre getting a little scuffed-up from collisions with the vacuum cleaner and our boys). One thing I never liked about their appearance, however, was the cheap plastic feet PSB supplied. Also, the placement of the carpet spikes on the bottoms of the speakers made them pretty unstable, especially with five- and seven-year-old boys charging around.

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