Following the guidelines above, you’ll have built the capability to feed good- to high-quality music stored in your computer to your stereo, and to control playback remotely. That’s just the basics, though—take a look at some other ideas for what you can add to your jukebox.
Very Small Form Factor PCs
There’s a lot of value in adding a PC to your stereo and television combination, presuming they’re in the same place, even if you don’t have a high-end home theater setup. Not only can you use it for the jukebox functions in this article, you can use the PC to implement the personal video recorder, and because the machine is likely to see only light duty (and will therefore be reasonably stable) you might consider it to host your X10 controls.
Of course, a large computer doesn’t fit well in most entertainment center furniture, a monitor doesn’t fit at all, and the wires tethering your mouse and keyboard to the computer are a pain. One way to fix those problems is to make the computer smaller, and to use a wireless keyboard and mouse. The latter items are available from Logitech , Microsoft , and others. Buying or building a small computer is harder. Laptops have the small size you want, but they’re not designed to be on all the time, and lack the expansion slots for a sound card.
New motherboard form factors have reached the market, though, making small desktop machines with some limited expansion capability possible. Among the smallest are the Soltek Qbic Series EQ2000 shown in Figure 2-11, and the Shuttle SB52G2 (us.shuttle.com/specs2.asp?pro_id=183) shown in Figure 2-12. Connect the small PC to your television,
possibly with a VGA to NTSC or PAL adapter, and you can eliminate the need for a separate monitor.
The PC Power and Cooling Sleekline systems offer another way to hide a computer near your stereo and television, packaging the electronics into a thin, flat package yet retaining a PCI expansion slot you could use for a sound card.
Standalone Audio Player
You may not need all the functionality a complete PC offers near your stereo, yet you still might want to build your jukebox so the MP3 playback is done at the stereo equipment. In that case, you could use the Turtle Beach AudioTron, which is capable of retrieving MP3 files from your file. server over your Ethernet LAN and playing into your preamplifier. It’s controllable from a PC or with a remote control, and at $299.95 is significantly less expensive than a complete PC if audio playback is all you want.