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An Incredibly Geeky and Reasonably Low- to Mid-Tech Home Stereo System

by William Jackson on 2006-08-16

I see iPods everywhere, probably for two reasons:

  1. Everyone owns an iPod (but me).
  2. Okay, not everyone owns an iPod, but everyone at my college owns aniPod (but me).

Also, I went to Target today. Walking in the electronics department, Ipassed an aisle that was almost entirely devoted to iPod accessories.There were about a dozen different home stereo systems, the top of whichone docks oneʼs iPod into so one doesnʼt have to stick white earbudsinto oneʼs ears while at oneʼs home.

I may not have an iPod, but I use iTunes, and I like listening to music,too. And last night I discovered that I had all the pieces necessary toput together an incredibly geeky and reasonably mid-to-high-tech homestereo system.


  1. My computer. Well, one of my computers. There are five computersin my apartment right now. Three belong to me, one belongs to mywork but Iʼm responsible for it and I act like it belongs to me, andthe last one belonged to my former roommate and will belong to mynext roommate when he arrives.
  2. My router. Well, one of my routers. There are three routers in myapartment right now. They all belong to me and they all functionwith varying degrees of … functionality. One of them is a wireless(Netgear) router I bought from Goodwill. It doesnʼt work. One is awireless (Belkin) I bought from Walmart. It works well and itʼs theone I actually use on my internet connection. The last one, aLinksys wired-only I bought from Radio Shack, is the one I am usingfor this project. It is ideal for the task because it got fried ina power surge a few months ago, and now it only works as a DHCPserver; it will network four computers together, but it canʼt beused to pass an internet connection through.
  3. Some speakers. My former roommate had some nice ones hooked up tohis computer (the computer he left here). The speakers stayed withthe computer. They are composed of a subwoofer and two satellites.
  4. Network cables. Of course.
  5. One more computer. Iʼm using the little tablet from my work, becauseit is portable.

I had all the pieces, so I went about setting it up.

First, my desktop computer (it has a name: Tatooine) that has all themusic on it was moved into the living room. I have some shelves builtinto the wall, and Tatooine fit very nicely into the bottom shelf. Thereis a nearby electrical socket, too, so I didnʼt need any extension cordsor power strips.

Tatooine is configured to log in to my account automatically when itstarts up. Also, it will start up even if nothing is plugged in to it.By nothing, I mean no keyboard, mouse, or monitor. I find it funnybecause every time I start it, the motherboard gives the “Help, therearenʼt any peripherals plugged in!” beep code sequence. But it starts upanyway.

Tatooine is running Windows XP Professional, which turns out to beimportant, because I couldnʼt do this (as easily) if it were runningHome Edition. Why, you ask? Because only Pro allows you to log in to thecomputer remotely. And you can bet thatʼs turned on.

So Tatooine is on the bottom shelf, running, and the speakers areplugged into the sound card and there is an network cable running fromTatooine to the half-broken router. Tatooine has an IP address.

Now I bring over the tablet (it has a name: Alderaan) and run a networkcable from it to the router. Now Alderaan has an IP address. FromAlderaan I connectected via Remote Desktop Connection to Tatooine.

Bingo! I run iTunes and control it like normal. Even though I amcontrolling everything from Alderaan, the program itself is running onTatooine, so once I start a playlist playing, I can disconnect and shutdown Alderaan and the music, it flows!

So basically, I went though this whole ordeal so I could play the musicI want, on the speakers I want, in the room I want. I think itʼs worthit.

Desktops within desktops