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This story has been updated. It was originally featured in the August 2008 issue of Popular Science magazine and involves outdated technologies and services. For current advice, check out our regularly updated guides to streaming music all around your home and how to stream audio to a smart speaker.
Here’s the scenario: You have a thousand MP3 music files sitting on your home computer—which is great when you’re actually sitting at your computer, but a lot less useful when you’re in the kitchen or living room. What you need is a dedicated device in another room that can pull songs wirelessly from your PC’s music library and play them through its own speakers. Several off-the-shelf products can handle this task, such as Logitech’s Squeezebox; unfortunately, they start at around $300.
But you can build your own remote-control wireless streamer for less than a hundred bucks using just about any old Windows computer (if you don’t have one gathering dust in the closet, ask your office’s IT department or search around on eBay). You can buy or make a custom enclosure that matches the room’s decor and add a small LCD screen to show you what song is playing. Then throw in a wireless remote control, and start streaming your favorite tunes anytime—and anywhere—you want.
- Time: 20 hours
- Cost: $92
- Difficulty: easy | | | | | hard (Editor’s note: 3/5)
- Salvaged PC (must have serial RS232 port, two USB ports, and one stereo line out jack; or, build your own)
- Streamzap PC remote control (Amazon; $30.24)
- TRENDnet 54Mbps wireless G USB adapter (Amazon; $15.99)
- Serial-Enabled 20×4 LCD (SparkFun Electronics #LCD-00462; $32.95)
- RS232 shifter board kit (SparkFun Electronics #PRT-00133; $6.95)
- Hookup wire (RadioShack #278-1223; $5.99)
- 2-by-4-foot perforated hardboard (local purchased; $2.88)
- 6 (2-inch-by-4-foot-long) poplar slats (local purchased; $8.88)
- Glide feet (local purchased; $1.58)
- Wood screws (local purchased; $3.00)
- Powered speakers or audio amplifier and speakers
- Stereo cables
- You will also need temporary access to a keyboard, mouse, and monitor for setting up the DIY Audio Streamer
1. Assemble the RS232 shifter-board kit, which enables the streamer PC to communicate with the LCD screen, and plug it into the PC’s serial port. Connect the screen to the board, and connect the screen and board to the PC’s power supply.
2. Plug in the remote-control sensor and WiFi adapter. Connect speakers to the PC’s headphone jack, or connect the PC to your stereo’s receiver as an audio source. To set everything up, temporarily connect a keyboard, mouse and monitor.
3. Once the streamer is connected to your home network, use Windows’s “map network drive” tool to turn your main PC (the one with the music on it) into a networked drive, and assign it a letter, such as “M:”, so the streamer can find it.
4. Load the Winamp and LCD Smartie software, and set it to launch on startup. Set up Winamp for accessing the playlists from your main PC’s networked drive. Configure LCD Smartie so that the LCD displays your song information (title, artist, duration, track number).
5. Set the remote control so it can be used to shut down the streamer and to launch playlists. Disconnect the keyboard, mouse and monitor, and restart.