Sonos is slick but VLC is free

VLC picture

I must say, I do a LOT of web browsing and a decent amount of blog reading and I came across a great idea for my house as it may be for yours as well. The original blog post was on a site call the Infected project (link to article). The article was on an easy way to set up the Video LAN Client (VLC) media player to be controlled remotely by a web interface.

Let’s start by saying, VLC is my media player of choice on every OS. I use it on Windows, Linux, and Mac and I LOVE IT. I turned my kids onto it about two years ago and they stopped using all other MP3 and video programs. It does it all and it’s a great open source program. As fickle as teens are if my oldest son says it even looks better you should believe him.

After I read the blog post I got a million ideas. First, most people have more than one computer in their house. Second, these computers are usually connected to the internet thus they are connected to each other. This made me think of a lot of great ideas for whole house audio. My older boys play music in their room all night. Thing is, when they go to sleep I end up roaming the house at 2 AM turning off their music. Now I don’t have to. I can control their VLC player from my handheld PC in my room. My 5 and 9 year old go to sleep listening to soft music from their computer. Knowing their IP address allows me to turn on/off their music or change it. Even better, I can lower the volume while I’m sitting in my room on my laptop doing some late night surfing.

This is only the tip of the iceberg for something like this. Seeing as how I already have computers in so many rooms I can make a playlist and start it on each computer at the same time so the house is surrounded with sound when guests come over.

I tricked this system out even more with a little trick that VLC has which can stream content from one computer to any other. I haven’t used it yet because I don’t get much TV time but from a computer in my office I’ve got video input from the TV. I stream it from there and then tell each computer in the house to play that video feed. Theoretically, I could walk around my house and never miss a second of what I’m watching. I call this the “bachelor feature” though. That’s because although that sounds cool, the chances of having my wife and all my kids out of the house and even wanting to walk around the house at that point are close to none.

The one slight drawback is that the web interface is kind of clunky and takes a little getting used to to operate. Also, I’d give more step by step info on some of these but I’ve found that VLC operates just a little different between platforms but there’s a version for so many platforms that ANY PC (old ones using Linux or Windows 98) can be turned into a remote station. If you don’t see the immediate bonus’ to this Google whole house audio systems. sonosbundle.jpgSonos sells an elegant version of this for $1000 covering two rooms. Theirs is the new and cool kid on the block but others cost 10 times more and don’t even support video. If you already have PC’s in your house connected wirelessly or plugged in you’ve got what it takes right now to do the same thing. For FREE!

You will have to share your music or video folders the same on each computer in the house but that’s something you should do anyway. Also, keep in mind, iTunes users might want to go to the Preferences — Advanced — General tab to see where their music is kept and share that directory as the same drive letter on all machines to reach that content.
I’m bubbling over with ideas. Give me more ideas if you think of any.

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