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Playing music over the network on an Asus Eee PC

I’m an enthusiast for SlimServer, so when I got hold of an Eee PC one of the first things I investigated was how to play music from SlimServer over a wireless network.

I tried SoftSqueeze but with mixed results. It seems to work OK at first, but after you hit pause a few times, or change the playlist, it seizes up. There is no error message, but it stops communicating with SlimServer and the only fix I’ve found is to restart SoftSqueeze.

You can play files directly via a shared directory, but navigation is awkward.

I’ve had the best results from SlimServer’s MP3 stream. Here’s what you do. First, open Music Manager from the Eee’s Play tab. From the Playlist menu, choose Add Stream. Enter the URL of your SlimServer, for example:

http://yourserver:9000/stream.mp3

You can use an IP number in place of the server name if you like. Click OK and then hit Play. You should get a silent stream called Welcome to SlimServer.

Minimize Music Manager, and open FireFox. Navigate to:

http://yourserver:9000

This will open the SlimServer user interface. In the right-hand pane, make sure the Eee PC player is selected. SlimServer does not know what the device is, so it will show as an IP number. Once selected, click Settings at top right and enter Eee PC (or whatever you like) for the Player Name, then click Change.

Now play some music. Just perform a search and start playing. All going well, you will hear music from your Eee PC after a short interval.

A few observations

This is a pretty effective way of using the Eee PC as a SlimServer client, but let’s just say it lacks that last bit of usability polish. In other words, only geeks are going to do this. It seems to me that there is scope for an alternative to SoftSqueeze that would offer a user-friendly way of searching and playing your SlimServer tunes via a desktop client – in other words, with no need to open a web browser. SoftSqueeze does this already, but emulating a remote when I have a full keyboard at my disposal is not my idea of user-friendly. The obvious solution would be to extend Amarok or the like.

I realise that you can copy music files directly to the Eee, or have them on a USB stick, and play them in Amarok. The problem is that you soon run into space limitations, especially if you like high bitrate sound files.

There is an annoying lag between making a selection in the browser, and hearing it. This can be solved with programming – see apparently dead projects like slimp3slave for example. 

The sound itself is decent. The Eee has an Intel High Definition Audio integrated soundcard. The built-in speakers aren’t great, though at least there are two of them (occupying space in the lid that some of us would like to see filled with a larger screen). Plug in some external speakers though, or headphones, or feed the audio output to a hi-fi, and the quality can be excellent.

PS if you haven’t installed SlimServer yet, you can get it free here.

2 thoughts on “Playing music over the network on an Asus Eee PC”

  1. I’ve seen those mini-laptops. I’m actually in the market for a Mac right now… I figured those were a joke… It’s neat to actually see someone who has one.

  2. mt-daapd is also a good music server and works with iTunes and other clients as well. Plus you don’t have to add a URL, it just shows up automagically šŸ™‚

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