The Dream is Born
When I was a little girl, I dreamed of being able to play my entire music collection in a random manner. I envisioned a radio station that played only the music I like, without endless repetition of the same songs, and which was never interrupted with commercials or jabbering DJs. In fact, I wanted to be a DJ because I thought they actually controlled what was played on the radio. What a silly, naive girl I was.
Obviously, this wasn’t possible in the eras of vinyl, cassette tapes (shudder), and CDs. But all my life, my most memorable gifts have had something to do with playing music. I fondly remember the red radio that strapped to the handlebars of my bicycle. I was devastated when my first boombox was stolen from the family van during a vacation. And I vividly remember going to Radio Shack to pick out my first real stereo system–with dual cassette decks for dubbing! When CD changers came on the market, I was a poor newlywed, but I splurged on one. Five CDs at a time on shuffle! I was one step closer to my dream.
MP3 and Wireless
Then in the late 1990s I learned about ripping CDs to MP3. You could say I was one of the early adopters. I had my entire CD collection ripped by 1999, and I would back it up to Zip disks… remember those? I also learned how to “acquire” MP3s of the music I only had in vinyl format. (I never bought music on cassettes during their heyday–I always bought vinyl and copied it to cassette.)
Now I could play a random mix of my MP3s on my computer–another step toward my goal. I splurged again on one of the first consumer CD burners by Philips. It was excruciatingly slow, but I could create custom mix CDs. At the time I didn’t even have a CD player in my car, so I used a CD boombox setting on the passenger seat to play my custom CDs on long trips. This shows how desperate I was to get away from commercial radio.
Next came WiFi. We had had our home computers networked for many years, and in the mid-2000s we added wireless networking to our home. By this time my husband and I were both internet workers so this was essential, even though we were sharing a dial-up connection (the horror…). With wireless networking in the home, it wasn’t long before I started to become discontented with having my music collection confined to my computer and using mixed CDs elsewhere. If we could send files to other computers over WiFi, why not music? I became obsessed with getting my digital music streamed to my bedroom.
I started investigating what I came to learn were called “network music players.” I learned of Slim Devices and Squeezebox at this time, but those products were more expensive than I wanted to go. I ended up buying a cheaper network music player called HomePod from MacSense. It was awful and didn’t work most of the time. Fortunately, it died within 30 days, and I was able to get my money back for that, and as a birthday gift to myself, in May of 2005, I splurged once again on a music device–the Squeezebox2 from Slim Devices.
The Joy of Squeezebox
Oh, joy. This was how a network music player should work! I could go to the bedroom, press play, and all my favorite tunes would stream from my computer. The Squeezebox had a beautiful, crisp, and bright display so I could see what was playing from across the room. The software for the Squeezebox was open-source and had an enthusiastic community of developers who wrote plugins to make the experience even better.
My CD boombox was relegated to poolside use, and by this time I had a PDA which I could use to play my MP3s in the car. I was content for a while just having the Squeezebox in the bedroom, but as most Squeezebox owners will tell you, it gets even better when you have more than one.
The Poolside Tunes Challenge
My next challenge was getting my tunes out to the pool. I was tired of lugging the heavy boombox in and out every day. Initially, I set up an elaborate system involving a wireless outdoor speaker connected to my computer’s sound output and remote-controlled by my PDA, but this was riddled with problems. I knew I needed a Squeezebox for poolside use, but Slim Devices didn’t have anything with built-in amp and speakers, let alone anything that would be suitable for outdoor use. I tossed around the idea of piecing something together myself, but never did come up with anything.
I was very active in the Squeezebox community forums, though, and I often spoke there about my desire for a “Squeezebox Boombox.” One day, one of the founders of Slim Devices asked me to elaborate on what I meant by a Squeezebox Boombox. I enthusiastically described my vision of a self-contained Squeezebox with speakers that would be small enough to move around from room to room, or even outdoors. Battery capability was not one of my requests, but other members of the community jumped in with their own ideas and wishes for a more portable Squeezebox.
The Boom is Born
Around this time, Slim Devices was acquired by Logitech, and several months later, I was surprised to receive an invitation to beta test a new Squeezebox–the Squeezebox Boom. The Boom was my poolside portable Squeezebox dream come true! I beta-tested the heck out of it during the summer of 2008 and it went on to become a huge success for Logitech.
As I alluded to earlier, the Squeezebox experience is not truly recognized until you have more than one, and now that I had experienced a taste of multi-Squeezebox ownership, it wasn’t long before I had my original Squeezebox 2, two Squeezebox Booms, and the Squeezebox Duet. Now I was streaming music throughout my house with every player in sweet synchronicity. I could go from listening in my bedroom or at my PC, and pick up in another room without missing a beat. Or I could turn all players on and enjoy perfectly synched music throughout my home.
… And Baby Makes 5
Later, I was invited to beta test again when Logitech introduced the Squeezebox Radio (code name Baby), an even more portable Squeezebox that could run on batteries, and the Squeezebox Touch (code name Fab4), a touch-controlled Squeezebox. The Squeezebox Radio replaced the Boom as my poolside player, and when it’s not being used there, it lives in the bathroom for shower sing-alongs. The Squeezebox Touch is within arm’s reach on my office desk, where the touch screen comes in handy. I literally have a Squeezebox in every room of my house now. (I have not installed one in my car, as some have. For the car, I am content to use a 1GB iPod shuffle that I can leave in the car until it’s time to sync and charge it, and I don’t have to worry about it getting stolen.)
I can’t say that using the Squeezebox server software (currently called Logitech Media Server) has always been bliss, but today it is quite stable as long as you’re not using an excessive number of plugins. In my setup, I’m running the server software on a rather slow single-core system, and have found that if I run any of the smart playlist or endless mix plugins for days on end, I start to experience disconnects. In order to recover from this, I just switch to a standard playlist, or kick off a new mix, and my stability returns. I don’t have experience working with the Squeezebox in this way, but for those who primarily want to listen to streaming services, you don’t even need the server software running on a home computer.
So now, with the Logitech Squeezebox system combined with all the amazing streaming music services available (my favorite is Rhapsody), the music dreams of my youth have been fulfilled, and I am one happy rocker chick.
“I am a DJ
I am what I play
I’ve got believers