6/27/2010

Project MusicBox - Portable, hidden, and wireless sound system





Update-V2 has been posted here: http://wolfebaine.blogspot.com/2011/08/musicbox-v2.html

Backstory - I'm a recent homeowner and the one of the things I was most looking forward to in owning a house was, of course, geeking it out.  After getting everything pretty well in order (you'll see in some other posts) I turned my attention to the back deck and yard.  I have a substantial music collection and the idea of controllable music from every room in the house and even outside the house is the long term goal.  What I wanted was a permanent (or at least semi-permanent) outdoor PC that was running wireless and had access to my server where my music was stored.  Then I wanted to control that system with some kind of handheld (I'm using a Nokia N700, but any cell phone with wireless would work).  Under just those terms I would've had this project done in an hour.  There'd be wires everywhere and some unsightly speaker system nailed to the siding.   However, with the house came a wife.  And the wife insists (and rightly so) that whatever I create that is in or around the house must be ascetically pleasing.  Were it not for that direction, I probably never would've came up with this idea.  So, thanks honey!
(more after the break)



One ottoman from walmart later......


....a couple of screws to hold the speakers in place, and viola'!

What You'll Need:



  • A PC (the older and crappier, the better)
    • Wireless nic
  • A half decent set of computer speakers (these are of the $50ish Logitec variety, and I'm not disappointed)
  • A PC case fan
  • A surge protector
  • An ottoman (the kind where the top lifts off and flips over and the inside is empty)
  • MPD (you'll start noticing a common theme with my using MPD....)
  • any vnc server
  • Some wireless interface device
    • I'm using a Nokia N770 (which is about all it's good for now anyways) that has an MPD Client application.  However, I also loaded apache on this box so you could access MPD via web page from any wifi enabled smartphone, iphone, etc)





What I did:

Before any construction began I setup the PC.  I'm using a Compaq E-42 (1gb processor, 512mb ram) with a Linksys USB adapter.  It's running Crunchbang 8.10.  I'm not going to go through a whole tutorial (as many of these will be mentioned many times in my posts), but basically I installed:
  • MPD
  • MPC
  • Apache
  • ipodmp web interface
  • vino (vnc server....because you're going to want to remote in once in a while)

The ottoman itself was pretty easy.  I took off the top fabric (which is stapled to the wooden tray), drilled some wood screws through the bottom into the speakers, and restapled the fabric back in place (so the screws wouldn't be seen)

Then drilled a single hole for the wires to feed to the inside (they have to be routed through the fabric too)
Then routed out a hole large enough for a PC case fan
Lastly, a hole in the back for the surge protector's plug

And that's it.  Now the only limitation to where I can have my music on my property is the range of my wireless.  I've had this operating outdoors for hours on end in the dead of summer and so far so good.  It even took an accidental bit of rain (hence why at the top I said, 'the crappier the better' on the pc)