J and I recently decided that we weren't getting the best use out of our music collection, and at least part of the problem was the format: CDs. So I have embarked on the project of digitizing our entire music collection, making the collection accessible to iTunes for syncing to our iPod (soon to be iPods), and making the music play on our stereo.
The first part of the project, digitizing everything, was just a matter of time; many evenings spent shuttling CDs in and out of my laptop while watching TV or otherwise puttering about. End result: over 45 GB of music. Not bad.
In order to make the music accessible to iTunes as well as the stereo, we bought a 160 GB external hard drive. It mostly lives connected to the MythTV box (more on that later), but can be plugged into a laptop for updating things via iTunes, loading new music, and syncing the iPod. I tried just making the drive accessible over our network, but had problems with pathnames being different when using Samba, in a way that started to corrupt the iTunes library. No thank you.
Finally, we wanted to be able to *listen* to the music - that being the whole point of this enterprise. We already have a MythTV box that is connected to our TV and plays its audio through our stereo system, so using that box was an easy decision.
My initial solution for browsing the music and seeing what was playing was MythMusic, MythTV's built in audio player. It's fine, but browsing through 45 GB of music using a remote control really doesn't work. And even using a wireless keyboard instead isn't all that much better; it just doesn't handle large amounts of music gracefully. Not helping it is the fact that if you leave the MythMusic interface screen, the music stops. Not conducive to multi-tasking.
Enter Pitchfork (http://pitchfork.remiss.org/
), a web interface for MPD (http://musicpd.org/
). Ta-da! MPD is a server that plays music and can be controlled by one or more clients - much like MythTV has frontend and backend components that let you remotely control what's recording, watch from other rooms, etc., MPD lets you launch a client, start some music playing, and then close the client; the music keeps playing. You can also have it stream music out to remote clients, but I didn't need that. Pitchfork is our "remote control" for our music library; it's a pretty nice web interface, very responsive, and it includes search and playlist management, both of which are huge improvements on MythMusic. I'm very happy with it. J has yet to really take to the interface, but she wasn't using the CD collection much either. I am hopeful.
Speaking of MythTV, I managed to switch to the new TV listings source (http://schedulesdirect.org/
; if you're a MythTV user in North America and don't know about this, you'll want to follow that link so that you can keep getting guide data past September 1st.) without touching my base Myth install. This is good since the last time I tried to upgrade, playback of recordings slowed to a not-quite-tolerable jitter. I'll just throw in one tidbit about SchedulesDirect: if you switch over, and suddenly your external channel changing script doesn't work, remember that MythTV passes the "freqid" value to the external changer - NOT the channum value. Took me a few days to sit down and figure that out.