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Streaming Music

Help! My music is locked up on my computer!

Like many folks you've probably amassed a decent amount of music on your home computer. So how do you take those tunes and listen to them throughout your home?

The easiest way to move your digital music is to simply run an audio cable from your computer and plug into the input jack of your stereo system. As the music plays on your computer the sound is sent to your stereo. This approach is cheap and easy but you have to deal with a cable of limited length weaving its way around your room. For a basic cable to work the computer really needs to be in the room where you want to play the music.

Portable players give you a great option to carry your music with you. Just load a player up with music and hook it up to your stereo, either with a small docking station or an audio cable. This approach is simple but it only allows you to listen to music that is already stored on your player. If you want to listen to a new song it's time to bring your portable player back to your computer to load it up with new music.

Cables and portable players are perfectly adequate and simple ways to play your music somewhere other than your computer. However, if your home is networked, with or without wires, why not use your network to send music from one place to another?

There are several advantages to using a device that can pull music directly from your computer, called a media extender. Fortunately, many devices are available that allow you to easily move your music around your home, over your existing network.

Media extenders rely on music streaming, sending the music to which you'd like to listen over the network as the player requests it. The media extender doesn't have to store any music because it simply asks your computer for each song as it's playing. Fortunately, streaming music doesn't take that fast of a network. Even older wireless networks can easily handle music streaming.

Most media extender devices either have a built-in screen or remote that displays a variety of different types of information, including a list of artists, songs, playlists you've created, along with the computer from where you'd like to pull the music. Many devices also have convenient remotes that allow one to control the media extender from across a room.

A typical media extender device searches your network for all available sources of music, basically any computer that is sharing music.

The media extender then asks the computer for a complete list of artists, songs, albums and playlists. This process takes place quickly and you can start playing music in a matter of seconds.

In order for your computer to know how to communicate with your media extender it must be running a programk that allows it to share music throughout your home. Fortunately, most computers have free software such as Apple's iTunes and Windows Media Player.

So now you have a music player that's accessing your entire music library on your PC. Now let's suppose another person in your home also wants to listen to music from the same computer. No problem! In fact, both people can listen to completely different songs, all being pulled from the same computer! With many Windows machines you can have up to five people listening to a music collection on a single computer, simultaneously. On top of that, each person has his/her own screen to navigate through the music library, build playlists and control the music. One computer, five people listening to music. Pretty cool, right?

Here's a quick tip. You can create playlists, collections of songs, on your computer and then access those playlists through the media extender. This means that you can spend time building the perfect collection of songs and then pretty much hit "play" on your media extender device.

Now that you're armed with yet another way to unlock the music on your computer and enjoy it throughout your home, stream away!


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