Sometimes I have to just stop and be amazed at the things we can do these days – things that would have seemed like futuristic science fiction when I was a kid (or even when I was in college).
For example, just this weekend I was doing some cleaning around the house (cleaning up the bunnies area) and I wanted to have some relaxing, chillout music on while I worked.
For me, the easiest way to accomplish this was to boot up my netbook, hook it into my livingroom stereo (via the same cable I use to hook up my iPod), and just play some streaming music from Shoutcast (the Digitally Imported Chillout Dreams stream, to be exact).
So that is exactly what I did.
Simple, easy, and straightforward – and it doesn’t take a whole bunch of complicated steps to get going, nor does it take very long (just long enough for my netbook to boot up – which is pretty fast – and to load the radio stream).
It is just amazing to me that this little computer can sit there, pulling music literally from thin air. And of course, the fact that streaming Internet radio gives me an almost unlimited library of music to pull from doesn’t hurt, either.
Now, while this was pretty darned cool, it did make me think of something that was… not so cool.
I have a Windows Media Center Extender right there, just to the right of the Wii in the picture. And the whole point of the Media Center Extender is to do exactly this sort of thing. So why wasn’t I using it?
Well, the short answer is because it’s too slow, too hard, and it doesn’t work with the streaming radio stations I like. The Media Center Extender takes a long time to boot up (longer than my netbook), the interface is slow and clunky, the remote control is awful, trying to enter text is an exercise in frustration, and getting streaming radio to work on it is… well let’s just say “not easy” and leave it at that. You need to add special add-ins to the Media Center PC (not the Extender), which of course must be downloaded, installed, set up in advance, etc. In the end, it’s just not worth the effort.
(In it’s defense, I don’t think the Media Center Extender was ever meant to work with streaming radio from the Internet – it was meant to stream music from a local Media Center PC instead… but really, if it can do that, it should be able to do both. But I digress…)
Anyway, despite the failings of the Windows Media Center Extender, listening to streaming music in my home while I clean is pretty darned neat.
The future is pretty awesome. I love living in the future!