How can I send music over my network?
December 12, 2005 6:45 PM   Subscribe

I have thousands of songs on my laptop. Unfortunately, my laptop's speakers are terrible. My desktop, however, has a great set of speakers. I want to listen to music from my laptop on my desktop speakers, and I want to control the audio from my laptop. The desktop and laptop can connect to each other over my network. Is there anything out there that will let me do this easily and at no cost?
posted by punishinglemur to Technology (22 answers total)
iTunes has an option for "share music"- if you are on the same network, your laptop will show up in your desktop iTunes along with all the songs.
posted by starman at 6:51 PM on December 12, 2005

Just share the folder that contains your MP3 files and you can then mount it as a network drive on your big computer... Then you can just play them as if they were local files.
posted by glider at 6:52 PM on December 12, 2005

I know I can easily access my laptop files from the desktop, but I want to be able to control the playback from my laptop.
posted by punishinglemur at 6:55 PM on December 12, 2005

Both answers so far aren't getting that he wants to control the playing from his laptop. iTunes doesn't do that, nor will sharing a folder.
posted by neustile at 6:55 PM on December 12, 2005

I would use share my music on iTunes, and then use RDC or VNC or ARD to control my desktop computer's copy of iTunes, playing the shared tracks from the laptop. There are probably easier ways but that will work and will be a familiar interface.
posted by neustile at 6:56 PM on December 12, 2005

IMO, the networking option is a red herring. Get a cheap, buffered audio switcher (an A/B box) and a long 1/8" stereo cable (about $20 for 25' or so at Radioshack). When you want to listen from your laptop, flick the switch and your audio is routed into your desktop's speakers. If this isn't clear, ask me and I'll try to explain the signal chain a bit more clearly.
posted by electric_counterpoint at 7:00 PM on December 12, 2005

Install VLC on the desktop, enable the web interface, you can now access your desktop through http://ip.of.desktop:8080 in the web browser of your choice from your laptop.
posted by The Monkey at 7:00 PM on December 12, 2005

VNC is probably the simplest solution. Run the VNC server on the desktop and connect to it with the VNC client on the laptop. Then you can remotely control anything on the desktop computer, including the music application.
posted by knave at 7:01 PM on December 12, 2005

By the way, and just in case you didn't know... VLC is a media player, and is nothing like VNC, which is for remote controlling a whole computer.

The interface for VLC is a media controller in the web browser on your laptop - fast forward, pause, skip, stop, modify your playlist, etc.

The interface for VNC is your desktop, but in a window on your laptop.
posted by The Monkey at 7:07 PM on December 12, 2005

Are both of these computers running KDE? If so, you can use the network transparency feature of the artsd daemon to route the audio output of your laptop to be played on the audio device of your desktop.

It's possible that esound does this as well, but I haven't used it in years so I can't say for sure. A glance at the documentation shows that it does.

Unfortunately, I don't know how to do network-transparent audio on Windows or OSX.
posted by majick at 7:17 PM on December 12, 2005

iTunes is the way I'm handling this sort of thing, with a bonus Airport Express thrown in to handle streaming to my surround sound stereo setup.
posted by griffey at 7:27 PM on December 12, 2005

Look into the Slimserver which servers music over a network to the Squeezebox. Included in the Slimserver distribution is a java Squeezebox emulator called Softsqueeze. So you can run your desktop or laptop as a slimserver serving to the Squeezebox emulated on your desktop, and you can control the whole thing from a great web interface from anywhere on the network, or Internet even, if say you want to DJ from work for your pets at home. And if you have the bandwidth you can stream your collection over the Internet. Internet Radio and (at this time limited) podcast support. All the software is open source, so there are lots of cool plugins to add functionality. Works with all common audio file formats including FLAC, doesn't yet work with iTunes Store DRM. They give all the software away to sell the Squeezeboxes. Cool marketing. I'm on the verge of getting one after playing with this stuff and being able to play all my live music FLACs from the network.
posted by bephillips at 7:34 PM on December 12, 2005

Slimserver can do this. You don't have to buy an actual slimplayer box, either. There are "virtual" versions available for several platforms. So, you run the server software on your laptop, you run the virtual client on the desktop, and you control it all from the webserver on the laptop.
posted by odinsdream at 7:37 PM on December 12, 2005

VNC is how I manage this (as the desktop with the decent amp and speakers is a linux machine, and the laptop is XP. If they're both windows, then just remote desktop).

You want the desktop to be able to read the laptop files, using Filesharing or Samba or similar. Then use VNC (or remote desktop) to control your media player of choice on the desktop, from the laptop, using the files on the laptop.
posted by pompomtom at 8:06 PM on December 12, 2005

Use a standard audio cable (1/8" stereo jack - 1/8" stereo plug) to connect the speakers to the laptop. An A/B switch (viz electric_counterpoint) is optional -- you're going to be in the same room anyway.
posted by cbrody at 8:16 PM on December 12, 2005

Maybe I'm misunderstanding the question, but I think I already do this. I plug my desktop's speakers into the headphone jack on my laptop. Voila! Music out the speakers controlled by my laptop.
posted by duck at 8:53 PM on December 12, 2005

Another vote for Slimserver: It's free, simple and meets all your requirements.
posted by m.openmind at 11:04 PM on December 12, 2005

VNC is probably the easiest way to go, but you can also stream your mp3s to the desktop using winamp 2.9 and the shoutcast plugin. The deskop will just be listening to the stream and you can control the stream just like you would normally change songs in winamp.
posted by skallas at 5:04 AM on December 13, 2005

duck wrote: "Maybe I'm misunderstanding the question, but I think I already do this. I plug my desktop's speakers into the headphone jack on my laptop. Voila! Music out the speakers controlled by my laptop."

I've been doing this for quite some time as well. Sometimes the simplest solutions are the best - why install a bunch of extra software or invest in extra hardware when the laptop has an audio out port built in?
posted by caution live frogs at 6:44 AM on December 13, 2005

Two tiny issues with duck's plan, in case punishinglemur is a closet audiophile:

1) Switching cables "live" (with the amp on) can potentially damage speakers. Depending on how great his/her speakers are, this may be worrisome but it probably shouldn't be. A buffered switch box takes care of this.

2) In theory, you shouldn't amplify a signal more than once if you're worried about sound quality and/or have sensitive equipment downstream. In practice, the amp powering your headphone jack doesn't count for this rule but it's a rule just the same. At any rate, if the OP is listening to compressed MP3s or has any hearing loss whatsoever, the rule won't be the bottleneck on his or her overall fidelity.

Jus' sayin', is all.
posted by electric_counterpoint at 8:37 AM on December 13, 2005

This looks like another option for ya.
posted by starman at 3:19 PM on December 13, 2005

All this crap is way too complicated. Sorry for the late answer, but this is really too much for me to pass on.

Your answer is WAWI - WinAmp Web Interface. Just set it up as a plugin on your desktop WinAmp, access the music over the network, and control WinAmp from any browser (especially Firefox) on the laptop. It's nice, it's pretty, it's free, and you don't have to install Apple's bloatware.
posted by SlyBevel at 3:14 PM on December 15, 2005

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