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Controlling HTPC for music, without the TV

post #1 of 26
Thread Starter 
I have a nice big plasma that is very nice for movies and video, but I'm very hesitant to leave it on while listening to music. I have concerns about image retention, and it is just a waste of power. I have been trying to think of a good way to control it, but options seem scarce.

- Streaming music TO the HTPC requires having or having access to my library on another computer. It also requires using another computer.

- A smartphone app might work, but I don't have nor want a smartphone

- A second monitor in the form of a touchscreen could work, but I don't think WMC really supports dual monitor so I'd need to use screen duplication, which limits my resolution to the lesser device. So I would have to run my TV at some crappy resolution, or buy a big 'ol 20 inch or bigger touchscreen that supports 1080p.


Do folks have any good ideas? How have other people solved this in the past? I have a bunch of crummy ways to do it, and it would be a little easier if DLNA streaming to my receiver wasn't 90% broken, but I want a nice "appliancy" way to do it. Don't want to have to bust out a laptop to play music.
post #2 of 26
I use foobar2000 and a Google Nexus 7. But if you don't want a smartphone then I suppose the idea of a tablet may make your head explode :-)
post #3 of 26
Remote desktop access from another desktop or laptop would be the most straight forward way I can think of.
post #4 of 26
Thread Starter 
Hmm, tablet might actually work out. I don't want a smartphone because I don't want the internet in my pocket and I don't want to PAY for internet in my pocket. Tablet doesn't come w/ a contract though...
post #5 of 26
You can get a wifi-only Nexus. You don't need a contract, mine is used only in my home. Just about everything in my HT is controlled by it, I love it.
post #6 of 26
I have a Windows 8 tablet (Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet 2).

There's a WMC Remote Control App in the Windows 8 Store which I use, and which works well.
post #7 of 26
I went through the same issue a few years ago, at the time I was using WMC/MB as my video player/front end and foobar for music. I started using foobar with the remote plugin for my iPod and iPad but the issue I had was if I left foobar open, it would take exclusive access to the audio device if using WASAPI and WMC couldn't playback video until I closed foobar, not a very graceful solution.
I ended up switching to XBMC, it supports WASAPI as well as the audio formats that WMC doesn't (multichannel flac for me was too important). I use XBMC commander as a remote control app on my iPad and it's flawless.
post #8 of 26
Another vote for XBMC + tablet for control. I'm not 100% sure but I'll bet any number of XBMC remote apps would also run on an iPod touch... I'll have to try that tonight.
post #9 of 26
^ditto the XBMC for music. I ran a headless setup with an OpenELEC box connected to my AVR. Its a really nice web interfaces as well as tablet apps for music. Great selection views, playlist features, etc.
post #10 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by DanPackMan View Post

^ditto the XBMC for music. I ran a headless setup with an OpenELEC box connected to my AVR. Its a really nice web interfaces as well as tablet apps for music. Great selection views, playlist features, etc.

I'm just getting my feet wet with openELEC but definitely like the XBMC control. I use it on my phone and Kindle fire.

I am coming from JRiver MC. I can highly recommend this (though it is a paid app rather than open source). The free jriver Gizmo app works extremely well for controlling jriver instance running on my main PC. Added bonus is that within Gizmo I can see as DLNA instances my 2 XBMC openELEC boxes as well as my Sonos and can send music via gizmo to them, control my main PC or use the phone or Kindle to hear what I wish.

Gizmo also runs as a web page within jriver so can be pulled up on a browser on any network connected PC.

A 7" tablet, even a generic one that you could find for less than $100 should open up most of the options suggested here. OP, you said you didn't want a smart phone, but I bet you could find a used android phone on craigslist or the like for next to nothing. It wouldn't make calls but it would make for a nice touchscreen remote for the uses suggested here. When I upgraded my phone i made my old one a dedicated remote and music player for my system.
post #11 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by DanPackMan View Post

^ditto the XBMC for music. I ran a headless setup with an OpenELEC box connected to my AVR. Its a really nice web interfaces as well as tablet apps for music. Great selection views, playlist features, etc.

+whatever number we're up to for XBMC

Default web interface should serve your needs on whatever device you wish LINK. Just navigate to the music section and place bookmark in whatever device you want to use (can send to homescreen in tablets or leave in browser bookmarks as well)

The aforementioned Commander app in iOS is very nice. For Android, there is the Official XBMC remote as well as the (preferred by me) Yatse control app. Both will pull in all the associated data upon your request (thumbnails or banners for Movies, TV, and/or Music) letting you browse a slick looking gallery and initiate playback with your Plasma turned on/off.

The easiest way for all of this to function is through an always on HTPC. WOL apps are available if you really want to dig. You may already be leaving your HTPC on 24/7 anyway

Also, for such purposes the 8GB Nexus 7 seems just perfect. Even an older iPad should suffice for a decent price (check for commander iOS version compatibility first)

Don't see a lot of deals for 8GB N7 anymore, but this one's pretty decent for 16GB http://www.ebay.com/itm/ASUS-Google-Nexus-7-16GB-Wi-Fi-7in-Brown-Color-Bluetooth-Webcam-Android-4-1-/281053622251?pt=US_Tablets&hash=item417019efeb
post #12 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dark_Slayer View Post

+whatever number we're up to for XBMC

Also, for such purposes the 8GB Nexus 7 seems just perfect. Even an older iPad should suffice for a decent price (check for commander iOS version compatibility first)
I'm not sure about Commander, but I run Constellation (which from your description seems simialr to Commander, I really like it) on an iPad 2. An iPad 2 is still a pretty nice device that can be had for a relatively (we are talking about an Apple product!) good price if you would like to try out iOS rather an Android.
post #13 of 26
Subsonic Server installed on HTPC, in Jukebox mode. You can control Subsonic from iPhone, iPad, web interface, Android, Roku, Blackberry...

Been running it for years and I love it. It gives me access (and my friends) from anywhere on the internet for remote streaming, too.

http://www.subsonic.org/pages/index.jsp
post #14 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by undermined View Post

Remote desktop access from another desktop or laptop would be the most straight forward way I can think of.
Remote desktop really don't play nice with wmc but assuming the op is willing to use another media player it wont be a problem.
post #15 of 26
2x client via android or ios...
TeamViewer, or TightVNC via PC
post #16 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dark_Slayer View Post

+whatever number we're up to for XBMC

Default web interface should serve your needs on whatever device you wish LINK. Just navigate to the music section and place bookmark in whatever device you want to use (can send to homescreen in tablets or leave in browser bookmarks as well)

The aforementioned Commander app in iOS is very nice. For Android, there is the Official XBMC remote as well as the (preferred by me) Yatse control app. Both will pull in all the associated data upon your request (thumbnails or banners for Movies, TV, and/or Music) letting you browse a slick looking gallery and initiate playback with your Plasma turned on/off.

The easiest way for all of this to function is through an always on HTPC. WOL apps are available if you really want to dig. You may already be leaving your HTPC on 24/7 anyway

Also, for such purposes the 8GB Nexus 7 seems just perfect. Even an older iPad should suffice for a decent price (check for commander iOS version compatibility first)

Don't see a lot of deals for 8GB N7 anymore, but this one's pretty decent for 16GB http://www.ebay.com/itm/ASUS-Google-Nexus-7-16GB-Wi-Fi-7in-Brown-Color-Bluetooth-Webcam-Android-4-1-/281053622251?pt=US_Tablets&hash=item417019efeb

add another vote for XBMC

I use Unified remote which allows you to view your library on a smartphone or tablet. No tv needed.
post #17 of 26
I believe the 8GB Nexus 7 is no more. Google replaced it with the 16GB for the same price. Can't beat it for $200.
post #18 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by sliverstorm View Post

Hmm, tablet might actually work out. I don't want a smartphone because I don't want the internet in my pocket and I don't want to PAY for internet in my pocket. Tablet doesn't come w/ a contract though...

Have you considered buying a no contract phone and just not activating it to use for wifi only? Best Buy has some no contract android phones from around $50 and I'm sure you could find decent ones even cheaper if you bought them used or refurbished. If all you want is a controller seems a lot more reasonable (and portable) than $150-200 for a 7" tablet.

I have a Sonos and control it through my crappy little android phone and it works just fine. No idea how the XBMC controller for android compares to Sonos but I'd think it would work just fine.
post #19 of 26
Tablet/smartphone will only work if you can lock the device so that it can only be used as a remote. Otherwise the person using it has to understand the whole system. So no good for families etc.. For example on the tablet/phone there will be some way of exiting the program. Once this happens various other irrelevant information will be displayed and the user will not be able to play music unless he knows what program to run.

I do agree that the concept of a remote which displays information would be the best solution but the software has to be locked down.

In absence of this, a dedicated device such as a Squeezebox may be the next best alternative.
post #20 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by CSMR View Post

Tablet/smartphone will only work if you can lock the device so that it can only be used as a remote. Otherwise the person using it has to understand the whole system. So no good for families etc.. For example on the tablet/phone there will be some way of exiting the program. Once this happens various other irrelevant information will be displayed and the user will not be able to play music unless he knows what program to run.

I do agree that the concept of a remote which displays information would be the best solution but the software has to be locked down.

In absence of this, a dedicated device such as a Squeezebox may be the next best alternative.

Really? Help me understand this since I'm considering buying a tablet myself and have never had one before. If I buy one w/wifi only and no service contract and then download the Sonos controller app for android (or XBMC controller, etc) why wouldn't I be able to just leave it anywhere in the house for my wife or whoever else to pick it up and control what music they want to play, and why would that preclude me from using it for any other purpose that one would normally use a tablet? If you dont' put a password on it why should it require anything more involved than turning it on and hitting the icon to open the controller app?
post #21 of 26
I think he's talking about using remote desktop from a tablet. I agree this is a pain and requires some skill to use since it is nearly impossible to read anything on the screen (1080p shrunk down to a lower rez tablet screen), and you have to log in with your credentials as if you were sitting at your PC. Apparently a lot of folks do this, but it seems like a terrible solution to me. I much prefer to just use a keyboard/mouse and see everything on the gigantic screen already in front of me. A tiny, unreadable version on an expensive tablet device or phone is pretty worthless IMO. I just don't see the point. Remote control apps, on the other hand, work beautifully. Remote desktop, not so much.
post #22 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by ElJimador View Post

why wouldn't I be able to just leave it anywhere in the house for my wife or whoever else to pick it up and control what music they want to play, and why would that preclude me from using it for any other purpose that one would normally use a tablet? If you dont' put a password on it why should it require anything more involved than turning it on and hitting the icon to open the controller app?

It doesn't. I think they were referring to people not understanding which "app" to use on the tablet, nor understanding how to even use a tablet. For me that is strictly isolated to about 5 members of my family that are from the greatest generation.
Quote:
Originally Posted by CSMR View Post

Tablet/smartphone will only work if you can lock the device so that it can only be used as a remote. Otherwise the person using it has to understand the whole system. So no good for families etc.. For example on the tablet/phone there will be some way of exiting the program. Once this happens various other irrelevant information will be displayed and the user will not be able to play music unless he knows what program to run.

I do agree that the concept of a remote which displays information would be the best solution but the software has to be locked down.

In absence of this, a dedicated device such as a Squeezebox may be the next best alternative.

I think you are referring to the potential for someone to "exit" the controller app on an iPad or Android tablet then not understanding how to open it again? I will say that I always prefer a remote with physical buttons for my usage, but since I already had a nexus 7 I wanted to try the available XBMC control apps on it. The one I prefer the most is Yatse since it seems to cache thumbnails about 4x faster than the official XBMC remote app, and the "incoming call pause/play" notification is more stable in my experience.

That being said, the "orange" Yatse icon only "confuses" anyone 1 time. After I show them the "orange" yatse app controls XBMC they get it. I also like for the control to be "unlocked" because it serves a nice purpose. The purpose being youtube. When there is a youtube video that someone just has to show us, they take the tablet and google search the name of it. When they click the youtube link on the tablet it asks if they would like to play on device or "send to XBMC." Afterwards getting back to Yatse isn't ever a problem. I guess it depends on your target audience
post #23 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by mdavej View Post

... A tiny, unreadable version on an expensive tablet device or phone is pretty worthless IMO. I just don't see the point. Remote control apps, on the other hand, work beautifully. Remote desktop, not so much.

That pretty much sums it up. Considering the OP's needs of controlling a headless box dedicated to music, a remote desktop would be the least practical approach, as there are software and apps that are out there that have all the controls you need, with GUIs set up for the device of your choice.

Web interfaces are available for desktops and laptops. And you can leave your tablet laying around for the wife to use without worrying about messing stuff up! I showed the XBMC tablet interface to mine and she immediately said "heck, even I can use that". Its also cool stuff to show your friends.

Don't understand the "locked down" thing, btw.
Edited by DanPackMan - 4/18/13 at 5:35pm
post #24 of 26
If you can learn to click a mouse, if you can learn a universal remote, then learning a tablet interface shouldn't be too far from the realm of comprehension. There is no need for remote desktop connection or Web interface, there are apps for practically everything. In my signature are links to my equipment. The only device I can't control is the Denon 2930 disk player. In most cases the app is better than the device remote for configuration. Denon 4311 is an example of this - in a heartbeat I can reach advanced configuration settings. XBMC, foobar and Squeezebox apps are all wonderful. Since I have an always on media server I never directly access my computer.

I have one Nexus 7 that stays in the HT. Not only for device remote control, but IMDB app, Netflix and Hulu for managing queues.

I'm loving life. I can sip scotch on my deck and without getting my lazy arse up play music from any number of sources to any system in my home, with complete control. It doesn't get any better (until mosquito season).

But even without this I drool over the convenience of owning a small tablet.
post #25 of 26
This is why I love my Squeezebox Touch. It really is too bad they no longer make them. I do, however use either my iphone or ipad to control it, it allows for easier access to content.
The Sonos is a good alternative, but also more expensive.
post #26 of 26
^^ Me too. I couldn't believe they retired the squeezebox - glad I have a legacy and a Touch, they should last me until a valid alternative comes to market.

I agree. The Touch interface is nice, but the mobile app (I use Android) is one sweet piece of software, one of my favorites.
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