KATT Radio – Late Night Jazz

My CD collection is pretty large right now.  I’ve surpassed 1200 albums and I’m not sure there’s ever going to be an end to the growth.  Sometimes, the realization of this prompts some soul-searching and the question comes up, “why?”  Yes, why do I do this?  What is the actual goal?  There is no real goal, it’s just an ongoing feeling of happiness, tending my collection like a garden.  But sometimes, the thought sneaks in, “That’s a lot of stuff to have.  You can only listen to one CD at a time.”

That’s right.  It is a lot of stuff for such a limited use.  It’s too bad I couldn’t share the awesomeness of it all with people.  And that thought led me down a path that ended up with me considering another potentially obsessive hobby – running a radio station!  You can get low-power AM radio station licenses pretty cheaply.  I started thinking up radio programs and what kind of expenses would come along with such an idea.  Everyone knows there’s no live radio now and all DJs pre-program their sets in advance.  I could easily do that, right?  No one really wants to hear my voice, so it wouldn’t be a banter kind of station, just music.  Hell, anyone can create a playlist, right?  That’s all a radio station is anymore.

But that idea faded as I thought about the reality of trying to make enough music shows (I mean playlists) to keep the station interesting (as I daydream about upending my local radio stations… ha).  So I considered an easier route:  An Internet radio station.  And I researched that and found I could get licensing for about $60/mo, and the licensing software would integrate with some common radio software.  I looked in the radio DJ software and immediately felt less enthusiastic.  It’s like my dilemma when I want to do music.  You have to master this software before you can actually start a project.  And by the time you understand how, you don’t care anymore.

At the same time I was kicking around this idea of broadcasting in my mind, I was pursuing another thought.  The idea that I had all this music doing nothing was nagging at me a little.  I do rip all of my CDs to my home computer (sitting at about 430GB right now) for playback at my desk.  And the idea that I could only really play it at my desk was a slight annoyance.  That’s a lot of music to sit there and do nothing.  So I gave consideration to how to broadcast it.  It would be a nice start to have devices throughout my home that could play my ripped music.  It would be even cooler if I could play it from my phone, anywhere.

As it turns out, there is such a way to do it.  Actually there’s plenty of ways to do it.  And the idea wasn’t all that new to me.  Back in my Zune days, there was a way to have Zune broadcast your music and videos to an XBox.  And I was actually sort of on board with that.  But since I never actually went through with buying an XBox and pursuing the “media center” dream, I had to reconsider my options.  As it turns out, the old XBox software grew up and broke its dependency on XBox.  That software is now called Plex.  And this software will broadcast to all kinds of devices, near and far.  Lots of people use Plex to share their music and videos with their friends.  That’s pretty cool, whether legal or not.

So I installed Plex on my home computer and had it go to town on my music library.  It grabbed a ton of info on my albums and artists from last.fm and it was flexible enough to let me edit anything left over on my own.  I went out to my living room and installed the Plex client on my Samsung TV.  It worked, which was impressive.  What wasn’t impressive was my TV’s sound quality.  So, I wrote the experiment off as useless.

Fast forward to today, I was dealing with cat issues.  My new cat has millennial-grade anxiety about everything.  Every sound freaks him out.  He hid under a bed for days, leading me to think he was dying.  But in the short time I’ve had him, I’ve discovered he likes music – a lot.  He likes a lot of the new age, smooth jazz instrumental music I like.  So I thought I would start playing it while I was out of the house, maybe to keep him chilled out.  I was getting ready to grab a Sansa Clip MP3 player and was sort of dreading all the work that would go along with that.  The player needs charged, I have to choose the music to play, the music has to be transcoded to fit onto the Clip, there won’t be a lot of music on there.  This was going to suck.  But wait, I have my entire music library available to stream to my TV.  And I doubt the cat is going to be overly picky about the sound quality…

So I popped back on the living room TV and this time installed the Plex client for the Roku.  It installed quickly and I was off and browsing my collection.  I chose Acoustic Alchemy, which was the music he had heard on his transport to my house.  I played all tracks from all albums on shuffle.  And it just worked.  My TV has a video mode where you can turn the screen off and just use the audio, so I didn’t have to worry about screen burn-in.  I think I have a solution here.

I came back from dinner and the cat was not hiding under a bed, so I consider the music plan a success.  I will try again tomorrow while I’m at work and see how well that works.  And in time, I can build a huge playlist of instrumental songs for him – his own radio station.

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