I hope that when Everett grows up and thinks back to his early childhood, that one of the things he’ll say is “My house was filled with music.” In other words, I’ve been spending some quality time on paternity leave rocking my Squeezebox.
One of the coolest things about the Squeezebox is the fact that it’s powered by open-source software with a vibrant ecosystem of third-party plugins that extend its features in all sorts of cool ways. I’m now closing in on four years of ecstatic Squeezebox ownership, and I just realized I’d never shared the “must have” plugins that really make the Squeezebox really sing. Here’s a quick rundown on how I’ve achieved open-source digital audio nirvana.
- MusicIP. Even though it’s sort-of-abandonware at this point, MusicIP is still the single most compelling add-on for Squeezebox. If you’ve used iTunes’ “Genius” feature, it’s sort of like that, except lots smarter. MusicIP actually generates an acoustic analysis of all of your songs. Then, given a starting song, artist, album or genre, it can find other songs that actually sound similar, which makes for an amazing way to take a “semi-random walk” through your music collection. Not only is MusicIP much smarter than iTunes’ misnamed Genius, it’s very configurable, so you can decide how random those mixes are. (Note: even if you’re not running a Squeezebox, you can still use MusicIP standalone or with iTunes.) MusicIP has single-handedly revolutionized the way I listen to music, and more than anything else, I think it really unlocks the power of an all-digital music experience.
- TrackStat. Long a favorite of the Squeezebox cognoscenti, I’m a recent adopter of TrackStat, Erland Isaksson’s amazing music statistics plugin. TrackStat lets you rate your songs–and even better–it auto-rates songs as you play them. Play something through to completion, and its rating goes up. Skip it before it gets halfway finished and the rating goes down. It also keeps track of how often each song gets played. Over time, it builds up a very rich library of stats about your listening preferences, without you having to lift a finger. Then, Erland’s companion plugin Dynamic Playlists lets you easily build playlists based on your stats, for example to find your favorite not-recently-played songs. Good stuff.
- NPR Radio. Makes it one-click easy to get your favorite NPR stations or programs streaming on your Squeezebox. Now if only KUOW would drop the incredibly repetitive 15-second promo spot they tack onto the beginning of each streaming session, I’d be in internet radio heaven!
- Lazy Search Music. Hey, I’m lazy! Lazy Search Music makes it way easier to quickly search for music using the Squeezebox’s numeric keypad-based remote control. Without Lazy Search, Squeezeserver requires multiple button-pushes to enter each search character. With Lazy Search, you just press each letter once and it does fuzzy matching, which is much much faster.
- FindArt. Lets you find missing cover art for your albums. It’s not truly a mass search-and-download tool (for that I use a standalone program called Album Art Downloader), but it’s a really handy tool for filling in gaps.