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  • Patty Lindsay

    Patty Lindsay June 15, 2001, 5:57 a.m. (Message 26356)

    Laptop for music playback (Long)

    I've recently configured my new laptop for playing music for classes. 
    My goal was to put all of my CDs on the laptop, have a quick and 
    easy way to find and play the right recording, provide for variable 
    speed playback, have reliable remote control that could be used 
    from anywhere in the room, and portable enough that I could easily 
    carry it myself.  So far I've been very pleased with the results, so I 
    thought I'd share what I've done.
    The  laptop is a factory-refurbished HP Pavilion with a Pentium III 
    600 mhz and 10 gig hard drive running Windows ME (for less than 
    I used Music Match to convert my CDs to mp3 and store them on 
    the hard drive.  
    I chose Winamp for playback, mainly because I found a plug-in for 
    variable speed playback. The plug-in is Pacemaker.  It allows you 
    to control tempo (speed control with pitch adjustment) in 1% 
    increments as well as pitch and speed control.  The tempo control 
    is what we use to speed-up or slow-down playback.  I found other 
    speed control plug-ins, but they either did not adust for pitch or 
    adjusted speed in huge increments (eg 10, 20%).  The interface for 
    Pacemaker is very easy to use. There is both a slider bar and a set 
    of + and - buttons.  Both Winamp and Pacemaker are available at 
    no cost.
    I added remote control capability with MouseRemote by X10.  This 
    is an RF device so the range is very good and you don't need line-
    of-sight for it to work. (RF stands for radio frequency, vs infra-red 
    which many remotes use.)  It looks like a TV/VCR remote.  It comes 
    with a RF receiver that plugs into the serial port of the laptop.  It runs 
    for $50.  Software is provided, but I used Max10 instead. Max10 is 
    freeware that lets you program the buttons on this remote to 
    perform various functions on the computer.  Settings for WinAmp 
    come pre-setup with Max10, but you can also setup other programs 
    as well.  I was able to program it to control the Pacemaker 
    program.  So from the dance floor we can do the following: Play, 
    Pause, Stop, skip forward/backwards 5 seconds,  go to 
    next/previous track in playlist, increase/decrease volume, and 
    increase/decrease playback tempo.
    I looked for an RF credit card or key chain sized remote so it would 
    be small enough to tuck in a sporran or pocket, but the only thing I 
    found was $150 and that was more than I wanted to pay.  The 
    MouseRemote is a bit bulky, but it is light.   It can be used by the 
    teacher when teaching the dance, and then once we're ready to
    dance it can be set down on a table at  the side of the room as we 
    start to dance.
    For speakers, I chose Cambridge SoundWorks speakers in a bag 
    for $69. This is a subwoofer with 2 satellite speakers that fit in a 
    nylon bag with a mesh front. You can use the speakers without 
    unpacking them, which makes them quite portable.  There is room 
    in the bag for a portable CD or MP3 player which turns the bag into 
    a boom box (sans tape) when the laptop isn't available.  We've got 
    good sound from them for the 1-2 set size classes we've tried them 
    For quick and easy selection of dance music, I generated some 
    static html pages using FoxPro and the DanceData databases.   
    There are pages for looking up a recording by name, by type 
    (strathspey, reel, jig etc) and by album name, artist and album id.  I 
    can also create pages for the dances on an upcoming program or 
    the dances planned for a given class. Once you find the recording 
    you want, you just click on the 'Play' link and WinAmp plays it.  At 
    some point I'd like to change the static pages to dynamic pages 
    that would query DanceData directly, but who knows when I'll get to 
    We've used the setup at 4 classes now and have not encountered 
    any glitches.  We're able to select and play music very quickly and 
    easily.   In a very short time, you can even listen to several 
    recordings for the same dance and choose one to use.  And with 
    the laptop in a backpack/rucksack (which also holds dance shoes, 
    etc) and the speakers in a bag, I can carry the whole setup on my 
    I'd be happy to provide more detail on any of the above to anyone 
    Happy Dancing!
    Patty Lindsay
    Beavercreek (Dayton), Ohio - Cincinnati Branch RSCDS

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