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Laptop for music playback (Long)

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

    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 
    $1000).  
    
    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 
    on.   
    
    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 
    that.  
    
    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 
    shoulders.
    
    I'd be happy to provide more detail on any of the above to anyone 
    interested. 
    
    Happy Dancing!
    
    Patty
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    Patty Lindsay
    Beavercreek (Dayton), Ohio
    xxxxxxxx@xxxxxxxxxx.xxx
    
    http://www.rscdscincinnati.org/ - Cincinnati Branch RSCDS
  • ...

    Norah Link June 15, 2001, 4:10 p.m. (Message 26357, in reply to message 26356)

    Wow, Patty that's fabulous!  It sounds like just the sort of thing I've
    thought about developing but somehow never had the time to research out all
    the components - got overwhelmed just thinking about it, and about recording
    everything into my laptop too.  Of course, I'd need to upgrade my laptop,
    but that's pretty much getting to be a necessity now too.  Now you have me
    thinking it might be something worth looking into.
    
    Questions:  how much memory do you have?  have you figured out how much of
    your disk space you're chewing up with recordings?
    
    regards,
    Norah
  • ...

    Patty Lindsay June 16, 2001, 6:12 a.m. (Message 26361, in reply to message 26357)

    Norah,
    
    I have 196 meg, the laptop came with 64 and I added 128.  If all I 
    am doing is playing music, 75% of that is free so you wouldn't need 
    196 meg for this particular application.
    
    As far as disk space goes,  I'm averaging about 50 mb per album 
    which would mean you could store 100 albums in 5 Gig.  
    
    Patty
    
    
    
    > Wow, Patty that's fabulous!  It sounds like just the sort of thing I've
    > thought about developing but somehow never had the time to research out all
    > the components - got overwhelmed just thinking about it, and about recording
    > everything into my laptop too.  Of course, I'd need to upgrade my laptop,
    > but that's pretty much getting to be a necessity now too.  Now you have me
    > thinking it might be something worth looking into.
    > 
    > Questions:  how much memory do you have?  have you figured out how much of
    > your disk space you're chewing up with recordings?
    > 
    > regards,
    > Norah
    > 
    > > -----Original Message-----
    > > From: Patty Lindsay [mailto:xxxxxxxx@xxxxxxxxxx.xxx]
    > > Sent: June 14, 2001 11:57 PM
    > > To: xxxxxxxxxx@xxxxxxxxxx.xxx
    > > Subject: Laptop for music playback (Long)
    > > 
    > > 
    > > I've recently configured my new laptop for playing music for classes. 
    
    
    
    Patty Lindsay
    Beavercreek (Dayton), Ohio
    xxxxxxxx@xxxxxxxxxx.xxx
    
    http://www.rscdscincinnati.org/ - Cincinnati Branch RSCDS
  • ...

    Oberdan Otto Oct. 12, 2001, 9:51 p.m. (Message 27866, in reply to message 26356)

    Hi Patty,
    
    It has been a while since you made your fantastic post, but it has 
    taken me this long to get my act together. I have followed your 
    example and acquired Winamp with Pacemaker and just yesterday got my 
    MouseRemote and set it up with Max10.
    
    I was hoping you could teach me how to program Pacemaker, because I 
    wasn't able to figure that out.
    
    I was also wondering if you would be interested in sharing 
    out-of-print music tracks. I have oodles of it, some of it good 
    quality and some not-so-good. I have a lot of original vinyl, but 
    some of the tracks are damaged (i.e. they are scratched and skip so 
    badly that even with the computer I can't repair them). Some of the 
    music I have captured has no original vinyl and comes off of very old 
    cassettes. The sound is muddy, but better than nothing. It would be 
    nice to find un-muddy versions of those tracks.
    
    The sharing method I had in mind was mp3s on Data CD-Rs via snail 
    mail. I have only a modem connection so email of even one mp3 is a 
    big deal (but it might be worth it for a very special track, e.g. 
    Jimmy Shand playing Mairi's Wedding).
    
    As for online sharing, I was wondering if a service like Napster 
    might work for us and our colleagues. Have you tried it?
    
    Cheers, Oberdan.
    184 Estaban Drive, Camarillo, CA 93010-1611 USA
    Voice: (805) 389-0063, FAX: (805) 484-2775, email: xxxxx@xxxxx.xxx

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