Serious technolust

Jeff Bone
Fri, 04 Jan 2002 00:07:10 -0600

I've started getting a serious case of technolust for a new class of
device that's hit the shelves:  the "digital jukebox" thing.  It's
basically nothing that can't be done with a PC and / or some
combination of other devices, but having all of this in a dedicated
box / system that can sit in the AV rack and use the nice speakers is
really appealing somehow.  Think of it as an all-digital
hundreds-of-disks jukebox --- why actually house the disks in the
device and manage them mechanically when you can just rip them to an
internal drive?  There are a couple of these I've come across;  the
most common one seems to be the HP device [1] but there's a high-end
integrated system (and some other very sweeeet toys) from Linn. [2]
[3]  The Knekt stuff might actually be Linux-based.

The basic idea:  pack a big hard drive, a network interface or modem,
a video-based UI, and a multifunction disk reader / writer into a
single box.  Focus on the process of collecting and using *music*
rather than the specifics of format, etc.  Digitize and organize all
your various music files in all the expected formats.  *Integrate*
all the various things you want to do with music.  Throw CDs in, rip
to disk.  Throw a blank in, rip it back out.  Load up your portable
player.  Snarf metadata automatically.  Tune 'net-based radio.
Manage playlists.  Put your CDs in the closet for disaster recovery,
where they belong.  Simple, simple, simple idea --- and yet its
integrated and turnkey operation (vs. the PC) may indeed make it the
first real mass-market breakthrough "convergence" device.

The HP device is a good entry unit, $1000 and will definitely drop in
price as long as HP doesn't pull the plug before they get to scale on
it.  Holds about 750 average-length CDs worth of content (40Gb drive,
9000 tracks, 635 hours @ 128kb/s sample rate.)  User manual for the
HP de100c at [4];  some /. commentary (including some warts)
available at [5].  Summary warts:  DRM madness.  Rumored that it will
only burn onto "digital audio media" disks, not standard CD-RW disks,
though it'll do CD-RW and CD-R formats with both CDDA and MP3 files.
Can't access stored music from other devices (grrr) but that might be
overcome by hacking;  haven't yet seen anything on hacking the
device, though.  Compaq also has a similar device, but it's got half
the capacity and doesn't burn disks at all, and is the same price.

Anybody want to contribute to the
buy-the-currently-underpaid-entrepreneur-a-toy fund?



[4] http://