The magic of AirPort Express
I’ve been mainly business since I’ve started this blog, so I figured that I could share some non-web-development-related stuff from time to time.
I’ll admit that I’ve somehow become an Apple fan boy over the years. One lesser-known thing about Apple’s products is how well their entertainment stuff integrates together. For a couple hundred bucks, you can turn your Mac or Windows PC into the cerebellum of music in your household.
For most purposes, here’s what you need to have a house-wide sound system:
- At least one AirPort Express
- Mac or Windows PC
- iTunes as your music software
- Stereo or powered speakers
- iPhone or iPod Touch (optional)
- App called Remote for iPhone/iPod Touch
The AirPort Express
The true lifeblood of this setup is the AirPort Express. When you plug one of these suckers in, you get these wireless features:
- Music sharing via AirTunes
- Wireless printing
- Wireless router (if you don’t already have a router)
- Extend the range of a current wireless network (if you already have a router)
Basically, it has outputs for you to plug in a speaker cable, USB printer cable, and CAT5 cable.
The limitation is that for each AirPort express, you need to have your stereo, printer, or LAN cable within physical proximity of it. So if your stereo is in your living room and your printer is in your office, you may need 2 AirPort Expresses. Get it?
How AirTunes works in iTunes
If you set up at least one AirPort Express, you get an additional drop-down menu in the lower right corner of iTunes.
As you can see from my example above, I have 3 AirPort Extremes: Bathroom, Living Room, and Office. Yes, I like listening to music while I’m in the shower in the morning. So sue me. 🙂
With those AirPort Expresses in place, I can select to play music from iTunes on small speakers in my bathroom, the Bose system in my living room, the shelf stereo in my office, or on my computer’s speakers. Or any combination of those locations.
Like I said above, I could hook printers up at any of those locations as well. As it turns out, I can have my MacBook (it could be a PC too) anywhere in my apartment and print wirelessly to my printer in the office.
Remote control via iPhone or iPod Touch
Remote is a cool app, and it gets even cooler when you have AirPort Express. As you can see on the left, you can go to a settings screen from your iPhone to tell iTunes where to send the music.
In this example, John can play his music on the computer, in the living room, on the patio, or any combination of those.
The app lets you choose songs, adjust the volume, rate songs, and more.
DJ functionality in Remote
Another fun thing to play with is Apple’s enhanced DJ functionality. When you have iTunes DJ playing (used to be called “Party Shuffle”), anyone with an iPhone can join your network, browse your music library, and vote for which songs to play next.
Whomever has their iPhone officially synced up with their computer is the DJ and ultimately controls what’s in-queue and what plays next. Or it can all be controlled from the computer as well.
This app made for an extremely nerdy time when I had some guys over to shoot some pool. But I must admit that my music library was a great conversation piece, and everyone with iPhones had a great time playing around with the app and interacting to choose the next song.
Nerd out yer soundz
Yes, this has taken me years to build up. I bought my first AirPort Express many years ago. But it’s been a cool way for me to feel all high tech and to get more out of my investment in Apple products. It really does work well and kicks major ass.
Questions? Ask the guru in the comments.