Keep That Old iPhone! DIY Media Console

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My downfall as a Pisces is that I have an inherit and sometimes misguided belief that given the resources / knowledge I can develop something better than anything that’s on the market… at least that’s what I tell myself. And I’ve taken myself up on this very notion in the past: lighting, desktop computers, home recording setups, even ramen, once ;) So when I am able to connect the dots between devices and ideas, and I actually have the tools to do it, you better believe I jump on such ideas. And so goes my idea to re-use my old iPhone 6 after Apple decided it would torture me into upgrading to an iPhone X with it’s maddening slowness with the iOS11 upgrade.

The Plan

Create a controller for all my music as a means to play music in any speaker in my house.

The Tools / Ingredients

1 iPhone with iOS11
1 Macbook running iTunes with Home Sharing turned on, running the latest OS
1 Bluetooth Speaker (in my case I have 2: Amazon Echo in my kitchen, and a Smart Lightulb / Bluetooth Speaker on my back deck)

The Approach

See the diagram below as a summary of the plan I have in place:

  • Laptop has all the music

  • iPhone is simply a controller which reads all the MP3s from my Laptop via Apple Home Sharing in iTunes.

  • If I can play the music on the phone, I can choose a speaker

  • Set up a few BlueTooth and Wireless Speakers

  • Play music from my iPhone and transmit it to the speaker(s) of my choice

iphonereuseplan

 

Since my phone only holds 64G, and I have a 250G music collection, I decided to leave my phone completely empty and have all my music served via Apple iTunes Home Sharing from my laptop (which is always on and connected) to my phone.  My phone will then transmit the music via AirPlay or BlueTooth to the speakers of my choice.

Phase 1: Media Server Setup

This is the easy part, make sure all your music is loaded into iTunes on a computer that is more or less stationary in your house.  You’ll want this computer to be on 24/7 so you have access to your music always.  If you rather keep all the music on your phone, then you may skip ahead to Phase 2.

  • Make sure you have iTunes installed

  • Make sure you’re upgraded to the last OS, often times if devices aren’t talking to each other it’s because you’re required to be up to date to the latest version of the software or operating system

  • Turn Home Sharing on in iTunes

Phase 2: Phone Setup

Ok, so now what state should the phone be in to be a handy device for controlling music?  In my particular case I decided I wanted to wipe my phone, remove the SIM card, and set it up with only the bare minimum required to serve music.  I decided only a few apps were required:

  • iTunes:  This is a necessity if I want to serve my own music.  I’m a big believer in owning music and I have 250 gigs of music I’ve mostly paid for over the years, or I’ve acquired from friends.  My music collection is extremely important to me, so I rely on this for joy and sanity.

  • Pandora: For when I’m not in the mood for curating and I want to be surprised with something new, I’ll turn to my favorite Pandora stations

  • Spotify: I’m on a family plan with a friend of mine and a bunch of friends of hers.  She is the head of our Spotify family and we are all her harem of Spotify husbands, and of course I’m both her favorite Spotify husband and also her biggest regret. Since upgrading to this family plan, I’ve been able to take full advantage of this service, and I’m really enjoying it!

  • SoundCloud: I’m a composer and I follow other composers on this platform.  I want to be able to listen to the music from this platform

  • EaveScrob / QuietScrob:  I’m a Last.FM user and you’ll notice I have a little widget on my blog that tells you in realtime what i’m listening to. This app enables this integration.  You can read about this on your own here.

App Organization

I wanted a look and feel that was pretty minimal.   My approach:

1. All music apps go in the dock

2. All apps I cannot delete go on page 2

3. Choose a cool background image for the wallpaper

(see Page 1 and 2 below, respectively)

IMG_5621 IMG_5622

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Very important: Make sure your phone is also configured for iTunes Home Sharing under the same account.

Phase 3: Test Computer / Phone Connection

At this point if you open iTunes on your phone, you should have access to your Computer’s music library.  If you’re not going to take this approach you can skip to Phase 4.  At this point if you are unable to see your Computer’s library, you may need to have debug this on your own. There are a ton of articles on the subject.

Phase 4: Test Your Speakers

Whether you are getting music from your laptop, or you’re streaming from one of your favorite music services, this is the point where you’ll have to test to make sure you can talk to your different speakers.  Depending on the speakers you have set-up, every vendor has their own way of getting music from an iPhone to that speaker.  For both my Amazon Echo and my outdoor speaker, I can easily switch speakers, using the iOS audio output switcher:

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Phase 5: Positioning and Encasing

This is a very important part of the whole operation.  Where is this thing going to live?  The idea is that it’s in a permanent place in your house, and accessible as easy as a light fixture.  For me, I decided (well, my Spotify wife decided) that it should go above the kitchen light, and I thought it was a brilliant idea. Light is a basic necessity for operating in life, and I would say music is a close second.  I also wanted the device in proximity to my BlueTooth speakers (proximity isn’t really an issue with WiFi as I have a mesh network setup in the house).

Now to make this thing look official, I wanted to get a wall mount for my phone. Sure I could use some electrical tape, but that wouldn’t look as nice, would it? I came across a company called newPCGadgets, and they specialize in making various gadgets for computers including housings for iPhones and iPads for use at conferences and other professional events.  This particular product was perfect for what I had in mind! When speaking with the business owner over the phone, he reassured me that I wasn’t some sort of genius and there was nothing original about this idea that I’m writing about. After I recovered from the ego-blow of having my bubble burst, I continued on with the project, and attached my phone to the acrylic case sent to me and I attached it to the wall with damage-free velcro (in case I decided I wanted to move it around, which I will, I’m sure).

Phase 6: Let There Be Music!  

And that’s pretty much it, my inaugural run, of course, was none other than the great Abdel Halim Hafez, the Frank Sinatra of Egypt. And as the sounds of Ahwak filled my kitchen and dining room, I felt pretty good about how I spent a few hours on a Saturday.  I thought it was then time to give some props to my very talented friend, and fellow Noon Project artist, Alec Martini, who just released some music, and listened to his latest on my system.

Remember, kids: Recycle + Reuse!  While this may not be Sonos, this seems to be a lot more versatile a system, cross compatible with BlueTooth and WiFi compatible devices, and you know what? I’m pretty damn happy with how it turned out!

Any questions? Feel free to hit me up in the comments or in my website’s contact form!

 

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