Today I went to the Apple Store and bought an AirPort Express Base Station. I had been looking for a good way of listening to MP3s in the living room, and after my boss mentioned how we was using an AirPort Express and a set of PC speakers to stream music into his kitchen, I decided to give it a shot.

I have to admit that I’m very impressed with this little device. Setting it up on my existing wireless network (using a D-Link DI-624 wireless router and a couple of Windows laptops) was a snap. A few minutes later, I was streaming music from iTunes into my living room stereo. I ran into some slight issues afterwards, as the AirPort Express would happily play music for a minute or two, and then lose its network connection until I would power-cycle it. I’m not sure what exactly fixed it in the end, but after configuring my router to assign the same static IP address (static DHCP) to the AirPort (after having noticed that it had acquired several different IP addresses during my initial attempts), as well as enabling the enhanced interference tolerance (don’t remember what exactly the option was called), things started working perfectly.

I still need to set up my Linux box as an iTunes server, enabling me to play my entire music collection on the living room stereo from any computer in the house. There are still some problems with my Linux configuration, mostly the way it deals with German umlauts (see my earlier post). Hopefully I’ll be able to figure out a solution to this problem soon. In the mean time, I can still access all my music through a file share. Even better, I can listen to streaming Internet radio in the living room. There are many preconfigured channels within iTunes, but I was happy to discover that Shoutcast streams work in iTunes as well, as many of my favorite Industrial / Electronic / Goth channels are in Shoutcast.

I guess it says something about Apple’s strategy that neither of the first couple of devices I bought (an iPod Photo, an iPod Mini, and now the versatile AirPort Express) were computers. I have a feeling that my next major purchase will be an Apple computer, such as a PowerBook or maybe even a Mac Mini. They definitely know how to make things that just work…

I could have just used my Tivo to play MP3s, but that would have meant figuring out how to manually upgrade my hacked Tivo to the latest version, as it is unfortunately stuck with an earlier version of the operating system that no longer supports the home media option. That’s too bad, as there is some interesting Linux software for this as well. Maybe some other time. And because the AirPort Express is so small and easy to use, I can even use it as a portable media player (in conjunction with some PC speakers) in other rooms, when traveling, etc.