The Custom Installer: The Media Server Revolution Page 2

People used to fill their megachangers without any help from an installer. Now, at five or so minutes to rip a CD to a server - not counting editing any album info - no one's keen to spend the 25 hours needed to turn 300 CDs into digital music. This dilemma has given birth to companies like Riptopia and RipDigital, whose sole purpose is to load your server for you.

And what about compatibility? Remember those crazy '90s, when you actually bought CDs and they played in any player that crossed your path? Now we have a variety of formats, and anything you've bought from an online music store is probably encrypted. That means you likely have songs that won't work on your server - something people who just spent thousands on a server aren't happy to hear.

Maybe the biggest impact servers have had on custom installation is in the control department. Quick - pick a song on your iPod without looking at the screen! Not so easy, huh? All that music is practically useless if you can't see what you're choosing. Just as the simple volume control was superseded by the keypad, a new breed of controllers is needed in the server age, where displaying album metadata is a must. And, since servers "live" on a home network, a host of cool new control options have opened up, like being able to operate them using the Web browser built into your phone or PDA.

Yep, things are definitely changing. What's stayed the same is our desire to hear what we want, when we want, where we want - and hard disks make this possible. And let's not forget video. One exciting - but still evolving - standard of both Blu-ray Disc and HD DVD is a feature called Mandatory Managed Copy. Exactly what this will and won't allow us to do is unclear, but you can be sure there's a hard drive in there somewhere.

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