Some more searching around online led me to check out Shuttle PCs. They're not as small as Mini PCs, but I found one kitted out with the specs I wanted and it was only $425 including shipping. Yay! Not only that, but it came with keyboard, mouse, and what could laughingly be called speakers. (I've had Solo Cup Phones with better sound, IMO.) I'd never ordered from Silicon Assets, but they did just as advertised. The PC arrived a few days after I ordered it and it's so cute!
While rearranging the desk, I finally replaced the wonky fan in my main PC and put some fresh conductive goo on top of the CPU in order to fix my overheating problems. I also moved my old PC out from under the desk and will set it back up as a Win98 machine to give to my Aunt Becky. Two days after my Shuttle arrived, I finally got to turn it on. I didn't have to uninstall too much crap from it, which is one way that Silicon Assets differs from, say, Dell or HP. And I figured I might as well leave OpenOffice.org on it. :-) (I have Star Office on my main PC and my laptop. No MS Office for me at home!)
I moved all of my MP3s onto the new MusicServer (which is what I've called it in the network). While doing so, I discovered FINALLY where all of my Christmas 2005 photos were stored on my main PC! I was sure I'd taken pictures that year, but I couldn't find them at all. I'm not sure how it happened, but they were in my Shared folder (which I never use). I probably pulled 'em from my laptop and put 'em there or something. Finding those pictures, IMO, was worth the new PC. Heh heh.
I downloaded several programs which I figured I could use - MediaMonkey, Quintessential Player, Rhapsody, Last.FM and the Last.FM Proxy. Everything but iTunes, actually. Oh yeah, and Firefox. It turns out that Windows Media Connect is now part of Windows MediaPlayer 11, so they don't have a standalone download of it. Thankfully, I had Media Connect 2.0 on my main PC so I installed that rather than MP11.
Once I had all of my media software installed and the songs moved over, I checked out my Roku Soundbridge to see if it could see the server. It could, and I can have it access my collection via Media Connect, my Rhapsody radio stations via Rhapsody, or even my Last.FM radio stations via Last.FM proxy. Woot! I can serve up any tunes anywhere! Well, OK, not anywhere, but in my reading room. Which got me thinking... What if I get myself another Roku? One for the living room or my bedroom?
As I started researching the Roku Soundbridge prices (this morning), I found out that the best place to get the M500 (which I have) is from them - refurbished. The M1001 sounds really nice, but the M500 works just peachy keen in my house. So I've ordered myself a second one. Of course, the drawback to a Roku is there are no speakers on it. So I decided to research speakers too.
I discovered the Bose Companion 2 in my research. Well, rediscovered was more like it. I'd actually seen them before, at Sam's Club. And while researching them, I found out Sam's Club had 'em $30 less than anyone else. Ah ha! A shopping trip was in order! I washed my hair, got dressed, and was ready to head off to Miller Lane for a good lunch and a Sam's Club trip.
I had the Basil Pesto dish at Nothing But Noodles (without mushrooms, TYVM) for lunch, and then found the back way into Sam's Club. I bought 2 sets of the speakers (one for the new PC, the other for the future Roku) and some CD-Rs plus some shelled pistachios. (Heh - at least I didn't get the jumbo vat o' cheese fondue.) A stop at Krogers for a few groceries and then I was back home.
When I opened the Bose Companion 2 speakers, I discovered they have RCA inputs. This was GREAT news, because that's the inputs in the Soundbridge. Yay! No odd connections required to get down to 1/8" stereo plug! (And they give you two cables, one all RCA and the other RCA to 1/8".) They allow for 2 connections in one pair of speakers, so I could hook both computers up to the speakers. (I may have to play with the speaker setting some, however. I noticed the music sounds are WONDERFUL, but game playback sounds muted somehow. If I sort that out, I'll just use the Bose for both PCs.)
Anyhoo, I've decided to kit this post out with lots of Links, and I'm going to go one step further. I have photographed my new desktop setup and I've made an image map of it. Heh - thank you Paint Shop Pro for doing all the difficult bits. (Gah! When did Corel buy Paint Shop Pro from Jasc? I feel betrayed!) If your browser knows how to interpret the "title" tag, you should see little pop ups over the image as you move around. They describe what you're looking at. And there are links to them too! The one link I left off is for my current desktop wallpaper for the new MusicServer. It's from the Big Finish audio The Rapture and was designed to look like a music CD cover. I thought that highly appropriate.