How to build an MP3 Component

I had a bunch of mp3s on my desktop computer. I wanted a stereo component that would play these mp3s. This is how I built one.


  1. 350 Mhz Pentium II computer with sound card and USB socket
  2. Windows 98
  3. Winamp 2 v2.81 I think.
  4. Winamp Web Interface  (WAWI) plugin for Winamp2. This lets you control Winamp remotely using a web brower.
  5. Switch Off. Lets you shut down a computer remotely using a web browser.
  6. an old 3 button mouse
  7. A winamp plugin that grabs mouse key events and translates them into Winamp commands. The mouse was a recent addition to the system -- I'll put up some more details about how it works soon.
  8. Network card. I used the SMC EZ Connect 11Mbps Wireless USB Adapter since I have a wireless network.
Previous ingredients:

Setup instructions

You'll need a keyboard, mouse and monitor to set everything up. Once the setup is done you can unplug the keyboard and monitor (and the mouse if you don't want to use it to control the system); the computer will run by itself and you can control it with a web browser.
  1. When you log in to Windows 98 for the first time make sure you don't give a password. Otherwise Win98 will wait for a password at startup and never play music.
  2. Install Winamp2 and the 2 plugins. Configure the plugins as necessary. Put a Winamp2 shortcut in the Program/StartUp folder to make Winamp start whenever the computer boots.
  3. Install Switch Off and put a Winamp 2 shortcut in the Programs/StartUp folder. Since Switch Off and WAWI both run web servers you'll have to configure them to use different ports. I set WAWI to use port 80 (the default HTTP port) and Switch Off to use port 8000.
  4. Turn the computer off. Unplug the monitor, keyboard and mouse. Add a wire going from the computer's sound card to the stereo.

Running the server

If everything is configured properly all you have to do is turn on the computer. Once Win98 boots Winamp will start playing automatically .  If you want to listen to something specific or skip a track or pause the music you can do so from a web brower on some other computer. Just go to http://<computer-name> (or http://<computer-name>:<port-number> if you set WAWI to use a port other than 80) and there should be web page with buttons that control Winamp; the interface is pretty flexible so you can load and manipulate playlists like you using Winamp directly.

When you want to turn the computer off  go to http://<computer-name>:8000 (assuming you configured Switch Off to use port 8000) and choose the "shutdown" action.

You can see screen shots of the WAWI and Switch Off interfaces at their respective websites.

Back to my home page