Updated, 4:59 PM PDT: After much experimenting, I was able to access my music library remotely using JukeFly. The problem was, my songs didn't show up in search results, so I assumed JukeFly wasn't working. This assumption was bolstered by the fact that when I tested my connection with JukeFly's settings tester, it said that I needed to check my router. As it turns out, all the songs in my personal library are available under a different link, Library. They are not integrated into search results, and the debugger simply didn't work right.
One of the most interesting digital-media features in Windows 7 allows you to stream music (and other content) from your Windows 7 PC to any other computer over the Internet--essentially, it turns your home PC, sort of like does for your TV source.
But what if you're not planning on upgrading to Windows 7 anytime soon? JukeFly, which first launched in 2008 and was updated to version 2.0 Wednesday, promises a free alternative for streaming music from your Windows PC (sorry, not Macs) to any other computer over the Internet.
First, you have to download and install a piece of software called the JukeFly Personal Music Server--a process that took about 30 seconds on my Windows XP PC. Then, you log on to the JukeFly Web site and select the folder on your PC that you want to index--it was able to complete indexing more than 3,000 songs in a couple minutes. So far so good. Once complete, you should be able to log into JukeFly from any other computer with an Internet connection and stream every song on your hard drive to that device. (I say "should" because the service might not work with certain firewalls or routers, and might require manual tweaking--a problem that most users won't want to get into.)
Version 2.0 adds a robust Internet-based player: if you can't get your personal media server to work, or don't want to install the software, or don't have any music on your home computer, the site will compile music from publicly available sources, such as YouTube. This also lets the service work even when your home PC, the music server, is turned off or disconnected from the Internet. So, for instance, if I search for Mr. Bungle, it returns 20 songs from YouTube and other sources, complete with lyrics and biographical information.
JukeFly would be amazing if it combined these public results with my personal collection, but unfortunately it sequesters my library under a separate "Library" link, and I can't search both sources simultaneously. Nonetheless, this is a slick application and Web site, and a great way to get access to tons of music from any PC with an Internet connection. Check it out.