Saturday, October 27, 2012

Logitech puts the Squeezebox out to pasture

This is a bit of sad news for Squeezebox fans.  I myself had moved on to a Sonos setup awhile back.  Though there was always a little bit of doubt if it was absolutely the right decision.  With the decision of Logitech to discontinue the Squeezebox, no more doubt exists that I made the right decision.

Still, I loved the sound of my Squeezebox Boom.  And it was always nice to be able to see what was playing on it by just looking at it, which was the major advantage over the Sonos.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

The Squeezebox Boom!

And then I found a job. Which was bad for me writing stuff on this blog, but it was great for my cashflow.

During the first couple of months working, I decided I needed to upgrade the my music player from the Noxon 2 to something else. Many of my friends loved their Squeezeboxes, and since the Squeezbox's server ran on the NSLU2, I decided I'd take the plunge and buy one. The model I bought was the Squeezebox Boom.

First the good things. The Squeezebox Boom is pretty much self contained, with one big exception. There is the possibility of using either a wired or wireless network connection. The display is easy to read. The size is convenient. And, the sound is great.

But, there were some serious drawbacks. First off, the version of the Squeeze Server that supported the Squeezebox Boom didn't work on the NSLU2 so well. Second, I have most of my music encoded as Apple Lossless formatted files, I found out that my music files were required to be transcoded on the way to the device. I was surprised, as the Squeezebox was advertised as being able to play Apple Lossless files. And, it still is advertised as being able to play Apple Lossless files. You may have to go and select the 'features' part of the website. With this, I'd expect that the device should be able to play the music. However, the transcoding is to FLAC, so it sounds decent when it gets to the device.

So, a big issue with the Squeezebox devices is that they are more or less 'dumb' clients. That is, most of the work is taken care of on the server, with the device pretty much just a set of speakers and a display with a remote. This means that you have to have a server doing the heavy work. You can use your desktop PC to do this, but then it has to be turned on. Rather than use my desktop to serve up the tunes I decided to get a NetGear ReadyNAS Duo network attached storage device and stream the music files from that. Well, it worked, but not so great. After doing a bit of research, I discovered that the MySQL database that the Squeezebox Server was using to keep track of the music files was horribly tuned. Adding a bit of RAM to the device and tuning the database fixed most of the problems. There were still a few problems with the Squeezebox not playing as instantly as desired, but worked okay. Okay, that is until Logitech released an update to the server. This new version took more resources than my little ReadyNAS had, so I remained with the old version. However, the NOXON worked great with this setup, other than it couldn't play the Apple Lossless at all.

Another option for the Squeezebox is to use it with Logitech's online service, which works pretty good. However, it does occasionally drop out, which can be annoying.

So, that was pretty much it, until Apple came out with Snow Leopard. Snow Leopard has what's called the 'Bonjour Sleep Proxy'. And what the Bonjour Sleep Proxy does is to sleep your system until you need it, for things like printers, your iTunes server or whatever you might connect remotely to your mac for. Suddenly, the Squeezebox Boom could just start the mac when it needed to and not require it to be on all the time.

I ended up getting a mac mini server for all sorts of reasons, and one of the things I used it for was to run the Squeezebox Server software. This worked okay, but the Squeezebox Server software had a memory leak that wrote something like 20GB or more of swapfiles.

Eventually, I started looking at upgrading the ReadyNAS, which at this point is doing duty as the backup server for the mac mini. I noticed that Netgear had done some significant updates to their product line, and I got a ReadyNAS Ultra 2. This device is many, many times faster than the old Duo, and many times quieter too. So far the Squeezebox Server seems to work pretty good.

Then, there is the issue of what to use for a remote. The web client for the Squeezebox is okay, having gone through a recent update that allows one to choose the volume a bit more granularly. But a big issue is that Logitech doesn't provide a remote iPhone/iPad app. I've been using iPeng, which is pretty good, but this is something I think Logitech should really provide with the system. It'd be great if Logitech underwrote iPeng.

All in all, the Squeezbox Boom is a great sounding system. But the infrastructure required to get music to the actual box is involved. You either need to have your PC feeding it files, or you have to set up a dedicated server. It would be great if you could just access files from a file share and be done with it, but you can't.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Noxon

So, I got to the point where I didn't want my music server to run on my laptop. The little iBook was pretty good, but I didn't want to deal with music playing on it at all times. I just wanted something to play music from the NSLU2.

So I did a bit of research and considered players from Terratec, Roku and SlimSystems.

Roku had the soundbridge. It was a fairly cool looking cylindrical player. There was a smaller, cheaper version as well. The big problem was that my home network was now 802.11G, and the soundbridge only did 802.11B. That meant slowing down my wireless network. That wouldn't do.

Slim Systems had their Squeezebox, which is still a popular system. The problem with the Squeezebox is that it was still way too expensive, and it only had support for 802.11B networking.

Then there was the Noxon 2 from Terratec. It was basically a Phillips Streamium. Swisscom had a decent deal on the Noxon, so I got one. I was able to configure the Twonky UPNP server to feed music to the Noxon 2. The Noxon also supported more modern wireless and wireless encryption, so that it would work with my wireless network much better. I could run Elgato's EyeConnect software to allow the Noxon to play from iTunes. This worked okay. But I tended to use the Noxon to listen to Internet radio stations, especially to NPR when I had my bike set up on rollers to do some exercise. I'd use the Noxon for a couple of years. I was never really happy with it, as Terratec had made a special model for Swisscom and then abandoned it while upgrading the firmware for all of the other Noxon 2 units. But the Noxon did have pretty decent sound.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Backing up your blog

Just because I was reading a story about some blogs getting deleted from a hosting service, and it's just a good idea to make backups. You can make a backup by looking at the instructions on how to make backups from Google.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

iPhone Picture

I thought I would post a picture from my iPhone just to see how it turned out. This is a picture I took at the Wiedikon train station in Z├╝rich on my way home from work tonight. When it is dark, the windows in this bridge over the station have a rather eerie look to them.

Monday, October 26, 2009

A post from the iPhone

I downloaded an app that allows writing posts on Blogger from my iPhone. So far it seems okay. The name of the program is BlogPressLite. Quite a few reviewers did not like the program as it requires a account. That is not a problem for me, however. One nice feature is that it seems that you can edit offline and then upload to the web.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

More music server stuff.

So, after awhile of living in Switzerland, I decided it'd be nice to be able to access my music over the network. To do this, I'd have to rip all my CDs, what I brought to Switzerland and have in some nice storage cases, though they do take up a bit of space.

I thought it'd be nice to have some sort of server to store the music. At first I thought a PC would be good, but they were to expensive and too loud. At some point I stumbled upon the Linksys NSLU2. This is a great little device with a 266mhz processor and 32mb of memory. It draws something like 3 watts of power when not connected to the USB drives that one can connect to it. It runs Linux as an OS, and as the source was available, people figured out how to modify and replace the OS. When I think back, this little machine is several times the machine that the VAX 11/780 we had in college. It has no fan, and is absolutely quiet. I found a fanless external disk drive that was also fairly quiet and that was my hardware configuration.

The next thing I needed was a way to serve the music to iTunes. The answer was what was called mt-daapd at that point, and is now called the firefly media server. Firefly does a great job of serving up to iTunes. The only big drawback is that you don't get coverflow. But, if you just want to fire up iTunes and play random music, this is a good way to do it.

This was a great solution for a bit, but my little G4 iBook didn't have that much power, and so I started thinking about another way to listen to music....
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