Squeezebox Server on a budget

Looking for an inexpensive, quiet and low-power Squeezebox Server?

The O2 Joggler is a rebadged version of a OpenPeak OpenFrame 7″ touch-screen device. It has an Intel Atom Z520 CPU running at 1.3Ghz, 512Mb of RAM and 1GB of internal flash storage. You can also run it as a fully functioning Squeezebox Server!

Here’s how:

  • First check that your Joggler is running the latest 26635.S3 (Jun 25 2010) software, if it’s not then update
  • You will need telnet access, so download this Joggler telnet hack
  • Unpack the Zip archive to the root of a USB stick formatted in FAT16 or FAT32
  • Unplug the Joggler, insert the USB stick, then power on again and wait!
  • When the Joggler reboots it will have telnet enabled 🙂
  • Telnet to the IP address of your Joggler and login with the username ‘letmein’
  • Download Logitech’s Squeezebox Server v7.5.1 and save to your PC desktop

Now use these commands to download and install flipflip’s Squeezebox server wrapper:

cd /media
mkdir /media/ssods4 /opt
ln -s /media/ssods4 /opt/ssods4
cd /opt/ssods4
wget http://oinkzwurgl.org/downloads/ssods/ssods-4.9.1-i686.tar.gz
tar -xzvpf ssods-4.9.1-i686.tar.gz
echo "ssods:*:1000:1000:ssods:/opt/ssods4:" >> /etc/passwd
echo "ssods:*:1000:" >> /etc/group
LC_ALL= /opt/ssods4/etc/init.d/rc.ssods start

Assuming all the above has gone ok, you can now open a browser and finish the Squeezebox server installation:

  • Open a web browser on your PC and enter the URL of your Joggler, e.g. http://192.168.1.65:9099/
  • Follow the instructions in SSOXX to upload the squeezeboxserver-7.5.1.tgz file you downloaded earlier and then install the SqueezeCenter tar ball
  • When it’s finished you should see Success messages like the screenshot below
  • Now just click on ‘Start SqueezeboxServer’ to fire it up

If you are going to use your Joggler as a dedicated Squeezebox Server then you might want to make the following tweaks to ensure that it all starts up automatically and unnecessary processes are disabled:

  • Edit  /etc/init.d/boot.d/S99boot.hacks and add the line ‘LC_ALL= /opt/ssods4/etc/init.d/rc.ssods start’ in the starthacks() function, just after the telnetd line should be fine (my S99boot.hacks additions are at the end of this post)
  • Go into the SSOXX settings tab and make sure that autostart is enabled
  • Stop the X11 server and O2 GUI from loading by commenting out the following two lines from the end of /etc/init.d/rcS
cd /openpeak/tango
./run &
  • Disable automatic software updating to ensure that all your good work is not undone in the future:
echo "127.0.0.1 localhost applog.openpeak.net o2.openpeak.com o2.openpeak.co.uk" > /etc/hosts

I want to keep my Joggler in a cupboard and forget all about it, so I have no use for the display.
To save power I switch the screen off entirely, to do this I use Starter’s driver patches:

cd /media
wget http://get.intanet.com/dl/brightness.sh
wget http://get.intanet.com/dl/bp
./brightness.sh allowscreenoff 1
./brightness.sh negativevalues 1

Add the following line to /etc/init.d/boot.d/S99boot.hacks:

/bin/echo "-3">/proc/blctrl"

If you want to mount a Samba/CIFS share (like a NAS mount) you will need to download the cifs.ko kernel module and add that to the startup file.

The starthacks() function in my /etc/init.d/boot.d/S99boot.hacks startup file now looks like this:

starthacks()
{
  # enable telnet
  /usr/sbin/telnetd
  # load CIFS kernel module
  /sbin/insmod /media/cifs.ko
  /bin/sleep 2
  # mount network share
  /bin/mount -t cifs //192.168.1.2/musicshare /mnt/music -o user=music,password=secret
  /bin/sleep 2
  # disable screen
  /bin/echo "-3">/proc/blctrl
  # start SSOXX and Squeezebox Server
  LC_ALL= /opt/ssods4/etc/init.d/rc.ssods start
}

Reboot your Joggler for the display driver patches to load.

"Just avoid holding it in that way"

Those were the words of advice offered by Apple CEO Steve Jobs to a customer who emailed Jobs after experiencing antenna performance issues with his new iPhone 4 purchase.

What’s going on Apple?

When the original iPhone went on sale in June 2007 it changed the mobile industry overnight. This is not an overstatement. The traditional mobile handset manufacturers had become lazy and lethargic, churning out what was essentially the same product year after year with minor tweaks and trendy colour variants. Apple’s original iPhone product was nothing short of revolutionary in terms of user interface, style and engineering.

Apple were allowed to capitalise on their advancements because lazy handset vendors were unprepared and unable to react quickly enough. Many attempts were made to duplicate iPhone’s innovative touch screen user interface, most notably the much heralded Palm Pre, but none of them could claim to be a success. But that was then.

It took another relative newbie to the world of mobile devices to mount a serious challenge to Apple’s dominance – and that was the mighty Google. While Apple was content with making minor improvements to their devices, Google was plotting a revolution of their own.

Step up Google’s Android platform. Android has slowly gained momentum and adoption in the smartphone marketplace and recent handsets such as HTC’s Desire have finally become a credible alternative to iPhone.

Some would argue that Android’s capabilities have actually surpassed those of iOS (the new name for iPhone’s operating system). Credit for that in part is due to the decision to release Android as Open Source, while iOS has remained proprietary and tightly controlled by Apple – much to the chagrin of mobile application developers. In the first quarter of 2010 Android devices outsold Apple for the first time – and by quite some margin. Apple’s reaction was to sue HTC.

iPhone 4 Fail

So what of iPhone 4? Apple are in the unusual position of playing catch-up but this latest addition to the iPhone line up has failed to impress. Apple’s marketing campaign for iPhone 4 claims “This changes everything. Again.” Something has definitely changed, but not in a good way.

One day after the official iPhone 4 launch and customers are already complaining of poor antenna performance, yellow tinted displays and the ease of accidentally smashing iPhone’s “ultradurable” aluminosilicate glass panels. These problems would ordinarily have been identified during pre-release testing, but Apple’s paranoia dictates that test devices cannot be used without their protective plastic shroud and so early adopters have unwittingly become iPhone 4’s beta testers. There are parallels here with Microsoft’s old approach to product development, this is not something that Apple consumers are used to.

Customers forgave the original iPhone for its idiosyncrasies, restrictive capabilities and lack of features because it was something very special. Now there are many new mobile handsets that can justifiably claim to be special. iPhone 4 and the iOS 4 software update have brought iPhone up to a comparable specification level, but iPhone has lost its crown as the undisputed smartphone champion and the next generation are snapping at its heels.

BT eFrame 1000 dissected – part 1

Having disposed of my Philips photo frame, I have purchased a BT eFrame 1000 wireless 8″ digital photo frame from dabs.com – for the remarkable price of £63.60.

The photo frame supports 802.11g Wi-Fi for file transfer which I am keen to give a try. As usual, the supplied management software will only run on Windows platforms (I tried Crossover on the Mac, but it doesn’t quite work). I sent a speculative email to the BT Product Helpdesk to enquire about the availability of technical specifications for the file transfer mechanism, however I have not received a response.

I then discovered from the CE Declaration of Conformity that the device is actually manufactured by Quanta Microsystems, Inc (QMI) and badged as BT. I read somewhere that QMI’s vanilla device supports the FrameChannel service but this feature has sadly been removed from the BT firmware. In an attempt to get my hands on the vanilla firmware I found a contact at QMI and pestered them for more information. They are staying tight-lipped and won’t divulge anything useful, so I am stuck without a solution for Mac OS or Linux.

Undeterred I am going to do it the hard way and embark on a mission to reverse engineer the proprietary protocols that control this device and hopefully open-up the full potential for non-Windoze users.

Wish me luck!

HomePlug Powerline

In a previous entry I bemoaned the proliferation of wireless devices and the unseen fog of wireless transmissions around the home. A new(ish) technology – HomePlug Powerline – goes some of the way to alleviate this.

HomePlug works by sending data signals around the domestic electricity ring main, much in the same way as broadband is delivered alongside your standard telephone line. The HomePlug devices act as ethernet bridges, so to attach to the network you simply plug a HomePlug device into a free mains outlet, connect up your ethernet cable and away you go.

HomePlug 1.0 specification devices provide up to 85Mbps bandwidth and are compatible with each other so you can mix and match types. The newer HomePlug AV specifications claims up to 200Mbps, although I have not tried these yet.

Since installing these devices I have been able to do away with Wi-Fi entirely, thus providing a safer electromagnetic environment and more secure network.

I recommend Solwise for their HomePlug range of products. Delivery has been next day and the products very reliable.

Lager Krauts

Sunset

The Barceló Flamingo hotel is a convenient ten minute taxi ride from Palma airport, which is happily far enough away not to be troubled by aircraft noise. It is literally a stones throw from the beach (where sunloungers can be hired for €4.10 per day) and local amenities are right on the doorstep.

The hotel has a clean contemporary style and the bedrooms are modern and well equipped. The staff can come across as a little aloof and uncommunicative, but are generally helpful and efficient. The buffet food is acceptable canteen fayre, i.e. a plentiful supply of indeterminate meat in salty gravy, but we found it too bland and opted to eat out most evenings.

The local eateries are rather basic, but we found some gems such as MG Cafe, Dino Café mini-golf grill (don’t let the name put you off) and the excellent Asadito Argentinian restaurant on Avinguda son Rigo. I recommend the entrecôte for two – mmm 😛

All the other occupants during our 7 night stay were German, which I actually quite enjoyed as I didn’t understand their mundane conversations and so consequently filtered out most of it as background noise, but unfortunately the all too true cliché about towels on sunloungers was evident and it was a case of ‘if you can’t beat them join them’ and an early morning start to secure a spot by the pool.

Playa de Palma was sadly a disappointment. The beach is beautiful with soft golden sand, the sea is warm and clear, but the entire resort is overrun with inconsiderate German football louts hell bent on making as much noise as humanly possible – at all times of the day and all through the night.

I’m no xenophobe, perhaps it was just the time of year, but don’t expect calm and tranquility. The otherwise soothing sounds of waves on the beach are continually interrupted by euro pop beats and a cacophony of Germanic shouting and chanting. I recommend a set of quality headphones (such as the Sony Fontopia) if you want any respite from the terrace tribalism.

The local police presence on the seafront is considerable (cars, vans, motorcycles, bikes and golf carts!) and a highly visible and effective deterent I’m sure, as despite the heavy concentration of bier fuelled young men, we did not witness any trouble.

In conclusion, the Barceló Flamingo is a fine hotel with a convenient beach front location. But have no illusions, you will be staying in the middle of a tacky German theme park. If you have a desire for bratwurst and bierkellers then this is for you, otherwise you would be well advised to select an alternative destination.

Krauts