Thursday, 7 January 2010

Squeezebox wireless music player

Last year, following the sad death of my Imp wireless internet radio that I got back in 2008 due to a power surge, I decided to 'upgrade' to a digital music player or streamer as they are sometimes known. I did a fair bit of research in order to figure out exactly what I needed. In the end I plumped for the Logitech Squeezebox that I managed to get for around £140.

logitech squeezebox wireless music player

It's brilliant. Why? Well it basically plugs into any stereo system that has the ability to allow for audio in (any decent stereo will) and is then able to play either internet radio, mp3's from your host computer, or even dial into other content available on the internet. As my PC is on most of the time anyway, this means I have access to my entire music collection on my home stereo.

It also looks great. The little black box sits atop the stereo, and is essentially a large screen at the front, controlled through the remote control. The navigation system takes a little while to get use too: you navigate through the menus using the right arrow as next and the left arrow as back, but after a while it is actually very functional. But the best functions really are the search and the ability to shuffle your entire collection of mp3s. This makes it especially good fun when entertaining guests as you go from one extreme of your music collection to another.

Installation really is as straight forward as I make it sound. Plug it into the stereo, install some software on your home PC, fire it up, connect to the wireless network (it supports WPA encryption) and start using it. Connecting to your music library is pretty simple too, although for it to work perfectly a little effort is required. Why? Well, it uses the ID2 or ID3 tags in your MP3 files to catalog the music, so that it is searchable and browseable using the remote control and the music player. This meant I had to do a little bit of tedious sifting and editing of these tags using a freeware utility called mp3Tag. This lets you edit all your files quickly, preventing the oh so annoying duplicate artists appearing in the browse list because one has a capitalised letter someplace and the other does not!

There are alternatives of course - for example the very similiar offering by Phillips, the NP1100 is very similar at much cheaper, but is apparently not of the same build quality as the squeezebox. Nor is the supporting software nearly as good.

I'll post some further articles about it on here over time, including taking a look at the squeezebox families new offering - the squeezebox duet which is the newer version of what I have now.

Labels: , , , ,

Sunday, 6 January 2008

New router

I've always been a belkin person when it comes to network adaptors and routers, but I've never been happy since I first bought the Wireless G Router ver 4000uk some 18 months ago now. Unlike the previous the ADSL wireless routers I've had in the past this one had just a single aerial, and despite living in a small flat, I found it hard to get a decent signal even in the room next door. My Imp internet radio in the kitchen would frequently buffer mid-stream, and the final icing on the cake was the frequent random disconnects I was getting, whereby the entire router just seemed to drop off-line. I'm sure it's something to do with interference, but after trying to endure it for several months I'd had enough.

In the sales I bought a Buffalo Airstation Wireless-G 125* High Speed Broadband router (WHR-KG54S). It's a typical cable modem router, with the all the general kind of things you'd expect - DCHP server, supporting WPA-PSK (both TKIP and AES, which is useful as I still need TKIP for my internet radio), as well as the older WEP security mode. I haven't really been able to test the High Speed as claimed, mainly because the adaptor included needs USB 2.0 of which I have none! So I'm stuck at 54mbps just like before. Actually the inclusion of 54 in the version number is a bit confusing - perhaps this isn't a 125mbps model at all?!

buffalo wireless g

The Buffalo on the left and the old belkin on the right

Install of the router was a doddle, it detected everything itself. Just a change of security to WPA-PSK at TKIP with my desired password, tweak my original adaptor to the new network name, and done. The default network name of the Buffalo is it's MAC address, which is a bit bizarre, but this can be fairly easily changed using the browser administration utility.

Apparently the router is Nintendo DS compatible (I've not got a multiplayer DS game yet though so I can't test), through AOSS setup button - so I'll see how that works in the future.

I've started using the included network adaptor (Buffalo Turbo-G 125* Wireless USB 2.0 Keychain Adapter), but it behaves no better or worse than my old internal wireless adaptor. The software utility is a bit more user-friendly, but that's it really.

So I'm really quite pleased. It looks good, is very nice narrow and discrete. Easy to set up and great value for money. Router and adaptor for £40.00. And so far it's behaving in terms of the network staying up, remaining on the set channel, interference wise, etc. I guess the only thing I'm wondering is about the rated speed - and how much faster it really is.

Labels: , , ,

Saturday, 10 February 2007

The Imp Internet Radio, Reciva and WPA

I took the plunge at last and bought a Magicbox Imp internet radio from ebay the other day.
And I really like it.

However, I think I need to say that this, and other products that use reciva technology, such as the logik ir 100 and AE , are really still in their infancy, and there are a lot of technical issues and bugs present.

Anyway, I'll document the problems I had - and how I managed to solve them, in the hope that it aids other people. I found a lot of the information on the Reciva Community Forums, but had to play around to find a proper solution.

Problem 1 - Radio stations that are listed on Reciva that use intro sequences
These stations cannot be played currently with Reciva powered radios, although they stream fine on a PC. This occurs because when the radio reaches the end of the intro, it assumes the end of the stream is reached, and stops playing. The work around is in some cases to find a direct stream, and to add this to your Reciva My Streams. When you've registered your radio to your reciva account, you can then play your streams over your radio. (Your account is updated whenever your internet radio receives new stations from Reciva, which can be obtained when you unplug your radio, and plug in again).

In my case, I wanted to listen to Radio 538 a Dutch radio station. However the link listed on the Reciva website(and thus the stream you navigate to on your radio) now includes a ten second intro clip. However after searching the internet and with the help of some forum members I was able to find an alternative access point. This access point was then added to My Streams in my Reciva account, and I can now play it on my radio.

Problem 2 - After upgrading the firmware to the latest version I was no longer able to connect to my Wi-fi network with WPA.

The solution to this appears to set your key on WPA encryption from Open to Shared. I wasn't able to find this option on my belkin router, but was however able to set the encryption to WPA/WPA2-Personal(PSK) with authentication as WPA-PSK + WPA2-PSK and encryption as TKIP+AES which did allow the radio to connect.

The other solution is to use a WEP key, but understably this isn't ideal.

Labels: , , ,

Saturday, 27 January 2007

Logik IR 100, more internet radio

Having been rather turned off the Acoustic Energy Internet Radio, after seeing it's plasticy rather tacky self in John Lewis a few weeks ago, I'd thought I'd check out the competition. I keep on coming across the Logik IR100 internet radio's on ebay, they go for about £70 usually, so I popped into the Princes Street Curry's store, to have a quick look at it.

What struck me, was quite how bulky and heavy the unit is. Which I actually rather like, compared to the very light-weight fragile feeling AE alternative. Sure, it's black, has analogue style buttons, and doesn't look especially smart (silver is still in apparently) - but I was far more convinced by it, then pictures on the internet suggested.
logik ir 100

The unit is powered by the reciva service which keeps track of the many many internet radio stations now available. It's mains powered, a single mono speaker (when will they start taking internet radio seriously!?). Yes you can stream files from your PC, but no you can't access digital radio. Again, why not? It's ridiculous.

Anyway, you can buy it at the various Dixons group stores, for around a hundred pound - though I suggest ebay to get it a bit cheaper. How well it works.. I've no idea at present - and I'd love to hear if you have used it, or any of the other offerings. At the moment however ..this certainly seems to be the most popular high street product, if ebay sales are anything to go by.

Labels: ,

Sunday, 31 December 2006

Internet Radio

I listen to a lot of internet radio, primarily a dutch channel called 538. But I'd really like to be able to stream this to a receiver in another room, be it the kitchen when I'm cooking, or the lounge to relax. In addition it would be nice if I could stream the now vast collection of media I have stored on my pc directly to another room. There aren't that many options available at present, but I'll list below all the ones I have found so far:

First up, the Wifi Internet Radio, by Acoustic Energy. It's retailing around the £160-170 mark, offering streaming in a range of formats (Real Media, MP3, WMA & AAC). It provides the ability to connect to open and WEP encrypted wireless networks, independant of a PC.
Available from: Overclockers,Superfi,Amazon,Dabs £148 ex del

Next up is the BT offering, the BT Internet Radio retailing around the £150 mark. Again, it claims to handle WEP and WPA encryption, and supports Real Audio, and media player formats (Real audio, WMA, MP3, AAC, AIFF & WAV). Cheapest place to buy I can find is direct from BT, so use the link above.

Then we have The Imp retailing around £150. It supports Real Audio, Windows Media, Mp3 and AAC, and WEP security (Not sure about WPA). There is also a related product which plugs into your home audio system, enabling you to stream internet and audio wirelessly to these devices (£99).

There are also offerings from a few other makes, though they do not seem as popular.
For instance:
- Logik IR100 - bit ugly looking but priced around £100
- Squeezebox Wireless Network Music Player - Very cool, but pricy (£210)
- Bush Internet Radio - around £120 from Argos.

Labels: ,