SqueezeBox on a budget

The SqueezeBox series of devices from Logitech has got to be one of the best media streamer ranges out there. Not long after I moved into my flat I bought a SqueezeBox Boom and it is awesome. Fantastic audio quality with an almost impossible amount of bass from a small single-unit stereo now sat next to my bed.

The downside to the SqueezeBox devices is that the quality comes at a price, one which is impossible to justify at the moment. However, it happened that the following year O2 were having a fire sale of their Joggler device. I snapped one up for the bargain amount of £50 with the intention of using it as a home automation controller.

Well, the automation dream also comes at an even less justifiable cost and so the Joggler has been sitting idle in a drawer waiting for a project to bring it back to life. Thanks to the UKHA mailing list it now has a purpose. My Joggler has been reborn as a budget SqueezePlayer having followed some really easy steps.

With it connected to my surround amp, I can now stream music from my existing SqueezeBox Server and even control it remotely with a web browser. One less bit of idle kit, one new feature, and at £100 less than it would otherwise cost.

The Joggler is a popular device for customising, and there are Ubuntu builds available for it (rather than the onboard O2 OS). If you want to play with one, they are no longer available for sale from O2, so you will need to look on eBay or similar.

Foresight: Screencasts

I’ve been busy over the last few days doing some more work on documenting Foresight. I’ve chosen to do this in the form of screencasts, which I think allow for an accelerated learning experience when dealing with new software. The videos I’ve produced so far are below.

Installation

The Interface

Project Planning

Scheduling

Hopefuly at some point I’ll find the time to update the Idea Cog website with these videos.

Introducing Idea Cog and Foresight


As many people will know, I’ve been working on a software project for several years now. A lot of work has gone into producing what I’ve just launched as Foresight, and I’ve set up Idea Cog as the company that owns it.

Foresight is a client-server based solution for agencies and any other businesses that have very variable needs for their individual projects. It provides tools for project management, document versioning, live recorded discussions and most importantly of all – advanced adaptive scheduling!

There are so many features in fact that it’s going to take me a while to document them all fully. At the moment, there’s an initial feature list as well as a ‘Quick Start’ video showing how to install and configure Foresight.

If you want to start using Foresight, you can get your hands on a free 5 resource license which you can use with the freely available downloads. Once you’ve fallen in love with my first commercial offering, you can purchase more licenses as you need.

So, please give it a whirl and leave your feedback below.

Not long now…

For the past few years I’ve been working on a desktop application that will hopefuly solve many every day problems that face new (digital) media, creative and various other forms of agency. This new software is callled Foresight, and it’s being prepared for it’s impending release.

I am forming a new business, Idea Cog, which will have Foresight as the first of possibly many software products as it’s portfolio. I’ve just completed the single-page teaser site which is now live at ideacog.co.uk.

If you’re interested in learning more, please sign up to the newsletter via the form on the Idea Cog homepage.

Power monitoring with CurrentCost

CurrentCost monitor

The CurrentCost power monitor has become very popular amongst amateur home automators and those technically-savvy who want to keep an eye on how much electricity they are using (and ultimately how much they are going to have to pay in bills). A couple of months ago I purchased the CurrentCost device and a USB cable to connect it to a computer from eBay. Having just seen their eBay store, it looks like they’ve got a fantastic new model on the way, but this article is about the older version.

Continue reading “Power monitoring with CurrentCost”

Source code for the VAMS-0808 serial interface

As promised, here’s the source code for my VAMS-0808 interface. It’s in C#, with C# projects included, and can be opened in Visual C# Express or full Visual Studio 2005 or greater. There are two test projects included – one which just writes status changes out to the console, and a WinForms project (which runs in mono) for full interaction.

Whole House Audio system: version 1 is complete

Over a year after it began, the whole-house-audio project is complete. 4 rooms around the house can now be filled with the sound of any of (currently) 4 audio devices thanks to a mixture of hardware and software.

Continue reading “Whole House Audio system: version 1 is complete”

SFF PCs

The audio system that I’m building requires 2 low-power computers: 1 for the touchscreen controller (not using an iPod Touch for the moment) and 1 to act as a webserver and serial-console server.

Once again eBay has come to the rescue, and by searching for ‘geode’ – a low-power processor for Thin Clients & Small Form Factor (SFF) PCs – I found the 2 machines that I needed. These are the specs:

magnesium (the black one)

  • 800 MHz Geode
  • 256 MB RAM
  • 6 GB CF drive
  • Onboard graphics, audio, serial, parallel, USB & 10/100 ethernet

70 + P&P

potassium (the grey one)

  • 300 MHz Geode
  • 256 MB RAM
  • 6 GB 2.5″ IDE drive
  • Onboard graphics, audio, serial x2, parallel, USB & 10/100 ethernet

35 + P&P

Continue reading “SFF PCs”

Almost there with the audio system

Yesterday I completed and successfully tested the control software for the audio system. The software works with the matrix switcher and the APC MasterSwitch remote control PDU to allow the audio output devices around the house (TV, radio, CD player etc.) to route their sound to any of the 4 audio zones.

I’m now waiting on some more purchases from eBay to arrive before I can finish the system off. On the way is a small touch-screen monitor and a low-power mini ITX computer to connect it to. This will function as the controller and will probably sit in the dining room at the centre of the house. I’ve not gone for an iPod just yet, since a small mobile device has the possibility of getting lost or damaged more readily than a fixed controller. I’m looking out for a cheap 2nd hand one on eBay though.

Although I had got the software working yesterday, I foolishly installed some updates for Ubuntu and now the serial ports have disappeared again. Rather than battle to get the ports to show up and behave I’ve gone a little more eBay crazy and bought a second thin-client-like low power PC which will run the matrix control software and possibly the web server for the front-end control interface.

The other remaining tasks include creating some more cables and positioning and attaching the speakers for zone 4, the master bedroom.

Full details of the setup, with a video, will hopefully be posted in the next few weeks.

Serial port problem solved

Thanks to the chip manufacturer of the cheap serial port card, I’ve managed to get some extra serial ports working. If you can’t figure out how to get additional serial ports working, I recommend this guide [ZIP, 792KB] available from the Moschip driver download page. It should be valid for most models of serial cards, and explains how to add more than the standard 4 ports that most linux installs have.

Now that this problem is out of the way I can continue with writing the remote control software for the audio system.