2009-05-27

Removable Bathroom Speakers

This is probably weird to you, but here goes anyway. Being Finnish I miss my saunas. I really do, so I substitute the sauna with hot baths. I've previously made a magzine rack so I can read a book or magazine whilst soaking in the bath. In the past I've also turned up the music on my computer so I could hear it reasonably loud into the bathroom. Naturally this meant that the sound level was quite high nearer the speakers much to the annoyance of my girlfriend and probably the neighbours. The solution to this could have been a portable radio/stereo etc, or fixed waterproof speakers in the roof. However, my girlfriend wasn't really keen on me installing speakers into the ceiling. Therefore the solution couldn't be permanent, but had to be removable.
The solution is a set of computer speakers connected to our home server situated in the loft not too far from the bathroom. The server already houses all of our MP3s and runs several music streaming apps, including SqueezeCenter (artist formerly known as SlimServer). Not too far between the dots to connect them then?!
I already had a set of Creative I-Trigue 2200 speakers that has served me well over several years as desktop speakers for my computer. They're no super-duper HiFi speakers, but they're good enough to pump out some tunes in close range and not too high volume. They're also quite compact. Perfect for the job.
I had been hoping that I could do some aluminium welding on this project, but it turned out that it was not needed. I simply took a 13x13x13mm alu U-profile of 1mm thickness some 800mm long and affixed the two speakers onto this "arm". I left a part of the arm sticking out to prevent cables from getting too close to the bath. I then bough a simple suction cup, officially known as a "Suction Lifter", from Axminster Tools, cost me £2.40. Only problem with this one is that it's a hideous colour. Nevermind. I screwed the suction cup onto the arm. Then I collected the wires and taped and zip-tied them onto the bar. I'll need to extend the power supply a bit and put it in a permanent spot, but for now it still works.
That's the hardware done.
Now how do we get the tunes to the speakers?!
I spent quite a bit of time trying to stream from the SqueezeCenter onto localhost I tried mgp123, mpg321 (doesn't do streaming), madplay, and splay, but none of them worked. To make it a bit clearer, in theory you should be able to do something like this: mpg123 http://username:password@127.0.0.1:9000/stream.mp3 or even madplay http://username:password@127.0.0.1:9000/stream.mp3, but it just didn't seem to work. I tried using wget etc, but I got the streaming to work only for one song, then it cut. Something like this: wget -q -O - http://username:password@127.0.0.1:9000/stream.mp3 | madplay - but nope. And then by some pot luck I managed to find out that there's a headless (i.e command line) version of the very nice SoftSqueeze. SoftSqueeze is a Java application that runs on your desktop mimicing the commands from the hardware such as Squeezebox and Duet. It works well on the desktop but for me it was pointless as the server doesn't bother with the GUI stuff. I was very pleased when I found SqueezeSlave. I just downloaded the appropriate binary and started it and voila I had full control over the audio. Perfect!
I then installed a iPhone/iPod Touch specific skin for the SqueezeCenter called iPeng. Whilst it worked fine, it was still a web-app and not 100% good. However, there's native iPhone apps out there, three in fact. One by the same guys who do iPeng, but the one that caught my eye was Squeezemote. The reason I chose it was because it seemed to use the native iPhone look and so far it's worked flawlessly. At £4.99 it was a bit more than I wanted to spend, but hey. The total cost so far isn't too bad. ;)
I can now pick up my phone and create a playlist for my bathroom audio experience. All I then have to do is to make sure that the SqueezeSlave is running (which I plan to leave running and install on the garage laptop too) and that I clip the speakers onto the tiles in the bathroom and turn up the volume! If it's too loud, you're too old! ;)
Quite pleased.

2009-05-13

It's cloudy out there, but do read on..!

I realised that I've not posted in a long time, very long time in fact. It's really strange as a lot of things have happened between this post and the previous one.
Here's a some of the things that have happened.
  • I've bought a TIG welder. I've knackered my bank account. Why the hell a TIG welder?! Well, I freely admit to being a garage and welding deprived child. Since I stopped playing with my Lego Technic I've always yearned for the ability to weld. Last may I bought a small Milling Machine - allows me to shape metal - but not fuse it. I've now bought the TIG welder and I feel that the universe is the limit. It's difficult to describe how it feels to be able to weld. I've since buying it spend hours in the garage practising. It's not difficult to TIG weld, but it's not easy either. Needs practise
  • Caz has had her birthday. The whole family chipped in and got her something nice. I'm not saying what it is, because that's up to her.
  • We've been to the Nürburgring for the customary Easter season start. We stayed at Jochen's and Fia's. Huge thanks to them, we had a really good time! The SuperDuke R was great on the Ring, but it all was spoilt by a sliding feeling at the rear wheel. I'll look into that when the sun is shining.
  • Roomba got ill, but the doctor's bill was picked up by the warranty. All is well now.
  • We've sold tons of old gadgets on eBay and mobiles to Mazuma Mobile. Good to get rid of the old stuff.
  • I've been to LRUG and found it very interesting, especially Jon's talk which helped me see Ruby blocks in a different light. I'm going again next Monday.
  • I've been to see AC/DC in Birmingham. I loved it, Caz loved it, Wolfy loved it, Daz loved it. We all loved it! They're f***ing great! It's a no-BS show, that rocks from the start to the finish. Only bad thing was there was this tiny oriental girl who decided she had the right to squeeze past us, standing in between me and Caz, and she didn't even seem that much into AC/DC. There's always one, isn't there! I'm very much looking forward to the Wembley gig!
  • The day after AC/DC we saw NoFX in Birmingham too. It was utter cr*p. There was four, "support" acts. "Alienating acts" more like it. And when NoFX finally got on stage they spent most of their time talking. Sheeeesh! Everybody is a rock star, everybody is a clever programmer, everybody has got a guitar solo. The whole NoFX experience annoys me because I've got several of their albums and I really like their comedy take on the world.
  • Finland didn't win the World Ice Hockey Championship. In fact, didn't make it very far. *sobs*
  • We've got tickets for Green Day in Birmingham. YAY!
  • We went to Clacton-on-Sea for a Tae Kwon-Do training thing for Caz and her TKD buddies. Despite some awesome people, I would rather have stayed home in a dark closet with a bottle of booze, or better yet, shortening my ToDo list. I don't regret going, it was an experience, and another place to see. (And I did have a good chuckle at the chav-spotting).
  • I had another birthday. Pressie-wise I got a few bottle of red wine (thanks guys!), Big Bang Theory Season 1 DVD, but I should also mention my advanced BD cum Christmas Present; 22" LCD TV that also works as external monitor for my computer when needed. It's next to me in the office.
  • I have shortened the ToDo list by quite a few items.
As you can see, there's been tons of things going on, and I don't really know why I've not posted anything "clever" for a while. I guess I'm trying to do as much as I can of those things that have been lying around. For example, we gutted the downstairs cloakroom, but that's as far as we've got. The Espace is playing up and is currently of no use to me. As it's now been for about 6 months. I try to fix it when I can (read find energy). I need to fit a set of shocks to a K1200R, as soon as I get my hands on it. The garage roof will need doing this summer, and summer is approaching quickly. I have an Archos camcorder that I'd like to fit to my bike. I want to make non-foldable foot pegs for it. I want to make a GPS holder. I want to make SAS plates for it. And tons and tons and tons more things that I want to do.