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Music Media Hardware

Review of the Squeezebox 203

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the gadgets-to-play-with dept.
Slim Devices recently sent us the latest version of their Squeezebox MP3 player. It was snatched up and reviewed by Patrick Schoonveld (the poor guy responsible for making ads work on Slashdot and other OSTG sites). His review of the thing follows.

The following review was written by Patrick Schoonveld

A few weeks back, I noticed a shiny and lonely piece of kit hanging around the Slashdot offices. Ever the inquisitive [nosey] individual, I asked and was told it was an MP3 player for review. Thinking this an excellent use of my limited free time, I took it home to play with.

The Slim Devices Squeezebox is a networked MP3 player that can either play music from your collection via its open source SlimServer or via Internet streams. Shipping with a power cable and RCA tulip cable, it also provides digital optical and coax outs as well as a 3.5mm headphone jack. This edition is the third generation, which comes in a much more attractive stand up form factor than two previous editions.

There are two versions available, one with 802.11g capabilities built in and one only with Ethernet. The 802.11g edition also ships with an Ethernet jack and can double as a bridge for other Ethernet-enabled devices. The wireless edition is available for $299 and the wired-only edition is $50 cheaper, both from their website.

The first step was to install the software provided by Slim Devices from their website. It is open source and written in Perl, with installers for Windows and Mac OS X as well as RPMs for Linux. I used a Windows laptop with an external drive that had a backup of my music. The installation went extremely smoothly, using a typical Windows installer. Within seconds, the server icon was in the system tray. My biggest issue was that the external drive was connected via USB 1.1 and scanning the 35 gigs of music stored there took over an hour.

On plugging in the device, I was very surprised to find a fluorescent display instead of the usual, inexpensive LCD. Flouros are much easier to see across a room or in the dark. The Squeezebox walked through a wizard-like process of configuring the network choices of wired vs. wireless, WEP key and IP address (DHCP or static) via the remote control. Although punching in a 128-bit hex key may seem inconvenient, it was quite easy due to the mapping of the characters to the numbers on the remote, similar to sending an SMS with a mobile phone. The Squeezebox even found the server on its own and was playing music in just a few minutes.

After it finished scanning my library, I played a few MP3s. I was immediately impressed by the quality of the audio and the speed with which hitting play via the web interface caused music to appear; lag was less than a second. I had assumed that as the laptop and the Squeezebox were both over 802.11g, collisions and traffic issues would be a problem. However, at no time did I ever notice any hiccups. I ran the Squeezebox for several hours while working and downloading a few Torrents, with no issue whatsoever. I also tried adding music to the queue via the remote control. The software on the device makes it very easy to navigate a large music collection using the remote to zip to the first character of any title, again like sending an SMS, hit 1 three time for 'C'. The + button on the remote allows you to add albums, songs or artists' libraries to the queue very easily.

I also played with the Internet radio tie-ins. It took very little time to sign up for a Live365 account and configure the Squeezebox for my account. Although the streams I found were low quality and quite busy, there were many options available including other streaming networks or purchasing a Live365 subscription for better quality streams.

After a week of use, I was very pleased with the SqueezeBox. It sounds fantastic and even using my wireless and USB 1.1 external drive didn't deter the ease of use. However, I had my PowerBook returned to me, which is my main music library and iTunes host. I proceeded to set it up as the primary server for the device. The installation was fairly easy (finding the long forgotten firewall settings took the most time), but the performance was atrocious. I read in the forums on Slimdevice's site that the daily builds have some performance fixes. I downloaded the latest build and still had no luck getting it to reliably play for more than a song. I then switched off the AirPort and plugged in an Ethernet cable and since, have had no problems whatsoever. As it worked fine with my Windows laptop, I am inclined to think it a problem with the Mac.

Since using the Mac, I've also turned on the iTunes integration. Supposedly, it will scan the iTunes library XML file to find playlists and new music nearly instantly compared to searching every MP3 file in a directory tree. I've not found that to be as reliable or easy as rumored on the forums on slimdevices.com. It would be much nicer if there was a "Reload iTunes file" button instead of trusting it will find your music after a user configurable period of time. It did, however, eventually find all of my playlists and make it very easy to play any one of them.

I've used the Squeezebox for another couple weeks with the Mac and have been very happy. The best parts are the reliability and audio quality; 192kb MP3s sound as good as my older Denon cd player to my non-audiophile ears. At $299, it is not an inconsiderably cheap piece of kit as one could build a basic PC to do this and more for a similar cost. However, with the attractive form factor, and great ease of use, I'm inclined to say it's worth it.

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Review of the Squeezebox

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  • and more! (Score:5, Informative)

    by yagu (721525) * <yayagu.gmail@com> on Thursday December 08, 2005 @05:03PM (#14213734) Journal

    Pat's review is accurate. It is also incomplete (but for the squeezebox, that is easy to have happen... you just keep discovering more cool features).

    Soooooooooo, in addition to his review I would add the following cool things about this device:

    • the Squeezebox is served by the slimserver software. This server allows you to run and play songs from your browser/computer as well as other places (I know technically this isn't a "feature" of the Squeezebox, but it ties in to some other features).
    • because it runs through slimserve, you can control the songs you hear via your browser -- that may sound mostly trick, but as with any fully featured piece of hardware, I find remotes only go so far before they're just plain cumbersome to use. (the Squeezebox remote IS a pretty good one, not perfect, but good).
    • you can synchronize more than one Squeezebox so they play the same music at the same time throughout the house (or whatever). I've used this with no problems, but have read other reviews saying it doesn't always work perfectly... ymmv.
    • the slimserver serving music to the Squeezebox supports plugins, and there are lots of them out there, some way cool. And, if you don't like any of those, you can roll your own.
    • the Squeezebox has myriad options for how it looks when "idle", when "off", when "now playing", etc. It has some interesting screen savers considering the tiny real estate.
    • you can listen to shoutcast/internet radio without your PC turned on -- it is built into the latest Squeezeboxes

    So, you can see there is lots more than just stated in the review, and probably lots more than what I've shown.

    I think Squeezebox is a great product (I own three). I am waiting for the day someone (hopefully SlimDevices) comes out with a decent and reasonably priced streaming device that has video out to display liner notes, lyrics, now playing, etc. (and, no, I'm NOT interested in a media center...)

    • Slimboxes are now into their third generation and have been 802.11b & 802.11g since they came out with the V2 over a year ago. The 802.11b only status of V1 slimboxes was the reason I didn't buy one. I've been very happy with my V2.
    • You've missed one of my favourite features - the live music archive. Not sure if this is available through any other method, but I discovered it through the SqueezeBox. It's a huge collection of concerts that you can play through it. I think there's about 1000 different artists available there at the moment, and most of them have several gigs. They aren't the most famous artists but the fact that I can get access to about 30 different Warren Zevon gigs is just fantastic.

      Also, you've mentioned that you want
    • I loved the original look of the slimp3- such a geek toy.

      Then they changed the look and rounded it and made it curvy- and I didn't like the look as much but I bought one- got a wired version for $179 and was happy with the deal.

      I went to buy another one and now they've changed the look again and all I can ask is "why?" The vertical shape doesn't fit anywhere- it makes it look big and bulky (even though it isn't deep) and all in all it looks like a new iMac. As the version I want is no longer available I'm l
    • Have you checked out the SlingBox from Sling Media: http://www.slingmedia.com/ [slingmedia.com] ?? It's kind of the opposite of what you're looking for in implementation, but it can accomplish similar ends...

      These things are great. You basically plug in your AV and network, and it streams media from whichever input you select (it supports mutiple). The cool part is that the software (yes, unfortunately it requires a client, downloadable from their site - Windows only I believe) lets you select different remotes and it has
  • ads? (Score:5, Funny)

    by mooosenix (773281) on Thursday December 08, 2005 @05:05PM (#14213742)
    the poor guy responsible for making ads work on Slashdot and other OSTG sites

    Ads?

    What ads?
  • No Ogg yet. (Score:4, Informative)

    by Agent Green (231202) on Thursday December 08, 2005 @05:06PM (#14213752)
    And, by itself, it still doesn't support Ogg Vorbis.

    FLAC is a nice plus, though. :)
    • Re:No Ogg yet. (Score:5, Informative)

      by ecloud (3022) on Thursday December 08, 2005 @05:23PM (#14213923) Homepage Journal
      But transcoding to FLAC is fine, I think. You don't lose any quality and it's half the bandwidth of streaming PCM. And even my slow server can do the transcoding just fine.

      Nowadays when I rip CDs I encode to FLAC primarily, and also to MP3 if I want to be able to play it on devices that don't support anything else. But I play the FLACs at home. So I don't consider ogg as useful as I once did - it's lossy and it's not widely supported. Disk space is cheap, so why lose quality? abcde is a good program to use for the ripping BTW.
    • Re:No Ogg yet. (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      It does, it's just not on the front page... maybe they're ashamed of it, or something =D

      http://www.slimdevices.com/pi_overview.html [slimdevices.com]
  • by rmcd (53236) * on Thursday December 08, 2005 @05:09PM (#14213779)
    The review is correct that the OSX version does not work reliably. I find that the database becomes corrupt, something which never happened under Windows. It is also very slow to create the index. Apart from this Mac-only problem, it's a terrific device.
    • I've been running slimserver on OS X 10.3 for quite a while with no problems what-so-ever. Great performance (Dual 1Ghz G4) The forums for Slimserver (see slimdevices.com) are great with active participation from Slim devices employees.

      Many factors can impact the performance of the slimserver which are beyond its control. Too many services or programs running, badly fragemented or slow disks, size of music library to index, etc. The fact that it works well for so many by default is a testament to this s
  • Squeezebox rocks! (Score:5, Informative)

    by ecloud (3022) on Thursday December 08, 2005 @05:10PM (#14213795) Homepage Journal
    I've got 2 so far. There just isn't anything better right now. There aren't many alternatives for playing FLACs and OGGs at all. And the server software is free software, written in Perl! What more could a hacker ask for?
    • A server NOT written in perl? ;)
    • Re:Squeezebox rocks! (Score:3, Interesting)

      by magikus (697267)
      Yes, the box is great. But what really makes a difference is the company and their approach to customers. One time they posted instructions on how to open the box and add a capacitor to fix the headphones hum issue. And the operation did not void the warranty!

      Cool toy for geeks and others too! Here is a good review:

      http://www.enjoythemusic.com/magazine/equipment/12 05/slimdevices_squeezebox.htm [enjoythemusic.com]

      Cheers,
    • by binarybum (468664) on Thursday December 08, 2005 @07:19PM (#14214848) Homepage
      a better pricetag. It's sad that all the other commercial boxes out there have really been pretty miserable in their execution, therefore allowing the squeezebox price to be so high since it actually gets the job done properly and has little serious competition. A number of multimedia (think divx video output) solutions exist for much less than the comparatively limited squeezebox. I just ordered an A/V Hauppauge box for $65 - I'm sure I'll end up cursing at its interface and wishing I could afford a squeezebox - but I think that ultimately for that kind of cash video capability should be included. I hope that apple steps up to the plate on this one, I believe they might prove the only worthy competitor at this point.
      • Re:Squeezebox rocks! (Score:4, Informative)

        by Malor (3658) on Thursday December 08, 2005 @09:59PM (#14215860) Journal
        Compared to the kinds of things it's really competing with -- audiophile-grade CD players -- it's very cheap. You're used to thinking about sound in PC terms, but most computer sound is basically crap. That's part of why it's cheap.

        The Squeezebox2 and 3 don't come fully into their own until you're running lossless audio. At that point, their extremely high-quality components really sit up and sing. It has Burr-Brown DACs(not sure which model, there are a number), and an extremely low-jitter digital out. Personally, I'm not convinced that jitter is really that much of a problem, but if you're a real audio geek and into this stuff, the Squeezeboxes have about 65ps jitter... a high-quality CD player will usually have around 250. You can get better jitter performance, but you have to generally spend A LOT of money on your playback device... many thousands of dollars.

        So given that this little guy will stand toe-to-toe with $2k+ CD players in terms of sound quality, and will give you all the other benefits of having a networked player, it's cheap. The other electronic audio players aren't aimed at this market at all... they're aimed at the PC crowd that has been perfectly happy with the Creative 48khz hardware resample.

        When you finally have gear that will show you just how bad that resample sounds, the Squeezeboxes will not let you down. They'll scale to practically any quality of stereo... from the cheapo 128KMP3 right up to losslessly driving Watt Puppies through a $20k stack of electronics. The onboard DACs are excellent, but as you transition to better gear, you can switch to the digital outs and just use it as a transport.

        Squeezeboxes are REALLY well designed. Not at all your typical consumer-grade bargain crap. As long as CD audio remains the standard, they will stand tall as one of the better methods of reproducing it.

        At $300, compared with the real competition, they're a screaming deal.
      • Well someone else pointed out the high-quality DACs but I think the real reason it's so expensive is the graphical VFD. It looks very cool, and costs too much but that's because Noritake doesn't have enough competition. Maybe there will be big OLED displays pretty soon for integration into stuff like this. Monochrome ones ought to be cheap, in theory.

        Compare to a Roku. The one with a similar-sized display costs a similar price ($199) and the one with the huge VFD display costs way more. But the Roku is
  • by TheLetterPsy (792255) on Thursday December 08, 2005 @05:11PM (#14213807)
    Pat Schoonveld (the poor guy responsible for making ads work on Slashdot and other OSTG sites).

    Now I know who to be pissed at when a /. flash-based ad causes Firefox to munch CPU. Granted, it wasn't Pat that made the ad, but at least I can now point my finger!!

    (Yeah, yeah, I know -- FlashBlock, AdBlock and all that jazz)
    • Pat Schoonveld... Now I know who to be pissed at when a /. flash-based ad causes Firefox to munch CPU.
      One Firefox feature I truly desire is a "stop" button that will stop all animations (and any other cpu-consuming tasks) within a window. Also I'd like the option to do that automatically for background tabs.
  • One nit... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ecloud (3022) on Thursday December 08, 2005 @05:16PM (#14213857) Homepage Journal
    you do need a fairly fast machine to get that great performance to which the reviewer is referring. I'm trying to use an old dual-PII 233 machine and it's quite slow to serve up web pages, find tracks by artist, etc. Seems like it ought to be fast enough for this relatively simple task, but I guess perl is just slow. My perl is not threaded either, so all the load is on one of the processors, and lets the other be mostly idle. I've been wondering if there could be a way to compile it to machine code rather than having to run it interpreted?

    One improvement is to use mysql instead of sqlite; I have done that, and it is still too slow. But on a 1 ghz or faster machine it's fine.
    • I don't think that you need a 'Fairly Fast Machine' to run it. I'm running my SlimServer on an AMD K6-2 350 w/ 256 ram (running linux). The machine is also my webserver, ftp server, email server, NFS server, blah blah blah - my 'everything' server box. Granted scanning 80gigs of MP3's takes a bit, but I just have the software setup to do the rescans at 3:30 in the morning. So other than when the rescanning is occuring, it runs very smoothly with plenty of resourses left on the server box to do whatever
    • Yet another single data point:

      My slimserver is running on a 450MHz PIII 256MB gentoo system. I also use it as a desktop so it is often running X, Gnome, and bloated Gnome apps. The squeezebox seems to perform fine but the web interface can be chunky at times. I wouldn't run it on a machine with a slower CPU or less RAM.

      • The big thing missing is ram.. the slimserver needs lots of ram.. I setup my parrents slimserver on basicaly the same kind of box as that, but I installed it with a striped down debian install that does nothing but run slimserver. The running slimserver needs ~60MB of ram on its own.
  • A bit more depth... (Score:5, Informative)

    by jafo (11982) * on Thursday December 08, 2005 @05:18PM (#14213868) Homepage
    I've had one of the previous generation Squeezebox devices for a couple of years now, and I'm very happy with it. While I could have set up a Linux box doing this, I have limited time to fart around with things and the squeezebox just WORKED. The device itself support mp3 and uncompressed audio streaming, and since most of my music is in FLAC format (from ripped CDs), I thought I'd have problems with it. However, I just installed the software, let it dig around my music collection, and changed some firewall rules and was off and running.

    The biggest complaint I have about it is that sometimes if the server is busy (scanning music again, for example), it will stutter during playback. A bigger buffer would be useful here I think.

    Also note that the SlimServer software can be used without the device. In fact, if you want to try out how you will like a squeezebox, there is a Java applet that exactly emulates the squeezebox, including display, remote control, and more. A good way to tell if you are going to want to spend $300 on the box. See the http://softsqueeze.sourceforge.net/ [sourceforge.net] softsqueeze web site for more information.

    There's also a simpler client that can also talk to the slimserver that you can run. A friend has been running this on his stereo PC for several years now, without getting a squeezebox. It works great for him, and you control it via a browser on the slimserver, just like with the regular squeezebox.

    The browser control of the server is another thing I love about it. If I'm on the patio or in the dining room with music playing, I can just use my laptop to change the volume, skip a song, or pause, instead of hunting down the remote. Plus it works really well to add a particular song we are talking about at a party or the like.

    It's a great device. I got it on sale at $249, and am very happy with it. In fact, we have two of them. I want to add another one for the bathroom for showering tunes.

    Sean
    • And another thing (Score:3, Informative)

      by Sad Loser (625938) *
      from someone else with two of the previous generation version.

      The present version has got a much better D/A converter, whereas the old one was a bit crap if you had a decent hifi. The good thing is that both versions have digital electrical (SPDIF) and toslink out, so I just run the spdif into a good quality cheap DAC.

      As hifi nuts update their kit regularly, you don't have to pay much for some top notch kit which is a few years old, and there is nothing to wear out in a DAC.

      You can also use the web interfac
      • Good gadget, but definitely happier in wired mode than wireless, I have found.Really? What problems have you had? I was amazed by how easy it was to set up. I had to press the right key about 4 times to accept the default, and apart from typing my network passkey in, everything was pretty much automatic.

        I've never had it drop a connection, the sound quality seems pretty much perfect to my ears, and it even copes gracefully when I reboot the wireless router (shows Network Unavailable message for a few second
    • If you have the original Squeezebox, the later ones have a bigger buffer (40mb vs 8).

      BUT, if you're using it wirelessly, the stuttering is more than likely caused by interruptions in this and may be fixed by running wired.

      Mark, happy original Squeezebox owner
  • Offices? (Score:3, Funny)

    by g0at (135364) <ben&zygoat,ca> on Thursday December 08, 2005 @05:19PM (#14213872) Homepage Journal
    A few weeks back, I noticed a shiny and lonely piece of kit hanging around the Slashdot offices.

    Slashdot has offices? Is that a euphemism for "basements"? Given that the "editors" don't edit (nor often exercise demonstrable discretion), I am puzzled about why they would need any offices.

    -b
  • by Grey Ninja (739021) on Thursday December 08, 2005 @05:19PM (#14213876) Homepage Journal
    WiFi for the Nintendo DS is currently in the process of being hacked. After it's done, I can't help but think that this would be among one of the PERFECT homebrew apps for the system, assuming that the device does what I think it does. The way I understand it, this device streams music from your home PC, and plays it for you, with an interface to change songs. The DS would make a fantastic platform for this, as it has a touch screen and is more than capable of decoding MP3/Vorbis on the fly... 4MB of Memory is more than enough for a buffer as well. If nobody else develops a client for this for Nintendo DS, I just might be interested in coding it myself, as this is something that has always been #1 in my list of wants for Nintendo DS homebrew. (Although before now, I hadn't really thought about how it should work).

  • I still use my Turtle Beach AudioTron.

    http://www.turtlebeach.com/site/products/audiotron /producthome.asp [turtlebeach.com]

    The biggest selling point to me for the AudioTron was the fact that it didn't need server software. The device would scan your network for CIFS shares with MP3/WAV files (Windows Networking or SAMBA) that it had access to.

    The AudioTron also has a complete web interface in it's firmware, supports internet radio stations, had a semi-active third party software community, integrates well it your stereo syst
    • Ah, yes, another AudioTron owner!

      I love my AudioTron (2nd gen, Ethernet-only). Like you said, the fact that it requires zero server software, other than well, a storage device that supports CIFS/Windows File Sharing/Samba. In fact, I recently acquired a really cheap SOHO NAS box, moved my MP3s to that, and reconfigured the AudioTron to use that (it scans the network by default, but with a million shares, it could take a while, so I restricted it to one share). Now I don't need my PC on to listen to MP3s.

      And
    • Interesting. The whole point of running a server IMHO (which you must do to store the MP3 files) is that you can just run software on it and forget about it.

      I bought my first SliMP3 device 3 years ago (after thinking about an Audiotron) and I've been finding more and more applications for it (and the Squeezebox that I bought later). The latest adition is using it to control my 3-tuner MythTV box (yes, more server software).

      The Squeezeboxes are an excellent example of devices that just become more and more v
  • I have to admit I find the Airport Express far more interesting and relevant to my needs. 802.11b/g, wired ethernet, ability to act as bridge, ability to serve USB printers, digital and analog out, doesn't take up any space in my AV rack, and iTunes integration is, needless to say, perfect. Oh, and it's $129 :).

    Mind you, it's a different paradigm -- you control this box via the remote, whereas with the AE you tell iTunes what music to stream to it -- but it works pretty darn well for me.
    • Squeezebox has wired and wireless ethernet and will also work as a bridge.
    • My Squeezeboxes are always up and always ready to play. In a network with a server present Squeezeboxes are the perfect choice. You don't start up iTunes, you just play music as if those litte boxes just magically contain your entire MP3 collection.

      I have an Airport Express too. It's nice but too limited in scope. I keep it in a drawer ;)

      X.
  • 802.11g (Score:4, Informative)

    by seanadams.com (463190) * on Thursday December 08, 2005 @05:27PM (#14213950) Homepage
    Squeezebox is now 802.11g, not b
  • The new Squeezebox in fact has a 802.11g, not 'b'. Runs at 54 Mb/s, not 11.
    • Great, an even bigger waste of bandwidth than sending 192kps audio over a 11Mbps connection. Honestly, you could send MP3s in smoke signals or morse code more efficiently.
  • there are three generations of them, and I'll be damned if I can tell which one he reviewed....

    that's usually helpful.

    • actually, apparently it's the 3rd gen..from the header-not the review
        but the review is SO LACKING it doesn't even identify any specs that would make the determination obvious.

      howabout some of the sales specs included in the review,
      # of lines on the LCD display etc...
    • From TFA:

      This edition is the third generation, which comes in a much more attractive stand up form factor than two previous editions.

      Does that help?
  • Hacker Friendly (Score:5, Informative)

    by LynchMan (76200) on Thursday December 08, 2005 @05:35PM (#14214010)
    I've had a SqueezeBox v1 for several years and I love it as well. I was originally interested in it because of the server software - that it was Open Source and written in PERL. Plus they encourage hacking of the hardware and of the software. Any company with those morals gets my support.

    When I first got my SqueezeBox in the mail it would not play correctly - the sound was all distorted. I sent them an email and they told me to just open it up and see if anything was loose or broken from shipping. I asked "Won't that void my warranty?" and they just said no, don't worry about it. So I popped it open and found that there was a broken piece floating around in it. They just told me to send it back and they replaced it very quickly and covered all shipping charges.

    Sure, you can run to your local electronics store and get a wireless MP3 player for less than the Squeezebox, but does it run on Linux, is the software Open Source, is the company 'Not Evil'?

    If only more companies were like Slim Devices we would have some really cool things going on.
  • Squeezebox (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 08, 2005 @05:41PM (#14214054)
    My Mama's got one of these. And my Daddy never sleeps at night.
  • Airport is fine to airport networks- but it's interoperability with the other 802.11x standards leaves a good deal to be desired. I'm willing to bet the worse quality experienced with Airport turned on was due to Airport, not the Squeezebox or the computer itself.
  • Web 2.0 (Score:3, Funny)

    by web20 (937325) on Thursday December 08, 2005 @06:32PM (#14214503)
    I read the whole review. Nowhere does it mention if this device is Web 2.0 compliant. Can I use Ruby on Rails and AJAX with the Squeezebox? Podcasts are not even supported. This device is not important to the blogosphere as a whole.
  • Not so happy with it (Score:3, Informative)

    by Ian Bicking (980) <{moc.ydutsroloc} {ta} {bnai}> on Thursday December 08, 2005 @06:38PM (#14214540) Homepage
    I got one of these a while ago, and I've never really been happy with it. Setting it up on Debian wasn't terribly hard (with alien), but not that easy either. On Ubuntu I can't get it to run at all, some research showed it had something to do with Perl and threads and whatever version of libraries Ubuntu was using, but I couldn't find any resolution. The software itself never impressed me; the web UI was clunky, it would segfault fairly regularly, and always spewed out a variety of warnings. It didn't deal very well with the size of my music collection; by only using the file browsing mode I could get by (I keep my music well organized in folders), but other modes (e.g., browsing by artist parsed from id3 tags) were too slow.

    The box itself seemed like too dumb of a client, asking the server about what it should do in response to every action. Perhaps the wireless connection back to my computer wasn't good enough (it was a fair distance), but even so, the fact it could play an MP3 *at all* would indicate it should have a good enough connection to present a usable UI. But the response was always slow, with little indication whether it was working or not. I probably wouldn't have minded the slowness of certain operations if I could tell reliably that it was definitely *doing* something. But instead I'd have to wait 10 seconds and try again if it seemed to have not noticed the remote signal.

    For actual listening, I could get maybe 30 minutes of play before it randomly stopped. Getting it going again was hard, involving rebooting several different pieces and finally just praying it would start working. I could never understand what was going on.

    It's entirely possible that a bad connection to my computer leads to a general degredation of... everything. If I can get it working again I'll probably try to connect it via ethernet. But even if that is the problem, the degredation is not very graceful.

    Another thing that annoyed me, and may or may not still be the case, is that it only plays MP3s. I got the impression that it played oggs from its marketing, but that's just bullshit. The server software happens to be able to transcode to MP3. Having the server transcode to MP3 is stupid (and uses up a lot of CPU to boot), and I ended up simply transcoding all my oggs to mp3 and keeping them on disk instead of having it do this on the fly.

    • You might want to try more recent versions of the software, it's been steadily improving. I've never seen it lag, even when rescanning my library. But my server is reasonably fast, 1.6Ghz.

      The default audio mode is FLAC in current-generation hardware.... that means if you try to run an alien format, it will decode it to WAV, losslessly encode it to FLAC, and transmit the compressed stream to the player. You can also have it just convert to WAV and send that, if you have more bandwidth than you have CPU.
  • Our own squeezebox worked so well for my wife that I purchased one for my father and another for my best friend as well. All three enjoy the painless remote control interface. Both my wife and friend are decidedly non-technical and prefer to have little or nothing to do with computers, but the squeezebox has been a big hit with them. My wife, a professional pastry chef, says that it has changed her work life in the kitchen. It is a really well concieved appliance.
  • And loving it.. I run the server in a VMware ESX guest with the CPU shares lowered to just 5 - same as my DNS server (default is 1,000). My father-in-law changed out my exploded water heater on Father's Day for free last year so I thanked him with a 2nd gen Squeezebox. He ABSOLUTELY loves it, and built a 220GB MP3 collection around it, and wired up whole-house audio and music around the pool.

    I have had some issues with Centos 4 show up only in that VMware guest, however. ARPs don't complete properly and the
  • by fingal (49160)
    It is also, to the best of my knowledge, the only networked audio device that has a command line interface. telnet into the slimserver on port 9090 and you can control all of the SqueezeBoxen on your network directly - makes writing 3rd party clients very easy...
  • by DaveJay (133437) on Thursday December 08, 2005 @06:54PM (#14214667)
    ...and it has become an indispensible appliance in my living room. I simply cannot stress enough how wonderful internet radio streams are when they're coming in through your stereo via a remote controlled appliance instead of through your desktop speakers and computer.

    I wouldn't say that it transforms the internet radio/mp3 listening experience as significantly as, say, TiVo transforms the television watching experience, but it's still pretty significant.
  • by amitola (557122) <mikey@noSpAM.singingtree.com> on Thursday December 08, 2005 @06:56PM (#14214676) Homepage

    The reviewer seems to have covered all the basic information, but didn't emphasize some of the less obvious features that, for me, make the Squeezebox worth its price tag..

    • Every conceivable output interface--optical SPDIF, coax SPDIF, headphone jack, RCA (although truth be told, you might as well just use the RCA output since the Squeezebox's DAC is probably better than the one you were going to plug it in to)
    • Completely useable with just the remote and built-in display--some of these devices require a TV to provide a decent interface, and I hate having the TV on (not to mention the bedroom where there is no TV)
    • Being able to sync multiple players--on those rare occasions when I have a party, I lock the players together and play one stream to the whole house without dragging cables around
    • Wireless version also a wireless bridge (in v2 and v3)--if you have something else in the living room that wants to plug in to the network, like a game console, this feature saves you an extra $75 right there.
    • Transparently plays any file format you've got--the box itself can decode mp3, flac, or straight PCM, but if you have something else the server will decode it on the fly and stream it to the box. Although this does require you to have some CPU power on the machine running slimserver, of course.
    • It has no onboard storage--for me this is a feature, because otherwise there would be yet more copies of the music that needed constant maintenance to stay up to date, like the iPods

    Also, I happen to be one of those people that has to compulsively hack up every device to do unnatural things, which means that the open-source Perl server is critical (even though it is kind of a beast). Some more neat things for hackers:

    • You can directly control the text on the display (actually you can do bitmapped graphics on the v2 and v3 models), so people have it scroll their emails as they come in, RSS headlines, play Tetris, caller ID when the phone rings,whatever
    • You get notification of button presses on the remote control, which you can reprogram to do whatever you want: make your computer do something, or send X10 automation commands if you've got your geek on to that degree
    • It can pass through arbitrary PCM streams, so you can even play weird stuff like DTS-encoded 5.1 channel wav files
    • You can of course integrate it with any other web pages you were writing, so you can do the all-important now playing [obstrepero.us] on your blog
    • The slimserver does everything in plain old HTTP including mp3 streaming, so you can use your whole TCP bag of tricks like ssh port forwarding to connect an xmms client from work, for example
    • The server can do bandwidth limiting per client. You could have a local player at home set for unlimited bandwidth so the server will send a lossless stream and you won't miss a single precious bit, and another player at work connected through ssh, and the server will automatically transcode everything to the maximum bitrate you set
    • It has a plugin interface, so you can get lots of these tricks to work without writing the code yourself

    I know there's lots I'm forgetting but I have to try to get this post in while there is still a chance somebody will see it...

  • The real benefit of what it does is bridge the internet's content with your stereo. Put on Radio Paradise and that's dinner. Soma FM for later. Some crazy station on shoutcast for a party. Or my own CD's... (Tired as they may be.) Radio 1190 for that cool Japanise pop program and the laxidasical DJ...

    It also acts as a bridge, so other devices can use it's ethernet plug while it uses the 8011g. (Playstation 3!?)

    My wife gets lost in some of the menu items but I'm sure that will be improved upon (your lo
  • RSS feeds (Score:3, Interesting)

    by kefa (640985) on Thursday December 08, 2005 @07:22PM (#14214862) Journal
    how did I hear about this review? my squeezebox delivered slashdot rss headlines to my living room!
  • by chrysrobyn (106763) on Thursday December 08, 2005 @07:58PM (#14215109)

    I used a Squeezeebox v2 on MacOSX (Panther) for 6-7 months. The server was a dual 2GHz G5. Performance was horrible, the music kept cutting out, etc. I was convinced the Squeezebox was trash. Then one day, it would work flawlessly, seemingly without any change. A week later, the dumpster again seemed like its proper home.

    I ended up finding out what my problem was. I was running a few (2-3) Torrents, using Bram's stock BitTorrent software. The number of simultaneous network connections was pretty high. In this situation, the Squeezebox couldn't open connections, or keep open ones open, and it would skip, studder, or seemingly just disappear. Web traffic never seemed to suffer, only the Squeezebox. Today, I've found that my Mac is much happier running the (sometimes laggy on a 1GHz Powerbook) Azureus and limiting simultaneous network connections to 80-100. I believe there is an undocumented issue with Panther not handling large numbers of simultaneous open connections well.

    Perhaps the reviewer could verify that Torrents are not in play while the Squeezebox is being tested. If they are, perhaps simultaneous network connections can be throttled. I am interested in a V3 product, but only if it will continue to function on my Mac.

    • I can confirm for you, there were indeed no torrents downloading. The only software running on the machine was Firefox, and that was idling. This wasn't a primary machine at the time.

      It seems to be a wireless vs. wired problem. On the cable, no problems. However, I did have a problem last night during an update, which was after the review was written. That seemed to be more of a CPU time issue than network connectivity.

      P. Schoonveld
      schoonveld (apestaartje) ostg.com
      (the damnable ad guy)
  • Just like the iPod transformed music on the move this nifty box of tricks has transformed music in the living room. There are several killer features which persuaded me to post my £1,500 Primare CD player on eBay, and invest in a couple of these puppies:

    - completely silent and wireless - sits amicably next to the hi-fi
    - native flac support and digital outputs for unsurpassed audiophile sound with an outboard dac (less than 50 pico seconds jitter apparently)
    - AlienBBC plugin allows browsing of BBC
  • In real-time. I've been perusing and participating on the SlimDevices forums, and I have seen countless threads where knowledgeable end-users of the SB have requested updates to the firmware to fix bugs or even improve some signal processing alorithms (like digital volume attenuation). The Slim Devices CEO and CTO both appear quite often on the forum and respond and implement both bug fixes and the end-user suggestions. I'm guessing it's a pretty small operation, but still, that's great customer support. Th
  • There's a few downsides, if you're using a format that requires transcoding [e.g. Apple Lossless] you won't be able to fast forward or rewind inside of tracks. The software is not hiccup-free and [again with the Mac stuff] it's cumbersome to add plug-ins or manually edit the files in OS X. Mine has crashed or shut down without warning a couple times as well. Basically, it's a perfect geek toy but I wouldn't buy one for my mom.

    Overall though I'm extremely happy with mine, and I enjoy the fact that the compan
  • ...Patrick Schoonveld (the poor guy responsible for making ads work on Slashdot and other OSTG sites)
    Now it all makes sense. Send you're swag and free stuff direct to /. employees and get posted on the front page. I'm guessing a free unit it pretty cheap advertising.
  • I use the Airtunes even with my PC hard wired into a belkin base station, yes I know apple says you cannot do this, I have had no problems. For 100less I think you get a better deal. Even if I add a wireless remote it is still $70 less.
  • ...and when daddy gets home. Darn it all to hell he never gets no rest.

    Cause she's playin' all night
    And the music's all right

    Mama's got a squeeze box
    Daddy never sleeps at night

    Well the kids don't eat
    And the dog can't sleep
    There's no escape from the music
    In the whole damn street
    Cause she's playin' all night
    And the music's all right

    Mama's got a squeeze box
    Daddy never sleeps at night

    (With Apologies to The Who)
    Dolemite
  • I have a squeezebox now since 6 or 7 months, and it is worth every penny. Installation was a breeze; plug in, installed the software on FC3, pointed it to my mp3 files and after scanning those, I was up and running. The software (being open source) is in multiple languages and keeps getting better. From time to time, there are free updates, both on the slimserver software as well as on the firmware of the thing.

    I don't know what I can say bad about it, I'm totally hooked.

    Mark
  • Build your own (Score:3, Informative)

    by Xenna (37238) on Friday December 09, 2005 @05:50AM (#14217754)
    I just discovered http://mvpmc.sourceforge.net/ [sourceforge.net] today.

    This is a project to convert the ($99 list) Hauppauge MediaMVP box into a MythTV frontend and a SlimServer (Squeezebox) frontend.

    A cheap way to get much of the Squeezebox functionality and a lot more and do some hacking in the process...

    X.
  • I've become very dependent on smart playlists. Basically all of my listening is based on dynamically generated playlists on a variety of constantly updating criteria. Some examples of my commonly used playlists are:

    - 3, 4, or 5 star rating but not audiobook, podcast, or holiday
    - 4 or 5 star rating but not audiobook, podcast, or holiday
    - 5 star rating but not audiobook, podcast, or holiday
    - Genre rock and not played in the last 30 days
    - Alternative and not played in the last 30 days
    - Last played yesterday
    - L
  • My stereo isn't in the same room as my main listening speakers. I have the stereo downstairs in the family room. Upstairs in the living room I have a pair of (reasonably high quality) bookshelf speakers mounted on the wall and a subwoofer. I use a remote repeater to control the volume and selection on the reciever downstairs. So far so good - I can switch sources and control the volume and CD player from upstairs.

    So then I have my media computer also downstairs hooked directly to the stereo through the
  • I bought 2 of the original SliMP3 players 3 years ago, and have since added a Squeezebox2. I also run the Java software client "SoftSqueeze" on my PVR box, with keys bound to my Hauppauge remote, and on my workstation.

    I can sync all of these up together, and even sync the controls so raising the volume does it on all the clients, hardware or software.

    The hardware clients are as thin as they can get really - the remote codes are not interpretted by the client: they are sent to the server, which acts upon i

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