I am not very knowledgeable on this subject, but I have a few questions
if you don't mind. I am rolling my own entertainment system and learning
a lot as I do. So I have heard terms and of products but I am a far cry
from expert on them. :-D
The comments are interspersed within the body of the email.
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Nick Lidakis [mailto:email@example.com]
> Sent: Saturday, July 19, 2008 2:37 PM
> To: firstname.lastname@example.org
> Subject: OT: Audiophile grade music server using several flavors of
> Ron Johnson wrote:
> > -
> > Mark it [OT] and post away!
> Just thought someone could benefit from this application, or I could
> receive some constructive criticism on some of choices I had made.
> I had been researching way to assemble an audiophile grade music
> since early last year for my dedicated listening room. There were
> several ready to go retail (Sonos, Slim Devices, McIntosh, etc.)
> solutions that were quickly dismissed because of price and/or their
> closed hardware/software nature. The server had to fit several
> 1. open source, preferably Debian based (apt makes software easy to
> install and it's my desktop OS)
> 2. relatively low cost
> 3. audiophile grade (FLAC output via USB without any re-sampling
> conversion of the audio stream)
> 4. power efficiency (preferably below 10 watts)
> 5. absolute silence ( NO fans or disk drives in the listening room)
> 6. ability to control music and play lists from the listening position
> with relative ease.
> 7. stability
> An article on the Linux Devices site was my rough blueprint for the
> server I wanted to put together:
> The author spent nearly $600 USD for a music server that uses the
> (cheap) on board audio of the mini-itx board as the output. That, and
> crude software hack for running Debian off a IDE flash drive. Not
> and definitely not audiophile grade.
> Because of my frustration (reboots and sucky firmware glitches) with
> cheap, mass consumer firewalls, I have been happily running Monowall
> a PC Engines WRAP board for the last 3 years with absolutely no
> downtime. I periodically check his website to look at his new wares
> was pleasantly surprised one day to see that he was offering a new
> of single board computers called ALIX. (
> There are several flavors, one of which caught my attention
> The ALIX 3c2 (http://www.pcengines.ch/index.htm). A 500Mhz AMD Geode
> (fanless), 256MB RAM, 2 USB ports, 1 serial, 1 Ethernet, 2 mini PC-I
> on a board sized 100x1600mm. The whole thing runs off a small 12V, 18
> watt adapter. The boards are meant to be running as firewalls or WiFI
> bridges using either Monowall, pfsense, or other software meant to run
> off Compact Flash. One link on the PC Engines sight was for a
> distribution called Voyage Linux. http://linux.voyage.hk/
> Voyage Linux is basically Debian for embedded devices that run off of
> cards as small as 128MB. It keeps apt, which would make the ALSA and
> installation a breeze. The Voyage Linux developers were kind enough to
> build a kernel with USB and ALSA modules, as they were not included in
> their current kernels.
> Software wise, I wanted: MPD on the server, FLAC files served to the
> server from the bedroom computer which would act as an NFS server, and
> an MPD client on some kind of Linux hand held to control it all. A
> N800 running MMPC (http://mmpc.garage.maemo.org/) if I could find one
> used at a decent price.
> Putting it all together:
> 1 ALIX 3c2 with Voyage Linux running off a 512 MB CF card. (board
> enclosure $15, wall wart $10)
> Used Nokia N800 w/ latest Maemo OS 2008 and MMPC. (Craigslist, mint
> condition, $100)
> NFS running on the bedroom computer where all the FLAC files are
> with Grip. (apt-get install, $0)
> Used Linksys WRT54G wireless router. (Craigslist, line new, $20)
> Items already on hand: 1 gig compact flash card.
If I understand right, the Nokia is how you control the hardware. My
question is what mpd client do you use on the Nokia to control the
software? Do you use it to create and keep multiple playlists? Or is the
adding and creation of playlists done on the PC that rips to FLAC? Does
the Nokia support Album art as it displays the music? Lyrics? Is there
good support for sorting your music (eg, more then just artist/album)?
Does this control sound volume as well? Or do you have multiple remotes?
I already have seven remotes for all of my tv/music as is. I am also
curious as to if the Nokia allows me to get rid of a few remotes, or if
it just adds more remotes to confuse my guests. :-)
To shrink my remote collection, I was personally looking into the
Logitech Harmony 1000 (
cl=us,en ) but I wasn't able to find much information on people using it
with Linux (I am sure my standard devices [TV,Wii,DVD,ect] would work,
but not sure about MythTV or any of my other Linux systems). I really
like the display and ease of use. The Logitech rep I talked to did say
that they were going to be releasing a newer version in the next few
months (no release date). He said that he didn't know if it would work
with Linux or not, but that it would have more support for accessing
wireless devices over standard connection frequencies and he didn't see
why it wouldn't over those standard frequencies. If anyone has any
comments, I would be glad to hear them (though if you say "It sucks" I
would like to hear why you think so
). I am also open to any comments
about using the Nokia as the OP does.
> Total: $270. Still cheaper than any of Slim Devices products; none of
> which have USB audio out.
> The ALIX sits on a rack and is dead silent. It's fed via CAT 5 that
> from the listening room to the bedroom switch. My Kill-A-Watt
> 3 watts max consumption when the ALIX is playing FLAC files; top shows
> ~%8 CPU. FLAC output is via USB, which is plugged into a Trends Audio
> USB-to-S/PDIF converter. The trends is plugged into a Adcom GDA-700
This is the product on the Trends website that I found
(http://www.trendsaudio.com/EN/Product/USB_Audio_desc.htm ), and you
said you use the Adcom which I believe is an optical-to-analog
converter. So if I understand right (that may be a big if) you are going
digital(usb) to optical (Trends) to Analog (Adcom). Why? Why not just go
from Trends directly to speakers? What am I missing?
> The Nokia N800 connects to the Linksys WRT54G, which accesses the ALIX
> on the LAN via a dedicated port. I can manipulate MMPC using either my
> finger or the stylus. Changing songs or play lists is instantaneous.
> Even though MMPC is at version .1, I've only had it crash once in the
> six months I have had the server up an running. The ALIX, with Voyage
> Linux, has had uptimes of months without any issues.
> Installing MPD and ALSA on voyage was as simple as making the CF disk
> writable with the command remountrw. Then apt-getting mpd and
> configuring mpd.conf, and fstab with the NFS partitons, and re-setting
> the file system to read only with the command remountro. All the MPD
> configuration files, play lists, and state files are stored on the NFS
> disk; obviating any need to write to the CF card.
> My only installation issues were partitioning the compact flash for
> Voyage Linux. GRUB refused to boot unless the partition was 512MB or
> less. Don't know why.
You went with the CF route, which to me seems much more difficult then
just using a thumbdrive. Maybe it is just me, but it is hard to beat the
price/space/ease of just buying a multi-GB thumbdrive. The Debian Live
project makes rolling-your-own-thumbdrive distro incredibly easy. Does
the ALIX 3c2 not support booting off of a thumbdrive? Or did you just
really want to use the CF?
> Hope it wasn't too long of an OT post...
Hope I didn't ask too many obvious/dumb questions...
Have fun with your new setup! Congrats!
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