Friday, December 23, 2005

Music, Media & Technology

Since I like music, play in a band, and love technology, I've been thinking of getting some technology to help me making my mp3-collection more accessible.

My biggest wish has been to be able to listen to my music through my hi-fi equipment. In addition, I want to be able to hear the music (and enjoy the silence inbetween listening to music) without the hum of my computer in the background. I have also been thinking of converting my home to an area free of desktop computers.

These needs doesn't go well with HTPCs, since they all need a computer that takes time to boot, makes noice, and requires maintenance. Ok, I admit that being able to record tv-shows and watch dvds is cool, but that's not what I wanted (review last section again if you forgot it).

After some searching and blog-reading I finally decided to buy three small boxes:

After picking up these items from my local post office I unpacked the boxes and connected the cables. After verifying that everything was working as expected, I started to modify the NSLU to better suit my needs.

Since the NSLU is running Linux, a community has emerged that collects information about the hardware and the operating system, and even builds a new version of the software. This is what I did to my NSLU:

  • Upgrading the operating system to a version called The Unslung Firmware, which is now in version 5. The upgrade was easy, uploading the new image from the device's web interface.
  • Next task is called unslinging the NSLU, and is mainly an operation where you move the startup files from the internal memory to an external disk.
  • The last task was a daunting task, cause it involed opening the NSLU and removing a small transistor from the mainboard. Yes, it's all about overclocking (or de-underclocking) the device.

The next thing I did was to buy and install a piece of software called TwonkyMedia - a small UPnP-based media server available for the NSLU running the Unslung Firmware. This was also an easy step-by-step process that only took a few minutes.

After moving my media collection to the external disk, I've enjoyed my mp3-collection played over my excellent speakers and browsed from my television set (with an easy interface accessible by anyone old enough to hold and operate a remote control). My kids has also enjoyed watching our collection of digital images on the tv, so this project has definetly been a success - a more silent, faster-to-boot, and - last but not least - a cheap one.

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