Free as in Speech. Free as in Beer.
Followup to earlier article.
I haven’t tried any of these out yet. I just wanted to get the word out quickly. I’ll try to get a full review of each of them up soon.
My ancient harmony remote finally died. I loved it for it’s ease of setup, ease of use, and because it remembered the state of all of my devices. I procrastinated about looking into a new remote control solution because I now have devices controlled by IR, and by IP. Even worse, some of the IP controlled devices are actually programs running on a computer.
So what’s a guy to do? I scoured the interwebs for the current contenders for the “best bang for the buck.” What I found are some very promising contenders, a real winner, and even some open source goodness!
I’ve known about Redeye since its inception. It now has the capability to control IP devices such as Roku and even Plex Media Server. At $200 for a new unit it’s a little pricey for some, but it’s available used for about $99.
I found out about this when I discovered Griffin’s Beacon. Dijit is a FREE app that controls IP devices from any phone, and can also control IR devices when used on a phone with an IR emitter or when paired with a Griffin Beacon.
You read that right. There’s an open remote control community out there. Their official website is a little sparse on details, but their download page on Sourceforge is very informative. Basically, anything that can be controlled in any way can be controlled by their control software which is written in Java. Get yourself any smartphone, tablet, or web browser for an interface. Get yourself an IP controlled IR or RS-232 box and you’re all set. They even have nice setup wizards and professional support ($).
The IR and RS-232 controlled devices in our homes require the use of additional hardware. Here are the top options that I encountered.
All Redeye options require their bundled hardware. See above.
I just found out about this. It’s a battery powered Bluetooth device that spits out IR codes. It comes with Dijit for your smartphone or tablet. The beauty is that Dijit also controls IP devices.
This company makes the cheapest, and what seems to be the most used / best supported hardware out there. They have an IP controlled box with IR, digital inputs, and RS-232 for about $130. Originally that’s all they had. All work had to be done by hand. Now they have many free support programs to assist in design and implementation. This includes the all-important Philips Pronto ccf to globalcache IR code converter. With the converter and the RemoteCentral code database you should have all the codes you’ll need.
They now also make cheaper boxes that only do one thing, either IR, RS-232, contact closures, etc. These are about $100 and offer some capabilities not found on their gc-100 like WIFI and Power Over Ethernet.
Similar to Globalcache, but more expensive. They also seem to be centered in Europe. I don’t see a need to go into further detail.
Personally, as much as I love open source, I’m going to try Dijit first, then Redeye. Meanwhile I may or may not toy with Openremote. So far I’ve talked about these in the context of controlling everything. If our needs are only for a single or distributed music system then you might be able to stick with a UPNP setup. Just keep in mind that UPNP has no way of controlling the volume on your amp or preamp.
OK headphone amp, but still open source.
I finally got around to trying Clementine. I was pleasantly surprised, although I shouldn’t be considering it’s forked from the “cool” Amarock. Unfortunately it seems to lack UPNP support. Fortunately someone wrote a python script that lets it be remote controlled from any web browser… even a smartphone.
The killer feature? Unlike both Rhythmbox and Banshee it has options to rescan the music library. I can’t imagine why the others are missing such a basic feature. EDIT: Banshee does have a rescan menu option. Rhythmbox is supposed to every restart, but it doesn’t.
In either case, I was looking for great playback software for OSX that could read FLAC without spending a little (iTunes plugin) or a lot (Amarra $700!!!). Banshee couldn’t output to the USB DAC, but Clementine came to the rescue!
Sure I don’t personally endorse OSX considering its proprietary nature, but I can at least endorse programs that run on it.
I was helping out a friend recently and found that XLD (X lossless decoder) has been completely transformed from difficult to fantastically easy! It now has options to let it autostart on CD insert, eject disc when finished, etc. Bonus, it has accuraterip support!
Then there’s Clementine for playback…
JVC is introducing a new car stereo unit that can be controlled by gestures. This reminds me of that Monster gesture product I mentioned a while ago.
Also, the XBOX 360 just got an interface overhaul and the kinect is finally becoming more useful as an interface medium.
We’re inching ever closer to computers that can interact with us the way we already naturally do.
in short, Banshee’s behaviour when playing back music is weird and annoying. Rhythmbox doesn’t seem to have the ability to sort by “Album Artist” instead of “(song) Artist” so albums by remixers, DJ’s, and Producers get chopped up and organized by song artist in the interface.
To elaborate on Banshee, in addition to the typical listing of all of your music, it has a play queue. At any point an album or song can be played, but if songs exist in the play queue they will sometimes be intermixed with your current album. Also, when you current album finishes the play queue will begin playing where it left off. Both of these examples are far from intuitive. They make Banshee feel weird.
I will now begin looking for solutions.
ZOTAC makes lots of things. I just found out they make miniPC’s. Their cheapest model is perfect for a music client or even a modest server. (modest only because storage space is less than ideal) The more expensive models are still under $300 and they’re good enough for HD video too.
What makes them so great:
small – 7.4″ 188mm squares that come with VESA mounts
real x86 core – Intel Atom CPU with on-chip graphics
connections – e-sata, USB, HDMI, vga
pop in a stick of memory and 2GB sata ssd or USB flash drive and go!
I’ve just learned of a Windows program called hdcd.exe for converting hdcd rips into 24 bit rips using the special hdcd material. i.e. this will result in better 24 bit files than regular upsampling.
unfortunately the author is being blocked by microsoft with respect to creating programs for other OS’s. In 5 days I’ll be able to contact him to see if something can be worked out. In the meantime I’m holding my breath!
For everyone who has wished to have an amazing stereo, music piped through your house, or even just the coolest remote control on the block, this site is for you.