Tuesday, February 19, 2013

SqueezePlug

We have been using various SqueezeBox radios for several years now.  These allow us to listen to our local library of music, and streaming radio throughout our house.  We have had a NAS installed in our house for years (initially a Windows Home Server, now a ReadyNAS) and these were great to run the Logitech Media Server software, as we didn't need to leave any of our PCs up and running.

Recently, we have been transitioning to cloud services for storage, from the NAS.  We use CrashPlan for backing up our Macs and PCs.  Since we have been transitioning to Chromebooks, I have copied all of our files to Google Drive.  All of our movie content exists on the NAS, but since we have been using Vudu and Netflix for watching movies, we haven't played this content.  Since we haven't been really using the NAS for anything other serving content for the Squeezeboxes, this seems like a waste.  The electricity needed for a NAS with five 2TB drives, is overkill just to serve our music.

The +Raspberry Pi  is a great solution for this.  It is a small ARM based computer that uses 3.5 watts of power.  The SqueezePlug distribution has every thing needed for a media server, including the Logitech Media Server software, and this distribution supports the Raspberry Pi.




Raspberry Pi connected to switch with USB thumb drive for
media storage
The Raspberry Pi is just a bare board, so I also got a case. Once put together, the software installation was very easy. All that is required was to flash the distribution image onto an SD card, and boot the Raspberry Pi while connected to a monitor via HDMI.  Once booted and the ssh server was configured, the HDMI connection wasn't needed anymore, as everything could be done over the ssh connection.

Since the SqueezePlug distribution includes a Samba server, I was easily able to copy all of my music to the Raspberry Pi. The throughput of the copy was pretty bad.  During the copy, I was getting read throughput of about 8MB/s, but the write throughput went down to about 100Kb/s.  This is probably because the Raspberry Pi only has one USB controller, and the Ethernet port is using a USB to Ethernet adapter on the hub.

Raspberry Pi on top of powered down ReadyNAS Ultra
Once all of the music was copied the the Raspberry Pi, I was able to play music on our SqueezeBoxes.  I was able play four simultaneous streams. I did encounter one problem with some radio streams.  One of our local radio stations has a 64kbs AAC stream.  With the default settings, there were audio dropouts while playing the stream.  I solved this by changing the radio station buffer to 6 seconds, from the default 3, in the advanced network settings.

We now have turned off our ReadyNAS, and haven't had a problem yet.  I am now thinking about how else I could use the Raspberry Pi around the house.


Update: The developer of SqueezePlug has uploaded a tutorial in English.