Sunday, February 21, 2010

Squeezebox: It just works - and more!

For a long time, I wanted to write something about Logitech Squeezebox line of products. From my experience, they are different from most other home electronics: Not only they really do everything they should do. They also do much more than advertised. In fact, their capabilities are so vast, most people don't even understand what this system is capable of.

Squeezebox is a line of networked audio and control components. Most of them play streaming audio from your favorite source. Most of them are able to display graphical output of various quality. Some of them are designed to control the audio players. All the communication between all components is through WiFi or standard LAN cable. All the components are connected to your home LAN as if they were standard computers (i.e. they have they normal IP addresses and hostnames, you can log into them and hack them, etc.). Any of your home computers can function as both "player" and "controller" of any other component (yes, including command line scripting).

Squeezebox Duet

First of all, these components "just work" out of the box. For example, you just connect the player to any WiFi network with access to the Internet, it automatically updates its firmware and is immediately able to play any streaming audio from the Internet. That's all. You don't have to install anything anywhere. In fact, you can just connect it to some public WiFi network and don't even have to own any computer.

However, it gets much more interesting when you have your own MP3 collection and a home computer which is running all the time. You install Squeezebox Server on this computer (it supports Windows, Mac and Linux) and then you can play anything from your music collection on any of your Squeezebox players or on any computer connected to your home network. Of course you can play different albums on different devices and everything can be controlled either via Squeezebox remote or via browser interface from any of your home computers:

Squeezebox server

Squeezebox doesn't force you into any proprietary solutions and does not lock you in. Your music collections is simply a collection of folders and subfolders containing audio files and cover art images. Everything is indexed according to standard ID3 tags and Squeezebox's private database and indexes don't clutter your music folders - they are kept completely separate.

I now have Squeezebox Player (just a miniature box connected to external speakers), Squeezebox Remote (WiFi remote control with full color display) and Squeezebox Boom (audio system with built-in speakers and large monochromatic display).

Audio quality obviously depends on what kind of Squeezebox device you are using (the most expensive system costs 10x more than the cheapest one) but my mid-range Boom has perfectly clear sound and is totally quiet when not playing.

I know there are many similar soultions but I have never experienced anything that simply works as effortlessly as the Squeezebox. There are lots of thoughtful touches, for example the way the alarms and display dimming work and can be configured so that the device does not disturb you when you sleep and you can be awakened by your favorite song or your favorite radio station.

On the other hand, Squeezebox is a godsend for all control freaks because the configuration possibilities are staggering and all the software (including the server and firmware in all devices) can be fully customized - the server itself is written in Perl and the devices are running Linux. However, I didn't have to do that - I am perfectly happy with the standard configuration options and I don't even use all of them: For example, your Squeezebox device can display your Flickr photos, your RSS feeds, you can play games on it etc...

I really love tech gadgets and I must stress again that there are not many gadgets that I found as useful and as capable as the Squeezebox family of products.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Accessing Google Buzz from Google Apps Domain accounts!

When Google Buzz was recently launched, I was rather sad because I wasn't able to use it. It's currently only available from GMail (not from Google Mail on my domain, hosted by Google). I also have standard Google account for the same e-mail ( so that I can log into Google Reader or Google Maps, but this was also no help because you cannot have GMail for an account that doesn't end with "" (obviously).

However, I was able to access Buzz using my Android phone's browser (NOT using the Buzz mobile app), by simply visiting anc clicking "Continue on an usupported browser". I was then able to see the Buzz posts of my Friends and post my own. Even the geolocation and mini-maps were working (although there are probably many other features I cannot access at all, e.g. linking Buzz to different services).

This method also works with standard PC browser, providing you the way (although not very elegant) to access Google Buzz if your Google account is not - just visit from your standard desktop browser!

Accessing Google Buzz from Google Hosted Domain accounts

Disclaimer: I am not sure if I somehow discovered "a shape of things to come" or if this is a bug. I am also a little nervous because I am not sure what information is taken from which of my two "" accounts...

Monday, February 08, 2010

Vote for Jitushka!

My dear Jitushka decided she wants to be even more beautiful and enrolled herself into a competition where she will enter a sophisticated (and expensive) fitness program to get in shape. All of it will be documented by news server.

However, first she has to win the reader voteds because only one man and one woman will be picked.

All the nominees are here on this page. If you want to help Jitushka, just check the "dat hlas" button under her photo and then enter the CAPTCHA code at the bottom of the screen ("OPISTE KOD Z OBRAZKU") and finally submit by clicking "HLASOVAT".

Vote for Jitushka!

If she wins, you'll see more of her!

The voting ends this wednesday at midnight.