Sunday, January 26, 2014

Another New Gizmo

In the ongoing saga of our music-delivery system, I was forced to conclude that I would not be installing SqueezeServer on my new Seagate Central anytime soon -- word was that the Central was a bit underpowered for what I wanted, and more talk on the Internet made it sound like a pretty daunting task anyway -- so I went with Plan B: I ordered a Raspberry Pi.

This is a small, DIY- and education-oriented device, basically a minimal computer motherboard with nothing else -- memory is through an SD card that you supply, and input/output is through USB (keyboard & mouse), video/HDMI, and Ethernet jacks -- but it's a fully functional computer for all that, and it runs several flavors of Linux. Best of all, it cost about $40 when I got it from Amazon.

Of course, that price is predicated in your not needing anything else, such as keyboard or mouse or video monitor, or SD card, things could get expensive really fast otherwise. I thought I had everything I needed, then took an inventory of the basement, and found that my spare keyboard had a PS2 connection rather than USB, and the spare monitor has neither video nor HDMI input. Uh-oh... I could run the pi monitor through the TV, so I didn't need that, and since I was going to use a new SD card anyway I grabbed an extra Ethernet cable while we were at Staples, and tried to find PS2-to-USB adapters. Unfortunately the ones they had cost around $20 -- sorry, but I'd seen them online for two bucks, and a whole new USB keyboard could be had for less than $20. Not gonna happen. I ordered a new keyboard, $10 on Amazon.

OK, I had to wait for the keyboard, but I could at least get on with the task of setting up the memory. This turned out to be time-consuming but pretty simple: download the "image" file and burn it onto the new card. So at that point (Friday afternoon) I had everything I needed except that damn keyboard.

My real purpose for the pi required talking to it via ssh over our local network. All I really needed, once things were up and running, were the Ethernet cable and the memory, but for some reason I believed that I needed to start the pi up and configure it to allow ssh. A closer reading -- or to be honest, an initial reading -- of the instructions revealed that ssh was on by default, so I plugged the pi into the power and the Ethernet port, and sure enough I could log in from my laptop. I immediately canceled the keyboard order...

Installing the SqueezeServer was pretty straightforward as well, and took me only a few minutes more. Now we can control the music from our laptops or smart-phones, but we don't need the laptops on anymore to have the music play.

There are a lot of fun/educational projects for the Raspberry Pi on the Net, but most of them look pretty lame, and my pi (not the most powerful of computers in the first place -- but what do you expect for $40?)  has a real job to do, so I don't expect to be playing too much with it after this. Just set it and forget it.

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