Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Digital listening - part 3

- Digital listening - part 3

Having achieved a stable and working set-up, with local media files and internet radio playing at home, including the ability to synchronise between 2 rooms, we really had all that we needed.
However, I still wanted a bit more - internet radio in the bathroom. There were two different drivers. One was to cover the long relaxing soak in a warm bath and the other was to have news (from France) in the morning while getting ready for work. Putting electrical equipment in the bathroom is not something to undertake lightly because of the hazards of mixing power and water or steam and electronics - but trying to use the wifi-enabled PDA with wet hands or steamed-up glasses was not going to work!

So it would be used a relatively small amount of time per week and would have to be easy to operate. For the small amount of use that was expected, I could not justify putting an extra Logitech Squeezebox, plus powered speakers, in there. The user community had been calling for an all-in-1 box for quite a long time ...
Squeezebox Boom but there was no word (not even a rumour ... until on 6th August 2008 - when unofficial news of the Squeezebox Boom leaked out).

I was interested in trying out an "internet radio". One of my brothers had already seen my home set-up and wanted to do something similar. He has very poor FM reception in his bedroom and wanted to be able to listen to BBC Radio 4 last thing at night and on waking up. There were a number of potential solutions (for example - add an external FM antenna, or try and get it via longwave). In the end he bought a Logik IR100 - from memory it was about 130GBP at the time. Logik IR100

It was up and running very quickly. The built-in support for RealAudio plus Reciva maintaining an updated list of the BBC Listen Again programmes meant that it easily meet my brother's needs. (Reciva provides the engine inside the box and is the provider of the station list).
Not to be outdone ... another brother went a slightly different route - and bought the Roku Soundbridge Radio. Roku Soundbridge Radio This device also features a conventional FM and AM receiver as well as internet streaming - so looks very attractive to a radio fan.
He is pretty pleased with it but has a few usability issues plus recently the power supply failed (just after the warranty expired).

Reciva already had a few other brands using their technology - but all were priced higher than I was prepared to pay for a 3rd device ... then the Logik IR100 went through some price drops. PC World was selling them for 60GBP and eventually 50GBP. My resistance was broken one week-end as I was buying some ink and paper ... within minutes of getting it back home I was listening live to stations from around the world.
It is not wrinkle free - but more than adequate for the way we are using it.
The firmware for the Reciva-based radios is upgradable over the internet, but the process is controlled so that firmware upgrades (officially at least) are only available for particular models once the brand agrees. This does mean that there are all sorts of different versions of the firmware on different models - which can lead to some frustration when a bug fix or new facility is available to some radios but not others.
There were a few bugs that affected the Logik IR100 but the assumption was that DSG would not be interested in agreeing to an update because they were probably trying to clear the stock by dropping the price. In the end, I made contact with one of the senior members of DSG to ask if anything could be done. I had a reply pretty quickly (over a week-end) saying that it would be researched. After a few weeks there was an update to say that it looked pretty likely and then a few weeks later I had confirmation that a new firmware release would be available very soon. An excellent outcome and confirmation to me that a simple request expressed clearly, logically and without emotion ... really can work.
The Logik IR100 has moved up in price since then - but I think it is still worth looking out for good deals.

The Reciva platform has continued to spark my interest in other ways. Reciva asked if any users would be willing to help process the queue of station add/modify requests. I volunteered and was soon involved in working out the right stream URL for attempted add requests. I am not sure how many I have fixed but I expect it is well over 1000. I find it a good way to stimulate the mind in the morning before breakfast!

This is a fast moving area - so I do suggest that you do your own investigation before buying. Models that I referred to might no longer be available or issues that I had may well be resolved. Feel free to ask questions via the Comments area.

28-Aug-2008 - Updated to include official link to Squeezebox Boom