Saturday, November 21, 2009

Remote control of Reciva-based radios

- Controlling your Reciva radio without touching it

Many, but not all, internet radios come with a remote control. Sometimes they are very simple credit-card sized devices, sometimes they can be big dedicated boxes needing two hands to use with all sorts in between.

Basic models tend to use infrared and more sophisticated use TCP/IP over Wi-Fi - with a proprietary application protocol on top.

The underlying firmware in the Reiva-based radios generally have infrared control enabled even if there is no infrared hardware included in the radio. This fact has been exploited by a few people who have opened up their radios and inserted a supported infrared detector (one directly wired to the Barracuda board and another simply using the USB connection ... but I cannot find it while writing this).
Some other Reciva users have gone down a software route by using the unofficial Sharpfin patch to run a small web server on the radio and have it present a simple web interface that in turn performs some radio management commands. An example of this is documented in the Sharpfin mailing list.

However, Reciva have been working away quietly in the background and have implemented a way to achieve almost complete control of the radio (including managing the alarms, examining presets, tuning to radio stations and even browing the menu).
The initial implementation of UPnP-AV (aka DLNA) within the Reciva software performed the basic minimum - allowing it to access a media server and allowing the user to browse the music then select and play tracks.
This was extended to all external control points to send music to it - but the big addition was to add a Reciva specific service (RecivaRadio:0.0) that opened up much more of the proprietary capabilities of the radios.

A regular UPnP-AV controller will not know how to use these functions - so using them requires custom software. But the open nature of this (standard protocols and self-documenting web services calls) means that building something is relatively straight-forward ... using existing tools I was reading presets, searching the database and changing stations in less than 15 minutes.

This service is what I presume is being used by the Grace Digital remote control for the iPhone & iPod Touch.

If you plan to build something then here are some pointers - and let me know via a comment here or direct via other routes:
Check the power-on status - since some commands will not work if the radio is (soft) powered off.
Some of the calls require the use of a NavigatorId - obtain one with RegisterNavigator. This can then be used for the session - and should be released at the end with ReleaseNavigator (otherwise, I presume, the radio will eventually run out of memory).
The local controls at the radio appear to be disabled while controlling from remote - which may well be the most important reason to ReleaseNavigator.

There can be more presets supported in the software than are accessible via the buttons on the device itself. Plus - the number available can be different on each radio. So use GetNumberOfPresets to determine how many there can be.
GetPreset returns the data of a single preset. Preset0 is a special case - it is automatically set to be the last station played.
Presets can be set in 2 ways - one is via SetPreset (see the return from a GetPreset to better understand the data required) and the other is to set the current playing station to a preset via SaveCurrentStationAsPreset
Tune to a given preset with PlayPreset.

The station database can be searched (SearchForStationByName) and browsed (GetMenu).
It is also possible to get the station logo.
Here is an example of the return from one of these (GetPlaybackDetails):

<station id="9256" custommenuid="0">
<stream id="fa3be23929b7339f9d2ce90f2c84ec37">
<title>Dandelion Radio</title>

Take care here - some devices have an analogue volume control. So if the volume is turned down at the radio then you will not be able to adjust it from remote.

I have not yet managed to navgate the sub-menus - the item ids do not seem to work when I try them ... work in progress.

Some of the commands return an error (for example GetIsUpgradeAvailable) and there may well be differences between firmware versions (GetCurrentServicePack) - plus it returns all possible source types even if the hardware is not installed - so try to make your code flexible and extensible.

There is a lot more in there - such as:

  • Volume controls (up / down / mute)

  • Playlists (view list, change order, remove item)

  • Soft Power (on / off)

  • Alarms (view, set, delete)

  • Reply (equivalent to hitting the reply buttton)

  • Device (hardware id, upgrade, language)

For those who do not know how to examine the available services - but who are simply interested in knowing what is there ... I have uploaded a dump of the available set from firmware v257-a-865-a-400 (very recent beta) to the very useful "UPnP/AV Device Capability Database" being run as part of a research project at Institut für Pervasive Computing of Johannes Kepler Universität, Linz, Austria.

The specific entry for the recent firmware is at:

You could help developers who do not have access to all radios/firmware by making your own upload of data by downloading the Magpie tool from their site. It would be particularly interesting to see the output from a Reciva-based Grace radio to check if there are any extra capabilities that are being used by their remote ... but I suspect that they have no more than is in the current firmware. If you do download and run the tool then make sure that it is not blocked by your firewall - and let it sit listening for a few minutes while waiting for a radio to advertise itself. Powering the radio off and on is likely to make it broadcast immediately. The radio should then appear on the left. Click on it - and it should start analysing. Once complete you can upload via the "Submit Data" button in the top left. After you finish the process you can view you new data on the site.
Note - there is not much point uploading data for a device/firmware combination that is already there so do browse the device list first (some of the names might not be obvious - and there a devices from all sorts of suppliers not just Reciva of course).

Control your Grace Digital (Reciva-based) radio from iPhone

- Grace release free iPhone app

*UPDATED to add info about Reciva-branded version

Grace Digital have released a free application to the Apple AppStore (for iPhone and iPod Touch) that can be used to control their range of Reciva-based internet radios (hence it does not work with their GDI-IRP600 which is not Reciva-based). UPDATE: In July 2010 a Reciva-branded version of the same application appeared (from PlugPlayer). This is not free but provides control for all modern Reciva-based radios.
Grace iPhone Remote

This is by no means the first internet radio that can be readily controlled by an iPhone application - there are excellent examples for Sonos (from Sonos) and Logitech Squeezebox (from 3rd-parties) plus Apple's own. But it is the irst that I am aware of for a Reciva-based device.

There are a few things to watch ut for. First off - make sure that you have recent firmware in the radio (at least v257-865-a-349) then if it is connected to your network wirelessly and you do not want to have to go and wake it up to control it then change the wifi configuration so that it stays connected while "sleeping".

It includes access to pretty well everything that you can do from the radio - including viewing presets, "My Stuff", accessing the alarms, changing volume (and muting), accessing Pandora (if you have it) plus accessing the entire Reciva library of stations.

I have not had a look at the underlying network communications to see how it works - but I suspect that it is using UPnP-AV for at least part of its operation (if not all of it). It does not work with non-Grace radios so I expect that it is looking for a manufacturer id or model number in the initial discovery process ... watch out for further reports.

You can watch an informative 4 minute video about it from Grace

Grace Digital Audio:
Reciva press release:

Roberts ColourStream

- Roberts' first touch-screen internet radio due soon
Roberts joining the band of suppliers of touch-screen internet radios.
The COLOURSTREAM is reported (at as having a 3.5-inch colour touch-screen - and, as is clear from the photo, an iPod dock, in addition to DAB and FM.

Remaining feature list broadly the same as other devices - Aux In, headphone socket, line out, UPnP-AV.

No mention yet if the touch screen will be used for display of other matieral - such as cover art - or if they will be following the current trend of providing links to social networking systems and
I presume that there is a matching Sangean model for non-UK audience but have not seen a sign of it yet.

At the time of writing this - it is not visible on the Roberts site

Priced around 400 Euro - but not available to ship yet.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Roberts Stream83i - Sturdy-looking multi-function radio

- Internet, DAB and FM radio

I hear the question .... "Sturdy-looking" is that some sort of euphemism?
The answer - Yes it is. My first reaction was that it looked like a car battery!

Roberts Stream83i

However, beauty is more than skin-deep. It looks like a capable device. It has the classic radio facilities (FM with RDS and DAB - including a telescopic aerial and 5 presets per band) plus Internet radio via Frontier Silicon portal over wired and wireless (b and g modes) and playback of media files on USB flash disk and from local LAN via UPnP-AV.

There are 3 speakers and audio connections both in and out (headphone, line in, line out)

Access to to play back music (and "scrobbling" of non-Internet radio tracks) is supported - with dedicated buttons for love/ban on both the radio and the remote control.

It looks like this has been designed to be sit well in the bedroom (as well as elsewhere in the house). For example, 2 different alarms with selectable volume level, dimable display (hopefully including a complete blackout), plus sleep and snooze functions.

The alarms can be set to play a buzzer, Internet radio, DAB radio, FM radio or - an can be set as a one-off, daily, week-end or week-day.

For those who plan to move the radio between different locations - for example taking it away on holiday (for you not it!) there is the ability to store four different connection profiles - which should make it easier when you bring it back home or if you visit the same places regularly.

No mention of DAB+ on the site on the manual - which might be a problem in the future (or it could simply be an omission in the documentation).
More details over on the Roberts site including a detailed User Guide

Monday, November 16, 2009

First all-in-1 device from Sonos - S5

- Sonos S5
Sonos have released their first all-in-1 device.
Sonos S5

It has the core Sonos zone-player functionality along with built-in speakers ... 5 of them.
Sonos S5 internals

Reports from early adopters have been positive - with people praising the sound in particular.
The device has minimal controls - so a remote control device is needed. The promotional material makes it clear that an iPhone or iPod Touch is the expected route - but the Sonos dedicated controller works fine but I expect that this is more important to existing Sonos customers than it will be to new ones given the price of the Sonos CR200.

Like all Sonos devices, it is very easy to set-up and start using - and Sonos excel at expanding to become a multi-room set-up.

If this were to be your first Sonos device then you would need to wire it to your router (possibly via an intermediate wired hub) - or buy an extra Sonos player or bridge. This is because the Sonos players do not use regular wi-fi for their wireless implementation - one of the Sonos devices has to connect via wire. Subsequent ones can connect wirelessly (via the other Sonos device(s).

On the back of the device are connections for Ethernet (x2 - 1 for your LAN and the other to allows other wired devices to benefit from its network connection), sockets for mini-jacks for audio-in and headphone plus the power socket.
The power cable prevents the device from sitting fluch against the wall - but given that there is a hole for audio to come out through at the back then sitting it a little away from a wall is likely to make it sound better.

Listed at 399USD (349GBP) it is at the top end of the price range for such devices - but it is a lot less expensive than buying Sonos ZonePlayer and new speakers.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

O2 Joggler radio app seems close

- O2 and Imagination Technologies press release
Promised from the start - the O2 Joggler has had a placeholder in the bottom right of the front screen since launch ... showing that internet radio would be coming soon.

Joggler radio announcement

O2 Joggler

Finally a press release has been issued by Imagination Technologies - the parent of Pure - saying that they will be providing the application - including a customised version of the Pure Lounge.
From the press release it looks like the number of stations will be limited.

To quote:
Sally Cowdry, O2 Marketing Director said: "Internet Radio will transform the experience for O2 Joggler customers and with PURE we are partnering with the market leading provider. PURE’s parent company, Imagination, has delivered this capability in an easy-to-use interface which brings the UK’s most popular radio stations onto the device."

Will be interesting to see how much of the Pure Sensia functionality is ported over to the Joggler Flash front-end. On the asusmption that it is free upgrade to the device then I expect that it will be much simpler.

(I have one - and have had some involvement behind the scenes with other aspects of the overall offering)

Update: 12/11/2009
Message arrived on the device (picture included) and upgrades of devices started.
No On Demand content