This weekend I thought I’d have a go at setting up SlimServer, an application that streams music to various audio devices. It’s primarily design to work with the SqueezeBox, a hardware device that can wirelessly stream the music, but there are various bits of software that can use it too.
The server itself was a doddle to set up. There is a FreeBSD port of it that does all the work for you. Once installed you just run it then browse to port 9000 on the server to access it. It didn’t take long to index my MP3 collection, and then it was ready to go.
I started out by using Winamp to stream the music. That worked absolutely fine, but I wanted something I could run under FreeBSD. The idea was that I’d find an old piece of hardware that I could run headlessly in the lounge hooked up to our speaker system.
Various applications existed to do the job. The obvious choice is SoftSqueeze, a virtual SqueezeBox application provided in the SlimServer distribution. It’s java based, which makes it mildly more effort to get going on FreeBSD, but works pretty well. It has a headless mode too, which is ideal for what I want.
Next up there’s slimp3slave, which is a small C application that does the same job as SoftSqueeze. It uses an external application such as mpg123 or madplay to actually play the audio, so it’s a fairly small app. Whilst it doesn’t appear to have any problems, I didn’t have much success with the players. mpg123 got confused by the stream, and madplay kept skipping the beginnings of tracks when I hit next on the server. This could be a problem with slimp3slave – I’ll need to investigate.
Unfortunately SoftSqueeze isn’t faultless either. Whilst it plays fine, if you leave it idle for a long period of time something goes wrong and it refuses to play. I need to debug this further – it’s likely a FreeBSD related issue, since I know it works for other people on other platforms.
To finish the installation off I installed the MusicIP listener tool which can generate playlists based on any track you give it. When first started it does a scan of all your collection, which takes forever, and builds a database of information about tracks. It then uses this to match similar tracks together. It’s working surprisingly well so far.
The only problem with the MusicIP tool is that it’s a linux binary. This meant activating linux emulation on the server and installing the base linux port. To use the client application (not actually needed, though, since you can do everything through the server) you need java too – a linux one. I only had success with the blackdown 1.4 version.
This lot is controlled via a web browser. This is fine if you’re sitting at a PC and streaming to an application on your machine. But what about the headless machine? Fortunately I have an iPAQ with wireless, and it does the job of a remote control perfectly.
Longer term, if I can’t solve the problems with SoftSqueeze or slimp3slave I’ll consider buying a SqueezeBox. They’re expensive though; Â£170 for a wired version and Â£210 for a wireless one. Until I can justify the expense (ie. I’d acually use it) I won’t be forking out for one, though.