Have you ever been to a cafe or restaurant with 1950s jukebox wallboxes in each booth? Wallboxes were an extension for a jukebox, making it more convenient to select music right from your table. You’d drop a coin in, choose a song from the flipbook behind the glass, chrome and plastics, and the machine would send pulses down a wire to the restaurant’s jukebox, where a stepper would decode the pulses and queue up the song you’d picked. Refurbished wallboxes occasionally pop up in mock-50s diners; you’ll also see them for sale on eBay for anything up to a few hundred quid, and people buy them to add to their jukeboxes, or just as home decoration (I’ve seen one being used as a particularly cumbersome phonebook).
Wallbox in situ
Steve Devlin bought himself a couple of wallboxes a few years ago, meaning to hook them up to an MP3 player. He then switched over to a SONOS wireless media system in his house, and forgot about the wallboxes for a couple of years.
Enter the Pi.
On looking at a Raspberry Pi and a wallbox, Steve had an idea. Why not hook the two up together to make a controller for the SONOS system? The Pi decodes the pulses from the box, and sends the information to the SONOS system. (This approach will work with any UPnP protocol, so you’re not limited to using SONOS.)
Steve’s thinking about further customisation: a strip in the box with Radio 4 on it; some dynamic strips like “songs of the week”, which will play a selection of the week’s most-played tunes; some LEDs to show a binary index of common faults, like the wifi being down, or a song not being found.
There are full instructions and much more information on Steve’s website. We think there’s something really compelling about this mix of old and new; thanks for sharing, Steve!
We’ve had some people send us some great stuff this week – if you’re working on something cool that you think we might feature in a grab bag post, please mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
First up, some video. Linus Torvalds has been talking about Raspberry Pi (we will forgive him his insistence on calling it Raspberry P.I. because he is a massive hero of ours, and the fact that he ever mentions us at all is beyond fantastic.) The question about Raspberry Pi starts at 52m 19s. (The Nvidia bit earlier on is, broadly speaking, NSFW.)
Steve Jones from iMica has put AROS, an open-source implementation of Amiga OS on the Raspberry Pi.
Greg Macaree has been using the Raspberry Pi as a crucial piece of wedding reception audio equipment, the whole setup nearly jeopardised by a milking machine (seriously). He says:
For those not familiar, Sonos is a multi-room streaming hifi system. The Connect:Amp incorporates a media player with a 55w stereo amplifier and a 2 port network switch. It connects to your router, network storage device (if you have one) and speakers so you can listen to your music collection or Internet radio feed wherever you have a zone player setup. They also have the ‘Sonos Control’ an ip based wireless remote control which connects directly to the system.
I’ve had a few Sonos zones setup in my house for a couple of years now, generally playing a rock related Internet feed whenever I’m at home! So it was situation normal a few months ago when Becky, my fiancée had one of her mates over to chat about her forthcoming wedding. The music was probably on the loud side, so Becky picked up the Sonos remote to turn the volume down… And so the conversation began, that ended in me volunteering to provide the music for the wedding reception!
As the event got closer the technical aspects became more apparent, the venue – a marquee on their family farm would certainly not have an Internet connection or even a reliable power supply that I’d want to plug a pc into.
Sat at my desk I looked down and had the light-bulb moment, the Sonos system requires two things from a network – an ip address and a music source.. Sat in front of me was my recently delivered Raspberry Pi which could deliver those.. or could it?
I needed to have dhcp and file server services but having only dabbled in Linux (I’ve been a Windows user since 3.11 ) it was going to be a small challenge, although I knew it should be possible.
I started by downloading the Debian image from www.raspberrypi.org This gave me the bare bones of the server. Next job was to share a folder that I could fill with mp3′s. The Sonos devices need a windows style share, so after some research online I found that the tool for this task is an app or daemon called samba. Using apt-get I soon had samba installed and configured and I attempted to connect from my windows laptop. Before i could even attempt this i needed to know the current ip address of the Pi. Ifconfig soon displayed the answer and success! I could see the share. However I couldn’t write anything to it. Google soon came up trumps and chmod 777 was run on the folder – I could now copy the mp3′s onto the sd card of the Pi.
I then attempted to connect to the share from Sonos and it happily connected straight away, but with the Pi as a dhcp client I had to remain connected to my home network. Again Google came to the rescue, a static ip address was setup and dhcp3 was downloaded, installed and configured. I disconnected the Pi from my home lan and plugged it directly into my Sonos Amp. I rebooted both and nothing.. My remote wouldn’t talk to the amp although I thought it should be ok and the activity port on the amp was showing activity – I couldn’t connect.
I was just about to pull the setup apart to check everything when the remote then popped into life, showed a message box – “new ip address, reboot now?” so I quickly clicked ok and up it came with its new ip – it then connected to the amp and in turn the amp connected to the Pi! Blimey, it works! I selected a track and hit play.. Lo and behold, music came blaring from the speakers and the problem was resolved. I had the solution I needed!
Come the day, I setup the Pi, Sonos & speakers in the marquee.. But there was no power, the kitchen had ‘borrowed’ it – I couldn’t test anything so had to disappear to the wedding hoping that all was well.
Several hours later, after the sit down meal, the power arrived and I plugged the Sonos and Pi into the extension – disaster.. The Sonos wouldn’t boot. To cut a long story short, the milking parlour on the farm was now in full production and that didn’t leave enough juice for us.. Once milking time was over I tried again and success.. It was a few minutes later than planned but the reception was soon rocking and it kept on rocking into the early hours!
Congratulations to Lyndsey & Alan – a fantastic day, assisted by a small slice of Pi!
And finally, Warrington Collegiate have been working on getting Windows 7 (!) running on the Raspberry Pi using the VMware View Open Client. We think they’re the first people to have done this – they’re calling it Magnum Pi, because we all love moustaches and Hawaiian shirts. Nick Smeltzer, their Director of IT Services, emailed me to say that Microsoft already know about it…
Microsoft have seen it too and politely reminded us about licencing – ie connecting to a Windows 7 virtual machine from a Linux device. It’s a no no. But fine with Hyper V funnily enough. They were still impressed though….