Boys need toys

by Volker Weber

I brought this new toy back from Munich. The Netgear MP101 is a client which connects to a media server, either through a wireless connection or a network cable. You hook it up to your stereo as any other Hifi component. The MP101 has a four line display and a remote that you use to control the device. Unfortunately it does not have a web server, so you need to go through this somewhat awkward user interface. Although the display is quite large, you cannot read it from more than 2 meters away. White text on black background might look cool, but black on white would be much more readable.

The network setup is pretty straightforward, if your network broadcasts its SSID. The trouble starts with the media server. Netgear is a very Windows-minded company. I don't blame them for that since they target the consumer market, but it means you have to go through some hoops to install stuff without a Windows machine.

It appears the best solution is the Twonky Mediaserver. It runs on Linux, Mac, Windows and a variety of embedded devices. This server is not tied to a Netgear device but will also serve a lot of other clients. Twonky will not only serve music but also videos and other media, depending on the client device. At 15 Eur it is quite a steal. I am running Twonky on my Linksys NSLU2.

The MP101 was running on version 1.2.11 and I wanted to upgrade to 1.3.7. You put the upgrade ROM on the media server and tell the MP101 to load it. This turned out to be too tricky with Twonky, since I was getting "wrong image size" errors. I quickly installed the Netgear software on a Windows box, placed the image files into the program directory and upgraded. From what I have seen however, you really don't want to run the Netgear Windows software as a media server. Just plan to buy Twonky instead. :-)

If you are running the media server on a computer that already has a media library, it will use it. You can for instance specify the path to your iTunes library and be done with it. Since the NSLU2 isn't maintaining a library I told Twonky to build its own library:

musicnode1=Artists,%ARTIST
musicnode2=Genres,%GENRE
musicnode3=Albums,%ALBUM
musicnode4=Folders,%PATH
musicnode5=Artists/Albums,%ARTIST,%ALBUM

These categories then show up in the "Browse Music" menu on the MP101. The mediaserver understands the ID3 tags inside my MP3 files. As you can see in musicnode4 you can also browse the folder structure. I am not using the playlist feature.

Comments

I'm interested in hearing how it compares to my Squeezebox 2. It's more expensive than the MP101, but the SlimServer software is free and can run on the NSLU2.

The Squeezebox is too geeky for my wife, though. She refuses to use it, so we still have stacks of CDs in the living room.

Scott Hanson, 2005-09-24

I bought a refurbished MP101 device a couple of weeks ago. The thing that's hanging me up is that my wifi is in a DMZ which doesn't have access to my mac. From what I've read, punching holes in a firewall for UPnP is nasty and I want to place the device in the bathroom for music in the mornings. It looks like I'll be running cat5 to the bathroom one weekend to accomodate this nice little cheap device. Twonkyvision works fine for me on Tiger.

Ed Saipetch, 2005-09-24

Scott, I cannot compare it to the Squeezebox, since I don't have one. ;-)

Volker Weber, 2005-09-24

I don't understand why you prefere the UPnP over iTines plus AirportExpress.
My music is on my iBook and to play I just have to open my iBook and start iTunes (if not already running). I use my iBook as a remote control and that is 100 times better than any IR-remote control: big screen - best UI - full keyboard...
(I realy can't understand why that old ugly IR-technology still is used in modern equipments.)

What I am missing is the same function in iPhoto for sending pictures or slideshows via Airportexpress and WLAN to my TV.

Wolfgang Schmidetzki, 2005-09-24

Can the Twonky server parse protected AAC? I know somebody has one that uses iTunes to decode and then grabs the output and serves it up (Is that the squeezebox?)

Kevan Emmott, 2005-09-24

No, it cannot. But you should translate crippled AAC to MP3 immediately anyway. ;-)

Volker Weber, 2005-09-24

Does it support WPA?

Robert Krauss, 2005-09-25

Not that I know of. Did you check the specifications?

Volker Weber, 2005-09-25

Wolfgang,

The main detractor to an airport express is that it is not an optimal solution for a remote room, it's a pain to take a laptop or other mac in there to control the device. For $50 USD the netgear seems like a good solution for multi-room audio which is what I purchased it for.

Ed Saipetch, 2005-09-25

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I explain difficult concepts in simple ways. For free, and for money. Clue procurement and bullshit detection.

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