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Thread: Digital Media Station

  1. #1
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    So I'm posting this here because I figure the main topic at hand- an MP3 station for my home stereo system- fits here, even though some tangential issues (such as how to get NTSC output of the monitor for my TV) do not.

    First, let's brush up. I don't know how many of you were here in the spring, when this topic was posted in Custom Configs:
    http://www.macgurus.com/ubb/Archives...25-000004.html

    schalliol had the idea of making an iTunes Digital Media Server, remote controlled via both an IR remote and Timbuktu, that would serve up MP3s to anyone on the network and even over the internet.

    Then I was at Circuit City the other day and was shown some promotional material about this baddie:
    http://dec.hp-at-home.com/de100c.html

    Hewlett Packard is actually producing a product for the home audio market- a Digital Entertainment Center that contains a 40GB hard drive, a CD-RW for both burning and ripping MP3s, and just about every connection you can think of for both audio and data, including telephone or ethernet for connecting to the net, and a front USB port for downloading to your MP3 player. It has a video connection for your TV to show you playlists and even movie trailers and things you get off the net. Or you can listen to internet radio with one button.

    I was looking at this thing thinking, I can build one of these for a whole lot less than $1000. So I started turning things over in my head over what I would need to put this together.

    I already have a copy of SoundJam, so that's what I would be building this around. If I recall correctly, SoundJam is AltiVec-enabled, so I was thinking it would be great if I could put a G4 in whatever box I make. Or would it really make that much of a difference over a G3? I haven't had any experience with ripping MP3s using a G4. Anyone got an opinion?

    As for storage, when we're talking about playing back MP3s, I wouldn't have thought SCSI would be absolutely necessary. But the Gurus themselves here have said on the ATA controller cards page that they can even be dodgy for stuff as simple as playing back Quicktime or MP3s. This really surprised me- I knew you should use LVD SCSI for pro audio and video, but even the simple stuff? Now, one person (named Cellness, who only posted here once) in the Digital Media Server thread above said he built an MP3 box using a Sonnet ATA controller card. Does anyone have any experience or info that would go against this?

    So I guess this was the start of my idea. Get an old 7500 or 7600 with the AV ports, throw in a G4 card, ATA controller and USB card, give it a big honkin' IDE drive for storage and a fast CD-RW for burnin' and rippin', and use the Keyspan Digital Media Remote I already have to control it, along with a MacAlly iWebKey remote keyboard so I don't have to get off the couch to do maintenance or whatever.

    The lynch-pin in this set-up is the video output to my TV. I thought that the 7500/7600s with the AV ports could output their own NTSC video signal as a mirror of the monitor, am I wrong? The Cellness guy who built his own box said he used an AverKey iMicro to get the display to his TV. Or, could I use the output on an old ATI Rage VR card I've got laying around?

  2. #2
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    Hey there Anarch,

    I'm not hanging around much anymore (work 70-85 hour weeks), but it's good to see your post.

    Your plan sounds good, though won't the G4 card set you back a bunch? G4 if you can, but I'm pretty sure a G3 would be more than fine. When I had my 9600/200, it worked just fine for all this stuff (though I did have a 3-drive stripe). I think the key issue would be in whether you wanted to display the video plugins on your TV, for that you'd want as much power as possible. Are you planning on serving digital files to networked machines for playing? If so you'll want to think about higher processor power.

    Also, you really don't need SCSI for this, though if you can get a fairly cheap large SCSI drive (ha!) you could avoid buying a controller card.

    I don't think that I'd use the internal NTSC out on the 75/76/7300, it's not that good. I think that the ATI Rage VR would be pretty good, but if not you'd certainly do well with a Focus Enhnacements NTSC converter.

    Also, just for fun you could get the new Kensington TurboMouse Pro Wireless.
    ___

    BTW, just pluck down a couple G's and get this instead: http://www.escientconvergence.com/sept03fireball01.htm

  3. #3
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    Hey Anarch,
    sounds like a cool idea for a project! keep us posted on your progress. this could give me a use for these old a/v macs. not sure you would need to go to a G4. but it would rock!

    stewart

  4. #4
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    Hey, thanks for the reply schalliol. Yeah, the G4 was definitely the weak link in the plan, and I had already started thinking that I'd just get the thing set up with it's normal processor and wait until later to put a G4 in it (if at all).

    I'm not too interested in playing MP3 files to other computers over the network, like some kind of streaming media server, but it would be nice to make it so that the other computers could access the hard drive just to copy over the MP3s to their own drives. Certainly not an issue for my other Macs, but it'll take a little work for PeeCee Girl's HP box.

    Maybe I could find a beige G3 desktop on eBay, so I could eventually put a G4 ZIF in it. Also, didn't the Gossamer board have IDE? So then I wouldn't have to buy a controller card? Or would it be too slow because it's so old now?

    As for the wireless TurboMouse Pro- I bought a wired one about a week before they announced the wireless one.

  5. #5
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    You know, actually StewartNC, part of what got me to thinking about this idea was the 7500 you said you still have for sale. Is it still available?

  6. #6
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    Anarch,
    yea i've still got at least 1 7500a/v, i forget what price i had on it on my other post, but i think it was cheap! also have some bare cases if you have a mobo.

    stewart

  7. #7
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    Yeah Stewart, I think I will take that 7500 off your hands!

    Alright, I think this is shaping up pretty quickly in just a few hours. Here's where we stand:


      bare 7500av, courtesy of StewartNC, with original processor, for now (*)
      128MB of Gurus RAM for bare machine (I already have a small SCSI boot drive)
      60GB Seagate Barracuda IDE drive
      Sonnet ATA controller (or VST, I'm impartial)
      USB card (Belkin? MacAlly? who makes a good one now that XLR8 doesn't?)
      ATI Rage Pro VR for NTSC output
      Yamaha 6x4x16x CD-RW drive
      Keyspan Digital Media Remote
      MacAlly iWebKey
      software: SoundJam, Toast 5, Quicktime 5 Pro, RealPlayer Plus[/list]

      In the list above, I already have the DMRemote, Yamaha CD-RW, and SoundJam.

      A cool addition would be something like SpinFree's Audiofile software that keeps a library of all your music collection, so that I could look up stuff in my vinyl, cassettes and CDs in addition to what's stored in the Media Station.

      Estimated cost for above set-up: $600, more or less. Not bad compared to a $1000 machine that wouldn't do as much, though the stuff it did do would probably be more elegant, being a dedicated solution and all.

      (*)I realized that I still have my original 225MHz processor card from my PowerTower Pro, when I upgraded it to G3. I could drop that into the 7500 until I decided what to do about G3/G4 for sure, right?

      BTW, schalliol, I also forgot to say that I'm also not concerned about any video plug-ins. I can always switch the video source over to TV or something, or turn it off.

      [This message has been edited by the_anarch (edited 08 November 2001).]

  8. #8
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    USB:
    Assuming you don't want FireWire for an iPod, just go with Belkin. I used it in my 9600 and it worked flawlessly.

    Upgrade:
    The PTP's card should work just fine in a 7500 (you just have to watch out for the Mach5 upgrade cards)

    You really should look at the Escient FireBall (I already gave the link), not to buy, but what to attempt to do. Escient owns CDDB, so they really know how to handle audio and data. They use a video out to display what's playing. You could also look at their TuneBase product (it's just a computer with software for a CD-changer), but you could try to build a database that would pull up the album cover that you can scan into the machine on the TV. It doesn't seem imposible to me, I guess it might be difficult to have a database that could be aware what SoundJam is playing, but perhaps not....

  9. #9
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    "iPod? What the hell is that?"

    [...quick sidetrip to Apple website...]

    ...OH. So THAT'S what an iPod is. Interesting that it's based on a laptop hard drive, instead of some kind of memory card.

    Well, you bring up a good idea, schalliol. I think maybe I should consider having FireWire on this sucker. I don't have any FireWire devices now, but it's only a matter of time. Plus, my idea for this being a Digital MEDIA Station is expanding- it doesn't have to be limited to just music and sound, I can have it playback video (as long as I'm not trying to do anything like pro stuff), or import video from some source using some kind of FireWire DV bridge or even a USB thing like the InterView2.

    And then I got the idea that we could keep our digital photos on this thing too, that we've been doing with both my digital camera and the awesome $10 CD-ROMS that Eckerds gives you with every roll (they give you both high and low-res scans).

    And that's when it hit me- I can use this project as a subterfuge to get PeeCee Girl to finally learn how to use a Mac! If we've got this thing sitting in our entertainment center and we have friends come over who want to look at our wedding photos, hell, it's so much easier to pull them up on the TV screen than to haul out the big honkin' wedding album or archival box.

    If this succeeds, she might finally come around to believing that all this mad Mac hacking I've been doing for the past year has amounted to something worthwhile!

    So I guess I'll put all kinds of software on it to make it read different media- SoundApp for different sound formats, GraphicConverter for images, etc. etc. The juices are really flowing now. And I did look at the Escient FireBall site- it's specs are so close to the HP DEC that I really wonder if they're the same machine, or maybe the HP's a less-enhanced version. But I'm going to try and incorporate those ideas somehow, at least to get CDDB involved. Thanks for the inspiration, schalliol, yer one awesome possum !

  10. #10
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    Well that was embarrassing... Gotta remember not to use the back button so much after posting.

    [This message has been edited by the_anarch (edited 09 November 2001).]

  11. #11
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    OK, just to get this thread jump-started again...

    Stewart and I have come to a deal on the 7500, so this project is officially underway. After I receive the machine from him (which is after I pay him ), I'll move on to getting the ATA card installed with a 60GB Barracuda, plus the USB card and wireless keyboard, software, etc etc.

    I'm going to try the system out first using the built-in video RCA ports, to see if they're tolerable enough for me to look at the video output through my TV set with. If I can do it that way, it'll save me from having to use my extra ATI Rage VR for video output. That way, I can get a MAChFire and Belkin USB card to get both USB and FireWire, instead of buying a more-expensive RATOC combo card.

    Topics to discuss:

    Anyone able to make a recommendation for the Sonnet ATA card over the VST? Or the VST over the Sonnet?

    Also, I want the wireless keyboard not only so that I can control it from the comfort of my Barcalounger, but also so my wife can. But I'm growing intrigued by the possibilities of VNC or Timbuktu control from my main machine upstairs. Anyone care to share any ideas about this?

    [This message has been edited by the_anarch (edited 16 November 2001).]

  12. #12
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    I have found VNC to be iffy at best on a mac. In my experience Timbuktu works much better. When controling iTunes through VNC, commands would be sent (like volume up) without me doing anything. This irritated me a lot so I am now running Timbuktu. If is not free so it does have many more features, it can do file transfers, can transfer clipboards, remote dial in control, etc.

    Keep us informed, I am very interested in the readability of iTunes on a TV

    - Chris

  13. #13
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    Ummm - how about using Network Assistant to control your Macs? (although that presupposes you have ASIP somehow). I use it to manage all my machines...

    Chris

  14. #14
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    Don't have ASIP, not bongo about spending $$$ on Timbuktu... maybe I'll just try VNC and see how it runs, since it's free there's no harm if it's flaky. If it turns out that way I can buy Timbuktu at that time.

    Actually guys, I was soliciting ideas for what benefits I could gain from controlling this Media Machine, downstairs, from my main machine, upstairs. I wouldn't be listening to the MP3s from the Media Machine's stereo connection while at my upstairs station...

    Come to think of it, I guess I should also be thinking about how I'll actually "serve" the MP3 files to the other machines in my house, namely my main Mac and PeeCee Girl's HewCompackard. We've got a regular 10baseT network... Obviously I can easily access the MP3 files stored on the Media Machine's hard drive, and either copy them to my machine or play them back over the network if it can keep up. What about my wife? Is the only real option for her to access it like an FTP server and down- (or up-) load the files? Or should I be thinking about some kind of streaming? Or none of the above?

    Chris (btw I've emailed you again about the Ultrafoot), I actually was going to be running SoundJam, not iTunes, but if it's still free I'll give it a shot. I guess I also wasn't thinking a whole lot about running higher than OS9... what does iTunes 2 require?

  15. #15
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    OK, so iTunes requires at least 9.1 to be able to burn... see why I made sure I bought SoundJam before it disappeared? And then they put the note on the download page about requiring a Mac with %$@&^# BUILT-IN USB ports. What the hell for? At least it's still free. If iTunes works on my MultiMediaMachine, fine. If not, fuck it.

    I'm really getting dragged kicking and screaming into the OhhEssExx era.

  16. #16
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    The nice thing about SoundJam is that it is skin-able. Thus if the default skin is unreadable on a TV you could make a new one.

    For mp3 streaming in OS 9 try mp3streamer (i think it is up to 3.5). It doesn't natively support play-lists, but can do random streaming given a link to or a directory of mp3s. So you could hack together several play-lists by aliasing songs and folders you want played to one folder, and putting that in the music folder of mp3streamer.

    As for VNC, give it a shot, you might have better results than I did. And a remote control is always useful. You could use it to change streaming settings or the folder being played.

    - Chris

  17. #17
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    Thanks for the recommendation. Looks like MP3Streamer is actually up to 1.3.5.

    [This message has been edited by the_anarch (edited 19 November 2001).]

  18. #18
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    You know, I haven't even actually addressed the issue of the stuttering/timing issue of audio through PCI hosts. I was reading a couple of things that were making me think I shouldn't get either the VST or the Sonnet Tempo ATA66.

    One was where someone said that the new Tempo ATA100 would include a utility to solve the audio issues. I confirmed it on their download page- it's called the Tempo ATA100 AV Tool. Plus it costs the same as the ATA66.

    The other was the SCSI-to-IDE converter that ACard makes, which sidesteps the whole PCI issue completely.

    So in the interest of making sure I don't have stuttering issues in a machine whose primary intended purpose is audio recording and playback, might it behoove me to consider one of these two products first?

  19. #19
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    I can't seem to stop asking questions. While I was thinking about repurposing my PTPro's old 225MHz 604e daughtercard for this machine, I forgot to think about the L2 cache. Now I'm wondering: since the 7500 is supposedly a lot more finicky with what caches it can use, could I harm it by just attempting to use my Power Computing L2 cache in it?

    And the internal SCSI bus of the 7500 is 10MB/sec, right?

  20. #20
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    The 7500 should have no problem using either the PTP's Processor or Cache memory. The SCSI bus on the 7500 is only 5MB/ps though.

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