The Weebox Project

For some time I’ve been looking for a fun computer-related project to work on in my spare time. I’ve now decided what to do — the Weebox.

For a while I’ve been cursing and swearing at the piles of audio CDs that stack up around the hi-fi in the lounge. Not only are they a mess, but they’re picking up scratches like nobody’s business, and with my aging hi-fi’s CD player being rather sensitive to scratches and bangs (even walking near it tends to upset it), most of our music ends up being given the CD-player techno re-re-re- re-re-re-mix. Then a few weeks ago I stumbled on the Squeezebox on my friend Gerph’s blog. This fantastic device is a high-quality wireless mp3 player which plays music served by its server software running on a host PC. It plugs into a hi-fi and essentially gives that hi-fi access to the music collection stored on your PC. As almost all of my music resides in MP3 and OGG form on my file server, this sounded absolutely brilliant.

With my 30th birthday looming in the next month or so, it seemed like a sensible thing to ask for. Except…a nagging sensation at the back of my mind…”I could build my own, surely?”. Thus, the Weebox was born.

I’m planning on building my own Squeezebox-like device from an ARM single-board computer from Technologic Systems, using Open Source Software where possible, and maybe writing my own stuff to glue it all together into one unit. If I get anywhere near complete, I plan on making any source available under a free software license, but that seems a long way off yet.

What I’m hoping to achieve is:

Initially, I plan on getting the TS-7250 or TS-7260 base unit, with a USB wifi card and USB sound dongle and an LCD display. From there I hope to get madplay and the integer OGG player working. The ARM boards aren’t too good at floating point, though the ARM unit in the TS boards has a basic FPU, hence the integer playback. 200Mhz should be plenty enough power for such a wee box.

I hope to keep track of what I’m up to on my blog here, so anyone else contemplating making such a device can learn from my mistakes, or just come and laugh at my naive grasp of electronics! I’m really looking forward to the challenge — not least because I’ll get to play with ARM chips again after a break of around ten years!

So far in preparatory work I’ve gotten madplay cross-compiled for ARM using the excellent Scratchbox cross-compilation system (spot the -box theme here!), and I’ve taken a quick look at the last.fm player and gotten a simple Python script to log in to last.fm and get the radio streams. I can’t wait to get my hands on some actual hardware to start proper development; I’m planning on ordering it tomorrow!

Filed under: WeeBox Project
Posted at 16:22:04 BST on 25th June 2006.

About Matt Godbolt

Matt Godbolt is a C++ developer working in Chicago in the finance industry.