hardware

Play Pandora From Your iPhone Through Remote Speakers

I love listening to Pandora but don’t like the way Pandora sucks up the CPU on my laptop especially when I am using Google Chrome. I often use my iPhone to listen even when sitting at my desk, but I also don’t always want to use my headphones. A dock is nice but then I cannot use my iPhone. I want it all! Lucky for me and you there is a simple and relatively inexpensive solution. Buy an AirPort Express for $99. An AirPort Express is a device sold by Apple for playing iTunes through a remote stereo and some other neat features like setting up a remote printer or to extend your wifi network. The setup is pretty easy if you choose the right options. You have to install the AirPort Utility software to connect to the AirPort Express in order to configure it. The software found the AirPort Express without any problem and I answered the questions to extend my wifi. I figured why not extend the wifi, it could help boost the signal in other parts of the house. Unfortunately after the reboot the AirPort Express it did not restart and the AirPort Utility software could not detect it. I tried a reset of the AirPort Express and that did not work. The instructions say to press the reset button for 1 second, but later on on I figured out it was more like 30 seconds to do a reset. I am not sure if a reboot of my laptop was required or if the AirPort Express just took a long time to sort itself out with the bad settings. But the utility software does make temporary changes the AirPort on your laptop to get things going. A reboot of my laptop and the AirPort Express was discoverable again. A second attempt also failed and I was convinced I had a dud device. On the third attempt I decided to do a manual setup to see diagnostic information. When I selected the “extend the wifi network” option it said that my router was not compatible. This was the main issue and why the express setup did not work. It should have given an error during the express setup and told me do a manual install. I did do a manual install and chose “join the network” instead . The manual install does require a few more steps, but soon enough the AirPort Express had a nice green glowing led which indicated all was well. (After the working manual install I did reset the AirPort Express to the default settings and ran the express setup and chose the “join a network” option and had no problems setting the device up in under 5 minutes.) The next step was to test from my laptop. I fired up iTunes and selected the remote speaker. The AirPlay icon for the remote speakers is on the bottom right of the iTunes status bar. Sweet music!

The final test was playing Pandora from the iPhone. You do need to have iOS 4.2.1 for AirPlay from your iPhone or iPad for this to work. Start Pandora and once again on the bottom right of the interface is the same AirPlay icon. Select the remote speaker and away you go. I can now play Pandora through the remote speaker and still have my iPhone in my hand. As an added bonus you can also control the volume from your iPhone.

To play Pandora from your Mac or Windows machine you will need to buy some more software from Rogue Amoeba called AirFoil $25. AirFoil will allow you to play any sounds from you laptop onto the remote speaker. Another option is buy PandoraJam $15 which is a small interface for playing Pandora but also allows you to direct the music through the remote speakers.

When using AirPlay from your laptop you can choose multiple speakers, so you could have multiple devices throughout your home and play music through all of them simultaneously. Unfortunately from iOS devices you can only play through a single device at a time. Maybe this will change later.

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Great Week

I think I had a great week all in all.  It sometimes felt like everything I was coding just did not want to work.  But things worked out on the home stretch.  The nice thing about having multiple projects to work on is that you can switch gears if something is not working and you need some time to figure things out.

I have been doing some consulting for a small business in town.  They are expanding and moving into a new building.  As part of their expansion plans they wanted to ensure Internet connectivity and so wanted to have redundant incoming lines.  I found a Syswan Duolinks SW24 load balancer that looks like it will do the trick.  It should load balance traffic over the available connections and notify you if a line goes down.  Now if both lines go down, how will you get notified?  I guess it will be stumped.

Part of the expansion was a need for more phones, with the ability to start off small, but be able to expand as more staff is added.

I found what looks like a really good VOIP service www.vocalocity.com for a small business in town that I doing some consulting for.   The phones and service will be purchased early next week.  VOIP is the way to go to keep your costs down and for all the amazing features you can get even without owning any telephony equipment.  The owner decided to go with VOIP phones Cisco SPA942 4-line IP phone that uses POE (Power Over Ethernet).  This means that the phone gets it power needs via the Ethernet cable.  No power adapters to deal with, and so long as the network equipment is on a UPS the phone will still work.

The last piece of equipement to buy was a Netgear FS726TP 24 port switch with POE to power those phones.  All the equipment can bought at www.amazon.com.

The main Top Secret iPhone Application I am working on is going well.  It looks really good as we have an awesome graphics designer.  There are many screen and I have been getting the basic framework knocked out.  That had some challenges, which I finally surmounted.  I think there is a bug with one of the UINavigationController calls, but I found a simpler way that worked.

Next week will require some more coding to get content into those many blank screens.

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Wiring headaches

I do not have do cabling very often, but know how it supposed to be done.  I mean what is so hard about putting on an RJ45 plug and connecting a new WiFi router.  I can never remember the order of the wires but a quick search on Wikipedia and I was away.  I have a nice crimping tool I bought from my previous employer when they went out of business, so I was all set.  I figured that adding this extension to my kids school network would be a piece of cake.  I unfortunately hit a snag as soon I arrived.  I could easily get onto the WiFi, but could not get onto the wired network.  I was using my Macbook and am not all that familiar with the networking on it but at home it has always been simply plug and play.  I knew it would be no use putting on the plugs if I could not even connect on an existing working cable.  I figured that I could log onto a PC and see the network setting and configure the laptop to connect.  But alas… I did not have any of the passwords for the PC’s and could not get hold of anyone to get the passwords.  I figured that I may as well put the on the RJ45 plugs and test the cable my test tool and verify that the cable test matched a working cable.  After crawling around in and out of the basement putting on plugs cutting off plugs I finally gave up feeling quite frustrated.  The following day with passwords in hand and two laptop, my faithful HP tablet running Ubuntu Linux and my Macbook.  It turned out that my Linux laptop simply worked once connected to the existing Ethernet.  A quick check of the main router and I saw no weird settings to prevent me adding to the network.  That was a good sign as I would be able to test the new cable.  Excitement soon led to dissapointment.  The cable would not work.  Replace the plug on one end of the cable, still no workee, replace the plug on the other end, grr still not working.  In and out of the basement, now I am wondering if the cable is too long and I start pacing it out but cannot trace where it has been run too when it disappears through a hole.  I finally called a friend who has a tool to specifically test Ethernet cables.  20 minutes later with new tool in hand I test the cable and yes it is failing on some pins.  There are no crossed over wires, which is a good sign.  I cut off the plug insert the wires and then decide to pull the cable out before crimping.  Sure enough there was one wire that was  all scrunched up that had not gone into the plug correctly.  I trimmed the ends of the wires and tried again.  This time they all went in nice and smoothly.  A quick race down to the basement to replace the plug on the other end and yet another test.  Yahoo!! the cable tester verified the cable was good.  I plugged it into the laptop and was online surfing the web.  If only I had been more careful about checking the wires had gone in all the way.  Next time I have to do cabling I will have to remember that little trick to ensure the wires are in snug.  Today I connected the Linksys WiFi router and made sure that it worked in the class rooms.  It didn’t take too long to do.  I setup a new subnet and simply left the router acting as a gateway.  I will probably change it to be a router if there is a need to send and receive files between computers on the two LANs.  But it is all working and confirmed to be working using a Mac, Windows XP and Linux.  I wish the hardware part of this project had gone as smoothly as the software.

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