Volumio – the DIY Media Streamer

You can have an inexpensive media streaming device connected to your TV or HiFi by using an inexpensive Raspberry Pi and an SD card.

If you visit Volumio.org, you can download an image for a Raspberry Pi, PC or ASUS Tinkerboard. Once you have the image downloaded, attach a micro SD card to your computer and use Balena Etcher to write the image to it. If you need a quick tutorial on how to image an SD using Etcher, here’s a video that images the Raspberry Pi OS to SD. You would be imaging Volumio instead…

Once your SD image is complete, you will want to put the SD into your Pi. A Raspberry Pi 2, 3 or 4 should be sufficient, though a 3B is probably the lowest I would go because the Pi 2 would be quite slow. The Pi 3B has an advantage over the Pi 4B because it runs much cooler.

Then attach an ethernet cable to the Pi – because wifi will not be setup. This is the lamest part of the project but bear with me. Power up the Pi and let it run a boot cycle. You can setup your Volumio now by either downloading the Volumio app in the Google Play Store or the Apple App Store, or by typing volumio.local in your browser. Because the browser method isn’t reliable initially, I would use the app if possible.

After you launch the app on your phone/tablet, the app will search for any installations of Volumio. Make sure you are on the same network between the Pi and the phone. Once the app finds it, you will be instructed to give your setup a name and configure wifi settings. To setup your plugins, click on the setup icon in the bottom right corner. There are several plugins that allow your Volumio setup to connect to Spotify, Pandora, a Subsonic server etc. After you add and enable the plugins, you will need to go to the “installed plugins” tab to configure them with your username/password.

There are many other nice features, like the ability to make this setup a DLNA server. When everything is done and setup to your taste, you can go back into the menu, shut down the Pi and unplug the ethernet cable.

You can plug an HDMI cable into the Pi and run it into your TV or Stereo now and turn them both on. Once your Pi boots you will hear a chime through the TV/Stereo and that tells you it’s ready. You can now use your app to control Volumio to play internet radio, Spotify, etc.

You can also add music to Volumio. If you put mp3s or FLAC files on a thumb drive, plug it in before boot and the system will index the files so that you can play them. If you are technologically inclined, you can find your IP address by going into Volumio’s network settings. Then use that address, followed by /dev (example: 10.0.0.100/dev). From there, you can enable SSH, then use Filezilla or similar SFTP/FTP program to add music and video files to the /mnt/INTERNAL directory.

Volumio allows you to create an account. Though the setup is free, there is a paid tier that allows other features like the ability to use HiRes streaming services Tidal and Qobuz among other features like connecting a CDROM to rip CDs. At one time, I did subscribe to this a few years ago, but found that the free features like internet radio, local media and my own Subsonic server were enough. So for now I’m happy to use the free version. If you end up setting this up, I hope you enjoy it! I work from home and believe me, it’s nice.

Ripping Compact Discs with dbpoweramp

I am working on a mass CD-ripping project. Currently, I do have a hard drive filled with FLAC copies of all my CDs. The only issue is that they were ripped over the span of 10+ years and I can’t trust their accuracy. I was thinking of re-ripping them all at the same time with the best DVD/CDROM drives I can find and the best CD ripping program.

The CD ripper I’m using is called dbpoweramp. It reports errors on discs by comparing the rip to the central database. I am seeing 1-2 errors in about one out of six discs with my CD collection. Some of the CDs are as old as 1986, when I first started buying them. In some cases, It’s enough to clean the disc and they rip without errors. In other cases, there are tiny scratches and nothing can fix the issue. There’s almost 2k cds to rip so in most of the cases, I have to make a quick determination of whether I have time to try again and again to rip the discs. So far the favorite ones have been re-ripped. At this point, I’m not even sure if one inaccurate track will even play in a way that seems off.

On a side note, the dbpoweramp suite comes with a batch ripper, so I’m able to rip from several CD drives at once. Right now I have five drives connected with two on the way. When all of the drives are running and the CDs aren’t in rough shape, the system can average a combined ripping speed of 150-205x.

I bought a case to house the DVD/CDROM units called Copystars Duplicators Case (see above). The case was designed for a CD/DVD duplicator system but it keeps five drives nice and tidy. I can cram all of the cables on the inside of the case. The SATA connector cables I’m using are called Inateck SATA to USB 3.0 Converter Adapter. I have also installed a USB 3.0 PCIe card called FebSmart 4 Ports USB 3.0 for fast transfers of data. Please let me know if you have any questions about the setup. So far I’m very happy with this project and I’m well underway, having ripped about 25% of the collection.

 

Ubuntu and Video Streaming Services

Up until now, I have been frustrated by the lack of support for video streaming services on Ubuntu. For streaming audio, there’s a Spotify snap app conveniently in the Ubuntu Store but nothing for Netflix, Hulu or others.

Today I was poking around and discovered an application called “ElectronPlayer” in the Ubuntu Software store. It supports Youtube, Netflix, Hulu, Twitch and Floatplane. I installed it on my old 2007 iMac running Ubuntu 18.04.3 LTS.

To my surprise, it works very well! I highly recommend this application.

Install Sony Playstation Now (PS Now) on Ubuntu

I’m always looking at ways to play video games on Ubuntu Linux. This one is a doozy. With Playstation Now, you can play over 700 real PS2, PS3 and PS4 games on your Ubuntu computer. The technology uses streaming from remote server where the gaming console exists. Sony typically will give you a couple weeks as a free trial though the deals vary. I was able to take advantage of a Black Friday sale with one full year of PS Now for only $70. Fantastic deal.

Here’s how to install PS Now on Ubuntu:

First install wine if it’s not already installed. Wine is a Linux program that helps us run Windows programs on the Linux platform.

sudo apt install wine-stable

Next, download winetricks into your downloads folder.

cd "${HOME}/Downloads"
wget  https://raw.githubusercontent.com/Winetricks/winetricks/master/src/winetricks
chmod +x winetricks

Now install some Windows apps with winetricks.

./winetricks corefonts
./winetricks vulkansdk
./winetricks dxvk
./winetricks vcrun2013

Now we are going to install Lutris, which is a program that helps you install games and other apps on your Wine Windows installation.

sudo apt-get install lutris

Once you find Lutris in your application menu and launch it.
Now visit the Lutris website and launch the PS Now installer.
https://lutris.net/games/playstation-now/
After you select ‘install’ you will see a Playstation Now icon in the Lutris application.

Here’s where I ran into trouble with this installation Mind you, I figured all this out by using directions cobbled together from many broken install methods I found on the web! When I tried to launch PS Now from Lutris, I was met with a message that said, “Vulkan is not installed” even though I installed it with winetricks (above).

Here’s the fix:

Right-click on the Playstation Now icon in Lutris.
Select “configure”.
Select the “runner options” tab.
Turn “Enable DXVK” off.
Save and relaunch. After poking on a couple dialog boxes, you should be good to go!

Review: iSilencer3.0 USB Audio Noise Eliminator

Sometimes, you learn something new that changes everything. I have read about jitter and quantization with digital signals for some time but I didn’t know there were small, affordable devices that correct it. I have always read about really expensive devices that included a noise filtering technology. Well, I was poking around looking for a smaller, cheaper DAC for work – my Samsung Galaxy S7 doesn’t cut it by itself for high fidelity and my old Fiio E7 DAC won’t work with the newer OS updates for IOS and Android. I stumbled on something called a Dragonfly which had high praise. A little smaller than a thumbdrive, the AudioQuest Dragonfly acted almost like an inline DAC. Hmmm. Then I found something new. AudioQuest also makes a USB jitter filter called a Jitterbug. Reviews mentioned a better device – the iSilencer 3.0 by iFi Audio.
So I bought one and wasn’t able to try it out until I got to work. Here I am, just blown away that I’m listening to a phone and not a high-end stereo. I had my little setup (phone/laptop, audioengine D1 with Sony Headphones MDR-7506) at work and was so frustrated by the USB noise from the one portable working DAC that I have. For some reason the signal that comes out of my laptop and my phone sucks connecting to this thing. The iSilencer3 really does work and it’s amazing! Not snake oil as I feared. The signal is clear and lets the DAC do it’s job without any digital artifacts and most important from the phone – no intermittent disruptions. Bass is tighter and the headroom is wider. I am not sure exactly how this is accomplished but for $50, this little gadget is an incredible value and a needed accessory for any audiophile on the go.

Rethinking Music Streaming

According to The Guardian, an artist is paid $0.001128 per song stream after the label gets it’s share. A million streams of a song will pay $1,128. How many songs will get played a million times? Is this a sustainable business model for artists?

Spotify could be seen as a vehicle for promotion. If a trending song lead to higher CD/LP sales, I could see the angle. There will also be many who feel any media beyond streaming is antiquated. There will be others who simply refuse to pay for physical media as well as streaming. These are obvious points.

What’s the answer? Should Spotify pay artists more? We will find out how profitable the company is once it goes public and must disclose their sales revenue numbers. I believe at that time it will be easier to reassess the streaming business model. There should be a fair ratio of profits to artist payout. What do you think? Do you use Spotify or other music streaming services? Do you buy physical media and support your favorite artists?

‘Netflix for theaters’ MoviePass disrupting movie theater industry

Yet another industry-shaking paradigm shift is underway: a theater subscription service that lets users see as many theater movies as they wish for only $9.95. How does this work? The user pays MoviePass $9.95 a month and for each movie they attend, the company reimburses the theater. Unless there is some genius way to make the accounting of this work, MoviePass is doomed to fail. Each movie costs an average of $8.65. If a user sees more than one movie, MoviePass is losing money. Is this just an future IPO scam where investors pump cash in and the founder walks away rich? Do they plan on raising subscription costs? What do you think?