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Squeezebox 2

May 17th, 2006

The Squeezebox 2 is a network music player. To put it simply, it allows you to play the music on your computer on a hi-fi, anywhere in your house, wirelessly! Interested? Read on…

squeezebox

Give up your CD collection

The squeezebox gives you easy access to your music via a friendly remote control. Digital music on your computer is great but wouldn’t it be so much easier if you could play it through your main hi-fi without cables trailing everywhere? Wouldn’t it be great if you didn’t have to change the CD in your CD player very half an hour?
With the Squeezebox, all you have to do is rip your existing CD collection to your computers hard drive and you will never have to touch a CD again. Ever!

Great Quality Sound

Squeezebox features a high fidelity 24-bit Burr-Brown DAC, legendary in the audiophile community for their clean output and ultra-low distortion characteristics. Digital optical, coax, and analog connectors can plug into any home theater, stereo or amplified speakers. Basically, the squeezebox will connect to pretty much any soundsystem.

And its all wireless!

The player contains built-in support for true 802.11g and advanced lossless compression technologies. This means you can put your player three times as far away from your wireless network as usual and still get your music. If you don’t have a wireless network, don’t worry, the Squeezebox also has an ethernet port so you can plug it into your LAN should you need to. Even better, the Squeezebox can also act as a wireless bridge. Any wired device that you plug into it will have instant access to your network or the internet. All this with very little to setup.

The Software

To get your player working, you will need to download the free, Open Source software from the website. Available for Windows, Mac, Linux and on other operating systems, Slimserver is very easy to install. Once installed, simply open your web browser, type in the address of your Slimserver and you can change all the necessary settings through a user-friendly web interface. After telling the computer where your music is stored, Slimserver will find all your files and organise them for you. All that is left- plug your Squeezebox in! Of course, there are many fine tuned settings that you can play with to streamline your player.

Lots of formats

This isn’t just an MP3 player. The squeezebox also plays WMA, FLAC, AAC and Ogg Vorbis files. There are even plugins available that will let you listen to other formats should you wish.

Multiple Squeezeboxes?

Should you wish to (and if you can afford it), you can install multiple Squeezeboxes around the house. You can get them to play music independantly, all from one computer, or you can get them all to synchronize. Brilliant for that house party you’re having!

Beautiful Design

The Squeezebox is a slick accessory. Apart from it being compact, the Squeezebox boasts a massive, bright Vacuum Fluorescent Display. This lets you find out what you are listening to from the other side of the room with ease. Furthermore, due to the high resolution screen, the Squeezebox can display a number of attractive visualisations along with the music. This is a must have for your lounge. Sexy!

Easy Access

The Squeezebox itself has absolutely no buttons on its smooth body. Everything is done via a user-friendly remote control. Browsing the menus on the Squeezebox’s screen is a pleasure and even the least technologically minded person can get along with the interface. You can browse your music by Artist, Album, Genre and Year and can quickly build up playlists which can be saved for later listening. You can even search your music using the numerical pad on the remote. Text entry is exactly the same as that used on a mobile phone. What could be simpler? If you dont want to use the remote control, you can always login to the server through your web browser and tell the player what music you would like. This can be great fun if you are at the other side of the house- try turning up the volume whilst somebody else is in the lounge. You can really spook people out!

Squeezenetwork

Another nifty feature of the Squeezebox is Squeezenetwork. This is an online service that allows you to listen to internet radio streams with your Squeezebox without having your computer switched on. This is one of the most unique features of this player and is truly superb. For one thing, it gives you access to thousands of stations that a conventional radio simply could not provide. Great for foreign language learning- you can listen to the French News every morning before getting up.

Plugins

This being an Open Source project, there are hundreds of plugins out there to provide extra functionality. You can view your favourite RSS feeds on the players screen, play tetris, shutdown your computer remotely. The list really does just go on!

Try it out

Interested but you don’t want to make the investment yet? There is an answer.
Download and install the Slimserver software then get Softsqueeze, a software version of the Squeezebox. This little program emulates the Squeezebox onto your computer screen, giving you all the functionality of the real thing so that you can try before you buy.

The Verdict

This little gadget has changed my life. Every morning, I wake up to the sound of French Radio. Whenever I am juggling in the lounge, I bring along my Squeezebox to provide the music. All of this was not possible without this device. I would now find it very hard to live without it.
Possibly the best purchase I have ever made.

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Funny Story (In French)

March 10th, 2006

I found this little story in Libération, 5th March 2006 (pg 44 "Les Juifs au RMI").
Unfortunately for some, its in French- I have attempted a translation for english speakers!

Une histoire drôle du temps de l’URSS

A Moscou, on annonce: “Demain à 9 heures, distribution gratuite de viande.” A 5 heures du matin, la place Rouge est noire de monde. A midi, on annonce: “Moins de viande que prévu, que les Juifs rentrent chez eux.” Ils s’en vont. A 15 heures, on annonce: “Moins de viande que prévu, que ceux qui ne sont pas membres du Parti rentrent chez eux.” Ils s’en vont. A 20 heures, on annonce: “Moins de viande que prévu, que ceux qui ne sont pas titulaires de l’ordre de Lénine rentrent chez eux.” Ils s’en vont. A minuit, on annonce “Il n’y a pas de viande, que tout le monde rentre chez soi.” Et le dernier partant dit à son voisin, après cette interminable attente: “Ces Juifs, toujours favorisés”.

Translation to English: A funny story from the USSR era.

In Moscow, it is announced “Tomorrow, at 9 o’clock, there will be a free distribution of meat”. At 5 o’clock in the morning, Red Square is heaving with people. At midday, it is announced: “There is less meat than expected, please can all Jewish people return to their homes”. All the Jewish people leave the Square.
At 3 o’clock in the afternoon, another declaration: “There is less meat than expected, please can all non Party Members return to their homes”. All the non-members leave the Square.
Later in the evening, at 8 o’clock, it is declared: “There is less meat than expected, all those not possessing the Order Of Lenin must return home”. Those not in posession of the medal are obliged to return.
Finally, at midnight, it is declared “There is no meat, everybody go home!”. The last person to leave turns to his neighbour after a seemingly endless wait and says “These Jewish, they’re always being favoured aren’t they!!”.

Admittedly, its better in French than in English.

Frustrating Situation

For anybody who lives in a fairly small town in the UK, it can be very difficult to get your hands on even some of the most mainstream French newspapers (Le Figaro, Le Monde, Libération etc). Most small newsagents will refuse to order such newspapers in as so few people wish to buy them. In fact, international newspapers are only realistically viable in large towns and cities. Not any more….

Une Révolution!

In fact, there is a large selection of French press (Newspapers, Magazines, Comics etc) that is available right to your doorstep thanks to the International Press Network.
The UK’s leading supplier of international press, the network offers over 300 international titles to its subscribers. Subscription is done online and you can subscribe to a paper for a 3, 6 or 12 month period. As usual, the longer you subscribe, the more discount you get. Most newspapers cost around £1.20 each with a postage charge on top.
For example, to subscribe to the French Newspaper “Libération” for a year would cost around £80 in total. The paper is delivered straight to your doorstep and you can choose which edition you wish to receive (Mon, Tue, Wed etc).

If you are a French citizen living abroad, a modern languages student or you are simply interested in finding out about French culture and society then this is a really handy solution. For students, it is great for keeping up to date with contemporary issues in France and can be very handy when it comes to writing coursework or answering questions in both the classroom environment and oral examinations. Furthermore, it is a fun way of depthening you knowledge of both the French language and French culture and provides super respite from your creased textbook. This is just one of the ways you can spice up the process of learning a modern language.

For a full list of the French titles available, visit this page

Radio France Podcasts!

January 4th, 2006

Finally, Radio France has got its act together and now releases many podcasts on its programs.
Podcasts are available for practically all of the Radio France stations (France Inter, Culture, Bleu etc).
This is great news for me as I love to listen to the French chronics on my iPod but until now, that has meant recording the ‘listen again’ stream to hard disk and then transferring it which involved much organisation and bother! Now, iTunes does all the work for me and downloads the latest edition of a chronic in MP3 format.
I have already put about 10 podcasts on and look forward to listening to them on the way to school tomorrow!
The link for the main podcast page is here:

Podcast Directory

If you are using iTunes, find the podcast you want on the website then simply click “installer dans iTunes”.
If this does not work, click “voir le lien RSS” and copy the link displayed. Go to iTunes, click on the advanced menu, click subscribe to podcasts and paste the podcast in. Now make sure that the podcasts are downloaded onto your iPod (you do this through iPod options, Podcasts)

If you use a podcast/news aggregator then here is an independant link to an xml file that contains all the podcasts currently available. This xml file does not seem to work with iTunes.

OPML File

Thanks to Mag-Zine for providing the xml file!
Enjoy the listening