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In search of the perfect Home Audio Appliance (or somethin..

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Anonymous
June 29, 2004 10:08:55 PM

Archived from groups: comp.os.linux.embedded,rec.audio.tech (More info?)

[[ If somebody makes a million $ off this idea... other than me... well then
so be it. Please just send me a couple of percent of your profits after
you do it so that I can afford to dream up other neat/obvious ideas. ]]


The Saga: I have recently begun converting my ancient and crusty 33 1/3
vinyl LP collection to CD's with the help of my trusty computer and its
CD burner. I'm also converting my old cassette tapes. In total, I have
about 150 albums and store-bought CDs. Not a big collection, but big
enough.

Of course, once one starts down the road of conversion to a newer tech-
nology, all sorts of possibilities arise, and you never know ehere it
might lead.

Anyway, unlike most other folks... who did this conversion long ago, I
suspect... I seem to find myself right on the cusp of yet another tech-
nology generational change. But we are not quite there yet, and it is
aggravating me enormously to know that I can't buy the kind of ``music
appliance'' that I feel sure will be commonplace in the near future,
probably in less than two years.

The bottom line is that as I started to convert my old LPs to CDs, I
started looking at various brands and models of what are called ``CD
Jukebox'' systems. For those who haven't seen these things, you can
see some pictures of a couple of them at the following URLs:

http://www.bestbuy.com/site/olspage.jsp?id=105138446389...

http://www.bestbuy.com/site/olspage.jsp?id=105180615444...

There are at least a half dozen different ``big name'' home audio component
manufacturers that make and sell these CD jukebox kinds of things.

Anyway, these things typically come in 100 CD, 200 CD, 300 CD, and 400 CD
capacities, and even the smallest ones are big, heavy, and almost certainly
slow, e.g. when changing from one CD to the next for playback. (The larger
capacity ones... 300 disk and 400 disk... are apparently real monsters,
size-wise.)

The more I looked at maybe purchasing one of these CD jukebox things to
house and play my not-very-large CD collection... most of which will soon
be composed of CD-Rs of converted/digitized/cleaned-up vinyl LPs... the
angrier I got. The first shock came when I found out that with the ex-
ception of the larger Sony models, the typical CD jukebox can't even
playback homemade CD-Rs!!! Jeeezzzz! What idiot thought of that!?!?!
In my opinion, this is an incredibly bad engineering design limitation
which would probably only have cost, at most, a couple of bucks per unit
to avoid. But NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! All the Big Name vendors who make
these things, including Sony - on their lower-end models, decided instead
to scrimp on the capabilities, thus making these things nearly worthless
to me.

So anyway, that was my first concern - the lack of CD-R reading capability.
More generally however, at some point it dawned on me how utterly idiotic
the very concept of these huge, fat, and slow CD jukeboxes has become,
now, in this era of Apple iPODs. I mean seriously, the clear wave of
the future is to compress all your music, and to strore it on a hard
drive. That is exactly what a lot of people do already, and I _know_
that is exactly what we will all be doing within a couple of years, at
most, even, and perhaps especially, at home. (iPODs and Rios are swell
when I'm out walking, but what amount when I am just veging out on the
living-room couch??)

So anyway, I wondered to myself ``Why am I even wasting my time looking
at these big, fat, slow, and limited-capability (i.e. no CD-R reading)
current-generation CD jukeboxes?'' It makes no sense. I could buy one
today, and I will just be giving it to the Salvation Army within 2 years,
because it will be essentially worthless ``old'' technology within that
time frame, beging replaced with some smaller and faster hard-disk-based
solution.

After this idea dawned on me, I set out to look for what would be, in
effect, the ``Home Audio Component'' version of an Apple iPOD... something
with just a CD drive, for reading in existing CDs (hopefully including
CD-Rs) and a big internal hard disk.

The only such thing I found was something called a TDK DA-9000. Here is
some info about it:

http://www.bestbuy.com/site/olspage.jsp?id=106112710957...


Anyway, there are problems with this thing too. First and foremost, like
the CD jukebox things, it doesn't even know how to read a homemade CD-R!
Jeezzzz! How stupid! That alone renders the thing worthless to me. But
even if that wasn't a concern, this thing is relatively expensive... It
retails for about $300.00 USD. Also, the remote control has no display
on it... unlike some of the CD jukeboxes I looked at, which will display
the album name and track name in a little LCD window right on the remote
control (for the benefit of us couch potatoes). Last but not least, this
stupid box doesn't even blend in with the general human-interface scheme
of the rest of the home audio & video components that I already own. Yes,
it is black, and yes it is 17 inches wide, and yes it has a remote control.
But that's where the similarity ends. I already own (1) a stereo receiver
and (2) a DVD player and (3) a VCR and (4) a cable TV converter box. Every
single one of these has a nice bright *LED* display, with big characters
that you can see across the room, but that doesn't detract from the general
ambiance of a semi-darkened room. So what did TDK put onto the front of
their DA-9000 home audio component? Why, a graringly bright backlit multi-
line *LCD* display with characters so tiny that you have to be standing
right next to the thing in order to read the display! Like DUH!!!!! Who
are the idiots that thought that THIS would be a Good Idea??

There are other problems with the TDK DA-9000 that I won't go into here.
These are covered in the various online reviews, and you can Google for
those if you are interested. The bottom line is that even though this
thing is closer than anything else I have seen, it is still far from my
ideal Home Audio Appliance.

So now, where do I go from here? Well, if the Big Names in home audio com-
ponents can't or won't build what I need, maybe I can build it myself...
or so I figure, at first anyway.

Knowing what I know about computer hardware and software, I figure: No
problem! All I have to do is get a suitable 17 inch black enclosure,
hopefully with a nice-sized red or green LED display on the front, along
with some sort of a IR receiver (for the remote) and then get some nice
inexpensive off-the-shelf embedded board... like one of the VIA EDEN
boards (even the low-end 300MHZ is probably overkill)... and then just
make sure that it's got (a) on-board AC'97 audio and (b) at least one
EIDE channel, supporting two drives, i.e. hard disk and a CD drive.
(A CD writer could be an upgrade option for more $$$'s.) Then, with these
components in hand, I could just slap them together, load up Linux, con-
fugure a suitable kernel and a few freeware mp3 utilities, add some small
amount of custom software and voila! I'd have my ideal Home Audio Appliance
at last. Right?

Wrong! Of course, it ain't that simple.

Getting a nice small (min-ITX or FlexATX, or MicroATX, or perhaps even
full-sized ATX) motherboad, with AC'97 audio and IDE support is no problem.
Getting a suitably cheap and low-power processor is also no problem. A
power supply is easy to lay hands on. Off-the-shelf hard drives (of various
capacities) and off-the-shelf CD drives are a piece of cake. The software,
in the form of freeware, is almost all out there, written already, and free.
I might have to write a small amount of my own new code, but I can handle
that. (I'm a software engineer by trade.) So what's the problem?

Well my friends, try as I might, I have been unable to find any suitable
black 17-inch-wide *enclosure* for this whole mess. The other parts and
pieces are all easy to find, but try finding an off-the-shelf and/or in-
expensive 17-inch-wide black computer enclosure. Lotsa luck! The only
thing that I found like this is Antec's `Overture' case, which costs
(relatively) big bucks AND which is far too fat/tall. Sleek it isn't,
and its size makes it almost as bad as the CD jukeboxes that I railed
against above. (It also contains a fan, which I hope would be both un-
necessary and a pointless waste of money in the kind of fanless design
I have in mind.)

This situation... my inability to find just a reasonable 17 inch black en-
closure... seems to me to be utter madness! I don't understand why no
enterprising enmclosure manufacturer, either in Taiwan or elsewhere, hasn't
elected to make and market such a thing. I can see a LOT of possible uses
for an enclosure exactly like what I am talking about.

Anyway, searching some more, I found one company, Hust Technologies, in
ermany (www.hushtechnologies.net) that does make some enclosures that are
nearly (although not absolutely) ideal for the kind of home audio component
that I have in mind (complete with fanless cooling design), *however* they
*do not* just sell only the enclosures. Rather, they only sell complete
systems that are built with their enclosures. And those systems are REALLY
enpensive! (Two of the models I saw on their web site sell for 1,750 Euros
and 1,895 Euros respectively. I don't know exactly how many US Dollars that
translates to, but it is certainly more than $1,500 per unit. OUCH!)
Furthermore, even Hush Technologies enclosures are less that ideal, as far
as I'm concerned. Not only do they fail to have a front-panel LED display...
like all of the other home audio/video components I already own... but also,
they don't have ANY front-panel display AT ALL! Not even an LCD display!

That ends the sage of my (fruitless) search for what seem to me to be the
obvious next generation of home audio appliance. Although all of the other
necessary components are readily (and cheaply) available, I'm stymied by the
apparent total unavailability of suitable enclosures.

Or so it would seem.

If anybody knows where to obtain a proper sort of enclosure... 17-inch-wide,
black, and with an *LED* display an an IR receiver on the front, and one
that will accept _some_ standard motherboard form factor... please do let
me know. It would still like to build what I have in mind, since nobody
else seems to be doing it, at least not at anything close to a reasonble
price point (and with CD-R reading capability).


Regards,
rfg


P.S. If you e-mail me, and if your e-mail bounces due to the heavy-duty
spam filtering here, please accept my apologies (it's nothing personal,
I assure you) and please contact me via this web form instead:

http://www.monkeys.com/contact.html


P.P.S. This company:

http://logisysus.com/

sells a LOT of different small/smallish enclosures, but not a single one
of them appears to be 17 inches wide. As noted above, with the exception
of the Antec Overture case, nobody does. (It must be a giant right-wing
international conspiracy, undoubtedly led by RIAA and the MPAA, to prevent
me from enjoying all of my music while laying on the couch!)
Anonymous
June 29, 2004 10:08:56 PM

Archived from groups: comp.os.linux.embedded,rec.audio.tech (More info?)

rfg@monkeys.com (Ronald F. Guilmette) writes:

> I have been unable to find any suitable black 17-inch-wide
> *enclosure* for this whole [ PC as stereo component ] mess.

There seem to be plenty out there. Google for "HTPC case".

Or, if you're creative, why not build your contraption into an
existing non-computer case? Perhaps use an old VCR or CD deck; broken
ones should be approximately free. Example:
http://www.mini-itx.com/projects/mediabox/

Or, if you know exactly what you want, you can have a case fabricated
to your design by an enclosure fabricator such as www.protocase.com;
the estimator thing on their website says one custom metal HTPC-style
case in black with a small smattering of cuts would run $250 or so.


> a nice bright *LED* display, with big characters that you can see

I think you'll find that many or most of these are in fact "VFD"
displays.

You can find serial-controlled VFD display modules, and the occasional
newfangled OLED (also non-backlit and light-emitting) at places like
matrixorbital.com and crystalfontz.com. Software is available to bolt
these displays, and remote receivers, into popular mp3-playing
software.

--
Grant Taylor - gtaylor<at>picante.com - http://www.picante.com/~gtaylor/
Linux Printing Website and HOWTO: http://www.linuxprinting.org/
Anonymous
June 30, 2004 7:58:02 PM

Archived from groups: comp.os.linux.embedded,rec.audio.tech (More info?)

In article <10e3c1ne3b1nf7@corp.supernews.com>, rfg@monkeys.com says...

>So anyway, that was my first concern - the lack of CD-R reading capability.
>More generally however, at some point it dawned on me how utterly idiotic
>the very concept of these huge, fat, and slow CD jukeboxes has become,
>now, in this era of Apple iPODs. I mean seriously, the clear wave of
>the future is to compress all your music, and to strore it on a hard
>drive. That is exactly what a lot of people do already, and I _know_
>that is exactly what we will all be doing within a couple of years, at
>most, even, and perhaps especially, at home. (iPODs and Rios are swell
>when I'm out walking, but what amount when I am just veging out on the
>living-room couch??)

If you don't mind compromising on sound quality, then compressing is
the way to go. If sound quality is important, compressing is not the
way to go.
--------------
Alex
June 30, 2004 8:17:20 PM

Archived from groups: comp.os.linux.embedded,rec.audio.tech (More info?)

Grant Taylor wrote:
> rfg@monkeys.com (Ronald F. Guilmette) writes:
>
>
>>I have been unable to find any suitable black 17-inch-wide
>>*enclosure* for this whole [ PC as stereo component ] mess.
>
>
> There seem to be plenty out there. Google for "HTPC case".
>
> Or, if you're creative, why not build your contraption into an
> existing non-computer case? Perhaps use an old VCR or CD deck; broken
> ones should be approximately free. Example:
> http://www.mini-itx.com/projects/mediabox/
>
> Or, if you know exactly what you want, you can have a case fabricated
> to your design by an enclosure fabricator such as www.protocase.com;
> the estimator thing on their website says one custom metal HTPC-style
> case in black with a small smattering of cuts would run $250 or so.
>


$250 is expensive. I've had to deal with the lack of 19" 2u,3u and 4u
cases costing more than the $50 they should. If somebody will take
autocad and layout a versatile 19"chasis design, I'll build them, as I
need about 10 for myself. I have to get 50 ($50) or $2,500 made up,
but, I'll take the hit on that, as I know I
can sell them for $50 each, with no power supply.

I'm not an autocad guy and all of the metal stamping places want
autocad files....

Somebody design a 19" chasis, and I'll get them built and sell them
for $50 plus shipping...

Any autocad drafters interested?

James
Anonymous
June 30, 2004 8:17:21 PM

Archived from groups: comp.os.linux.embedded,rec.audio.tech (More info?)

James <wireless@tampabay.rr.com> writes:

>> Or, if you know exactly what you want, you can have a case fabricated
>> to your design by an enclosure fabricator such as www.protocase.com;

> $250 is expensive. I've had to deal with the lack of 19" 2u,3u and
> 4u cases costing more than the $50 they should.

Sure, but the OP was after 12 inch consumer electronics format cases.
Existing special format PC cases routinely sell in the upper 100s, so
if someone is really picky, $250 isn't so bad.

There are people out there that paint their car to match their
handbag. Appearance matters, sometimes a great deal.


> If somebody will take autocad and layout a versatile 19"chasis
> design, I'll build them, as I need about 10 for myself. I have to
> get 50 ($50) or $2,500 made up, but, I'll take the hit on that, as I
> know I can sell them for $50 each, with no power supply.

Seems like it would be less hassle for you to buy 10 cases, even at
the going rate of $100 or so. But if you were to turn up selling nice
2/3/4U cases for $50 I agree that you'd have no trouble selling them.

--
Grant Taylor - gtaylor<at>picante.com - http://www.picante.com/~gtaylor/
Linux Printing Website and HOWTO: http://www.linuxprinting.org/
Anonymous
July 1, 2004 12:58:03 AM

Archived from groups: comp.os.linux.embedded,rec.audio.tech (More info?)

"Ronald F. Guilmette" <rfg@monkeys.com> wrote in message
news:10e3c1ne3b1nf7@corp.supernews.com

> Well my friends, try as I might, I have been unable to find any
> suitable black 17-inch-wide *enclosure* for this whole mess. The
> other parts and pieces are all easy to find, but try finding an
> off-the-shelf and/or in- expensive 17-inch-wide black computer
> enclosure. Lotsa luck!

Just get a 19" PC rack case with removable ears.
!