View Full Version : My Journey to Musical Bliss

2012-08-06, 17:18
I've been an internet writer for more than 13 years, but I am just now getting around to launching a personal blog. Of course, one of my first posts had to be about Squeezebox. Thought some of you would be interested in reading it. Please share and comment!

2012-08-06, 20:36
I've been an internet writer for more than 13 years, but I am just now getting around to launching a personal blog. Of course, one of my first posts had to be about Squeezebox. Thought some of you would be interested in reading it. Please share and comment!

Very nice! I look forward to more. (and I had the bicycle radio too....)

2012-08-07, 00:04
I've been an internet writer for more than 13 years, but I am just now getting around to launching a personal blog. Of course, one of my first posts had to be about Squeezebox. Thought some of you would be interested in reading it. Please share and comment!

MeSue, very interesting article.

It got me inspired so I think I'll reuse this thread to tell my story too, hopefully more people are interested to do the same.
Hopefully this can also keep this thread active a bit longer and so it can also attract users to your blog. :-)

Since forum posts are limited to 10 000 characters it's going to come in two parts.

Part 1 - Classic/Boom

After a simple all in one system my musical journey started with a Pioneer 5-disc CD changer, I really appreciated the ability to be able to have a random playlist of the music I loved even though it was limited to 5 CD's at the time. However, after some time I realize that the audio quality wasn't really that good and I got my first HiFi CD player, an Arcam Alpha 7SE, I loved the audio quality it produced but I always missed to be able to have a random playlist with the music I loved. Due to this I eventually got a iPod Mini ripped my whole collection to lossy AAC format and got random playlists back to my life when I was outside my home and listening to the iPod. I bit later I also hooked up a docking station for the iPod Mini to the Sherwood amplifier so I sometimes could enjoy random playlists in the listening room again. Of course the Mini had limitations in the listening room, mainly the fact that I didn't have any remote control and didn't have any possibility to see what was currently playing as the iPod Mini display really wasn't readable from 10 foots distance.

After this my Squeezebox journey started in beginning of 2006 when I got my Squeezebox3 (called Squeezebox Classic now). Finally getting good audio quality in my listening room together with support for random playlists. However, immediately I realized that random playlists containing all songs in my collection wasn't what I wanted, there were some songs in there which I really didn't want to appear when playing random music. With the iPod Mini I hadn't realized this because I was forced to use smart playlist functionality in iTunes to select the best music to be able to fit it on the limited storage on the iPod Mini. Unfortunately there was no way to do anything similar on the Squeezebox. Since I tried to get away from Windows at the time I also didn't have the possibility to use the iTunes integration.

I hadn't written a line of perl before but still I decided it was time to try to fix this and about 2-3 weeks after I got the Squeezebox3 I developed and published my first plugin (TrackStat (http://wiki.slimdevices.com/index.php/TrackStat_plugin)) which made it possible to rate tracks and thanks to this made it possible to indicate which music I loved through ratings. The main intention with publishing the plugin was really to show the concept with the hope that someone from Slim Devices would see the potential and develop something similar in the core product.

Another 2 weeks and I had developed the initial version of SQL Playlist (http://wiki.slimdevices.com/index.php/SQL_Playlist_plugin) plugin and finally I had support for smart playlists in my listening room with remote control for the first time of my life. SQL Playlist plugin was really just thought of as a temporary solution to show the concept, at that time I was a bit naive and thought that Slim Devices would fairly soon pick up on this and implement a real solution for smart playlists in the core product. For those who still believe Logitech will listen to the community, you can vote on enhancement requests #142 (http://bugs.slimdevices.com/show_bug.cgi?id=142) and #380 (http://bugs.slimdevices.com/show_bug.cgi?id=380) to indicate your interest.

Now, I started to realize that it was really a bad idea to rip my whole collection to lossy AAC when I did it for the iPod Mini, so I started the journey of fixing that mistake and re-ripping everything to FLAC. Since I have a fairly small collection I did it during a period of a few weeks but I can still remember the furstration of inserting a new CD, wait for a few minutes, insert next CD, wait for a few minutes and so on. If it's something I really don't want to repeat it's the ripping process, so I try to ensure that I have at least 2 backups of the music collection these days.

Getting feedback from users who liked the plugins was a very possitive and inspiring experience, so I continued to develop TrackStat and SQL Playlist and also continued to make more plugins through the Dynamic Playlist (http://wiki.slimdevices.com/index.php/Dynamic_Playlist_plugin) plugin, which initial intention was to show Slim Devices that their Random Mix plugin and my SQL Playlist plugin had a lot in common that could be included in the core product.

Second half of 2006 and first half of 2007 was spent to fix another issue with the Squeezebox products, mainly getting more flexibly browsing support and being able to divide the library into smaller sub libraries. All this was realized by developing and releasing the Custom Browse (http://wiki.slimdevices.com/index.php/Custom_Browse_plugin), Custom Scan (http://wiki.slimdevices.com/index.php/Custom_Scan_plugin) and Multi Library (http://wiki.slimdevices.com/index.php/Multi_Library_plugin) plugins. I setup a PayPal account to be able to accept donations in mid 2006 and as I remember getting donations was a big inspiration source together with all feedback I got on the plugins from the community, the donations and feedback was really the reason why I continued to develop and publish plugins and it still is even though I've now switched the donations to a real commercial concept.

After the browsing/sub library support the next thing to add was an easy way to ignore certain tracks, artists, albums in smart playlists. It was possible already today through TrackStat by giving them low ratings but some users expressed a need to easily be able to skip certain artists or certain albums in an easy way, mainly they wanted a solution that gave them ability to exclude certain music rather than the ability to include certain music. This resulted in my developing the Custom Skip (http://wiki.slimdevices.com/index.php/Custom_Skip_plugin) plugin and integrate that with Dynamic Playlist making it possible to ensure randomness of my smart playlists by for example not repeating songs from the same artist in two adjcent tracks.

During 2008 I was invited to participate at the Boom hardware beta which resulted in that I through the Boom product finally could get Squeezebox sound in more rooms, it resulted in that I got Squeezebox sound in the bedroom and the kitchen where I didn't have any external amplifier or speakers. From a plugin perspective I think the Boom resulted in that I developed the Title Switcher (http://wiki.slimdevices.com/index.php/Title_Switcher_plugin) plugin since I wanted to make better use of the Boom screen, this also turned out to work really good on my Squeezebox Classic in the living room.

2012-08-07, 00:36
Since forum posts are limited to 10 000 characters it's going to come in two parts.

And here is the second part

Part 2 - Duet/Touch/Radio

During 2007 I was invited to join the hardware beta testing of the Squeezebox Controller. The Duet (package with Controller + Receiver) was not known at this time, we were only testing the controller. It was very exciting to be part of the hardware beta testing being able to give feedback to Logitech at this early stage. Not sure if I was invited because of my plugin development or community precense but either way I think it was a great way to ensure to keep the interest of the products among involved community members and hopefully our feedback also gave something to Logitech. Except for this, the beta test programme also indicated that Logitech was trying to keep some of the open development philosophy from Slim Devices after the acquisition during second half of 2006, as we all know this didn't turn out to be the case on longer terms but as I remember it my feeling about the acquisition was mostly positive during 2007. The result of the Squeezebox Controller beta testing was officially released as a product through the Duet in beginning of 2008. My personal opinion is that the main benefits of the Duet was to be able to do to the Touch and Radio, as a product I have to say that the Duet itself was a big disappointment for me, but I think it was needed to be able to take the product line to the next step to be able to release the Radio and Touch a bit later. However, I also know that there are people who absolutely love the Duet so I guess it just doesn't fit everyone.

The next big evolution of the Squeezebox platform started at beginning of 2009 when I was invited to the Touch hardware beta testing resulting in that I wrote my first line of lua and started to develop applets for the Touch. Main limitation of the standard Touch at the time was interesting screen savers, so I developed and publish the Daylight Clock (http://wiki.slimdevices.com/index.php/Daylight_Clock_applet), Album Flow (http://wiki.slimdevices.com/index.php/Album_Flow_applet), Screen Switcher (http://wiki.slimdevices.com/index.php/Screen_Switcher_applet) and Custom Clock (http://wiki.slimdevices.com/index.php/Custom_Clock_applet) applet. In the beginning the Custom Clock applet was really just a way to get a customized clock screen saver, but it later turned out to one of these things which had more potential than I could have imagine when I started the work and now I think it's mainly used as a way to get a customized Now Playing screen. Personally I use it on my Radio to get weather information from GoCubs excellent SuperDateTime plugin and clock on the same screen while not playing anything and getting LastFM artist images on the screen when playing music. In middle of 2009 during Touch beta testing there was a temporary changed focus when I got invited to the Radio hardware beta testing. From a pure musical perspective I have to say that neither the Radio nor the Touch improved the situation much for me personally, but from an overall perspective looking at the whole listening experience, the color screen of both devices is one of the biggest improvements I've got from a hardware perspective in my Squeezebox setup. In addition to this, I've now replaced my Booms in kitchen and bedroom to Radio's due to the restricted surface available in both these rooms.

During 2010 while beta testing the Touch and Radio I started to realize that with the new devices (Touch, Radio, Controller) where there is a lot more logic on the device itself we needed a way to patch Logitech's firmware temporarily until they had the time to fix issues and limitations. This resulted in that I developed and released the Patch Installer (http://wiki.slimdevices.com/index.php/Patch_Installer_applet) plugin in beginning of 2010. Both Custom Clock and Patch Installer's have also resulted in that people with graphical design skills has gotten involved to make customized clock/now playing screens through Custom Clock applet (http://wiki.slimdevices.com/index.php/Custom_Clock_styles) and also to make customized VU meters through either Patch Installer (http://forums.slimdevices.com/showthread.php?77117-Analogue-digital-VU) or Custom Clock. Another thing that also happened during 2010 is that I wanted a way to get LastFM artist images on the Squeezebox and I wanted to make a try to make lyrics available. This all resulted in that I during 2010 developed and published the Song Info (http://wiki.slimdevices.com/index.php/Song_Info_plugin) and Song Lyrics (http://wiki.slimdevices.com/index.php/Song_Lyrics_plugin) plugins.

Something else that also happened on the fall of 2010 was that we initiated the SMD (Social Music Discovery) (http://socialmusicdiscovery.org/) project since I had now realized that Logitech will never provide the music discovery experience I wanted from my Squeezebox. The intention with the SMD project was initially to provide a long term solution for browsing of classical and jazz music but also to finally replace the TrackStat and SQL Playlist plugins with something more permanent that's easier to maintain. The SMD project is still alive but due to limited amont of contributors it haven't progressed much during the last year, we still hope to get to a point where it result in something useful but it might take a while.

During 2011 I decided to switch many of my plugins to a commercial concept, the main reason was that they all started to take a bit too much time to maintain and keep up to date with all Logitech API changes and I decided it was better to let people pay for them than shutdown the development completely. Even though I understand that some people didn't like this I still think it was the best path to ensure that the plugins kept working and keep my interest up also when Logitech switched their development model to a more closed one with more in-house development than community involvement during 2010 and 2011.

During 2012 I finally realized that the only way to get artist images on a big screen is to do it myself, so I decided to get an Android tablet and developed and published the free Squeeze Display (https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=info.isaksson.squeezedisplay) app for it, in the process I also released the RSS Photo Show (https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=info.isaksson.rssphotoshow) but that's not really music related. I have been working with something else also during 2012 which I hope eventually will be something very useful, but I'm not ready to go into more details about it at this time.

The above was all my own stuff, but I also personally remember important things which have been done by other third party contributors which in one way or another has significantly improved my personal Squeezebox experience

- Before my first Squeezebox: mherger released MusicInfoSCR, AlbumReview and Biography plugins making it possible to customize the Now Playing screen on the Squeezebox Classic and view album reviews and biographies from allmusic.com
- 2007 Feb: gonk/mherger released the TimeSpeller plugin finally getting a really cool clock on my Squeezebox Classic
- 2007 Dec: pippin released the iPeng skin and for the first time indicated what kind of experience a smart phone controller can result in
- 2008 Sep: peterw released KitchenTimer plugin and finally gave me a good timer in the kitchen
- 2008 Nov: agillis released the VortexBox and finally offers a easy way to get a Linux machine with automatic ripping and pre-installed Squeezebox Server
- 2008 Nov: pippin released the first native iPeng app and showed the full potential of controlling the Squeezebox with a smart phone
- 2009 Jun: chp relesed DSBridge and offers us a way to use Spotify on the Squeezebox by using a Windows computer
- 2010 Mar: truehl released SqueezePlug making it possible to turn a SheevaPlug easily into a silent, cheap, small Squeezebox Server
- 2010 Jun: Triode released the third party Spotify plugin and finally brings native support for Spotify to the Squeezebox platform
- 2010 Jul: bluegaspode released SqueezePad and shows how nice it is to control the Squeezebox from a tablet
- 2010 Oct: pippin released iPeng for iPad which together with SqueezePad is my favorite way to browse my music library
- 2011 Feb: pippin turns every iOS device to a Squeezebox player by releasing the playback option for iPeng
- 2011 Apr: bluegaspode turns every Android device to a Squeezebox player by releasing the SqueezePlayer app (this is one of those apps where the potential just seems to increase over time as new Android devices are released)

Hopefully most of the dates are approximately correct, I tried to find the relevant announcement threads in the forum when finding them, but I apologize in advance if I've gotten some date wrong.
I've probably missed a lot in this this list but the above are the events I remember myself which have made significantly improvements for me personally.

There are a lot of other third party contributors that also have contributed to get me and others to the music listening system we have today, some of those were previously mentioned in the following thread:

2012-08-07, 06:38
Good list :) I think you probably checked the iPeng dates from iPeng's new Facebook page for which I actually verified them yesterday, so these are correct so let me add one from the competition:
- bluegaspode came out with playback for the iPad in December 2010.

2012-08-07, 12:24
Thanks, guys! Enjoyed reading your story, Erland. I never would have guessed you adopted Squeezebox later than me. You've always been a permanent fixture here as far as I knew. And to learn perl and lua for the sole purpose of enhancing Squeezebox is impressive (says the girl who has been going cross-eyed learning Wordpress these past few weeks).