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  1. #1
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    Oct 2009
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    Touch with USB drive : mastering TinySB

    Hi,

    I see a lot of people frustrated with making the Touch work
    with an external USB hard drive. After some work and investigation,
    I now have TinySB working as I want. I wanted to share my experience,
    so that people who want to use TinySB have a better chance at success.

    1) Why the Touch with TinySB
    ----------------------------

    I had been following the SqueezeBox line for some time and the
    Touch was the first SB product I bought, for two reasons.

    First, as opposed to the SB3/Classic, you can use without
    a remote. I have young boys, any remote would get lost, broken or full
    of jam, so in my house remotes just don't exist. Don't even mention
    a $300 controller in the hand of my 3 year old boy.

    Second, I wasted time on getting album art for my CDs, so it
    should display. Can we now have a Boom with a color screen please ?

    Third, I was interested in a very low power solution. My wife
    won't let me keep a PC switch on 24h. And I find NAS a big waste of
    money. Having music player and a music store withing 3-4W is
    definitely a plus.

    Two disapointement. First, there is no web interface (why ?
    I managed to squeeze a web server with PHP on a Gumstix). Second, it's
    not totally plug and play and I had to "earn" a working setup.

    2) External hard drive
    ----------------------

    Obviously I wanted a bus powered USB drive, to avoid another
    crappy transformer. Ideally, I would prefer a solid state drive, but
    they are currently far too expensive. So, I opted for a regular 2.5"
    USB hard drive.

    Most external hard drive have problems with the Touch, either
    because they require too much power or because they have fancy
    partitions. I selected a Toshiba drive, as explained in this link :

    http://forums.slimdevices.com/showthread.php?t=81987

    The drive was bought for the Touch and is dedicated to it. I'm
    personally worried about the wear and tear on the USB connector at the
    back of the Touch. And the Touch rescanning time and ejection
    procedure also means that disconnecting/reconnecting the drive has to
    be an infrequent operation.

    In other words, plan on having the hard drive dedicated to the
    Touch.

    3) File system and Folders
    --------------------------

    The default filesystem of my drive was FAT32, and this is what
    I picked. NTFS is poorly supported under Linux and requires more
    memory, so potentially more problematic on the Touch. ext3 in theory
    would be the best choice for the Touch and would give the best
    performance, at the cost of loosing Windows compatibility.

    Even though I did not care about Windows compatibility,
    I decided to stick with FAT32 and I did not try the alternative.

    The second aspect is how files are organised on the filesystem
    and the size of folders. It is well known that most filsystem see
    a drop in performance and increase in memory consumption for very
    large folders (lot of files in a folder). This is why high performance
    server applications use deeply nested folders hierarchy.

    On that account, FAT32 is pretty bad and significantely worse
    than NTFS and ext3. A quick search on the web :

    http://www.velocityreviews.com/forum...-of-files.html
    http://discuss.fogcreek.com/joelonso...w&ixPost=57616

    So, just don't do large folders with lot of files or
    subdirectories, you will increase your chance of problems, especially
    on FAT32. At the minimum, use the common approach of one CD per
    separate folder. I personally like to nest things a bit more.

    Music-Flac/MainGenre/Artist/Album/Track.flac

    Under EAC, I use the following setting :
    "%D\%Y-%C\%N. %T"

    4) Tags
    -------

    I don't know if it has an impact, but I'm quite rigorous and
    consistent in my tags. I like my tags in order, I also believe it help
    to keep the database small and efficient.

    I also only have FLAC files, that may help, as the ID3 tagging
    "standard" look to me like a hack.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IDv3

    And no CUE sheet nonsense for me : it does not bring any
    benefit compared to a properly tagged gapless set of files and is
    generally poorly supported.

    I rip and tag with EAC in FLAC, and fixup tags with
    mp3tag. I use the tags standardised by the FLAC specification, which
    means "Artist" and "Performer" :

    http://xiph.org/vorbis/doc/v-comment.html
    http://flac.sourceforge.net/faq.html#general__tagging

    I add replay-gain tags using Foobar2000. I have a few
    compilations that are tagged using "Album Artist" (as specified by
    Foobar2000). Multi-CD albums are not merged and kept separate as "(CD
    1)" and "(CD 2)".

    5) Album Art
    ------------

    Album art is known to crash the Touch. This problem is a bit
    more complicated to work around, especially that I systematically pick
    the best art that I could find, which means big and large images.

    I have strictly no embedded art, all art is as a separate
    Folder.jpg in the directory. First, I don't like the idea of
    duplicating the art N times, one copy is good enough. Second,
    I believe embeeding it makes parsing the tags less efficient. Third,
    I read somewhere it was the prefered method for SBS.

    I use a script to resize all my album art to 500x500 pixel
    maximum. My script goes in every directory and create
    "albumartsmall.jpg" which is a reduced version of the regular
    "Folder.jpg". Obviously, only the small file is copied on the Touch,
    and "Folder.jpg" is not.

    6) File transfer
    ----------------

    If you are like me, you spent countless hours ripping and
    tagging your collection, and the last thing you want is for all of
    that to disapear. Those 2.5" hard drive are not the most reliable
    drives. This means that the music collection you put on the Touch is
    not the only copy and it need to be synchronised with other backups.

    I personally have my master collection on my main RAID
    server. From there, I backup on another PC using rsync. And I copy to
    the Touch using rsync. I recomment rsync as it is pretty smart at
    updating only what needs to be updated.

    The easiest way is to put rsync on the Touch and to
    synchronise the collections over the network. I explain that in
    a separate forum thread :

    http://forums.slimdevices.com/showthread.php?t=81755

    Note that I only copy to the Touch USB hard drive the FLAC
    files and the small art. Other junk such as EAC log file are not
    copied.

    Also, I discovered that stopping the TinySB server prior to
    doing the rsync improves dramatically the overall performance and also
    make it less likely that the subsequent scan misses album art.

    You can disable the server in the advanced options.

    7) Scan
    -------

    Scan is done very time you start the TinySB server. By going
    again in the server advanced option menu, you can see the progress of
    the scan.

    Scanning requires some CPU and memory, and there is not much
    left when TinySB is running. For this reason, I prefer not to play
    music while the scan is running.

    My main gripe with the Scan is that it misses too often album
    art. If the art is updated after the music files, the scan will
    systematically misses it. If the scan misses things, you should force
    a full rescan.

    To do a full rescan, you are supposed to use the "wipe and
    rescan" command of the server menu, it's only available when the serve
    is stopped. This command has never worked for me, so I do it by hand.

    First, you must stop the TinySB server, this is available in
    the advanced options. Then, you log in to the Touch and nuke the
    database :

    -----------------------
    ssh root@192.168.1.101
    cd /media/sda1
    ls -al
    rm -rf .Squeezebox
    -----------------------

    After that, you just need to restart the server.

    I have not timed it, but with my 7k track collection a full
    rescan takes more than a few minutes and less than an
    hour. Incremental scan takes a few minutes.

    8) Connectivity & network
    -------------------------

    Despite using its local hard drive, the Touch needs good
    connectivity. At some point, I had a flaky wireless connection, and
    the Touch was erratic and unusable :
    http://forums.slimdevices.com/showthread.php?t=81293

    If you can't get a good wireless connection or ethernet cable
    for your Touch, I would recommend to use a wireless ethernet bridge or
    some power line adaptor.

    I personally use a Linksys WRT54GL with OpenWRT WhiteRussian
    into WET mode for a desktop : I configure the wireless bridge to
    connect to my Access Point and connect my desktop to one of the
    Ethernet port. You could do the same with your Touch. The advantage is
    that with enough Ethernet cable you can play with the bridge placement
    to optimise connectivity.

    9 In use
    --------

    I have been using TinySB on the Touch since end of april, so
    I now have a bit of experience with it.

    Using TinySB, the Touch is overall slow, but completely usable
    and the UI feel responsive. Scrolling 7k tracks on the small screen is
    a bit tedious, despite the nice UI and my rigorous tag organisation.

    I'm actually thrilled that my 6 year old can find and play his
    favorite songs without damaging my CDs. He is currently in my hard
    rock collection, which does not please his mom.

    I can't complain about audio quality. The Touch is feeding a pair of
    AudioEngines A5, and with kids yelling in the house, audio quality is
    all relative.

    I feel that a lot of the quirks of TinySB on the Touch are due to the
    limited CPU power and the limited memory. I'm wishing for a Touch2,
    with twice the CPU, twice the memory and twice the screen size, which
    would dramatically improve the plug and play.

    Good luck...

    Jean

  2. #2
    Senior Member
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    Image reduction script

    Hi,

    A little extra gift. This is the PHP script I'm using to reduce album art to 500x500. It should be pretty much plug and way from the Linux CLI...
    Good luck...

    Jean

  3. #3
    Member
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    Nov 2009
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    The Caribbean
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    Thumbs up

    I maybe have understood just half of what you did and how you did it but I congratulate you on your persistence.

  4. #4
    Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by carib View Post
    I maybe have understood just half of what you did and how you did it but I congratulate you on your persistence.
    That's the trouble, I do computer at work, I do computer at home, I do computer at my parents and computer at my in-laws, so in the end I only speak computer.

    But, if you already understood half, I'll see that as success. If you have specific questions, feel free to ask.

    Jean

  5. #5
    Senior Member JJZolx's Avatar
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    It's a shame your wife won't let your run a server 24x7. From the sounds of it, it would add a few years to your life.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by JJZolx View Post
    It's a shame your wife won't let your run a server 24x7. From the sounds of it, it would add a few years to your life.
    My mother taught me to switch off the light when I'm not in the room, and I totally bought into the CFL spiral bulb craze, however I'm not yet driving a Prius. In other words, it's unfair to fully blame my wife. Anyway, a music server that consumes only 4W of power is a nice challenge ;-)

    Have fun...

    Jean

  7. #7
    Junior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by jean2 View Post
    That's the trouble, I do computer at work, I do computer at home, I do computer at my parents and computer at my in-laws, so in the end I only speak computer.

    But, if you already understood half, I'll see that as success. If you have specific questions, feel free to ask.

    Jean
    Hi everyone, this is my first time here and I must stress that I am not comp literate!

    M yprob is that sometimes the touch won't connect to the WD1tb hd, even after hoursb of messing around. The only solution is leaving it off overnight and now even that doesn't work.

    Any ideas are much appreciated.

  8. #8
    Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by jean2 View Post
    My mother taught me to switch off the light when I'm not in the room, and I totally bought into the CFL spiral bulb craze, however I'm not yet driving a Prius. In other words, it's unfair to fully blame my wife. Anyway, a music server that consumes only 4W of power is a nice challenge ;-)

    Have fun...

    Jean
    A fitPC2 running linux makes a great server, at only 5W or so. You can put a SATA 2.5 drive right in the case and load vortexbox software and its up running. Very simple and runs great. The only problem is its not cheap. The Sheevaplug is a lot cheaper, but not quite as powerful.

    John S.

  9. #9
    Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by steveb View Post
    Hi everyone, this is my first time here and I must stress that I am not comp literate!

    M yprob is that sometimes the touch won't connect to the WD1tb hd, even after hoursb of messing around. The only solution is leaving it off overnight and now even that doesn't work.

    Any ideas are much appreciated.
    From what I read, the Touch is quite picky about the hard drive it likes. You can check the various threads about that.

    You would need to give a bit more context about "won't connect". Is it after pluging the HDD to the Touch ? Is it after powering on the Touch with the HDD attached ? Is it after leaving the Touch idle for some time ?

    A first indication would be to check the status of the server in the advanced options (where you enable/disable the internal server). After that, looking at the internal log, but that's beyond my knowledge.

    Jean

  10. #10
    Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by JohnSwenson View Post
    A fitPC2 running linux makes a great server, at only 5W or so. You can put a SATA 2.5 drive right in the case and load vortexbox software and its up running. Very simple and runs great. The only problem is its not cheap. The Sheevaplug is a lot cheaper, but not quite as powerful.

    John S.
    I know, I know, everybody is telling me I'm crazy to use the Touch as a server, and they are most likely right. For now, the Touch works perfectly for me as a server, for zero additional cost and minimal additional power.

    But I suspect I may get to that eventually, especially if I start adding other SB devices... Actually, rather than using one of these low power servers, I personally would use a Linux netbook, that would give me both a server and a UI in a single low power box. Moreover, because it's a higher volume product, in theory it's cheaper and more tested. We were supposed to have ARM netbooks by now, I wonder where they are...

    Jean

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