Friday, October 10, 2008


Last week my friends and I sat down for our 'hack session' which is really nothing more than our weekly excuse to get together and tear into technology. We've been doing it since the 1980's and we've been quite creative (we're not black hats). This week it was my friend's NSLU2 and Twonky. For some odd reason the NSLU2 didn't want to start up and of course this meant that Twonky didn't start up either. After much haggling we settled on upgrading the NSLU2 (and three others) to the latest Unslung firmware release (6.10 - Oh, OpenWRT Kamikaze 7.09 is available, more upgrading to do). Once that was taken care of everything went well. While we were at it we took one of the other NSLU2s and loaded MediaTomb on it. Other than it's odd interface it worked really well. This is good as Twonky isn't supporting the NSLU2 anymore and I prefer Open Source. I don't know what our next session will be but we'll be using the NSLU2, Linksys WMLS11B and the D-Link DSM320. It'll probably be more MediaTomb as it has some really cool transcoding capabilities. :-) In simple terms it means that the WMLS11B can now play Ogg audio files (or FLAC or any other audio format you might think of). Well almost, MediaTomb translates (transcodes) it from Ogg to Wav or MP3 (my choice). By similar means MediaTomb can transcode a YouTube Video to something that the DMS320 can use to show on your TV set. Now devices that have been discontinued can still be used and adapted to support newer technologies. Now that's cool.

At home I decided to learn more about MediaTomb. So I pulled down the source code (and there is a lot of it as it's features depend on external packages) and compiled it up. I did use the package manager on Unbuntu but I still wanted to go the long route of compiling for use on my main HA server. I currently have v0.11.0 installed but found out that I wanted some features that are only in the SVN release. So some more upgrades (I'm running Fedora 6 on the server - I really should get that Centos upgrade installed) and some more compiles, which went easier than the 0.11.0 compiles and I'm almost ready to install the SVN version. If all goes well I may write up a replacement chapter for my book. But with school that won't happen any time too soon.


At 10/10/2008 4:42 PM, Blogger Jon Smirl said...

NSLU2 doesn't have enough CPU power to much transcoding (if any).

Get a DSM-520 instead of the DSM-320. The CPU in the 320 is underpowered. If you send it movies in too high of resolution it isn't fast enough and drops every other frame making the movie jerky. It is a pain to recode the movies at a lower bit rate.

At 10/10/2008 4:45 PM, Blogger Jon Smirl said...

NSLU2 is good as a multi-room audio server. Get a USB 1.0 hub (or a multi-TT 2.0 one). Plug 5-6 $20 USB audio devices into it. Buy a mutli-channel amp,

Instant whole house audio.

At 10/10/2008 5:44 PM, Blogger Neil Cherry said...

I seemed to have caused a little confusion. While I have Twonky and MediaTomb running on NSLU2s the MediaTomb that will be doing the heavy lifting (transcoding) is my main server (1GHz Athlon w/512M RAM and a 250G drive). That currently handles samba, mail, ftp, NFS, DNS, DHCP, printing, ntp, Apache, IPV6 duties, CVS, SVN and Misterhouse ($ uptime - 17:40:08 up 9 days, 8:57, 8 users, load average: 0.00, 0.00, 0.00). Oh it's also my development server. Throwing MediaTomb on there probably won't break it. Even when I'm compiling it handles the existing load. When I have Asterisk on there that caused a few problems with Internet calls.

Thanks for the warning, I didn't think the 125MHz ARM (NSLU2) would handle too much more than it already has. I do have a 500MHz x86 SBC that would be up for the job but since the main server will be running anyway I might as well run it there.

I'll check out the audio server suggestion. I currently have several (5?) WMLS11Bs. Got cheap ($20 ea) at the Trenton Computer Festival. That's where my friend also managed to get several NSLU2s cheap. I won't be able to upgrade to the DSM-520 as I already have the two 320s. So far I haven't really tried to push the resolution and I don't watch stored video (Tivo and 320RD DVD player).


At 10/10/2008 5:56 PM, Blogger Jon Smirl said...

Intel Atom motherboard is good for a NSLU2 replacement. 10x or more faster. $70

Build an Atom based system and you can turn your main PC off.

It has video support so if you're a real hacker you can make it do an on-screen guide and control it with your remote.

This version has svideo out.

At 10/10/2008 6:32 PM, Blogger Neil Cherry said...

I like the Atom, nice. The 2G of RAM is definitely important for future use.

At 5/21/2009 4:42 PM, Anonymous Jeff said...

Nice pointer to the Atom boards.

For around $100 you have can have
MB -- D945GCLF2
CPU -- Atom 330, "Intel 64", 1.6 GHz, "dual core" (Included)
2G -- Corsair

$45 for a functional case and PS consumption should be under 40W, with drives.

I'm throwing in a pair of Seagate Momentus 5400.6 500GB drives (~$80 each today) under ZFS. GigE on the board, but considering streamed video is a tiny fraction of that, I'm not concerned.


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