AudioTron to SqueezeBox Project Scoping: Proof-Of-Concept

12 12 2010
Prototyping Rig

Prototyping Rig

Scoping Considerations

I’ve been batting around this project for the past few days and there are 2 ‘realities’ I have work within:

1) I don’t have the best hardware for the project long term.

— My Mini-ITX board’s onboard VGA is blown but with a cheap PCI card it works
— There is no parallel port which will likely be needed to drive the LCD
— No digital IO pins/etc (Not surprising but it would be ideal)
— No power supply to run it outside of a mini-ITX case I have (see #2 why this matters)

and

2) I don’t want to spend a lot of money on the project. Not yet. Right now I’d need…

— Digital IO board
— Power supply
— Parallel Port adapter

So where does that leave me? Prototyping only!

I think I’ve managed to scrap up most of the things I need to create a proof-0f-concept EASILY based on windows at the moment. Ideally, I would like to make it run embedded Linux basically but I know myself and if I make the project to hard or cost to much up front I will just not do it. And that is pointless. So I think it is better to scale my own expectations to making a franken-computer proof-of-concept that in no WAY will fit or mount inside the AudioTron’s case at this moment BUT will at least confirm what I think can be done.  Once a Windows, Franken-Computer, messy proof-of-concept is working well enough I can look at acquiring the most perfect hardware, etc.

Proof-Of-Concept Hardware

AudioTron – Where it all started.  My intention right now is to use the buttons, LEDs, LCD, knob, and the enclosure. If I am lucky I will also be able to reuse the power supply but I’m less immediately hopeful on that one.

Morex 3677B Mini-ITX Case – This is being used for the power supply and the power button more than the normal ‘containing’ feature a case normally provides.  Because my board needs a pci video card to work I can’t truly mount the board IN the case at this time. But providing the power is no small need to overlook.

VIA EN15000G Mini-ITX Motherboard –  This is the Lazarus of the group or the prodigal child if you will.  Over a year ago I declared the board dead and set it aside because the video stopped working reliably (and other quirks). But after clearing my mind for a year I was able to get it up and working last night IF I had a PCI video card installed.

Jaton Video-118PCI Video Card – A necessary evil because the EN15000G hates it’s onboard video. But honestly, doing the same thing repeatedly right now is good enough for me.

1.8″ Hitachi TravelStar C4K40  Hard Drive –  I pulled this from my old Creative Zen Touch MP3 Player when it died. It is particularly nice because it sports a standard 2.5″ IDE connection on it :)

Digital I/O Card – I’m still working on borrowing a digital I/O card for a proof-of-concept but I have some leads on a Phidgets board I’m hoping will pan out.  I believe it will dump switch actions as HID events that my software can EASILY see. The main concern outside of price for me on a digital I/O board is how do I easily monitor it.  I’m only trying to watch for closed switches and running 3 LEDs at the most. I don’t need an overly complicated digital I/O board / communication language. I have a few good candidates depending on what OS direction I choose.

Proof-Of-Concept Software

Windows – It is what I know best and so prototyping will be easiest here.  I have software that I already use that should be able to do what I need it to do with little coding and so that is of value to me.

SqueezeSlave – A command-line SqueezeServer player that runs on both Windows and Linux

EventGhost – A ridiculously simple and robust software that allows to set actions to incoming events.  In this case the actions will be button pushes and the events will be SqueezeSlave media player commands.  EventGhost is the main reason this project is even tangibly easy for me.  As long as I can get the IO board to dump out actions in a form EventGhost can see them the proof-of-concept is solid.

Proof-Of-Concept Goal

To get the button’s working on the AudioTron’s case to change the state of the SqueezeSlave player.  My initial idea is simply to connect the AudioTron’s buttons to the digial I/O board, monitor that board with EventGhost, and when EventGhost sees a button pressed it will send the corresponding CLI command to SqueezeSlave.

A secondary goal would to get the 2×40 LCD screen on the AudioTron to display the ‘Now Playing’ information.  Right now with a lack of parallel port to drive the build in display this is pretty much more effort than it is is worth.

Next Phase:Implimentation

Once the proof-of-concept is up and running well the next phase will be to make the hardware so it all fits inside the AudioTron case and it can seamlessly be used in a stack of stereo equipment.  Not only will this require hardware revisions but based on what hardware is selected ideally this would involve changing the OS over to Linux and running off a small solid state device.  At that point EventGhost can no longer be the middle-man software and that role will have to be rehashed.

This phase may or may not ever really happen based on the amount of money and time it will take. Of course only prototyping will tell. Onwards!!!!

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