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802.11 MP3 "Radio"

home-networkable "Radio" for playing MP3 files in various "home" environments - clock-radio, shower radio etc.
  (+7, -4)
(+7, -4)
  [vote for,

SUMMARY: a system of devices to play MP3 files in various parts of your home environment, using existing affordable components of 802.11 wireless and Linux technology. Basically all devices would be variations of 802.11 PC-Cards connected to MP3 decoders, except for a base station portion (which theoretically could be replaced by a standard home network with existing 802.11 Wireless hardware). In essence what this would supply to the user is a way to leverage the affordability and easy collectability of MP3 files in a way that would allow them to be "played" in other parts of the house besides "around a computer". And unlike the many CD-based MP3 players which are starting to make their way into home audio equipment, because this solution is back-ended by wireless technology and a file server, the selection of "music" can be easily changed/customized/updated without the inconvenience of having to constantly burn new CDs.

The system would come with various options:

A base station: which would consist of an 802.11b antenna combined with a Linux-driven file server used (in this case) to store MP3 files. Theoretically existing file space on a home-network, and already available 802.11 base stations in a home could be used, so this part of the system would be optional, but well priced as a "combo". Price point would depend on the capacity of the hard drive used, but since these are all already mass-marketed components it could conceivably be around $300. Please note that if someone owned this base station, no other computer equipment would be necessary--although optionally this base station would ALSO provide use to a home network for using other wireless devices and could also act as a file server for other things besides MP3 files.

A waterproof shower-radio: with an off-the-shelf 802.11b PC-CARD device integrated inside with an MP3 decoder. The firmware to drive the thing could either be Windows CE or (better yet) Linux. The device would have a simple (well capped, to be waterproof) USB port to connect it to a PC to "program" things like the name of the server and directory it looks to for MP3 files. On the outside, various levels of models could have miscellaneous levels of complexity with the controls, but at the cheapest level it would simple have buttons to play, pause, skip tracks, control volume, and a single button to toggle between a mode where it plays every song in the specified server directory in order, or in random order. More complex models could include the ability to pick other directories, or even other file areas elsewhere on the network. The highest level of player could store locally (on flash RAM) a single or multiple playlist files--which would have to be configured on the PC and uploaded via the USB connection, but which can be stored on the shower radio indefinitely. Estimated price point: $300 at introduction, but it could be made cheaper with quantity.

Clock-radio: Identical to shower-radio models, but in clock radio format--including the ability to start playing MP3s as an alarm, and also the capability to go to sleep to MP3s with an automatic shutoff of the music. On these models, since it doesn't have to be water-proof, the PC-CARD could be removeable. Estimated price point: $250 if 802.11 is included, and $200 if it can be constructed to use any off-the shelf 802.11 PC-card and the consumer uses their own existing 802.11 device.

Home Stereo Mp3 decoder Kit: Basically the same technology as the previous two ideas, but without needing to be waterproof OR have alarm clock circuitry. Designed to output into the AUX jack of a home stereo system. An even-cheaper non-802.11 version (using network cabling) could also be available. Basically its just an MP3 decoder that feeds into an AUX jack, but it can be marketed as part of a total MP3 solution along with the rest of these items. Estimated price point: 802.11 version: $225 non-802.11 version: $150

spaceman_spiff, Jan 16 2002

47 CFR 15 subpart C http://frwebgate.ac...SUBPART=C&TYPE=TEXT
Scroll down to 15.209 for the relevant bit. I assume there are similar provisions in UK law. [wiml, Jan 22 2002, last modified Oct 17 2004]

Voyetra Audiotron http://www.turtlebe...ron/producthome.asp
Add to this a couple of 802.11 access points . . . [bristolz, Mar 08 2002, last modified Oct 17 2004]

Wireless MP3 Player School Project http://www.seas.gwu.edu/~h21c/mp3.htm
From the George Washington University. (Link moved from [phoquenut] annotation). [BigBrother, Sep 07 2002, last modified Oct 17 2004]

TerraPlayer http://www.terraplayer.com/
[phoenix, Oct 17 2004]

Squeezebox http://www.slimdevi...om/pi_overview.html
Baked. Twenty-five dollars more than your estimated price. [Acme, Oct 17 2004]

HomePod http://http://www.m...om/product/homepod/
802.11b MP3 diskless player [zardoz, Oct 17 2004]

Aireo http://www.soniqcast.com/details.html
802.11b MP3/FM recv/txmt with disk [zardoz, Oct 17 2004]

Neuros http://www.neurosaudio.com/
FM txmt/recv 20Gb MP3 player [zardoz, Oct 17 2004]


       Mmm... can you give us an "executive summary" of this? You seem pretty smart and I bet you could give us the flavor of this thing in 10 sentences or less.
seal, Jan 16 2002

       The innovation here is that a wired system can't easily go places like a shower. The idea of the clock-radio--which is obviously possible as a wired solution--is only a logical extension of the first idea.   

       A streaming solution isn't inherently any better. MP3 decoding is a function which can fit onto a really low-powered chip, and they are really cheap. Streaming servers are expensive.   

       In fact, the appliances at the end point probably don't even need anything as complex as Linux for the MP3 decoding, but I thought it necessary for managing the wireless card.   

       The opinion that since "home entertainment systems are thoroughly Baked" that this is a worthless idea seems against the spirit of this place. "Home entertainment systems" are a huge category, and to dismiss all possible variations of them seems a bit closed-minded.
spaceman_spiff, Jan 17 2002

       This is really [Vernon], isn't it?
angel, Jan 17 2002

       Streaming servers are cheap. Er, free. Er, open-source.   

       Another approach is to take a small, low-power FM transmitter (cost: less than the price of two 802.11 cards; operates under FCC Part 15), connect it to your storage+MP3 server in the basement, and listen on any ol' FM radio. IIRC [tenhand] has done this.
wiml, Jan 18 2002

       Not if the transmit range isn't outside your own home. Old time radio show enthuisasts often build low-power AM transmitters to listen to CDs of the shows on their tube type radios.
StarChaser, Jan 19 2002

       Rods --- "part 15", specifically 47CFR15.209, is the part of US law that describes the limits on low-power unlicensed transmitters. As long as you stay below a certain (quite small) power level, and as long as you don't interfere with any licensed users of the spectrum, you can broadcast what you want. Such a transmitter can reach a few hundred feet, maybe half a city block. There are lots of commercial products that work like this, from kids' wireless microphones, to CD- player adaptors for cars which only have a radio, to baby monitors. Lo, observe the link.
wiml, Jan 22 2002

       wiml, I'm still not sure I understand the objections to this idea. Streaming servers are "free"? No... they are high maintenance and you still probably have to buy a specific box for it. MP3 is an existing standard, and the effectiveness of decompression of files in that format by low cost chips is very well proven. 802.11 is a cheap (and proven) technology as well. The combination of the two technologies is very logical.   

       I do admit that your low-power FM solution is also a very fine one though. It's an area a lot of people would be afraid to venture into though, and doesn't seem like something that could be packaged for the average consumer. The strongest part of my idea, I thought, was the fact that the combination file-server/802.11 base station could act independantly of any other equipment in the house--in other words more like an appliance than a part of a network.   

       And one more thing... although I like your idea, I do see a major limitation. A streaming solution broadcast to a radio has to be programmed beforehand on the server. The radio piece is totally passive--all it can do is receive the pre-programmed stream.   

       An MP3-file based solution of the type I described has more control, since its based on a data connection. You can forward or reverse between tracks. You can change to other playlists or directories, etc. The controls on the "receiver" (the shower or clock radio) don't have to be very complex to allow this.
spaceman_spiff, Jan 23 2002

       I found this forum while searching for 802.11 and mp3 in the same context.   

       I think there is merit to the idea, but would like a few more features.   

       I thought that a natural evolution would have brought mp3's and 802.11 to Palm pilots and other PDA's, but it seems no one has had the foresight to do it together.   

       My idea is creating a "virtual H:drive" on a PDA, and linking it to a file server using wireless technology. This way you could browse the contents of a large directory, and listen to your PDA in any room in the home.   

       Modifications could be made to the relatively simple design, to accomodate offshoots such as your shower-radio idea.   

       I found a student's thesis online which also deals with a similar situation at [admin: URL moved to where the links are supposed to go ~bristolz]
phoquenut, Sep 07 2002

       [phoquenut]: Please use the [link] function (located under the main text of the idea itself) to post links, instead of listing the URL in your annotation. Thanks.
BigBrother, Sep 07 2002

       Good Idea. You might want to consider using 802.11a, as of the speed benifits. You would also have to have a small memory buffer in the wireless device, incase of a slow down in the connection or someting. 8MB would probally be enough. To be able to hear different songs (or the same songs) in different locations, just load the song onto RAM, and then strem it to the wireless device.   

       As for the base unit. If you are really going to build it, I would sell three concept models. First, a stand alone model for people without a computer. Would have AUX In for recording, a Wi-Fi5 AP, and a CD drive for ripping CD. It would use a simple TV interface for setup and all, with a IR or RF remote for user input. Second model for computer owners who don't want to use a computer as a file server. Interfaces via USB 2.0 or Firewire, and has a Wi-Fi5 AP built in (oponally removed). This would be just like a computer, except without all the elements of the first one, all setup would be done with another computer. Finally have a PCI card (possibly software, but would be to easy to pirate), that would turn that computer into a file server, but the computer would have to meet the minimum requirements. The computer would have to be connected to a LAN with a Wi-Fi5 AP.   

       Are you activly persuing this project (are you trying to build it?). I thing I might try to build one, unless you are serously considering selling them commercially.
dtstyle, Jan 20 2003

       Yeah, .11b would probally be cheaper and work within the requirements since you would be streaming the MP3's.   

       As for the reciving devices, you could use an AXIS ETREX 100 LX MCM, a CF 802.11 adapter, and some sort of hardware MP3 decoder, and a simple D/A converter.
dtstyle, Jan 21 2003

       This is a great idea...so great that about 5 years ago or so before the dot com bubble burst...a little networking company called 3Com marketed a product called Kerbango that was an ethernet connected internet radio. This little "radio" scanned the internet for available stations and displayed info in its screen, like Winamp. The problem then was the masses didn't have broadband access and wireless hardware was still maturing.Those problems are slowly disappearing, I'm typing this annotation on a wireless laptop connected to a cable modem router while listening to celticgrove.com with free winamp software all while lying in bed! Recently(2002), Onkyo, a high quality consumer electronics company from Japan, introduced a home receiver that has a RJ-45 ethernet connector and will connect to your broadband internet connection directly (no pc required) and display and playback internet radio stations. The next logical step is a wireless networked device that can pull mp3's stored locally on your home pc or "dial" through internet radio streams. Provisions for sorting stations by genre is a must. I can't wait to get one in my bathroom! Better get movin if you plan to market this...the inet clock radios and mp3 radio Walkmans are comin fast!I think this one is medium well...
sinewave, Jan 30 2003

       Produce wireless headphones and I'd buy 'em. Hotspots could broadcast customer specific music.
zardoz, Mar 01 2004


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