By Robert Menta - 8/15/01
It's nice to know that in this age of multinational conglomerates there are still a few people working hard in their garages looking to innovate. I came across the SliMP3 recently, which is an example of such entrepreneurship.
The SliMP3 is an Ethernet digital music player that streams tunes from a Linux PC. The player allows the user to hook up to the source without having to allocate a separate PC to receive that music over the network. For those of you who have done exactly that just to pump a little music into the lobby, you will find this little player can save quite a bit in both money and space.
The SliMP3's Spartan design underlines the products simplicity, a simple board and vacuum fluorescent display screwed behind a slightly larger translucent smoke gray plastic screen shield that also makes up the unit's base. The Ethernet jack is embedded directly in the card and two RCA jacks draw the signal to the speakers. The player has a 1MB buffer that provides 8 seconds of buffer for 128kbit compressed song files.
The SliMP3 comes with a 5V, 1000ma regulated power supply. A Sony RM-V301 universal remote to operate the unit is also supplied.
The company is about to complete its first 50 units and has recent photos from August 6 2001 showing the units as they pass through their makeshift assembly line.
The timing of our finding this product seemed perfect. We just finished reviewing the Rio Receiver, a unit designed to do pretty much what the SliMP3 does, using either Ethernet or standard phone lines to distribute MP3 tunes through your home or office. The Rio is much larger and more complex that the SliMP3 and sells for about $350 as of this writing, expensive if you wish to deploy several of these units throughout a work environment.
The SliMP3 also is designed to be low on resource needs as this note released today on the company website states:
Took a break from soldering to work on the server software. It now works with any number of player clients talking to a single instance of the server. CPU usage on the server is really low - I left two players running all day at 384Kbps, and the server process used only 6 minutes of CPU time on a PII/400. So it should be possible to service a few dozen players even on the lowliest Linux PC. - 8/15/01
The SliMP3 might prove to be an apt competitor to the Rio, though it may not offer the flexibility. The comany, Slim Devices, has not yet revealed the cost of the SliMP3, but we can probably speculate that it will be considerably less than the Rio Receiver.
The requirements for the SliMP3 are A Unix machine (Linux, FreeBSD, MacOSX, etc.), 10Mbps or 10/100 Ethernet hub or switch and one IP address (NAT or RFC1918 is okay). Technical details for the SliMP3 are below:
- Display: Noritake 40x2 VFD
- CPU: Microchip PIC16F877 microcontroller
- Ethernet controller: Crystal CS8900A 10Mbps embedded Ethernet chip
- DMA controller: proprietary logic, Xilinx XC95144XL
- MP3 decoder: Micronas MAS3507D
- DAC: Crystal CS4334, 16-bit 44Khz
- Buffer RAM: 1Mb (8 seconds at 128Kbps)
- ROM: Rewritable flash program memory, EEPROM configuration memory
- IR: Standard 48Khz IR receiver
- ARP, IP, ICMP, UDP
- Support for subnets/gateways (see documentation section on WANs)
- Open UDP-based streaming and control protocols
- Proprietary, high-speed, embedded IP protocol stack
- Written entirely in assembler, for performance and compactness
- General-purpose architecture offloads most of the application to the server side - new features can be added without making changes to the low-level firmware (protocols, device drivers)
- Integrated boot-loader program includes its own copy of the IP stack and necessary drivers, so that the entire MP3 player application may be reinstalled over the network.
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