Since I am frequently using the xenim streaming network service but I was missing out on the functionality to replay recent shows. With the wonderful functionality of Re-Live made available through ReliveBot I have now added this replay feature and I am using it a lot since.
Within the SONOS controller app it looks like this:
I was on a business trip the other day and the office space of that company was very very nice. So nice that they had all sorts of automation going on to help the people.
For example when you would run into a room where there’s no light the system would light up the room for you when it senses your presence. Very nice!
There was some lag between me entering the room, being detected and the light powering up. So while running into a dark room, knowing I would be detected and soon there would be light, I shouted “Computer! Light!” while running in.
That StarTrek reference brought an old idea back that it would be so nice to be able to control things through omnipresent speech recognition.
I am aware that there’s Siri, Cortana, Google Now. But those things are creepy because they involve external companies. If there are things listening to me all day every day, I want them to be within the premise of the house. I want to know exactly down to the data flow what is going on and sent where. I do not want to have this stuff leave the house at any times. Apart from that those services are working okayish but well…
Let alone the hardware. Usually the existing assistants are carried around in smart phones and such. Very nice if you want to touch things prior to talking to them. I don’t want to. And no, “Hey Siri!” or “OK Google” is not really what I mean. Those things are not sophisticated enough yet. I was using “Hey Siri!” for less than 24 hours. Because in the first night it seemed to have picked up something going on while I was sleeping which made it go full volume “How can I help!” on me. Yes, there’s no “don’t listen when I am sleeping” thing. Oh it does not know when I am sleeping. Well, you see: Why not?
Anyway. What I wish there was:
cheap hardware – a microphone(-array) possibly to put into every room. It either needs to have WiFi or LAN. Something that connects it to the network. A device that is carried around is not enough.
open source speech recognition – everything that is collected by the microphone is processed through an open source speech recognition tool. Full text dictation is a bonus, more importantly heavy-duty command recognition and simple interactions.
open source text to speech – to answer back, if wanted
And all that should be working on a basic level without internet access. Just like that.
The next time you stumble across a PDF file with security and not allowing you to print or copy/paste.
“QPDF is a command-line program that does structural, content-preserving transformations on PDF files. It could have been called something like pdf-to-pdf. It also provides many useful capabilities to developers of PDF-producing software or for people who just want to look at the innards of a PDF file to learn more about how they work.
QPDF is capable of creating linearized (also known as web-optimized) files and encrypted files. It is also capable of converting PDF files with object streams (also known as compressed objects) to files with no compressed objects or to generate object streams from files that don’t have them (or even those that already do). QPDF also supports a special mode designed to allow you to edit the content of PDF files in a text editor. For more details, please see the documentation links below.
QPDF includes support for merging and splitting PDFs through the ability to copy objects from one PDF file into another and to manipulate the list of pages in a PDF file. The QPDF library also makes it possible for you to create PDF files from scratch. In this mode, you are responsible for supplying all the contents of the file, while the QPDF library takes care off all the syntactical representation of the objects, creation of cross references tables and, if you use them, object streams, encryption, linearization, and other syntactic details.
QPDF is not a PDF content creation library, a PDF viewer, or a program capable of converting PDF into other formats. In particular, QPDF knows nothing about the semantics of PDF content streams. If you are looking for something that can do that, you should look elsewhere. However, once you have a valid PDF file, QPDF can be used to transform that file in ways perhaps your original PDF creation can’t handle. For example, programs generate simple PDF files but can’t password-protect them, web-optimize them, or perform other transformations of that type.”
I am a frequent podcast live-stream listener. And being that I am enjoying the awesome service called xenim streaming network.
Any Podcast producer can join the xsn and with that can live-stream his own Podcast while recording. It’s CDN is based on voluntarily provided resources and pretty rock-solid as far as my experience with it goes.
Since I am a frequent user of this – and I’ve got that gorgeous SONOS hardware scattered around my house – I thought I need to have that service integrated into my SONOS set.
The SONOS system knows the concept of “Music Services”. There are quite a lot of them but xsn is missing. But SONOS is awesome and they got an API!
Unfortunately the API documentation is hidden behind a NDA wall so that would be a no-go. What’s not hidden is what the SONOS controllers have to discuss with all the existing services. Most of the time these do not use HTTPS so we’re free to listen to the chatters. I did just that and was able, for the sake of interoperability, to reverse engineer the SONOS SMAPI as far as it is necessary to make my little xsn Music Service work.
Step 1:Start your SONOS Controller Application and find out the IP address of your SONOS.
Click on “About My Sonos System” and check the IP address written next to the “Associated ZP”.
Step 2: Add the xsn Music Service.
By opening a browser window and browsing to: http://<your-associated-zp-ip>:1400/customsd.htm
When you’re there – fill out the fields as below. The SID is either 255, or if you used that previously, something between 240-253. The service name is “xenim streaming network”. The Endpoint URL and Secure Endpoint URL both are http://xsn.schrankmonster.de/xsn
Set the Polling interval to 30 seconds. Click on the Anonymous Authentication SOAP header policy and you’re good to go. Click on “send” to finish.
Step 3: Add the new Music Service to your SONOS Controller.
Click on “Add Music Services” and click through until you see “xenim streaming network”. Add the service and you’re set!
p.s.: It’s normal that the service icon is a question mark.
After setting up Boblight on two TVs in the house – one with 50 and one with 100 LEDs – I’ve used it for the last 5 months on a daily basis almost.
First of all now every screen that does not come with “added color-context” on the wall seems off. It feels like something is missing. Second of all it has made watching movies in a dark room much more enjoyable.
The only concerning factor of the past months was that the RaspberryPi does not come with a lot of computational horse-power and thus it has been operating at it’s limits all the time. With 95-99% CPU usage there’s not a lot of headroom for unexpected bitrate spikes and what-have-you.
So from time to time the Pis where struggling. With 10% CPU usage for the 50 LEDs and 19% CPU usage for the 100 LEDs set-up there was just not enough CPU power for some movies or TV streams in Full-HD.
So since even overclocking only slightly improved the problem of Boblight using up the precious CPU cycles for a fancy light-show I started looking around for alternatives.
“Hyperion is an opensource ‘AmbiLight’ implementation controlled using the RaspBerry Pi running Raspbmc. The main features of Hyperion are:
Low CPU load. For a led string of 50 leds the CPU usage will typically be below 1.5% on a non-overclocked Pi.
Json interface which allows easy integration into scripts.
A command line utility allows easy testing and configuration of the color transforms (Transformation settings are not preserved over a restart at the moment…).
Priority channels are not coupled to a specific led data provider which means that a provider can post led data and leave without the need to maintain a connection to Hyperion. This is ideal for a remote application (like our Android app).
HyperCon. A tool which helps generate a Hyperion configuration file.
XBMC-checker which checks the playing status of XBMC and decides whether or not to capture the screen.
Black border detector.
A scriptable effect engine.
Generic software architecture to support new devices and new algorithms easily.
Especially the Low CPU load did raise interest in my side.
Setting Hyperion up is easy if you just follow the very straight-forward Installation Guide. On Raspbmc the set-up took me 2 minutes at most.
If you got everything set-up on the Pi you need to generate a configuration file. It’s a nice JSON formatted config file that you do not need to create on your own – Hyperion has a nice configuration tool. Hypercon:
So after 2 more minutes the whole thing was set-up and running. Another 15 minutes of tweaking here and there and Hyperion replaced Boblight entirely.
What have I found so far?
Hyperions network interfaces are much more controllable than those from Boblight. You can use remote clients like on iPhone / Android to set colors and/or patterns.
It’s got effects for screen-saving / mood-lighting!
It really just uses a lot less CPU resources. Instead of 19% CPU usage for 100 LEDs it’s down to 3-4%. That’s what I call a major improvement
The processing filters that you can add really add value. Smoothing everything so that you do not get bright flashed when content flashes on-screen is easy to do and really helps with the experience.
All in all Hyperion is a recommended replacement for boblight. I would not want to switch back.
Airplay allows you to conveniently play music and videos over the air from your iOS or Mac OS X devices on remote speakers.
Since we just recently “migrated” almost all audio equipment in the house to SONOS multi-room audio we were missing a bit the convenience of just pushing a button on the iPad or iPhones to stream audio from those devices inside the household.
To retrofit the Airplay functionality there are two options I know of:
1: Get Airplay compatible hardware and connect it to a SONOS Input.
You have to get Airplay hardware (like the Airport Express/Extreme,…) and attach it physically to one of the inputs of your SONOS Set-Up. Typically you will need a SONOS Play:5 which has an analog input jack.
2: Set-Up a RaspberryPi with NodeJS + AirSonos as a software-only solution
You will need a stock RaspberryPi online in your home network. Of course this can run on virtually any other device or hardware that can run NodeJS. For the Pi setting it up is a fairly straight-forward process:
You start with a vanilla Raspbian Image. Update everything with:
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get upgrade
Then install NodeJS according to this short tutorial. To set-up the AirSonos software you will need to install additional avahi software. Especially this was needed for my install:
“The internet of things” is a buzzword used more and more. It means that things around you are connected to the (inter)network and therefore can talk to each other and, when combined, offer fantastic new opportunities.
So NodeRed is a NodeJS based toolset that allows you to create so called “flows” (see picture above). Those flows determine what reacts and happens when things happen. Fantastic, told you!
Since the SONOS system I’ve bought turned out to be highly hackable I’ve spent some quality-time this weekend fixing the worst downside I’ve found so far that the SONOS system had for me
I am listening to a lot of Podcasts and Audiobooks. And it turns out that those two Genre are not particularly good supported by SONOS. When you’re listening to a 4 hour podcast and you stop it to play a song in between (since you stretch the listening of that podcast to several days) the next time you start that 4 hour podcast the SONOS system did not remember the position that you stopped at the last time and restarts the podcast from the beginning.
If you did not remember where you left of the last time, you’re lost. The same goes for Audiobooks.
Now this is the first feature I am teaching my SONOS system. And I am opensourcing it so you can do it as well.
Now the Auto Bookmarker Tool will, with the help of the sonos-http-api, monitor your household and whenever something longer than 10 minutes is played and stopped it bookmarks the last played position. Whenever you restart that track it will then seek to the last known position automatically.
Some might know AmbiLight – a great invention by Philips that projects colored light around a TV screen based upon the contents shown. It’s a great addition to a TV but naturally only available with Philips TV sets.
Not anymore. There are several open-source projects that allow you to build your very own AmbiLight clone. I’ve built one using a 50-LEDs WS2801 stripe, a 5V/10A power supply, a RaspberryPi, and the BobLight integration in RaspBMC (this is a nice XBMC distribution for the Pi).
“Boblight is a collection of tools for driving lights connected to an external controller.
Its main purpose is to create light effects from an external input, such as a video stream (desktop capture, video player, tv card), an audio stream (jack, alsa), or user input (lirc, http). Boblight uses a client/server model, where clients are responsible for translating an external input to light data, and boblightd is responsible for translating the light data into commands for external light controllers.”
The hardware to start with looks like this:
I’ve fitted some heat-sinks to the Pi since the additional load of controlling 50 LEDs will add a little bit of additional CPU usage which is desperately needed when playing Full HD High-Bitrate content.
The puzzle pieces need to be put together as described by the very good AdaFruit diagram:
As you can see the Pi is powered directly through the GPIO pins. You’re not going to use the MicroUSB or the USB ports to power the Pi. It’s important that you keep the cables between the Pi and the LEDs as short as possible. When I added longer / unshielded cables everything went flickering. You do not want that – so short cables it is :-)
When you look at aboves picture closely you will find a CO and DO on the PCB of the LED. on the other side of the PCB there’s a CI and DI. Guess what: That means Clock IN and Clock OUT and Data IN and Data OUT. Don’t be mistaken by the adapter cables the LED stripes comes with. My Output socket looked damn close to something I thought was an Input socket. If nothing seems to work on the first trials – you’re holding it wrong! Don’t let the adapters fitted by the manufacturer mislead you.
Depending on the manufacturer of your particular LED stripe there are layouts different from the above image possible. Since RaspBMC is bundled with Boblight already you want to use something that is compatible with Boblight. Something that allows Boblight to control each LED in color and brightness separately.
I opted for WS2801 equipped LEDs. This pretty much means that each LED sits on it’s own WS2801 chip and that chip takes commands for color and brightness. There are other options as well – I hear that LDP8806 chips also work with Boblight.
My power supply got a little big to beefy – 10 Amps is plenty. I originally planned to have 100 LEDs on that single TV. Each LED at full white brightness would consume 60mA – which brings us to 6Amps for a 100 – add to that the 2 Amps for the PI and you’re at 8A. So 10A was the choice.
To connect to the Pi GPIO Pins I used simple jumper wires. After a little bit of boblightd compilation on a vanilla Raspbian SD card (how-to here). Please note that with current RaspBMC versions you do not need to compile Boblight yourself – I’ve just taken for debugging purposes as clean Raspbian Image and compiled it myself to do some boblight-constant tests. Boblight-constant is a tool that comes with Boblight which allows you to set all LEDs to one color.
If everything is right, it should look like this:
Now everything depends on how your LED stripes look like and how your TVs backside looks like. I wanted to fit my setup to a 42″ Samsung TV. This one already is fitted with a Ultra-Slim Wall mount which makes it pretty much sitting flat on the wall like a picture. I wanted the LEDs to sit right on the TVs back and I figured that cable channels when cut would do the job pretty nicely.
To get RaspBMC working with your setup the only things you need to do are:
Enable Boblight support in the Applications / RaspBMC tool
Login to your RaspBMC Pi through SSH with the user pi password raspberry and copy your boblight.conf file to /etc/boblight.conf.
The configuration file can be obtained from the various tutorials that deal with the boblight configuration. You can choose the hard way to create a configuration or a rather easy one by using the boblight configuration tool.
I’ve used the tool :-)
Now if everything went right you don’t have flickering, the TV is on the wall and you can watch movies and what-not with beautiful light effects around your TV screen. If you need to test your set-up to tweak it a bit more, go with this or this.
Having fun with hardware is a good way to learn about the machines which soon will become our new overlords. With this pretty interesting presentation you can dive deep into what a CPU does and how it can be exploited to run code by not running it.
“Trust Analysis, i.e. determining that a system will not execute some class of computations, typically assumes that all computation is captured by an instruction trace. We show that powerful computation on x86 processors is possible without executing any CPU instructions. We demonstrate a Turing-complete execution environment driven solely by the IA32 architecture’s interrupt handling and memory translation tables, in which the processor is trapped in a series of page faults and double faults, without ever successfully dispatching any instructions. The “hard-wired” logic of handling these faults is used to perform arithmetic and logic primitives, as well as memory reads and writes. This mechanism can also perform branches and loops if the memory is set up and mapped just right. We discuss the lessons of this execution model for future trustworthy architectures.”
SDR – or Software Defined Radio is relatively cheap and fun way to dive deeper into radio communication.
“Software-defined radio (SDR) is a radio communication system where components that have been typically implemented in hardware (e.g. mixers, filters, amplifiers, modulators/demodulators, detectors, etc.) are instead implemented by means of software on a personal computer or embedded system. While the concept of SDR is not new, the rapidly evolving capabilities of digital electronics render practical many processes which used to be only theoretically possible.” (Wikipedia)
So with cheap hardware it’s possible to receive radio transmissions on all sorts of frequencies and modulations. Since everything after the actual “receiving stuff”-phase happens in software the things you can do are sort of limitless.
Now what about the relatively cheap factor? – The hardware you’re going to need to start with this is a DVB-T USB stick widely available for about 25 Euro. The important feature you’re going to look for is that it comes with a Realtek RTL2832U chip.
“The RTL2832U is a high-performance DVB-T COFDM demodulator that supports a USB 2.0 interface. The RTL2832U complies with NorDig Unified 1.0.3, D-Book 5.0, and EN300 744 (ETSI Specification). It supports 2K or 8K mode with 6, 7, and 8MHz bandwidth. Modulation parameters, e.g., code rate, and guard interval, are automatically detected.
The RTL2832U supports tuners at IF (Intermediate Frequency, 36.125MHz), low-IF (4.57MHz), or Zero-IF output using a 28.8MHz crystal, and includes FM/DAB/DAB+ Radio Support. Embedded with an advanced ADC (Analog-to-Digital Converter), the RTL2832U features high stability in portable reception.” (RealTek)
You’ll find this chip in all sorts of cheap DVB-T USB sticks like this one:
To use the hardware directly you can use open source software which comes pre-packaged with several important/widely used demodulator moduls like AM/FM. Gqrx SDR is available for all sorts of operating systems and comes with a nice user interface to control your SDR hardware.
The neat idea about SDR is that you, depending on the capabilities of your SDR hardware, are not only tuned into one specific frequency but a whole spectrum several Mhz wide. With my device I get roughly a full 2 Mhz wide spectrum out of the device allowing me to see several FM stations on one spectrum diagram and tune into them individually using the demodulators:
The above screenshot shows the OS X version of Gqrx tuned into an FM station. You can clearly see the 3 stations that I can receive in that Mhz range. One very strong signal, one very weak and one sort of in the middle. By just clicking there the SDR tool decodes this portion of the data stream / spectrum and you can listen to a FM radio station.
Of course – since those DVB-T sticks come with a wide spectrum useable – mine comes with an Elonics E4000 tuner which allows me to receive – more or less useable – 53 Mhz to 2188 Mhz (with a gap from 1095 to 1248 Mhz).
Whatever your hardware can do can be tested by using the rtl_test tool:
root@berry:~# rtl_test -t
Found 1 device(s):
0: Terratec T Stick PLUS
Using device 0: Terratec T Stick PLUS
Found Elonics E4000 tuner
Supported gain values (14): -1.0 1.5 4.0 6.5 9.0 11.5 14.0 16.5 19.0 21.5 24.0 29.0 34.0 42.0
Benchmarking E4000 PLL…
[E4K] PLL not locked for 52000000 Hz!
[E4K] PLL not locked for 2189000000 Hz!
[E4K] PLL not locked for 1095000000 Hz!
[E4K] PLL not locked for 1248000000 Hz!
E4K range: 53 to 2188 MHz
E4K L-band gap: 1095 to 1248 MHz
Interestingly when you plug the USB stick into an Raspberry Pi and you follow some instructions you can use the Raspberry Pi as an SDR server allowing you to place it on the attic while still sitting comfortably at your computer downstairs to have better reception.
If you want to upgrade your experience with more professional hardware – and in fact if you got a sender license – you can take a look at the HackRF project which currently is creating a highly sophisticated SDR hardware+software solution:
If you want to interface with the publicly available instance of the miataru server you can use the URL: http://service.miataru.com. This URL also is pre-configured with the iOS client that got recently available in the AppStore.
I’ve added Alarming to hacs a while ago and I’ve now extended the built-in SMS gateway providers with the german telekom services called “Global SMS API”.
This API is offered through the Telekom own portal called developer garden and is as easy to use as it can possibly be. You only need to set-up the account with developergarden and after less than 5 minutes you can send and receive SMS and do a lot more. They got APIs for nearly everything you possible want to do … fancy some “talk to your house”-action? Would be easy to integrate into h.a.c.s. using their Speech2Text APIs.
They have a short video showing how to set it all up:
So I’ve added the SMS-send capabilities to the hacs internal alarming system with it’s own JSON configuration file looking like this:
And this simple piece of configuration leads to SMS getting sent out as soon as – in this example – a window opens:
Before the Telekom Global SMS API I’ve used a different provider (SMS77) but since the delivery times of this provider varied like crazy (everything from 30 seconds to 5 minutes) and the provider had a lot of downtimes my thought was to give the market leader a try.
“Hyper-lapse photography – a technique combining time-lapse and sweeping camera movements typically focused on a point-of-interest – has been a growing trend on video sites. It’s not hard to find stunning examples on Vimeo. Creating them requires precision and many hours stitching together photos taken from carefully mapped locations. We aimed at making the process simpler by using Google Street View as an aid, but quickly discovered that it could be used as the source material. It worked so well, we decided to design a very usable UI around our engine and release Google Street View Hyperlapse.“
It’s becoming a fashion lately to release the source code of older but legendary commercial products to the public. Now Adobe decided to gift the source code of their flagship product Photoshop in it’s first version from 1990 to the Computer History Museum.
“That first version of Photoshop was written primarily in Pascal for the Apple Macintosh, with some machine language for the underlying Motorola 68000 microprocessor where execution efficiency was important. It wasn’t the effort of a huge team. Thomas said, “For version 1, I was the only engineer, and for version 2, we had two engineers.” While Thomas worked on the base application program, John wrote many of the image-processing plug-ins.”
Since my wife started working as a photographer on a daily basis the daily routine of getting all the pictures off the camera after a long day filled with photo shootings got her bored quickly.
Since we got some RaspberryPis to spare I gave it a try and created a small script which when the Pi gets powered on automatically copies all contents of the attached SD card to the houses storage server. Easy as Pi(e) – so to speak.
So this is now an automated process for a couple of weeks – she comes home, get’s all batteries to their chargers, drops the sd cards into the reader and poweres on the Pi. After it copied everything successfully the Pi sends an eMail with a summary report of what has been done. So far so good – everything is on our backuped storage server then.
Now the problem was that she often does not immediately starts working on the pictures. But she wants to take a closer look without the need to sit in front of a big monitor – like taking a look at her iPad in the kitchen while drinking coffee.
So what we need was a tool that does this:
take a folder (the automated import folder) and get all images in there, order them by day
display an overview per day of all pictures taken
allow to see the fullsized picture if necessary
work on any mobile or stationary device in the household – preferably html5 responsive design gallery
it should be fast because commonly over 200 pictures are done per day
it should be opensource because – well opensource is great – and probably we would need to tweak things a bit
It’s pretty fast because it’s not actively resizing the images – instead it’s taking the thumbnail picture from the original jpg file which the camera placed there during storing the picture. It’s got some caching and can be run on any operating system where mono / .net is available – which is probably anything – even the RaspberryPi.