Random Musings

Month: February 2009

Running SqueezeCenter on a Viglen MPC-L

After I had removed Xubuntu from my tiny Viglen MPC-L and installed Windows XP onto it I started to think about what I could use it for.

It’s already running the CurrentCost software to monitor electricity usage in my house and my next plan was to install SqueezeCenter and AlienBBC on it to see how it coped with feeding my Squeezebox Boom.

I wasn’t expecting it to work very well, as the MPC-L isn’t all that powerful, but to my surprise it is running perfectly well and is playing regional BBC radio stations via AlienBBC with no issues.

Accessing the SqueezeCenter web interface directly on the MPC-L is painfully and in reality unusable slow. However accessing it on a more powerful machine (my Samsung NC10 netbook in this case) over my WLAN is much better and perfectly usable.

I’ve only got two MP3’s installed on the MPC-L at the moment but they both play fine. I’m not sure how it will cope with my large music collection – especially if I run it from an external USB hard drive. That’s my next test…

UPDATE: Ok so I copied my entire music collection (about 40Gb worth of mp3’s) to the Viglen and got SqueezeCenter to do a rescan. And it’s still working great. So good in fact that I have uninstalled SqueezeCenter from my main PC and am just using the Viglen now to run my Squeezebox Boom.

Installing Windows XP on a Viglen MPC-L

I bought a teeny tiny Viglen MPC-L PC after a friend told me about them. I’m going to use it for the same reason he does – to connect my CurrentCost to so I can collect electricity usage data (I’m currently using an old Dell laptop which isn’t ideal).

Teeny tiny Viglen PC

Teeny tiny Viglen PC

The little Viglens are normally £99, but can be currently bought for £77 including VAT and Delivery – details are available by listening to the Ubuntu UK Podcast. Mine was delivered today as promised by Viglen but sadly didn’t come in a box that is far too big for it like most people’s have. Also in the box was a Microsoft mouse, a really cheap and nasty Viglen-branded keyboard, and something of a nice unexpected surprise – a 2Gb memory stick! There are plenty of other blogs detailing the size of the box and also the specs of these things, but basically they are a silent fanless very low-power (10W) PC with a 400MHz AMD Geode CPU, an 80Gb hard drive and 512Mb of memory.

They come with some sort of Ubuntu installed on them by default, but I wanted to run Windows XP on mine as I’m not quite nerdy enough to use Linux.

Installing Windows XP on one of these poses some interesting challenges, as the device obviously has no optical drive to stick a CD into. They can be booted from a USB stick though (providing you use one of the two USB1.0 ports on the rear rather than one of the four USB2.0 ports on the front)

After some very brief googling, I found this excellent guide to installing XP from a USB stick. I used a 256Mb memory stick to create the boot drive, and copied the i386 folder from the XP installation CD to a USB hard drive I had laying around.

The installation was much easier than I was expecting. The steps I performed are as follows:

  1. Follow these instructions for creating a BartPE bootable memory stick using a separate PC
  2. Connect an external USB hard drive to the other PC and copy the i386 folder from the XP installation CD onto it
  3. Plug the keyboard and bootable memory stick into the USB1.0 ports on the rear of the Viglen
  4. Power up the Viglen and press F1 to enter the BIOS
  5. Change the boot order so that the USB memory stick is first in the list
  6. Power the Viglen down, plug the external USB hard drive into one of the USB2.0 ports on the front of the unit and power it all back up again
  7. The Viglen should boot into BartPE from the memory stick
  8. Follow the rest of the instructions to kick off the XP installation

And that’s it. Pretty simple.

Performance-wise, this thing isn’t going to win any awards when running XP, but it’s more than usable. I’ve got it connected to my 37″ LCD telly running at a resolution of 1600×1200 quite happily

Next steps are to get the CurrentCost connected to it and see how it performs with that…

Watch catch-up TV on your MediaCenter

A friend pointed me in the direction of TunerFree MCE which is a great Vista MediaCenter plug-in that allows you to watch streaming watch-again TV shows from all the BBC iPlayer channels as well as all the ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 watch again stations. It also shows live streaming of BBC and ITV channels if you don’t have a TV card in your MediaPC.

TunerFree MCE

It only works if you are running a Vista (there is no XP version sadly), and you need to have Microsoft Net Framework 3.5 installed. Oh, and it only works if you are in the UK

It’s fairly seamlessly integrates with MediaCenter and the menu appears next to the other TV viewing options.

I had a bit of trouble getting the BBC and Channel 4 channels working so asked the developer and he replied straight away saying I probably didn’t have the latest version of Flash installed under Internet Explorer. This turned out to be the case – I normally use Firefox where iPlayer was working fine, but when I tried to use it in IE it advised me to upgrade Flash. Once done, the application worked great.

The quality of the images on my 37″ LCD telly are pretty good for streamed content, although it’s obviously not as sharp as broadcast telly.

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