Jump to content

Crazy idea for a front end


Recommended Posts

So what I'm looking to do is make my own version of a Logitech transporter. Here's my idea so far. All in one case, most likely an HTPC case of some sort or possibly something from frontpanelexpress.com, I'll put a motherboard with a SSD for the OS, an ESI Juli@ soundcard where I'll tap the I2S digital output into a buffalo sabre dac, and wifi to pull the media from a NAS.


My questions are mostly related to Operating system. I'd like the PC to be headless and controlled from an iphone. My thought was to build a "hackintosh" with snow leopard but I'm not sure if that will work with the Juli@ soundcard.


The other options are windows and linux but I'm not sure I can wake/sleep and control itunes with an iphone in windows or linux.


All suggestions are welcome including telling me I'm crazy for considering this.


Link to comment

Linux & MPD is what you would want for this concept. Check out this site:


Also search for nyc_paramedic, as he posted information across several forums.







Control using your ipod touch/iphone:



You can also control from a number of other desktop and browser based clients. There is a firefox plugin client that's pretty good.


Not sure if you meant waking/sleeping on the Ipod or on Linux. There is no problem on the ipod as it's solely a remote control. Close the app, shut/reboot down the ipod, and the tunes will keep playing until you go into the app and stop them. On the other hand, waking/sleep is a bit difficult with Linux, but if you go for the ultra-low power boards it's not a big deal to leave it on all the time.


The first website above suggests using Voyage Linux, which is a great embedded version of Linux, but a bit scary for someone who's not used to working Linux or command lines. I've been working on a livecd/instructable to make this dead simple to set up using Puppy Linux. LiveCD is basically done, but need to wrap up the instructable.... I'm also using the Juli@ myself, btw.




mpdPup maintainer

Link to comment



Thanks! That sounds exactly like what I'm trying to do. Yes I was asking about the ability to sleep/wake the pc with the iphone but if I use a low power setup I can leave it on all the time as you suggest.


Can you suggest a micro atx/itxm mini itx or nano itx motherboard power supply combo that would work well with the Juli@ and is fanless? Also any suggestions on a case?




Link to comment

If I was going to buy a board right now it would probably be one of these two:

Intel D945GSEJT: http://www.silentpcreview.com/article987-page1.html

AMD based Alix1d: http://www.pcengines.ch/alix1d.htm


I'm using a bit higher end core2duo laptop processor that's underclocked in my system, but it runs a bit warmer fanless than I'd like, though still in the safe zone. Intel hadn't figured out the Atom CPU's motherboard chipset when I bought my current mobo, so the Atom processor/northbridge combo wasn't quite as energy efficient as underclocking a core2duo. That's changed now with the new 945GSE Express Chipset. I've been considering switching over to this one so I feel better about leaving it running all the time. I don't remember why I didn't consider the Alix1d, but it may not have been out at that time.


You need a case that supports full height PCI for the Juli@. That and the combination of mini-itx boards above limits your options. I went with the Silverstone ML02 for my case:


There are other options out there if you look around.







mpdPup maintainer

Link to comment

Thanks for the atom suggestion I was wonder how well they can handle hi-rez files. That looks like it will suit my needs.


Regarding the case I'm leaning more towards a case from frontpanelexpress but cost will probably determine what I end up with. For the Juli@ I won't be using the entire card just the "digital" lower part. I'll be taking the I2S signal from the 20 and 10 pinouts and running it directly into the DIY Buffalo dac. So the height issue wont be as big of a concern.


I need to do some planning and lay out the motherboard, PCB's and power supply components to see how big of a chassis I'll really need.


Link to comment

I'm sure it won't have any problem playing hi-res. The core2duo doesn't running at 700Mhz. If you decided to do on-the-fly sample rate conversion then it might be a different story, not sure how expensive those algorithms are. It's a bit of a pain to set that up with MPD (requires some other linux modules), so I haven't explored it yet.


The Juli@ was designed to have the analog section plugged in, it doesn't ship with a half height bracket, and I don't see any way to mount one. That said, the digital section is tiny, so you could certainly jerry-rig something easy enough, especially since you're modding it for i2s. If you're going to that trouble you might think about using some sort of pci cable extension and mounting and shielding the digital section for RF.



mpdPup maintainer

Link to comment

I could do something like that with the a pci cable. I don't need to have external access to the Juli@ so I probably won't be using the pci bracket. If I put the DAC in the same chassis I'll wire the digital out from the Juli@ direct to the I2S input on the DAC and if I house them seperately I'll use RJ-45 jacks to connect the digital out to the I2S input on the DAC.


It might be better from a shielding and power supply standpoint to house them seperately. I could have 2 indentically sized chassis. 1 for the "transport" with the mobo, juli@ and power supply, and one for the dac. Connect the 2 of them with an RJ-45 cable and I'm good to go.


Link to comment

I love DIY projects!


The front panel express is fine, but will prove to be very expensive. PC cases are cheap and finding one that will hold the mulitple drives keeps you away from a nas and save money. Most cases say they will hold one or two drives and you can really fit more. You just have to look at them really good.


I would hardwire the network if you can and stay off wireless.


EFXi-x is pretty cool, but your limited on what you can use to make it work. That means additional cost for sure. Mini itx is also limited and costs more on average. Its better to stick with micro-atx.


The mother board kits discussed above are not that great for what you want. Small and cute yes, but not enough ram on one and could use even more ram on the other. If you had one you could use to experiment with, but I would not buy one from the get go.


Now to keep the i2s police off your back avoid using that signal over any kind of length. In stead consider extending usb from the main board connector to a twisted pair audio usb to i2s receiver. Then immediately feed the i2s signal into the dac in as short a distance as possible. This way you don't need to hack up a good @julie card for no reason:)


have fun!


Jesus R



Link to comment

That's the beauty of the Juli@. it's designed in 2 pieces, the digital and the analog. The top portion, the analog part, has RCA on one end and balanced 1/4" on the other. You can rotate it to fit your needs. For my application I won't use the top analog portion of the card at all. I just take the I2S stream from the pinouts of the digital portion of the card. The card is not hacked up or damaged at all and the process is competely reversable. See this sites for more info.






I like the idea of using the Voyager Linux OS and the MPD. With that setup I don't think I'll need much RAM and assuming the CPU is up to the task of handling hi-rez files it should work fine.


I'm going to see if I can toy around with Voyager and MPD in VMware Fusion and see if I can manage setting it up. I like the idea of having the entire OS boot from a compact flash card.


I also like the ALIX boards without the VGA, ps/2 etc. I wonder if I can get the Juli@ to play nice with the mini-pci port and still have wifi via USB.


Link to comment

actually that is pretty simple! Can you fix the top link? Its not working. Do what you want, but I would not under estimate having more ram for better sound quality. I guess you will have to try it out and let us know. Do you have to make the bridge from mini-pci to pci express or does someone sell an adapter. Post a link if you found the adapter.


Jesus R



Link to comment

Just catching back up with this thread.


I didn't notice that the Alix boards all had 256 megs soldered on with no SODIMM. That would probably limit some applications like on the fly sample rate conversion (the CPU may limit that anyway), but for running MPD stock there shouldn't be a problem. The linux distribution itself only takes 8 or so megs of RAM (not sure about Voyage, but that's what mine is using). After that, even if you chose to enable the full RAM buffering option you should be ok. Note I'm not certain that MPD's full RAM buffering option works correctly, so I've disabled it in my system anyway. This memory limitation may have been why I didn't go with that system originally though, when I bought my board I wasn't sure if my final target OS would be Linux or Windows.


The intel board has a SODIMM slot, so I don't see any problems in RAM choice there...


The problem with sticking disks inside the unit is they compete for power, and I assume those spinning platters have got to be creating some kind of field that may not be desirable. I haven't heard anyone claim that things sounded better by keeping a traditional magnetic hard disk inside. Solid state might be a different story, but cost is prohibitive and size is too small. The other problem with internal hard disks for music storage is that they need to be read-write, which subjects you to Linux's poor ability to survive unplanned restarts. One really nice thing about Voyage is it defaults to a read only mode, so you never need to worry about file system errors or kernel panics.


I would be curious to hear anyones thoughts on wireless vs. wired though, provided they've actually done some A/B testing with their system. I think MPD's buffering system eliminates a lot of these sorts of concerns, but my current system is a pair of headphones which aren't quite resolving enough for me to hear any differences.


I've also looked around for mini-pci to PCI, but haven't seen anything out there to do that.


For shielding I think it would be best to get both the Juli@ and the DAC as far away from the other motherboard components (and power supply!) as makes sense. That would also give you the short i2s run if they were kept next to one another.




mpdPup maintainer

Link to comment

my vote is still to drop the juli@ card and use the usb receiver from twisted pair audio. This will keep all the good stuff away from the pc. Also, how about an ide flash drive or ide flash module for your os. They are chaep, snap right on the mother board, have no moving parts and are low power. Look on ebay!


Jesus R




Link to comment

I missed this thread while it was fresh. I think the above comments are probably the way to go, but just in case you still considered Windows, it can be controlled reasonably well from an Iphone/Touch. I run a headless XP music server, use an app called RemoteBoot to wake, use the VNC app to see my "screen" and control it (adjusting video resolution makes this easier/harder based on your choice), and use iMonkey to control MediaMonkey as my player. Obviously Remote and ITunes are functional, sound & bit perfect issues aside. Any program I want is set to start up at boot.

From time to time it doesn't cooperate and you'll want to VNC in with a full computer, but for the most part it works. From the previous suggestions I'd guess this isn't the best route, but viable nonetheless.


Link to comment
  • 2 weeks later...

I started a post called "Alix Project" that was inspired by some old tests I conducted and a recent post by Chris. You can find the post via this link:




I'll will be starting some research on it and posting in a few days. Can you join us as I plan on using a vortexbox as the server via its analog ouputs?





Link to comment

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

  • Create New...