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Squeezebox Features, Continued

Connections can be made via either the copper RJ45 or over the wireless 802.11b (802.11g compatible) radio, using 64 & 128 bit WEP encryption (or none at all).

The analog stereo makes use of a 20-bit Digital to Analog converter, supporting 8, 16, 32, 44.1, and 48kHz sample rates, and has a respectable 94dB signal to noise ratio. Purists will appreciate the inclusion of the Optical and gold-plated coax S/PDIF outputs.

A very wide selection of audio file formats is supported, including MP3 (all bit rates including VBR), MP2, uncompressed WAV and AIFF, plus automatic conversion from Ogg Vorbis (i.e., Linux's answer to having to license MP3), AAC (Apple's audio format) and FLAC in software (FLAC is the Free Lossless Audio Codec, similar to MP3, but lossless).

The serious support for a range of audio codecs means you can use new methods, such as Apple's Lossless Encoding, which allows you to reduce the size of CD audio tracks by about 60 to 70 percent without any corresponding loss in sound quality. If you swear by your reference recordings, using lossless means you should hear absolutely no difference in the sound of the CD versus the sound of Apple Lossless Encoding. A 2MB EEPROM allows for network upgradeable firmware to keep up with as yet evolving and unreleased encoding standards.

Inside the Squeezebox

Figure 6: Inside the Squeezebox

9/24/04 Update Powering these high-bit-rate codecs is a tiny PIC16F877 microcontroller CPU and a Micronas MAS3507D MP3 decoder. Slim Devices has paired these with a large buffer (2 MB RAM), which provides 16 seconds of buffering for music streaming at 128 kbs.

The Squeezebox supports a number of open-standards protocols: DHCP, UDP, ARP, ICMP, TCP, HTTP and Slim Device's own SlimProto, which is well documented on their website so you can write your own extension / plug-ins.

As you might infer by the above list of open-standards support and support for Ogg and FLAC, Slim Devices thought long and hard about the world beyond Windows. Besides officially supporting Windows 95 / 98 / NT / 2000 / Me / XP, Linux, and Mac OS X, Slim Devices also has been unofficially tested with BeOS, FreeBSD, Linux (X86, PPC, and MIPS), NetBSD (X86), OpenBSD, and Solaris (X86, Sparc).

So if you aren't into enriching Bill Gates' monopoly, it's fairly safe to say that just about any modern OS will be compatible with Squeezebox. Users of Red Hat Linux (or other compatible distributions) can install the RPM available for download on Slim Devices' website. Other Unix platforms can download the SlimServer software perl scripts available as gzipped tar format or zip file format. Instructions for starting the perl server are included with the scripts.

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