Sometime in the past couple of months, our Roku died.  I don’t know why; but it doesn’t power on any more.  Monika’s never liked the thing, because she found it difficult to navigate – we’ve digitized all of our CDs over the years, which means that we have some 6k songs on the server, and it can be challenging to find music when you’re used to flipping through CD covers.

Another new development in our music consumption has been Pandora, and it’s been nothing but a pain trying to stream Pandora over the Roku. So, last weekend, I purchased a new media streaming device; the one I chose was the Logitech Squeezebox Duet. We’ve had it for almost a week now, and it’s been great – this one is definitely a “buy.”

In particular, there are three things about it we like:

  • The remote is awesome.  It is large enough to show cover art, and scroll-lists (it might remind one of the iPod interface).  It controls the server via wifi, so you don’t need line-of-sight to control the box.  The battery is respectable, considering the remote is running a full-fledged Linux install.
  • Pandora.  Plus everything else you could want to stream.  There are applets for a bunch of  services, such as, BBC, and Napster, as well as non-music stuff such as Flickr and Facebook.  It’s all easy to install, too.
  • Squeezebox Server.  First, it runs on Linux.  Yay, Logitech!  And it’s a nice piece of software, to boot: the UI is handsome and easy to navigate, it is trivial to set up, and it understands Ogg and Flac, and transcodes automatically if it needs to.  Monika particularly likes setting up play lists on it, and controlling the music if she happens to be working on her computer.

Beyond these features, which are alone worth the cost of the system, I liked the fact that set-up was dead-simple.  I’ve been struggling with mt-daapd (Firefly) for the past couple of years, and it’s been challenging at times to keep transcoding configured and working.  I’ve spent waaaay too much time in the mt-daapd.conf file.  Squeezebox Server is in the Ubuntu repositories, so it wasn’t even a manual download, and configuration is all through the web interface.  Again, I’ve been thrilled with the server.

I also got a thrill when I discovered that you could ssh into the remote.  I spent some time on the weekend unsuccessfully enabling the IR emitter on the handset; there’s an app, but configuration is a pain and I never did get it to work.  However, being able to ssh into the handset and look at the log files was interesting, and merits more exploration.

I’m excited about the extensibility, too.  Theoretically, you can simul-stream to multiple devices in the house, and that’s something else I’d like to look into; it’d be nice to have around the holidays.

There are always a couple of things that could be improved.  First, I’d like to get the IR working so that I can use the remote to turn on the amp.  There are solutions, but they’re all pretty hacky, and the four hours I spent on the weekend trying to get SqueezeIR working is my limit these days for messing with something like this.  Second, the remote takes a long time to wake up.  I’m used to my Mac, which wakes up from sleep mode before I can fully open the lid; the Duet remote sits and spins for a dozen seconds or so before it presents it’s UI.  I blame Linux for that, though; I’ve yet to see a Linux box wake up from a sleep with anything resembling agility.  Even Windows beats Linux there, and that’s just sad.

So, if you’re in the market for a streaming media receiver, I highly recommend the Logitech Squeezebox Duet.  If all you’re looking for is to stream Pandora, there are much cheaper alternatives; however, if you have a digital library that you want access to, as well as access to online streaming internet radio, the Duet is a low-pain solution.