Category Archives: Technology

Amplify your music with MagicPlay and the Raspberry Pi

MagicPlay is an open cross-platform audio streaming standard (think “HTTP for music”) that supports synchronized streaming to multiple speakers (like Sonos). For more details, see this Verge story. In the near future you’ll be able to buy WiFi speakers, TVs and other products that come with MagicPlay support out of the box. If you want to try MagicPlay right now, you can turn an existing device such as the Raspberry Pi into a MagicPlay device and stream music to it using doubleTwist Music Player for Android.

Prerequisites:

If you would like to skip building the source code, you can download a binary package instead.

1. Download the AllJoyn source code (AllJoyn is a P2P framework developed by Qualcomm to power the Internet of Things).
2. Unzip the AllJoyn code: tar -zxvf alljoyn-3.3.0-src.tgz; cd alljoyn-3.3.0-src
3. Clone the following two repositories:

4. Apply this patch: zcat magicplayd.diff.gz | patch -p0
5. Build AllJoyn library: make OS=linux CPU=armhf VARIANT=release
6. Build and install audio service: cd services/audio; make CPU=armhf; sudo make CPU=armhf install

The MagicPlay service (/etc/init.d/magicplayd) has now been installed and will automatically start on boot.

Note that if you want to use a USB sound card with MagicPlay on the Raspberry Pi, you will need to modify services/audio/src/posix/ALSADevice.cc prior to step #7 and replace “plughw:0,0” with “plughw:1,0” and “hw:0” with “hw:1” (since the USB sound card would be sound card #2).

To get beta builds of doubleTwist Music Player for Android, make sure to join the doubleTwist Google Plus community.

The setup pictured below includes a LP-2020A+ Lepai amplifier ($20) and Micca MB42 speakers ($50).

RaspberryPi-MagicPlay

MagicPlay1MagicPlay2

The Men Who Stole the World

A decade ago, four young men changed the way the world works. They did this not with laws or guns or money but with software: they had radical, disruptive ideas, which they turned into code, which they released on the Internet for free. These four men, not one of whom finished college, laid the foundations for much of the digital-media environment we currently inhabit. Then, for all intents and purposes, they vanished.

Full article in TIME

Google’s mismanagement of the Android Market

Earlier this week, CNET ran an article critical of the permission model of the Android Market. Google’s response to the criticism was that “each Android app must get users’ permission to access sensitive information”. While this is technically true, one should not need a PhD in Computer Science to use a smartphone. How is a consumer supposed to know exactly what the permission “act as an account authenticator” means? The CNET opinion piece “Is Google far too much in love with engineering?” is quite relevant here.

Google does far too little curation of the Android Market, and it shows. Unlike Apple’s App Store, the Android Market has few high quality apps. A study by Larva Labs (the developers of the excellent Slidescreen app) estimates that Apple has paid out 50 times more money to developers than Google has. While the Android Market is available in 46 countries, developers can only offer paid apps in 13 countries (for instance, Canada has only had access to paid apps since March 2010). In addition, the price for foreign apps is not displayed in the user’s local currency and developers do not have the option of customizing pricing by country. To make matters worse, you can’t pay for foreign apps using your Amex card or carrier billing. There’s also no support for in-app payments and changelogs (to communicate app changes).

Below are just a few examples of what’s wrong with the Android Market. Those 144 spam ringtone apps (which are clearly infringing copyright) are currently cluttering the top ranks of the Multimedia category. I was not surprised to find that they were being monetized through Google Ads.

Trademark and copyright infringement is widespread in the Android Market:

The music downloading app “Tunee” (one of many such apps) is one of the Top Free apps in the Multimedia category with more than 250k downloads. While some would dishonestly try to pretend that such apps are meant for downloading public domain classical music, the developers of Tunee are very clear about their intent. Their screenshot shows copyrighted music by the band Muse (Warner Music Group) being illegally downloaded.

These apps are damaging to companies that are building legitimate Android music apps (e.g Rdio, Spotify and MOG), not to mention Amazon whose MP3 store comes bundled with most Android phones in the U.S. Is Google’s strategy to turn a blind eye to illegal music downloading until they launch their own music store?

Developers and users are getting fed up and it’s time for Google to clean up the house.

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Steve Jobs admits iTunes for Windows is a sub-standard app

In defending recent changes to the iPhone SDK agreement, Steve Jobs made a general argument about platforms:

We’ve been there before, and intermediate layers between the platform and the developer ultimately produces sub-standard apps and hinders the progress of the platform.

Since iTunes for Windows uses non-native APIs such as CoreFoundation and CoreGraphics, Steve Jobs is effectively calling iTunes for Windows a sub-standard app.

Is iTunes hindering the progress of the Windows platform by not taking advantage of the latest native Windows APIs? By Steve’s logic, Microsoft should start banning apps such as iTunes from Windows.

iTunes for Windows DLLs

Kernel 2.6.32 for your Nexus One

Unlike the locked down and user-hostile iPhone, the Google Nexus One is not SIM-locked (even when bought subsidized) and ships with a bootloader that can be unlocked to enable custom firmware flashing. More importantly, you can use the Nexus One to make calls that last longer than 10 seconds :)

The Nexus One ships with a 2.6.29 kernel but if you like living on the bleeding edge you can install your own kernel (e.g. the experimental 2.6.32 kernel). Below you’ll find an update image I built which includes a 2.6.32 kernel, su, scp and ssh.

Steps to unlock your Nexus One bootloader and install your own firmware:

  • Verify USB debugging is turned on in your Nexus One settings (Applications -> Development).
  • Install the Android SDK and fastboot.
  • Power off your Nexus One. Hold down the trackball and power the device back on.
  • Run ‘fastboot oem unlock’ and then follow the instructions on the device.
  • Download Amon_RA’s custom recovery image for the Nexus One.
  • Run ‘fastboot flash recovery recovery-RA-nexus-v1.5.3.img’ and then reboot your Nexus One.
  • Copy nexus-2.6.32-root-signed.zip to your Nexus One SD-card and then run ‘adb reboot recovery’.
  • Once the device boots into Android system recovery, select “Flash zip from sdcard” and then nexus-2.6.32-root-signed.zip.

With root on your Nexus One, you can use apps such as n1torch (use your Nexus One camera flash as a flashlight).

Note that for security reasons you may want to replace the standard su with something like superuser.

Btw, my company, doubleTwist, is hiring engineers in San Francisco and Android experience is a plus. Perks include a doubleTwist engraved Nexus One :)

Pogue and Mossberg on doubleTwist

David Pogue in his Nexus One review last week:

The Nexus doesn’t come with any iTunes-style companion software, either. Enterprising techies know about the free DoubleTwist program for Mac or Windows, which simulates iTunes for the purposes of loading up your phone with music, photos and videos.

This week, Walt Mossberg in a follow-up to his Nexus One review:

Google doesn’t supply any equivalent to Apple’s iTunes or the BlackBerry media-syncing software. However, the third-party program doubleTwist, available at doubletwist.com, is designed to function as a sort of iTunes for syncing Android, Palm and BlackBerry devices.

What are you waiting for? Go download doubleTwist now and sync with your Nexus One :)

The Cure for iPhone Envy: The story behind the doubleTwist ad

For our “The Cure for iPhone Envy” ad campaign we leased the window on the BART exit outside the SF Apple Store. Our contract with BART’s ad agency specified that the ad would go up on Monday morning, the day of the WWDC keynote. However, the ad agency jumped the gun and our ad went up on Friday the weekend before. Shortly after the ad was put up, it was ripped down by a BART employee. A tipster sent me pictures of this happening:

Ad being ripped down

BART’s excuse for ripping down the ad was that it was “too dark” and not letting through enough light into the BART exit. However, we have pictures that show there was plenty of light coming through the ad (the ad is printed on a clear plastic material):

Light showing through ad

We then submitted the following revised ad with a white background. A white ad would have let even more light through (notice how bright the bottle is in the original ad above). However, it was rejected for having a solid white background (!).

Rejected white ad

At the ad agency’s request, we then made the background completely transparent. It’s a lot harder to read text on a transparent background… After complying with all their requests to change the ad, we still haven’t been given a firm date on when the ad will be back up.

Apple is a major BART advertiser (in the past they’ve plastered entire BART stations with iPod ads). Apple’s WWDC conference ends on Friday. It’s pretty obvious what’s going on here… I’m sure our ad will conveniently be back up after WWDC ends.

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