Waking Wireless Speakers from Standby for Audio Output (Windows 7)

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I recently purchased a set of wireless speakers, which I’ve connected to my ASUS EeeBox PC. They work well but I have encountered a problem that is common to wireless speakers – they go into a standby mode and require a few seconds to initialize. For playing music this isn’t a problem. However, using the speakers for text-to-speech can be a problem as the speakers may not initialize before the computer has finished speaking. In addition, Windows text-to-speech output doesn’t seem to have a signal strong enough to wake up the speakers anyway.

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Upgrading an ASUS EeeBox PC EB1006 Hard Drive (and Copying Partitions)

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I still had about 70 GBs of free space on the ASUS. However, I needed more free space to add movies, or more likely, add my wife’s music to its iTunes library.

Rather then spend money on a new hard drive this month I decided to re-purpose an external, portable drive. Typically, the small portable drives are nothing more than a drive enclosure with a 2.5″ SATA hard drive. The ASUS drive was somewhere around 150 GBs. The USB external drive was 250 GBs.

I didn’t take photos of the process, but the actual drive swapping isn’t very complicated and I’m sure there are already numerous guides available on the Web.

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Moving an iTunes Library from OS X to Windows

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This was done using OS X 10.6 (Snow Leopard), Windows 7 Professional, and iTunes 10 on both systems. It may work just fine on different versions of the operating systems and iTunes, but I don’t know for certain.

I wanted to move a copy of my rather large iTunes library from the Mac over to the Windows system, which is always on. While it’s easy to setup Home Sharing and then initiate an import of all music over the network, there doesn’t seem to be a way to sync the playlists. I may be mistaken, but I could have sworn that when I first enabled Home Sharing I was able to sync my entire library and playlists from an OS X 10.6 system over to another system running 10.5 (with both running the latest version of iTunes at the time).

Unfortunately, only the files synced with the Windows system. I couldn’t find an easy method for copying playlists that didn’t involve a third-party program.

I decided to take a more direct route and just copy my entire iTunes library manually. To do this I pushed a copy of everything within the iTunes folder to a network drive, deleted everything within the Music\iTunes folder under the Windows account, and then pasted a copy of my library into the Windows iTunes folder.

Note: This will only work if your media is stored within the iTunes folder. If you’ve always had have the option under Advanced to Copy files to iTunes Media Folder when adding to library then you may already be in good shape.

The next time I fired up iTunes in Windows I had my media and the playlists I had setup on the Mac. The only thing I had to change after copying was the name of the iTunes library – it had also copied that from the Mac.

The information and artwork for my movies transferred, but the movie files did not because they were not stored within the iTunes folder. This was expected and preferred – the ASUS hard drive isn’t large enough to also accommodate the movies (I may upgrade the drive in a few months so I can also store the movies there).

I haven’t used the library much but it appears to be working fine.

Accessing Two Different Windows Shares With Different Credentials Simultaneously From The Same Server

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Perhaps I was aware of this restriction a long time ago, when I used a Windows system as my primary desktop, but I completely forgot this. Windows does not permit accessing two different shares that use different credentials when they exist on the same system. There may be more to it than that. For example, it may only apply to a Windows user account logged into a desktop system.

Regardless of the details, I wasn’t able to access two shares on a network drive from the ASUS (Windows 7). Every time I tried to connect to the second share I’d receive a vague error message stating that the connection couldn’t be made. I knew the credentials I was using were correct.

One solution is to disconnect the first share and then connect to the other one. However, I was using that share for the Windows system backup and I didn’t want to bother with having to remove the connection and then re-establish it.

After searching a few pages and forums I came across one post in the Microsoft TechNet forums that explained a workaround. That this even works is laughable, but it really does. User Mustafa Radha explains that using the IP address for one share, and then using the network name for the other share, will work. Indeed it does.

For example, assume I’m trying to connect to a machine named “Server” with an IP address of 192.168.1.2, and it has two shares named “Photos” and “Documents”. You could access both shares at the same time by using these paths:

\\Server\Photos\
\\192.168.1.2\Documents\

Of course, you could swap the IP and name as desired.

Source: Microsoft TechNet – Connecting to multiple shares on a single server with multiple credentials? (System Error 1219)

Schooners II – Weatherproof Wireless Full Range Speakers (Grace Digital Audio)

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Almost four years ago I dabbled in a brief project with the goal of using a set of wireless speakers so I could hear notifications from my computer. That project failed, mostly due to the hardware I chose. Admittedly, I never put much effort into it.

Recently, I decided to revive this concept to enhance my interaction the new ASUS EeeBox PC, especially since I’m planning to use Speech Recognition and Text-to-Speech for various tasks and notifications. Having just one set of speakers at the computer wouldn’t do. I wanted to have at least a couple of speakers around the house.

On the old home automation system I had a setup that, when a motion sensor was first triggered after a certain time on a weekday, would cause the computer to play a one minute clip from a different 80s song. It was just a bit of fun to help the two of us relax after long days at work. The combination of software did work. However, the audio could only be played from the one room, on the far side of the house. With my new speaker setup this would have more of an impact.

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ASUS EeeBox PC (EB1006), Boxee and Netflix Experience (Unacceptable)

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I have three projects for the ASUS EeeBox PC that I have yet to spend much time on: speech recognition, text-to-speech, and serving media files as an HTPC. Tonight I finally spent a few minutes with Boxee. This was the first night that I attempted to play any kind of video using Boxee and in this case I only used the Netflix app. I have yet to try ripped DVDs or other video content in Boxee, iTunes, or XBMC.

The Netflix Boxee app didn’t perform well on my system. The audio didn’t sound great, though I had set Boxee to play audio through the HDMI connection but for some reason it only used the speakers. The video streaming was very bad. It was choppy and stuttered a lot.

It’s difficult to know whether the problem is the Boxee Netflix app, using Boxee itself, or simply the fact that the ASUS EeeBox PC just may not have enough horsepower. After all, the ASUS isn’t a high-end system and running additional software on it probably doesn’t help.

I’ll continue this experiment and post updates as I learn more. However, I may jump ahead to working with XBMC and go back to Boxee if I don’t like the results.

Updated 08/24/2011: I briefly tested Netflix Instant Watch from Internet Explorer on the ASUS EeeBox PC and it seemed to run fine. The streaming problem I experienced appears to be limited to Boxee or the Netflix plugin for Boxee. There may be other factors involved, but it’s unlikely I’ll spend any time in the immediate future to identify the specific problem.

Sabrent 4-Port Self Powered, Flexible Cable (USB-CBBH)

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Last week I received three Sabrent 4-Port USB 2.0 Hub – Bus-Powered, Flexible Liberator Cables. As with most of my recent tech purchases, I ordered them from Amazon. I bought one to use with my ASUS EeeBox PC, one to keep in my backpack, and another to give to my wife to use with her MacBook Pro.

So far, I’m not very impressed. However, I don’t have much to complain about. They were only about $5 each. Even if they completely failed tomorrow I’d only be out the cost of a meal at Arby’s for two. Sometime in the week since I ordered them the price even dropped to $1.25 each. Having worked with computer tech for many years I’ve learned that one cannot expect high quality from cheap components.

These self-powered hubs may work great on some systems, in certain situations, with some low-power devices. When I purchased them I knew they probably couldn’t be used to operate high-draw devices, but that was never my intention. The reason I purchased them was to put one on the ASUS EeeBox PC to extend the two ports in the back.

This didn’t work out. At first, I had the Insteon 2413U, the ASUS wireless keyboard/mouse adapter, the Rii mini adapter, and an IR receiver hooked up through one device. It didn’t take long to figure out that the 2413U wasn’t working so I moved it off the hub and to its own USB port.

A couple of days ago I had a problem booting the ASUS and needed to use the keyboard and mouse, but it wasn’t responding at boot. I had to unplug the hub, plug the adapter into the USB port, handle the boot issues, and then plug the hub back in as Windows started.

Today I wasn’t able to get the Rii mini to work while plugged into the hub. I also noticed the hub itself was warm. I decided to take the hub completely out of line and just plug in the Rii mini and the 2413U. I may re-connect the IR receiver later, using one of the front USB ports.

I’m not going to toss the hubs. They may yet prove useful. However, the primary reason I purchased them doesn’t seem to have worked out.

Accessing Network Shares from OS X (Prior to Lion)

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Updated 08/15/2011: Based on the my blog stats it looks like many of you are hitting this page while searching for information on connecting to Windows shares from OS X Lion. I’ve found another resource that may be of assistance, though I can’t verify it:
Access PC Windows 7 Files From Mac OS X Lion (TrickyWays)

There are multiple ways to access a network share from OS X. For example, you may find the shares by browsing Network. Since I know the IP addresses of the machines I need to connect to I usually take a more direct route, which can also be useful in accessing shares that may not appear under Network.

In this example the target computer is a Windows system named Target with an IP address of 192.168.1.5.

Traditionally, under Windows you would have used \\Target or \\192.168.1.5 to access files over the network.

In OS X you can go to the Finder and then do the following:

  1. On the Finder menubar select Go
  2. Choose Connect to Server
  3. In the Server Address box type smb://192.168.1.5 [or your target machine IP]
  4. If you want to save it under Favorite Servers click the plus button
  5.  Click Connect
  6. Select the appropriate share and/or provide authentication credentials

I also use this method to connect to Mac shares.

I’ve read that Apple dropped Samba support in Lion due to licensing changes and has instead added true Windows sharing support. As a result, using “smb://” may no longer work. I can’t verify this since I don’t have Lion (I’m still using Snow Leopard). I spent a few minutes researching this but several different methods were offered across different Websites. I can’t test them to determine the simplest method so for now I’ll refrain from posting a suggestion.

Mounting an ISO Using SlySoft Virtual CloneDrive (Windows)

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Earlier today I needed to install some Windows software from an ISO image. The ASUS EeeBox PC doesn’t have a built-in CD/DVD drive. Rather than hook up an external drive I decided to look for a tool that could mount an ISO as a CD/DVD disc.

It didn’t take long to find SlySoft Virtual CloneDrive. The program is free and easy to use.

Text-to-Speech Voices for Windows

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Over a year ago, when I was using a different Windows system for my home automation server, I purchased a third-party voice pack. The cost was around $90. I recently installed the voice on the new ASUS system I’ve started using.

There’s not much to this post – it’s just a brief not for anyone interested in using a different voice with Windows. In my case, I purchased the voice from IVONA, which offers several different voices. Just for fun, I ordered one with a British accent (I live in the United States).

I’ve used the voice in Windows XP and its currently being used in Windows 7.