Having lived with with a Joggler in my study for about a week now, I’m starting to get a feel for its strengths and weaknesses. In theory, it’s a great little tool to have instantly available, with instant access to Internet radio, my audio collection, the traffic conditions, news headlines etc.
But in practice I’m making very little use of any of the built in applications; the Trafficmaster-based travel application is kind of interesting, but the SatNav in the car does a better job at the point in time when I most need it. The RSS-based news reader is OK, but it’s based on what the Sky news people think will be of interest, and often I don’t agree with them. The weather forecast application is pretty enough, but can’t be sufficiently localised, and has a bug that means the upcoming days are sometimes out of sequence!
The Internet radio application is undoubtedly the one I use the most, usually for the national BBC radio stations, but unfortunately it doesn’t buffer enough content, and often stutters and falters. But it is very convenient and easy to use.
On the other hand, the Squeezeplayer application, which turns the Joggler into a Squeezebox, is a joy to use. The touchscreen is beautifully integrated with it, and the ability to rapidly “flick” through my music collection, along with their album art, is simply joyous. There are down-sides however. Integration between the Squeezeplayer application and the main O2 “Tango” GUI is basically non-existent. The Squeezeplayer application simply runs over the top of the rest of the GUI, taking over completely. This means that they run independently with different time-outs, screen-savers etc, which can be a little confusing. However, I can easily forgive it that when I get another Squeezebox for only £50.
However, the Joggler isn’t a perfect Squeezebox replacement. The Squeezeplay application doesn’t have the same support for native audio formats as the hardware players – so while it has excellent support for MP3, and supports PCM/WAV/AIFF & FLAC even at esoteric 24bit 96KHz rates, it cannot play WMA files/streams in any form. Which unfortunately means it doesn’t support the BBC iPlayer plug-in. This is frustrating, as I suspect that the Squeezeplayer will do a much better job of buffering Internet radio streams than the native Joggler application.
So the question is, how to enable WMA support?
My initial thought was to enable WMA support in the basic Joggler OS (which is just Linux), with the expectation that it would be possible for the Squeezeplayer application to trivially exploit that support. The problem with this approach is that Squeezeplayer is really an embedded application; it’s not designed to run on an operating system with varying capabilities, and expects instead a bare minimum, to which it must supply all the domain specifics – ie, the audio decoding. So even if I did supply WMA support in the OS, the Squeezeplayer application wouldn’t exploit it without me making significant changes to Squeezeplayer. It’s basically a non-starter (for me anyway).
The next option is based on the understanding that Squeezeboxes (and hence the Squeezeplayer application) do not directly talk to Internet radio stations. Instead, they talk to a Squeezebox Server, which acts as a proxy for the Squeezeboxes, and talks to the Internet radio stations on their behalf. Fortunately this allows us to apply transcoding to the Internet radio stream, decoding it from the original format, and re-encoding it into another format that the Squeezeplayer can process.
This has potential, except the documentation is poor, and all my attempts to date have resulted in the Squeezeplayer “hanging” at the point where it is starting to stream the Internet radio stream. Debugging information seems to be telling me that the right transcoding options have been identified by the server, and that the correct external programs have been located. What’s not clear is whether or not they are being correctly invoked. More work to be done!