How To: DIY Music Server Using FreeNAS, SlimNAS and an H-P T5700

Originally published July 21, 2008 at www.smallnetbuilder.com

By: Michael Graves

Date: July 21, 2008

From my first exposure to Slim Device’s original SliMP3 back in 2003 I was taken with the idea of streaming music throughout my house. The designers approach to this task I found very interesting. They literally give away an open source media streaming software intended for use on a file server. Then run their business by selling a dedicated hardware device to interface the music stream to a traditional stereo system.

SliMP3 has over the years through several generations of hardware. They presently offer three different devices;

  • Squeezebox Classic – the 3rd generation of the original SliMP3 with a simple remote control and large vacuum fluorescent display
  • Squeezebox Duet – a variant on the Squeezebox with that trades the fluorescent display for a more elaborate remote control with a color LCD status display
  • Transporter – a beautiful, seriously high-end streaming music interface for those who suffer audiophile tendencies

One of the nicer things about the Squeezebox is that several can be set to play the same music in sync, or set to play entirely different playlists. This can be handy, addressing the needs of both the common dinner party and a multi-faceted Halloween haunted house. Around my home we have accumulated three of the classic Squeezeboxes, and are on-plan to purchase two more.

All Slim Devices products source their music streams from the same open source server software. This software, written in Perl, was once known as “Slim Server” but from the release of v7.0 has been renamed “SqueezeCenter.” Slim Devices provides releases for Windows, Macintosh and Linux hosts.

The SqueezeCenter Web GUI

They also offer a release built specifically for the Infrant ReadyNAS. The idea that the server was embedded on a NAS device seems truly ideal. Voluminous RAID storage to serve & protect the music just makes sense. It certainly makes more sense than my recent situation, which was keeping a Pentium4 2.8 GHz PC running 24/7 just to serve music. In contrast, the NAS approach consumes less power, generates less heat, less noise, and takes less space.

There was only one problem. ReadyNAS would not have been my personal choice of NAS. I prefer a less expensive, more DIY approach. To that end I have long used FreeNAS around my home office. FreeNAS is open source based on BSD and takes advantage of the GUI framework developed for the m0n0wall router project.

Happily, others share my opinion of FreeNAS. Early in 2007 Michael Herger ported the SqueezeCenter software to create an installable plug-in for FreeNAS.

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  • Chris

    I can’t find a 40 pin IDE cable anywhere, and neither can I find a hard disk so…

    Are you sure you didn’t mean a 44 pin?
    If it was a 40 pin, can you give me the models of the HDD and IDE cable?

    • Actually that was an error that made it past my editors…it’s a 44 pin standard IDE cable for a 2.5″ drive.

  • Saran

    Nice post.
    You have done a thorough job of explaining a step-by-step process to set up a combo that I had my eye on for some time now – I will definitely use it for a reference 🙂

  • Andrew

    Great article. I just built a similar system using the VortexBox linux distro. It has more features then FreeNAS including auto CD ripping.

  • Jeroen

    Great article, I have purchased a T5700, an SATA->IDE converter and a SODIMM of 512MB. However I wonder what the recommended HDD is, since I read somewhere that the power of the IDE connection is quite limited. Any suggestions would be welcome (brand, type, size)!

    • I’m reasonably certain that any 2.5″ IDE HD can be powered from the IDE connector. I’m not certain if a 2.5″ SATA HD requires a separate power connection. If it does then anything you can rig up will surely work. The power requirements of HD has been steadily declining as each new generation of HD comes along.