Gadgets: August 2006 Archives

SONOS and mime-types

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Sonos Controller I ran across a fairly obscure problem with the Sonos music system related to mime-types, file extensions and dynamically generated playlists. This is fair warning that this post will get a tad technical.

The Sonos music system supports Internet radio stations and is capable of parsing remote M3U playlists. My plan was to write a simple script that retrieves the latest This American Life archives page, parses the HTML to extract the set of show URLs and returns a dynamically generated playlist with the desired show URL.

Sonos didn't like my dynamically generated playlist and it took me a while to figure out exactly why. In the end it seems the Sonos ignores Content-Type HTTP header and instead relies solely on the file extension in the URL it is accessing. In this case the file extension was .cgi and since Sonos doesn't know what .cgi means it ignored the contents of the response.

The workaround I found was to enable the execution of CGI scripts with a .m3u file extension but only in a single directory. This is the contents of the Apache-style .htaccess file I used:
Options +ExecCGI
AddHandler cgi-script m3u
AddType audio/x-mpegurl .m3u
Then I renamed my script.cgi to script.m3u and Sonos no longer complained about corrupt contents and treated it like a regular playlist. Dynamically generated This American Life playlists streaming through my Sonos. Wonderful.

I've contacted Sonos and explained the issue so hopefully they'll fix it in a future firmware update and others can avoid the headaches.

Fluffy Soapy Mouse

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Andrew Wilson and Patrick Baudisch of Microsoft Research have produced an excellent tutorial on creating a mouse-like pointing device that works in mid-air. I saw the video on YouTube and was seriously impressed.

Essentially the electronics of a wireless, optical mouse are re-housed in a smooth soap-like plastic container and then placed into a fluffy fabric tube. Similar to a tactile stress-reducing ball you can manipulate the fabric in various ways over the soap-like container and the optical sensor tracks the movement of the fabric and converts the actions into movement on the screen.

For fine cursor movement you slide the fabric around with your thumb. For faster movements you rotate the fabric around the container while the container stays still. And for still faster movements you can hold the fabric stationary while rotating the container just like you would a bar of soap. Check out the video for some visuals.

I was so intrigued by the video that I went out and bought a new mouse to convert and have a partially functional model to play with. The interface is very comfortable and the ability to move the cursor quickly and then do fine pixel-level adjustments requires almost no learning curve. It just comes naturally. I foresee this style of interaction becoming quite popular in the next few years.

My digital camera is inaccessible at the moment otherwise I'd post some photos of my hacky prototype. Because the mouse interaction is inverted (dragging something over the optical sensor vs vice versa) then either the up-down or left-right is reversed. I've yet been unable to find a simple mouse utility that lets me reverse one axis so for now this is an interesting prototype rather than something I can use on a daily basis.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Gadgets category from August 2006.

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