Sunday, July 5, 2009

Kicking & Screaming

A visit to the local PCWorld has resulted in the acquistion of a number of items of a technical nature that should bring the creaking old Acer within sight of modernity.

I have purchased;
  • Belkin USB 2.0 notebook card (F4U008ea)
  • Belkin Wireless G USB Network Adapter (F5D7050)
  • Belkin Bluetooth USB Adapter (F8T013xx1)
  • Sandisk Cruzer Micro 8GB Thumbdrive

The idea behind this is to give the venerable old machine a pair of USB 2.0 ports via pcicma. This card replaces the old wifi pcicma card I had in there, hence the usb network adaptor. The bluetooth stick is to try to get my phone (Nokia N95 8GB) working for hands-free and internet dial-up on the move. Finally, the 8GB thumbdrive is to augment the 10GB internal hard drive to to store music and other media files for testing.

The USB card worked straight away on insertion. The Wireless USB stick required a download of the most up to date drivers from Belkin as the supplied CD simply would not install.

The Bluetooth stick was more problematic. I installed the drivers etc. and while the laptop could see the phone in the shell, Centrafuse refused to play ball, resulting in a useless uninformative error when I tried to add the handset under phone settings.

Some research on Centrafuse forums revealed that this particular model adpater did not appear to be supported in version 2. It appears that Centrafuse installas it's own Bluetooth interface software (known as a stack) from a third party provider - BlueSoleil. The problem was that this software did not support Belkin F8T01x series dongles.

Further investigation, however, revealed a workaround that modifies some text files to make the software aware of the dongle. I love the internet!

After applying this, Centrafuse recognised the phone and allowed me dial out and receive calls hands free. I'm using the laptop build in mic. and speakers for testing and sound quality is poor enough (with a significant delay). This is something of a known issue however and can be rectified by using a specific external sound card, (more info here and here). Future versions of the software promise better integration. I think the jury is still out on this.

I loaded some .AAC files from iTunes onto my memory stick and registered it as a music path in Centrafuse. It refused to play them, indicating I'd need some third party software. Checking the software specs again, I saw it plays .flac out of the box. This is good as .flac is the format I have all my music in on the multi-zone SqueezeServer whole house audio setup I've built (a whole other blog!). I loaded up some .flac files and hey presto, Centrafuse does something useful.

Well, at least now, I can do stuff with Centrafuse. It plays music, connects to my phone via bluetooth for hands free calling and works with my wifi card to provide internet access.

Next step: get the handset working as a modem for internet access out and about.

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