18 Dec 2015

Getting my hands on a Google OnHub

So finally, I get to lay my hands on the new Google OnHub at home.

Unlike its other Google cousins, the OnHub isn't yet available for sale in India and then its a niche product (yet) here in India. The other obvious question is whether you'd pay 6x the price for a router, even when a brand like Google sports it.

I think I would and so was finally able to put my foot down when I realised that I had had enough of other routers making things difficult at home.

A few features I liked:
  • Automatic Software update
    • I loved this aspect that is pretty much missing in all its contemporaries
      • Considering that my 10 year old D-Link 502T hasn't received a single firmware / OS update I was scared to death what all crapware was running on my Home WiFi a month back.
      • That coupled with a few Einsteinish Router companies forced to admit secret (idiotically planned) backdoors, it just isn't funny to realise that my Home Router was probably a 'piece of cake' for a script kiddie trying to login.
  • Prioritize a phone
    • Again its a pleasure showing it to my wife how easy it is for her to prioritize her phone, when the kids are watching YouTube in HQ.
  • Router configuration a breeze
    • Its super simple to manage
      • I just recently got a Chromebook for Audio replacement working at home, and it was pleasant to realise that setting static IP address wasn't about setting /etc/network/interfaces anymore. The PI2 stayed on DHCP and I set the OnHub to give the MusicBox a static IP hereon... QED :) !
  • Manage your OnHub from China!
    • Once configured, you could manage your router sitting hundreds of miles away!
      • Which basically means no long calls to your GrandMa asking her to read out what is on the screen when she types 'http://192.168.1.1' on the browser.
      • You could be managing multiple OnHubs on your phone, each sitting at your parents place hundreds of miles away (without VNC / TeamViewer / RDP hacks) and still configure every minute detail such as setting Port-Forwarding / DNS / DHCP etc. from your SmartPhone.
  • WiFi connection optimization
    • Frankly, with so many walls, some remote corners of my house have seen some network quality degradation at times, but I haven't seen a 'No Network' message yet. So probably its doing a good job there, but I am sure I can't tell that right away.
Add to that, if we consider that this machine is a dual core machine (with a GPU) most of which isn't even put to use (yet), I am pretty excited to know what its real potential is and how Google upgrades my 'boring router' down the line.

Rumour is that this might just be a Google's shot at an Echo or a Siri sitting in your drawing room. But till that happens, I'd have to stay pleased with a beautiful router sitting on the desk :)

Now you may want to get paranoid and all and worry about how Google could keep an eye on Dr. Lanning (you), but I have a feeling that it'd take a while before I give breadcrumbs to a Detective Spooner.

All in all, a (pretty) costly router upgrade but I ain't regretting it.



17 Dec 2015

MusicBox + Pi1B + Ancient 4.1 Speakers => Chromecast for Audio

Since Chromecast-for-Audio hasn't yet been launched in India, eBay sellers are using near monopoly extra for such a device here. Frustrated with being blackmailed like this, I resorted to conjuring up a combo that finally gave some shape to my 2 year old Pi and a ten year old 4.1 music system a life, and gave a good groove to my (otherwise boring) drawing room :) !
to charge a painful 150%

Parts:
  • Any Raspberry Pi
    • Except PiZero
      • Too low powered, would not work
    • To clarify, either of the following combos would work
      • The old PiA+ / PiB+
        • with SD Card
          • 2GB or more
      • The newer Pi2
        • with MicroSD Card
          • 2GB or more
  • MusicBox
  • Win32DiskImager
  • Client Operating Sytem
    • (Desktop) Windows
      • Bonjour
        • Optional
          • Makes the URL easier
        • I had Apple iTunes that install Bonjour support by default
    • (Smartphone) Android
      • Doesn't support Bonjour out of the box
      • Alternative,
        • Get the Pi to come with constant IP address
        • Bookmark the URL instead
  • Volume Control
    • The Web Interface allows changing volume
    • From the command line you could try this
      • amixer cset numid=1 -- 80%
Happy Listening :) !