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An assortment of thoughts.  Mostly tech related.

SONOS - Check!, WeMo - Check! Thoughts on SONOS.

So just a few weeks ago I posted about how I was interested in playing with WeMo and getting a SONOS system.  Well, things don't hang around on the wishlist for very long.  I snapped up a Belkin WeMo Switch and Motion a week or two ago, and as a 40th birthday treat (any excuse) I started my SONOS system today.

I'll write about the WeMo some more when I work out what I'm going to do with it.  Today though, I've just got a couple of things to say about SONOS, which I'm in love with already.

SONOS

SONOS

Getting started with SONOS

I've been eyeing up a SONOS PLAY:5 for a few weeks now but have been struggling with the cost.  The cost of SONOS systems went up at the beginning of July as a result of the sliding Australian dollar and RRP for the PLAY:5 was now at $679 but from about $550, which for a single unit is a difficult pill to swallow.  Searching around the web I found a few places that still had them for mid-500s and was tempted to place an order.  Instead, I wandered over to my local JB HiFi (who are SONOS stockists) and spoke with a friendly and enthusiastic sales guy and began commenting about the high cost. I explained the prices I'd seen online and queried how/whether they might be able to compete.

The SONOS ZoneBridge.

The SONOS ZoneBridge.

I wanted/needed(?) the PLAY:5 for my bedroom which mean't I'd also need the ZoneBridge since the 5 couldn't be connected to the router directly, which is downstairs.  This is an important point to note in that your FIRST SONOS component needs to connect DIRECTLY to your router and then IT establishes the SONOS wireless network.  You can't, for example, just plug your SONOS speaker into the mains and hope it's going to pick up your Wifi network - it doesn't work like that.  That's where the ZoneBridge comes in.  It plugs into your router and provides the link and co-ordinates the syncing and timing for all of the additional SONOS components you install.

Hypothetically, I got the JB guy to price a package of a PLAY:5 (for me), a PLAY:3 (for the kids room) and then a ZoneBridge for downstairs. Minutes later I'm walking out the door with my hypothetical bundle (having saved $250) and heading home to play.

Ta da! 

My new toys - SONOS PLAY:5, PLAY:3 and the ZoneBridge

My new toys - SONOS PLAY:5, PLAY:3 and the ZoneBridge

Installation and setup couldn't be ANY simpler.  Considering what the SONOS system does, it really is the absolute simplest piece of 'tech' I've ever set up.  The longest part was getting everything out of the boxes. Truly.

Setup

Connecting the ZoneBridge involves plugging in the mains power and a single ethernet cable from the ZoneBridge to the router. That's it.

Connecting the PLAY system involves plugging them into the mains power. That's it.

The SONOS Controller App

The SONOS App is available for a bunch of different platforms including Mac/PC/iOS and Android.  It's a free download which I'd already grabbed a few days ago to check out.

Building the SONOS network involves adding the various SONOS devices to the app by following the wizard.  This involves tapping 'Add a component' on the app and then pressing the connect button on the bridge. Once that's done you add your speaker components following a similar process but by pressing the mute and volume up buttons simultaneously instead. 5 minutes later (and that's mostly walking around the house to press the buttons!), everything is setup up and you can begin streaming.

No stuffing around with setting IP addresses, logging in to web interfaces or messing with WPS.  Just the push of a button or two. It really is the kind of thing anyone could do.  This sums it up nicely:

 

SONOS setup really is ONE push of a button.

SONOS setup really is ONE push of a button.

The SONOS app is super slick.  I have it installed on my iPhone, iPad and my daughter has it on her iPad too.  I also have the desktop app installed on my Mac.  You can control the speakers from anywhere and ave the same audio playing through all of the speakers, or different audio playing to each. We've got my Spotify account setup up through the SONOS app along with my iTunes library on my desktop which we've more or less abandoned to Spotfify too.  In case you're wondering, Spotify WILL allow you to play different Spotify tracks to each of the two SONOS speaker systems simultaneously - if that makes sense?  Something you can't do with the regular Spotify app - Open Spotify on a second device using the same account and the first device is disconnected. You'll know what I mean if you've ever tried it.

SONOS have done an amazing job with the setup and the app, and the sound isn't half bad either.  I'm afraid my Bower and Wilkins speakers and regular Hifi have been relegated due to the sheer simplicity and flexibility the SONOS affords.

"Complaints"

Two minor whinges - not complaints at all really.:

  1. When installing the SONOS controller software from the included CD onto my Mac, the installer crashed (on Mountain Lion).  I jumped onto the SONOS website and downloaded the latest (which I should have done in the first place) and their were no hiccups with that.
  2. Instacast, my podcast player of choice, is NOT integrated with the SONOS app in any way and so I have to figure out some kind of workaround there.  The PLAY:5 has a line in option so most likely I'll hook in an Airport Express and then AirPlay Instacast to that and then SONOS can take it from there.  The alternative is to look at Stitcher radio which handles podcasts. A few things to explore.

I'm delighted! 

Overall, (and so far)  I'm delighted with my SONOS and the experience I've had.  It's not a cheap system and audiophiles would have their complaints I'm certain, but it's a polished, flexible system that (as it says on the ad and the box) really does 'stream all the music on earth, to every room' and I really love that.

HTML signatures in Apple's Mail.app - Installing with Applescript

The power of Twitter, huh?

A few weeks back I'd been exploring ways of creating decent looking autosignatures and installing them in Apple's Mail.app in Mountain Lion.

The process as outlined over at mydesignpad.com details a fairly complex installation procedure, which, in my view is something beyond the average end user and so the alternative is for a technical person to do it manually on each machine, for each user...also having to create a unique HTML sig file for each too.

Now, I've only get 15 or so users to take care of and so it wouldn't be the end of the world if I had to do it manually. But, I figured there had to be a better way, perhaps using AppleScript, which'd be just great - if I knew AppleScript.

Here's where Twitter steps in. I posted up the following:

...and within a few hours I had a reply from a super-helpful, fellow Mac guru in NYC saying it should be fairly simple to do.

What followed was a series of twitter exchanges, then Google Talk sessions and emails and a very short while later we had a script to work with.

The script works with a customised version of the HTML sig and then follows ALL of the steps detailed in myDesignPad's guide including prompting the user for their name, email address and job title etc and then customising and installing the HTML sig. The script also allows the sig file to be mounted online, meaning the script can execute from any machine anywhere - also great for future updates.

We had a few hiccups with write permissions but then arranged a screen sharing session to troubleshoot, which cleared up a couple more issues.

We still have a niggling issue with it running on MY profile - for some reason it fails to update the signature fil (See update #2 below). It does however work FINE under other profiles on this machine (weird), but we're well on our way to fixing it and having a proper, automated way of installing new, personalised HTML autosignatures in Mail.app in seconds.

I'll check with the script's author to see if she's happy for me to share it here, but it just goes to show how useful Twitter can be when you're in a bind. Lots of helpful people out there...my great thanks to @seesolve

Update: Here's @seesolve's Mail.app autosignature solution using AppleScript to my problem. There's download links to the script along with a how-to guide on getting it installed and customised. Again, very impressed with the professionalism and determination applied to this problem. My thanks, again. ;)

Update #2: OK. So, we worked out where the bug was thanks to this post by Matt Coneybeare -see the comments. In particular the comment referred to in step 8. The issue crops up when you have iCloud Documents and Data sharing enabled. When this is the case, the signature is written to an iCloud location rather than to the normal signature location in the library. Working to get the script modified to fix it.