Wireless Hackerspace Music Control


The crew at the Netherlands-based Bitlair hackerspace love their music, and have set up a digital jukebox for their workshop using mpd and fookebox. One problem that you run into with a bunch of different people working in one place is that everyone has their own distinct taste in music. The rhythmic “wub wub wub” of Dubstep might be great for some while leaving others trying to solder while simultaneously covering their ears. To ensure that everyone can exercise a musical veto (a la Empire Records) now and again, they built a Skipbutton which allows members to change what’s playing.

The button allows users to skip to the next song in the queue. as well as to control the volume of the space’s sound system. It uses an Arduino pro mini to run the show, sending signals to the mpd daemon using a 433 MHz transmitter. Bitlair is pretty large and they often spend time outdoors, so they had to ensure that the Skipbutton worked wherever they did. To do this, they built a Yagi-Uda antenna at the receiving end to ensure that the button functions no matter where it’s being triggered from.

Check out their wiki if you’re interested in making a similar system for your home or hackerspace – all of the code and schematics are available for the taking.

8 thoughts on “Wireless Hackerspace Music Control

  1. Agreed. I think I have more questions than answers after tfa.
    I also think I would set a book on the button so it would constantly skip instead of blaring loud music all the time. Little more Blade Runner, little less Matrix lol. Audioscience/Kraftwelt ftw ;)

    All joking aside, glad they found something that worked for all of them and I’m envious of the size of their hackerspace. My idea from a craproject I did a while back and may be useful to some in the same cheap situation: garage door opener :) Cheap and easy to find at thrift stores and easy to modify the antenna for better range. In a similar class is our old friend the Wireless Doorbell :) They are easy to find for under $10 and are easy to modify to trigger other things with voltages. Heck did that mod to my old xbox a while back to power her on/off. The thing I remember that was funny was to make sure the chime was set to Big Ben or something simple and not the insane-o “Senor Ding Dong” multi note thing that would restart it multiple times and fry the hdd lol. Everytime I picture it in my head I laugh (Done Simpsons style).

    Keep cranking the tunes and keep up the good work :)

  2. Hey! Nice to read a text about a place i actualy visited! Sure som of the songs realy need to skipped like the “kabouter plop” stuff…. I hope that they do some sort of encryption, becouse when not, i might come up with a anoyatron with a 433 feature…

  3. This is a one person,one vote system, that could have tragic consequences. I can imagine a scenario where people are changing the selection so often, I’m likely rip out the skip button, drag it by it’s wires to my work station to repair it with the 24 lb. hammer. ;) I can chill up to the point everyone else looses the ability to chill. Keep insanely long tracks off the system, end expect everyone to wait until the next selection come along. Place nice folks, or it’s Muzak that will be piped in.

    1. It depends, a Yagi-Uda antenna can be made highly directional, the one we made is directional, but it still has a reasonably wide angle.
      Also a directional antenna can receive in any direction, but in one direction it has a lot more gain than the other directions.

      We placed the antenna at one side of the hackerspace, where our server rack is, then pointed it to the garden, which is at the other side of the hackerspace.
      This way, we concentrated the directivity of the yagi antenna at the farthest positions where we want to use the skipbutton.
      The skipbutton works from anywhere inside the hackerspace, since you’ll either be so close to the antenna that its directivity doesn’t matter anymore, or you’ll be inside the area where the yagi antenna has the most gain.

    2. On the wifi tip: I was wondering if it might be overall easier to use some of the WiFi speakers I read about in another HaD article to give each station the option of simply turning the volume down during the song they don’t like/times of deep thought. FM speakers you’d have to watch the juice as I assume there is an FCC equivalent over there but at the price of the speakers it would be cheaper and easier to put in some thin clients and give everyone their own personal station on the semi cheap. I find it hard to believe they all don’t have some old “craptop” in their stations to watch/listen to whatever they want :/ I found a p3 800 in the dumpster I use for my workspace for pdf/datasheet/schema stuff and general browsing or tut vids. Have a tiny usb wireless n adapter from lastminuteauction for $3.00 after two weeks of shipping lol.

      As for the antenna, I like the soda pop can parabola (not yagi) for ease and fun of construction ;)

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