The Giocoso Hardware Player

At the left, in the thumbnail, you see my brand new media player. It's totally silent. It's a complete mess of cables and chaos. And it's smaller than a coke can.

I am, of course, using Giocoso as my software to play music. I've been doing that for a long time, using assorted standard PCs, small form factor PCs, tiny PCs, laptops and Lord knows what else. The trouble with all of those modes of playback: every single computing device has involved a fan somewhere. If not on the CPU itself, at least in its power supply. Now, fans make noise... and the one thing you definitely do not want in your music room is a source of noise. So for absolutely ages, I've been after a way to run Giocoso that's completely silent: what you see in the thumbnail to the left (which you can click on to get a full-sized version) is the first tentative steps on that road.

The key is, somewhat inevitably, a Raspberry Pi 4 (though I am fairly confident a Raspberry Pi 3b would work, too). It gets warm under load, but Giocoso doesn't really impose much of a load and therefore that's not a major issue. It is capable of running passively (i.e., without fans of any sort). it can run a full-on Linux distro that makes it a first-class candidate for hosting Giocoso (and, indeed, all my other software releases).

There are only two major dramas. One is that the nest of cables that results from having to hook a Raspbetry Pi up to a screen, a power supply, a keyboard and mouse results in the rats-nest of nonsense you see in the photo. It works, I suppose. But it's damned ugly!

So I thought I would splash out on a touch screen monitor: that would at least eliminate the keyboard and mouse cables. So, for a mere £60ish, I got a 7" touchscreen, to which the Pi connects just fine via one of its micro-HDMI ports (though that's a new cable). It turns out that my fat fingers can't meaningfully operate a 7" touch screen and that (for an extra £40 or so) I might have been better going for its 10" sibling!

In the meantime, I'm using a very small wireless keyboard I've had sitting spare in the cupboard for about 5 years, which allows me to control Giocoso just fine, as I would do on any normal PC, though with rather more typos than I'm used to, because its keys are tiny too! The mouse you see creeping in to the bottom right is a standard small form factor one. Allegedly, the keyboard has that area on its right to act as a touchpad, but it doesn't work reliably in Raspbian, so it was necessary to plug in the extra 'real' mouse instead.

Anyway: the screen was delivered on February 13th, and I've been using this little setup as my main media player since about the 15th. It works absolutely fine, but the cable chaos is not to be recommended!

There are thus a couple of semi-projects in the works.

The first plan is to rescue the Raspberry Pi out of that little black metal box you see about to fall off the edge of my desk, on the right. The metal box makes for very efficient cooling of the Pi, but it also somewhat screws up the wifi reception the Pi is natively capable of, as it is a very effective blocker of radio signals! It is, instead, my plan to mount the Pi on the back of the touchscreen monitor directly, thereby making wifi reception much better and allowing me to ditch that light-blue network cable you see adding to the clutter.

The next idea I have is to somehow write a GUI interface for Giocoso, so that there are giant buttons for play, interrupt and resume that each call the relevant Giocoso menu option. If I could get a nice, large GUI interface working that just dominates the display and provides huge buttons that even the stubbiest of fingers could jab at accurately, the keyboard and mouse could go. The drawback with this element of the plan is that I've never written a piece of GUI software in my life; I have no idea how to start; and it's likely going to be a while before I have the faintest idea what to do to make it happen (if you happen to be a Linux developer that's up for knocking together a quick 3- or 4-button interface to a Bash script, please get in touch!) So, it's on the schedule: but I wouldn't hold your breath!

The ultimate outcome for this would be that tiny screen, running practically standalone, without visible cables except for a power supply, being my complete source of music throughout the house, controllable by nothing but touching the screen. We shall see... watch this space!


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