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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I originally posted my impressions in the Deathmatch thread, but seeing the many threads popping up regarding this new system I figured I would re-post it as review.


Well I finally got around to ripping most of my music collection in FLAC, and had been reading up on players and decided to give each a whirl.


Anyhow the Sonos has not arrived yet, buy I did receive the Duet and the Cisco System.


The Duet did not want to communicate with the control without running the squeeze control/server software and applying a few tweaks. Overall I could see how inexperienced users without network skills could easily hit a road block with this thing. After completing the setup on my home server I streamed some older rips in .WAV to test if it would lose signal or run across buffer underrun. Surprisingly the signal held solid which I wasn't expecting considering the distance and that the Duet and router are on different floors in open face cabinets.


The control has a visually appealing screen for the size, but the text is small, and can be hard to read for older folks. The remote feels really good in your hand and I like that you don't need two hands. However I find it a pain to use the scroll for entering letters, and I wish it had directional clicks (L,R,U,D) which would work better for the branch menu layout. I also had to reboot it 4-5 times in a matter of a few hours of playback to get it to recognize the network again, un-freeze it, or get it to access my shares. Overall I think it's lacking a bit, and would like to see a remote that resembled a full size Zune, with a nice big screen and control which has directional click as well as scroll.



On to the Cisco/Linksys, which is annoying in it's self to see "Linksys by Cisco" on everything. Personally I think most of the junk Linksys stuff will just diminish the goodwill Cisco has developed. So I fired up the remote, easily navigated to network settings, which you can either achieve by using the scroll wheel or by touching left or right on the screen to shuffle through the icons. When it came to entering my password the touch pad immediately showed its weakness, even though the individual letters are good sized (maybe 2.5x times the iTouch keyboard letters), it still registered wrong presses or didn't register them at all. I would press a letter and it would highlight as pressed, however it would not register on the entry line. Second it was slow, if you pressed letters beyond a slow-moderate rate it would miss letters. Anyhow I got my pass entered and it logged on quick, I then proceeded to change a few general settings and exited. I proceeded to navigate to libraries, and presto my media servers showed up along with computers that had active shares, and I thought hey this is nice. Well I tried to browse my folders and I got a "System Busy" error. I proceed to try other computers, and the other Server and nothing, all errors.


After giving up on accessing my shares I plugged in the Director unit as well as the extender and quickly found that the remote would not find either of them. So I used the front panel buttons on the Director to set up my network on that unit, and soon found the interface to be quite lousy using the buttons. When you press one of the buttons, four graphics pop up, one in each corner next to the buttons to show there corresponding action. Anyhow I found it to poor that they chose aesthetics over function, instead of having a dedicated select and back button, along with an up down left right control. When you press any button, to get the OSD action boxes to pop up so you can tell what your doing, it will perform the unknown action corresponding to that key. Next I found the lower left button OSD box blocks part of the password entry box and therefore you couldn't see the letters, which starts as A and requires the use of the top buttons to adjust to a different letter/number. So without being able to see what you had adjusted the letter to, it was completely worthless. I quickly got fed-up and had to walk away.


Which leads to today, so I hopped online this morning and read the manual online which is very scattered and un-detailed. According to the manual the use of the packaged software is not required to setup the system, but is required to activate online services like Rhapsody. Well since my previous attempts at manual setup failed, I fired up the software, which took forever to load on a new laptop, and was actually surprised by the nice interface. Once it finally finished installing a screen pops up that shows you network and all the attached devices. For some reason it took close to 15 minutes for it find and identify all the stuff on mine. Anyhow the setup of audio system components is pretty straight forward, you click the "Add New Device" button and it prompts you for what type, and the third option being "Home Audio Device". It proceeds to bring up a new window which has large icons of the different components. From there I just clicked the Director icon and it proceeded with simple written instructions and flash graphics to install the unit. The steps were plug-it-in, connect it to your network via CAT cable, enter your password, it then proceeds to configure the device for you, when its done it asks you to disconnect the CAT cable so it can test whether it has successfully installed and can connect to your wireless network, if successful your done. Now you can choose to add another device or you can quit, I chose to add the remote which requires you connect it via USB to the computer for it to auto configure, and then proceeded to install the Extender. Overall the software is very easy to use, though it takes a few minutes for setup and test of each device, and definitely will be easier for the standard user than Squeeze.


Now that I was done I played around with the "Cisco Media Server" which is the name for the PC control interface. It has a very pleasing GUI, it shows your different music sources as icons across the bottom, with your players along the left, with the rest for file trees and and searching. You can easily link the players with 2 mouse clicks and it then proceeds to synch them and start streaming, which took roughly 30 seconds. Overall it looks nice and Rhapsody searches from the laptop were pretty fast, displaying cover art when available. But the niceties stop there, even though my shares showed up under sources it would still not successfully access any of them, after 40mins of screwing with it I once again got fed up and decided to write a review about this hardware's failures. Due to oversimplification of the GUI, I have been unable to find a method to truly diagnose the problem or be able point the software to specific paths, nor can I enter access keys for pass protected content. After running the remote setup twice now, both times with it confirming proper installation and showing up on the network, it still fails to find either the director or the extender, along with System Busy errors any time I try to access my music. Needless to say I am highly disgusted with this sytem.


Regarding network strength, I had high hopes for the Cisco stuff since that's their primary business, and was excited they went with Draft N dual band since I recently updated my network bits. However the limited settings give you no options or information regarding the quality of you connection like the Squeeze does, nor can you manually choose or see which band it's using. The remote shows 2 of 3 bars signal when 2 ft from the WAP and sometime drops to 1 bar when only 20-25ft away in the family room. Again just more disappointment. Since it fails to access my media I have been unable to comparison test against the Duet by streaming the same file to the same location.


I did plug some spare speakers into the Director and streamed some Rhapsody, it sounded as good as one could expect from a cheap amp and bookshelf's. While playing from Rhapsody I tried using the volume wheel (does not move) that's located around the power button on the face, and it was again unimpressive and required a deliberate press and leave of your finger for a second to register that your touching it before you can start scrolling, otherwise it would do nothing. It's also too small and easy to accidentally turn off the unit since it does not require a press and hold. While on the topic of power, there is no power button on the remote, which leaves you sleep and hibernate both of which are adjustable in settings. Both the director and extender also come with a seperate IR remote. The one pictured below is for the extender (the director remote is the same besides a blue home button), with many of the buttons being useless since it has no display to see what your controlling.


Overall I had high hopes for the Cisco system, I liked the idea of having a nice color screen on the extender and also a large touchscreen remote. However navigating the OSD with buttons is a pain, and the remote is both inaccurate and unresponsive at times. I wish they would make extenders with a small touch screen and make it available on non-amplified units. I also liked the idea of USB drive support and analog inputs, but really have no patience at this point to test them. Hopefully I'll have a better experience with the Sonos. After reading all the CES coverage, what looks promising is some type of mixed system utilizing $350 touchscreen netbooks and MCE's. Too bad the iTouch XL ended up being vaporware, at least for now. If they made it, it could serve many control purposes and enhance a lot of these sytems.


For those interested I did check the internals on the extender, it uses: -Samsung ARM designed core processor.

-DAC is a TI PCM1782 24bit 192khz

-ADC is a TI PCM1807


Some comparo pics











 

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Regarding the problems you had. It never ceases to amaze me. Don't these companies do usability tests before they release products to the consumer market?
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
I could somewhat understand an issue with finding shares, but the fact that remote, nor the Director can "see" the other components in the system amazes me.


I also noticed this morning that the PC "Music Player" software is unable to power on the extenders. So you would have to manually turn each on before streaming music to them. I imagine the touchscreen remote, if it would recognize the other components, would be able to turn them on.


I also found that the only method to add additional networked music folders is by right clicking Cisco Server icon in the toolbar; navigating to properties; and then manually entering file locations separated by semi-colons. I was very surprised they don't include a browse button to allow the average user to find their folders, rather it requires you to enter direct file paths.


Still no success getting the units to communicate today, or accessing my shares.
 

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LBDriver please don't take any offense to this comment but I hope you were drunk when setting up a the Linksys gear. Otherwise it's a major fail. It sounds like you know what you were doing and had issues. This will be a complete nightmare for the average J6P home user.


I think you'll be pleasantly surprised and happy with the Sonos system.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Sorry ChicagoTC, not drunk


I followed their manual to the T after the previous manual setup attempts failed on the remote, and the Director screen interface blocked me from entering my password.


When I first un-boxed & turned on the remote, it found my network fine. So I entered my network pass it, it connected and showed the DLNA shares on my windows server, shares on Ubuntu Server, and also the shares on one a Vista machine that was running. However it errored with "system busy" when I tried to browse either set of files.


Now, after installing all their bundled software, using their auto-installer, with the installer telling me that each component successfully installed, I see no reason why it should not work.


It's the lack of manual options that inhibits me from successfully installing, personally I don't need all these 2 click setups, I just want the ability to configure it manually, and be done with it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Well the Sonos bundle showed up today.


I just got off the phone with Cisco/Linksys support. They had no explanation for the "system busy" errors nor the controllers failure to communicate with the other devices.



Other things I found out/had confirmed:


- There is a Hard-Reset button on the remote under the m-USB port cover, hold 10 secs. for reboot to factory.

- The touchscreen controller can NOT power on/off the extenders, nor bring them out of standby. Users must manually turn on/off each device

- Told you can't get 3/3 bars connection on the controller, (interestingly all the screen-shots in the manual show 2 bars).

- The control should have no noticeable lag when typing using the soft keyboard.

- They are looking at improving the touch accuracy/sensitivity in a firmware update.

- The controller should communicate directly between the extenders without re-routing.(Later told this is NOT true, and that they require a router for communication)

- The controller and/or extenders should play music from a server, NAS, or running computer without the Cisco Media Server Software (CMSS) running.

- You don't have to run CMSS on each device you want to share music.

- CMSS is only required to play music using the PC player.

- The controller, extenders, and CMSS do not cache or pre-fetch any file data from your different storage devices.

- So from above, each time you access your shares it re-acquires all data.

- The remote should not have to re-acquire network access after coming out of sleep.

- When running the install, add the extenders first before the remote (which I did).

- Currently, NO other online partners/media providers coming soon

- Maximum battery life of the controller is 3 hours, though my experience was around 1 hour. The screen really only looks good when it's 80% brightness or above.

I'll add more if I can remember.


On second note, the other reviewer on Amazon had a much more positive experience with her system, using an iPod and CMSS, though she is not accessing NAS/Server shares. She did also note long install times, and having to user her nail to get the touchscreen to register properly. She stated she uses the click wheel the majority of the time instead. I was pretty surprised how she seemed content with the fact her $400 touchscreen remote didn't really work well as a touchscreen. I guess some may have never experienced a proper touchscreen appliance that's responsive and precise.
 

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LBDriver,


You are more patient then I. I appreciate the thoroughness of your reviews. I'm definitely a Sonos fanboy, but they simply work. I'm a network/security admin by trade but when home I want my gear to work and enjoy music, not tinker with them. The only issue I had with Sonos is DHCP is the only option, so it required reserving the MAC addresses so I knew where my controllers and players were.


Once you get them up an running you can get into them via a browser at

http://xxx.xxx.x.xxx:1400/status


I'm curious to hear your thoughts...
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Well, after talking to the Cisco tech last night, I re-installed everything from scratch for a third time, and the components still failed to recognize each other. So I did everything I know possible, gave each component a static IP/DHCP reservation, full access control to files and shares, still no dice.


So I called them back this morning, and according to the tech I got, everything should be working properly based on the fact their Linksys EasyLink Advisor "LELA" showed active interlinked connections to all devices. He basically had no answers for me, but still wouldn't admit product was defective. So finally I just told him I had had enough, it was obviously defective and I was returning it.


Interestingly, I had him re-read the information they had, and he says their is no mesh network or sub-net. Therefore the devices can NOT communicate with one another without the signal being passed through a router. He also confirmed their is no wake-on-lan nor wireless. So anybody who had thoughts of hiding away extenders in cabinets or elsewhere will have to leave the unit on 24/7, since you have to manually power them on and off.


So back in the box this goes, I really wanted to get it working just so I could give it a true comparison to others, even though I had already experienced flaws and dislikes with parts of the system. It still had features that if they worked well, would be a step above the competition at this moment.
 

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I have been saying that releasing all of these products at once will make or break this system. They only get one shot at capturing their customers with no chance of winning people back through new advancements.


It sounds to me, based upon your review, that they have failed and this product will not fair well in the J6P market they are trying to get into.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Jonnio I agree, at this price point it should just work. Now if people are just entering the realm of networked music, Cisco does have the advantage that they can bundle a dual-band router, NAS, and audio system as a complete system. However their products should have no issues playing nice with other manufacturers network products also.


So, last night I set the timer on the oven, and proceeded with un-boxing and setting up the Sonos.


Here's how it went.


1) Unbox everything, look at the 4 step setup card.

2) Run a patch cable to the local switch and plug in the Zone Bridge.

3) Install software on laptop.

4) Started software and it found an update, automatic download and install.

4a) Created DHCP reservations for all components while update downloaded.

5) Pressed the button on the zone bridge, unit was found within seconds, the software auto-configured the unit, successful.

6) Proceeded to to add the Zone Player 90 and 120 wirelessly, each was found and installed in roughly 45 seconds, successful.

7) Added the controller using the on-screen prompts on the unit itself, success

8) Added iTouch using on-screen prompts, success

9) Pointed the software to my shares on the windows server and FLAC archive on the NAS, it proceeded to index both locations.

10) Connect speakers to ZP120, search my music using iTouch, find the album I want and add to queue, now wait for it..........


MUSIC!


I have to be honest I didn't expect it to go as smoothly as everybody states, hence the timer. Overall it took 1 hour and 6 minutes without a single error, connection drop-out, nothing, I have to say I was impressed.

Note, the majority of this time was the download and install of the software update, with each component also auto-updated by the software, and the indexing of my music archives. I was amazed that once the software had finished indexing my archives, it was available to searched and played on both the Sonos remote and iTouch immediately. No need to restart or manually sync it was already there. I continued to explore the interface on both the Sonos remote and iTouch, sync between zones was within seconds, and I found the options and layout very intuitive.


It was a much welcome change to the Cisco, I can now see what all you Sonos lovers' are talking about, it just works. I didn't really think much about the 30 minutes I spent tweaking the Duet and SqueezeCenter to get the controller and extender to recognize each other and my shares. Nor, did I think much about the remote dropping connection every on in awhile. Until of course seeing the Sonos in action.


However I was disappointed with the screen on the Sonos remote, it's quite small considering the overall size of the unit, the iTouch screen is nearly the same size, and the color and contrast is lacking as well. I used it a bit to explore the interface and see what settings were available to the user, but soon found myself using the iTouch exclusively, I really like the QWERTY search ability. Regarding the interface, I was relieved how plain easy and intuitive it was. Considering I had never used SB, Sonos, or Cisco products before, the Sonos was the easiest, the SB coming a close second, and the Cisco being worst. The Cisco UI surprisingly wasn't great, even though they had the most screen real estate. I suppose the reason for the limited and oversized text lines on the Cisco is due to the inaccuracy of it's touchscreen, where incrasing the number of actions would result in more errant selections.


Regarding the ZonePlayers, they would definitely look better black. I was amazed at the size of the ZP120, the previous model must have been a real beast, and a little disappointed that it lacked the same analog and digital outputs that the ZP90 possesses. I also was dissapointed that they've not updated the Zone Bridge to SonosNet 2.0. My planned setup was to place the ZoneBridge at a midpoint in the house and have it as the sole wired unit, though I have yet to test if it will flawlessly stream from the planned location via SonosNet 1.0. I was able to un-scientifically A/B the Sonos ZP120 to the Cisco Director, well at least until the Director stopped recognizing the USB jump-drive after 15 minutes of playback. I loaded a few FLAC songs onto a jump-drive and popped it into the back of the Director, it recognized it fine at first then later failed and would no longer show up as an option for playback, actually it would not play anything, no Rhapsody or radio because it no longer recognized itself as a device for playback. Anyhow, while it worked, I queued the same songs on the Sonos, and plugged one speaker each (from pair of Klipsch bookshelf's) in the right channel on both players. I then alternated playing back the same songs/segments between the pair at as close to an equalized volume that I could. Overall I felt the Director displayed a louder sound and maybe a little more detail, but honestly it was pretty even, neither is going to blow your socks off.


In close, the Sonos definitely lived up to the reputation I've read about, it was simple and fast to setup, and so far no issues whatsoever. Que times are very fast with no annoying lag as with the Cisco. I think without the ability to try each system, and compare them directly that the average consumer may accept the shortcomings in the Cisco UI and consider it normal. I personally expect the best from modern electronics, especially from heavy hitters like Cisco with their capital and engineers. Honestly I like the idea of a nice color screened model, not that I personally need it, but if properly implemented could cut costs on multiple LCD remotes for individual rooms. With the IR remote the Cisco wasn't nearly as bad to navigate, but once again they use huge oversized text that I imagine is to increase viewing distance, but it just crams up the whole screen and makes searching annoying at best. Also the addition of USB is nice, again if it worked and each player could properly index the files located on it, it would be very useful especially with the price drops on 250GB+ ultraportable drives like the WD Passport. It would also be useful as a 5v powered port alone, I plugged a Zune docking station into the Director using the analog audio inputs and the USB for power, too bad this was after the jump-drive debacle so it would not show the analog line-in as a playable option. For Sonos users utilizing iTouch's for remotes it would be nice to be able to charge them directly from the Zone Player. Hopefully Sonos has some tricks up their sleeve for future releases. Either way for a whole house system you still can't go wrong with Sonos' current line-up, but I wish Sonos would at least update the remote and Zone Bridge in the near future.
 

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Very nice reviews of each products. Well done.


I'm really hoping that Sonos comes out with it's own touch screen remote. I'm currently using my iPod Touch remote and it's great but since I use my iPod in my car and on the go it's a little bit of a pain to not have a dedicated remote out of it but I guess I can solve that by purchasing another iPod Touch and dedicating it to my Sonos.
 

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Great review, you hit on my one complaint. The controller needs updating. As far as the appearance/size of the units I really don't care as they are either in closets or under beds in my house.


Picking up an ipod touch as a 3rd remote for me is a nice idea!
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
ChicagoTC,


The iTouch only gets used for trips, so it will now be predominantly a remote. The other thing to consider is someone was so inclined to run a combo Sonos and Squeeze system that it could control both with the proper apps. I did buy the iPeng app for SB, but have yet to hook back up the Duet. I believe the developer has tried to imitate the Sonos app so it should be pretty similar in use. Regarding the Sonos remote, the screen is really the worst part about it, I took the second photo of all the remotes at least 1 stop underexposed to show the screen content more clearly, otherwise it's pretty washed out. I think they could shrink/slim it down some, but I personally like their use of hard-buttons. Even if they made the new remote touchscreen, I would still like to see a combination of soft and hard buttons.


Regarding the Duet, I kind of hastily set it up, anyhow I was running the SqueezeCenter on my Windows server and it created a log file 15.4GB in size, which I have yet to diagnose the reason for. Therefore, for stability and file security purposes, I am going to attempt to install SqueezeCenter on a Maxtor Fusion NAS. I bought a bunch on clearance for cheap, they have a Celeron processor in them along with an upgradeable so-dimm and gigabit LAN. I currently have 2 running Ubuntu/Samba server, and I get pretty good upload/download speeds, so I figure it should be able to handle a few SB players. I just need to find some time to tear one down and load a base OS on the drive with VNC.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by LBDiver /forum/post/15564926


ChicagoTC,


The iTouch only gets used for trips, so it will now be predominantly a remote. The other thing to consider is someone was so inclined to run a combo Sonos and Squeeze system that it could control both with the proper apps. I did buy the iPeng app for SB, but have yet to hook back up the Duet. I believe the developer has tried to imitate the Sonos app so it should be pretty similar in use. Regarding the Sonos remote, the screen is really the worst part about it, I took the second photo of all the remotes at least 1 stop underexposed to show the screen content more clearly, otherwise it's pretty washed out. I think they could shrink/slim it down some, but I personally like their use of hard-buttons. Even if they made the new remote touchscreen, I would still like to see a combination of soft and hard buttons.


Regarding the Duet, I kind of hastily set it up, anyhow I was running the SqueezeCenter on my Windows server and it created a log file 15.4GB in size, which I have yet to diagnose the reason for. Therefore, for stability and file security purposes, I am going to attempt to install SqueezeCenter on a Maxtor Fusion NAS. I bought a bunch on clearance for cheap, they have a Celeron processor in them along with an upgradeable so-dimm and gigabit LAN. I currently have 2 running Ubuntu/Samba server, and I get pretty good upload/download speeds, so I figure it should be able to handle a few SB players. I just need to find some time to tear one down and load a base OS on the drive with VNC.


SC is unfortunately the worst part of the duet/sb system. The fact that its not standard upnp or the units just dont talk over SMB like xbmc or a sonos to me is a detractor. Even on a fast machine SC is slow.... I always seem to be fixing something with it.


If only XBMC had multizone support.... for single zones its great... lots of control options etc...


sonos has the multizone thing down. The setups I have used have all been seemless and realible. They understand the the usability aspect of their product very well and its priced accordingly... Still a bargain though compared to some of the higher end offerings....


iphone/itouch makes a great remote for many products....


Sean
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by sean_w_smith /forum/post/15566373


SC is unfortunately the worst part of the duet/sb system. The fact that its not standard upnp or the units just dont talk over SMB like xbmc or a sonos to me is a detractor. Even on a fast machine SC is slow.... I always seem to be fixing something with it.

I agree to some extent, but I am curious about the speed issue...I have never had SC be slow either through the web interface or the controllers. What kind of machines/os are you using?
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jonnio /forum/post/15567015


I agree to some extent, but I am curious about the speed issue...I have never had SC be slow either through the web interface or the controllers. What kind of machines/os are you using?

Slow on my 30K song library


on


C2DUO 1.8

P4 2.8 Ghz

600 Mhz PIIII


Totally unusalble on my ready nas....


its plugs along nicely on my quad core


many may think its ok till you compare it to its competition then its nature as a dog becomes very evident....


Sean
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by sean_w_smith /forum/post/15567244


Slow on my 30K song library


on


C2DUO 1.8

P4 2.8 Ghz

600 Mhz PIIII


Totally unusalble on my ready nas....


its plugs along nicely on my quad core


many may think its ok till you compare it to its competition then its nature as a dog becomes very evident....


Sean

I can understand the PIII and the ready NAS the other two there is no reason for any server related latency issues. My library is smaller than yours, but as soon as I can click on something it is visible using an old celeron machine. That is interesting that you have issues with them.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Sean, have you had SC address a smaller library and judged performance, yours is 3x the size of mine. The server I was running it off has a xeon quad, so I imagine I was getting top tier access speeds. Just wondering before I go through all the trouble just to have it bog down and be slow. It's really more of a test to see if it's possible to run a NAServer type setup for Squeeze. I will say after using the Sonos I couldn't stand much, if any, slower load times.
 
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