How Can Technology Help Old People (Audiobooks)

I have a relative whom is older now and and finds it now difficult to read books or ebooks. As such, I have been looking at putting audiobooks on a tablet.

The first thing I will say is that I have found an exelelnt audiobook reader called Smart Audiobook reader. Its free for 7 days and then costs a couple of euros to purchase the full version. It has all the bells and whistles you need for audiobook reading.

 

audiobook reader

The first problem I ran into is that many of the titles my relative was interested in have not been translated into Audiobook format (or even ebook format).

The next problem I ran into were that the titles that I purchased from Amazon were DRM locked to my kindle (even though I was not going to read them).

It seems that the copyright rules for published books, are separate to the copyright for ebooks and audiobooks meaning you may have to end up purchasing all 3 formats !

At the moment, Im having to do the following:

(a) For ebooks purchased from amazon, I have to strip the DRM encyption, and the use the calibre book management to convert them to epub.

If the ebooks are in the public domain then I just save them as epub.

(b) I then use a program called Balabooka with the Ivona voices which “reads” the ebook and saves it to sequential MP3 files (this creates the audiobook).

I have stayed away from providing step by step instructions because Im not sure what copyright rules apply even for books in the public domain. However, a quick browse will explain how to do it.

WhereThingsAreBorn ๐Ÿ™‚

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Installing MyMediaAlexa On A Raspberry PI

I have already raved in earlier posts about mymedia for alexa (which allows you to play your own music on the Amazon echo series rather than using one of the common music streaming services).

This skill requires a little help in the form of a piece of software that runs on a PC. However, it can also run on a raspberry PI.

This tutorial assumes that you have some familiarity with the raspberry pi (but lets see how it goes).

Stage 1 – Install the OS on a raspberry PI.

(1) For this we need to download an OS which we will install on the raspberry pi.

https://www.raspberrypi.org/downloads/raspbian/

raspian desktop

Download the image file and remember where you saved it as we will need it in a moment.

(2) Then download Win32diskimager which is the tool we will use to write the OS onto the microsd card.

https://sourceforge.net/projects/win32diskimager/

Install win32diskimager to your PC.

(3) Ensure you do not have any external hard drives or USB sticks plugged into your PC. This will minimise the chances of writing the OS to the wrong drive and destroying your meda on that device.

(4) Run Win32DiskImager, select the raspberry pi file you downloaded.

(5) Make sure the device shown in Win32diskimager matches the SDCARD devices in your PC – This is your last chance to ensure its set correctly because if its not, you will destroy whatever is written on that device.

(6) Select Write on the Win32diskimager application to write the OS to the SDCARD.

burnos

(7) Once its finished writing, you can remove the sdcard, pop it into the raspberry pi. For the moment, life will be easier if you boot the raspberry pi on a wired network and you can always setup wifi later.

Stage 2 – Setup Raspberry PI

(1) Boot the raspberry pi with the newly installed scard. Wait until it resizes the partition and boots upto to the main screen.

My pictures are a little blurry but you get the drift.

IMG_20180411_120146

(2) If using wifi, setup the wifi by the icon on the top right that looks like 2 red x’s.

IMG_20180411_120442

(3) Now lets change our raspberry pi preferences by selecting the raspberry as the top left off the screen

IMG_20180411_120621

(4) Lets ensure that the hostname is changed to something a little for useful like mymedia alexa.ย  Then ensure network at boot is ticket (because we want to ensure the network is up before later potentially mounting our NAS drive or wheverever the music is located).

(5) Ensure ssh is enabled on the interfaces screen.

IMG_20180411_120743

(6) Press OK and the Raspberry PI will reboot with the new settings.

(7). Once the raspberry pi has rebooted, everything else can be done from the command line. The first thing we will do is change the default pi password. At this point you can either do it from the console or once you have ssh’d into the raspberry pi. I will cover this in the next step.

Stage 3 – Installing MyMedia Alexa Software.

For this stage, Im assuming that you are going to connect to the raspberry pi via SSH if its on your network. We first need to figure out the IP address of the raspberry PI. I use. I use a tool like AngryIP scanner to see what IP address I need to connect to.

Putty is normally the tool I use to connect.

https://www.putty.org/

Assuming, you can connect, you login with the username pi and the password is raspberry (if you did not change it earlier). To change it now, type password. it will ask you for your current password and then the new once (twice).

IMG_20180411_121018

we are now ready to install the mymedia software.

Stage 3 – Installing the mymedia software

(1) execute the following commands:

cd /tmp
wget https://s3.amazonaws.com/bizmodeller/MyMediaForAlexa/Release+1.3.64.0/mymedia_1.3.64.0-1_armhf.deb

getmymedia

(2) Execute the following command:

sudo apt-get install ./mymedia_1.3.64.0-1_armhf.deb

mymedia2

The software is now installed.

Stage 4 – Accessing your music.

The instructions for this step depend upon whether your music is on a hard drive that you will plug directly into the raspberry PI or on a NAS drive that needs to be mounted on the PI. If its on a directly connected hard drive then you can skip the rest of this stage and move to stage 5.

(1) We we need to mount the NAS drive with the music on the raspberry pi. In my case Im running FREENAS and I know that my is setup under a share called share1 and the music is in a folder called music/MP320

cd $HOME

mkdir media

sudo nano /etc/fstab

 

and add the following line.

//FREENAS/share1/music/MP320 /home/pi/media cifs username=guest,password=NULL,workgroup=WORKGROUP,users,auto,user_xattr 0 0

press control_x to save.

(2) execute sudo mount -a

(3) execute df

You should now see your share mounted on /home/pi/media

mount

Now we need to ensure that this happens every time the pi restarts, so execute the following commands to reboot the pi and ensure the mount is still in place after the reboot

sudo reboot

and then logon to the raspberry pi again and make sure you can still see the mount.

Stage 6 – Configuring mymedia for alexa.

Obviously, you have followed all of my earlier posts about ensuring your music is properly tagged and has album art (although we wont need the album art in this case). This work will now pay off because it will allow you to issue a wide variety of commands to your echo, relating to music.

The followingย  instructions are taken directly from the mymediaalaexa website and are common to both the windows or raspberry pi install.

  1. On your normal computer, open your favourite browser and navigate to http://%5Bipaddress_of_pi%5D:52051 (the URL given in the step before)
  2. Use the My Media Web Console to complete installation

Now please follow the next set of instructions to finish configuration.

Configuring My Media for Alexa

  1. Ensure the My Media Web Console is open (the last step of each installation method above), and then click the ‘Next’ button on the Welcome screen:
  2. You now need to link your My Media for Alexa install with the Amazon account you use with your Echo device. Enter your Amazon Email address and password when prompted:
  3. Once paired, you will be returned to the My Media Web Console. You’ll be asked if you want to download sample media – you can say Yes or No:
  4. The next step is to add your media, click the ‘Watch Folders’ menu option on the left hand side of the Console:
  5. Click ‘Add Folder’:
  6. Navigate the folder structure on your device to find the media, for example /home/pi/media. This can also be a NAS location if you have mounted your NAS drive:
  7. My Media for Alexa will index your media and show that it is now ready for Serving to Alexa:
  8. You should now be able to see your media in the various views of the My Media Web Console, eg the Album view:
  9. Now try playing your music by saying for example,ย “Alexa, open My Media”ย or click here to see the other commands you can use.

Stage 7 – Play That Funky Music

Try the following commands:

Alexa, open mymedia (it should start to play music from your media collection)

Alexa, ask mymedia to play the album (albumname)

Alexa, ask mymedia to place (artistname)

Alexa, ask mymedia to play (genre) (jazz,acoustic,etc) music

You now ave a working mymedia setup without the need to have your PC on permanently.

WhereThingsAreBorn ๐Ÿ™‚

 

Another Great Use For The Mini Mixer

I have posted previously about how useful the 2 channel passive mini mixer is and I have now found another use for it.

I currently have my echo dot in the bedroom plugged into a lepy 2024A+ amplifier and JBL control one speakers and its great.

I also have a standard LCD TV in the room and noticed how I could not hear the audio comfortably and it sounded very tinny in comparison to the echo dot audio.

So – mini mixer to the rescue ๐Ÿ™‚

I now plug the TV output audio into one channel of the audio mixer andthe echo dot into the other. The audio from both now goes into my lepy amp and speakers.

The man who builds them is a very nice chap. Tell him that wherethingsareborn recommended you and he will build one for you.

mixer

Mini Mixer Link

WhereThingsAreBorn ๐Ÿ™‚

The Story Of An Echo And A Dot.

Obviously, I was an early adopter of the Amazon echo, getting on the release date reduced to ยฃ99 from ยฃ149 and started me on my home automation journey.

If you read my earlier post on Mymedia for Alexa (and why its a game changer), it now means that I have voice control of my own music without a streaming subscription (yes people its anarchy and the fall of civilization as we know it) ๐Ÿ™‚

Until now, I have been listening to music through the echo’s speaker and I realised it was now about time to get the music into my hifi.

Of course, there are a few ways I could do this:

(a) I could by a bluetooth audio adapter for my hifi and connect the echo to the adapter. However, this would mean leaving my amplifier on all of the time.

(b) I could convert the 3.5mm audio to HDMI and feed it into my HDMI switch (but that has the same limitations as above)

So thinking outside the box, I purchased another echo DOT and connected that to the DVD input of my amplifier via a 3.5mm to phono adapter. I then created a Harmony activity called “MyMedia” which turns on the amp and changes the input to the DVD.

I now have an echo and a dot in the living room and I dont want them both responding so I have changed the wake word for the dot to “Computer”

Now I have the best of both worlds in that I can:

(a) Continue to use my echo as normal (standalone and not connected to any hifi)

(b) If I want voice control of my music then I would say,ย  “Alexa turn on mymedia” (which would execute the harmony activity) followed by “Computer ask mymedia to play some music”.

and the echo and the dot lived in harmony happily ever after (see what I did there)

WhereThingsAreBorn ๐Ÿ™‚

 

 

Revisiting The Lepy 2024A Plus Amplifier

Now that Im using my echo dot to play my own music collection (not streamed music from Amazon/Spotify, Im now ready to upgrade from the great Aukey bluetooth speaker to my goto speakers – the JBL Control Ones – why because Im old school and like to 2 speakers at least 6 feet apart with stereo separation.

So the ingredents for success are:

Amazon Echo Dot

Lepy 2024A plus amplifier

1 set of JBL control One speakers.

echodot

lepy

jblcontrol

and with these 3 simple ingredients, I can ask ask Alexa to play my favourite music with level of quality sound I like.

WhereThingsAreBorn ๐Ÿ™‚

MyMedia For Alexa – Why Its A Game Changer.

So why cant Amazon let me play my music on my echo or echo dot, – oh yeah, you can but you need to upload it all to the cloud using a very cumbersome process and pay a storage fee each year for the privilege.

Well an enterprising company has developed the Mymedia for alexa skill/software – which allows you do do just that. Its a combination of an Alexa skill and some PC software (or raspberry pi software – they should get a medal just for that) that ultimately allows you to say things like

Alexa, Ask mymedia to play Chris Rea or

Alexa, Ask mymedia to play acoustic music or

Alexa, Ask myedia to play the album Dark side of the moon by Pink floyd (I know Im a dinosaur).

and the yearly cost of of all of this voodoo magic…… $5 US dollars.

I haven’t managed to install the raspberry Pi software yet but I have purchased the PC licence and after its indexed your music, you are all ready to go.

I’m now at the point of considering to turnoff my Logitech Media Server and simply use the echo dot’s as the source of the music for my home multiroom music system.

I’m not yet there but its getting very close very quickly and its a complete nobrainer to go out and purchase the Mymedia for Alexa software which you can find at

My Media For Alexa

I will be doing a more indepth review shortly but I couldn’t wait to share the good news about this skill that finally releases my own music collection for playback on the echo family.

WhereThingsAreBorn ๐Ÿ˜‰

When A 4 Port HDMI Switch Is Not Enough

So, I already have a 4 port HDMI switch mentioned in earlier blogs but I now need more inputs. I chose the Novete 6×2 HDMI switch for the following reasons:

(a) Great reviews on Amazon

(b) Dual output HDMI (as I need to route the picture to my TV AND my projector)

(c) Separate Audio out (SPDIF and 3.5mm jack) to my hifi

(d) It can be powered on an off via the remote (many HDMI switches cannot)

Other features include

  • 6 INPUTS & 2 OUTPUTS: Features 6 HDMI signal inputs and 2 HDMI signal outputs; supports full HD and 3D videos; supports the highest resolution of up to 4K x 2K@30Hz
  • AUDIO EXTRACTOR & ARC: Synchronizes the separation of audio signals; ARC (Audio Return Channel) allows the sound from the TV to be played through a sound system (only OUT A supports this function); S/PDIF digital audio formats support Dolby Digital (AC3), DTS and LPCM2.0
  • PIP (PICTURE-IN-PICTURE) FUNCTION: Displays 1 main picture and 5 small pictures; enables you to select your favorite channel with the simple press of button
  • REMOTE & MANUAL CONTROL: IR remote control allows for easy control from the comfort of your sofa; you can also control the functions by using the buttons on the device
  • WIDE APPLICATIONS: Resolutions supported includes 1080p@120Hz, 1080p 3D@60Hz, 1080i and 720p; offers a great solution for signal transmission in home theater systems, multimedia systems, monitoring systems and more;ย 

I installed it in about 3 minutes and then it was just a matter of teaching Harmony, its command set (yes it works with the Harmony Hub as well which is a must for me).

Now Alexa can turn on my movies, TV and Cinema again and I have 2 spare outputs for other projects (stay tuned).

I was very pleased at how quick it was to integrate this into my system.

hdmi switch

As usual, I have added a handy affiliate link for those that are interested.

Noteve 6×2 4K ultra HDMI switch

WhereThingsAreBorn ๐Ÿ™‚