Working with Windows

A friend of mine asked me for a favour — one of those favours which is actually to do some technical support for them. But he’s a good bloke and is good at the guitar, so I said “no problem”. He’s got a Roberts WM-201 internet radio; it can play mp3 streams from online radio stations. And…it can also play your local music, streamed from a PC on your network. That’s what he wanted: the computer in the dining room with all his music on, and to play that music on the Roberts radio in the lounge. They’re both on the wifi network in his house.

The computer is running Windows XP. I haven’t touched Windows in Quite Some Time, but I said I’d have a look.

Long story short: I failed. And am annoyed about it. I’m not really looking for suggestions here: he’s not a particularly technical bloke, so I can’t really pass on the suggestions to him, and he’s a few hundred miles from me so I can’t try things out. This is more an ill-tempered rant than anything else, but if anyone’s got any ideas that do not involve him buying new stuff or installing different operating systems, I’ll listen.

The Roberts radio thing has two ways of playing music from a source on the network: it can connect to Windows shares, and it can connect to UPnP music sources. So I tried UPnP first.

Windows Media Player has the ability to share music by UPnP, and he already has that installed, with his music in it. That seemed an obvious place to start. So, I enabled music sharing, following the instructions. The radio could not see the shared UPnP source. I also had an Android tablet available, so I installed a UPnP browser on it and that couldn’t see it either. I installed a UPnP browser on the Windows machine and that could see the UPnP source, which suggests that the problem is not in Windows Media Player: it’s some sort of network or firewall issue. The Windows machine had at least two firewalls on it: Windows Firewall, and McAfee. I disabled both: still nothing could see the UPnP source. There is, as far as I can tell, no way to find out why a thing is invisible. A noddy network diagnostic tool on the Android tablet confirmed that TCP port 2869 was “open” (and other ports were “closed”); I didn’t have easy access to any other diagnostic tools (I’d have nmapped it from my Ubuntu machine if I had it, but I didn’t).

No idea what to try after that. I don’t know what might be causing it to be invisible from outside. A photo frame which can browse UPnP sources also failed to connect. I did think about installing a different UPnP server, but all the Windows ones I looked at (Twonky, another one I forget the name of) cost money, and there’s no MediaTomb.

So, I tried Windows Shares. I shared the music folder and allowed network users to alter the files therein. An SMB browser on the Android tablet could see and browse the share if it connected as Anonymous. It could not when using a username and password because I didn’t know which username and password to use! He doesn’t have a password set, and his username has a space in. I tried connecting with the Android SMB browser (AndSMB, if it makes a difference) using the username (containing a space) and an empty password: it would not connect. I don’t know how to find out what your username is on Windows; I poked around at “net user” and “net share” without enlightenment. I tried changing his username to not have a space in, and setting a password, and then connecting from AndSMB with that username and password: didn’t work. The radio did not find any shares at all. I do not know whether the radio tries connecting as Anonymous, and the documentation doesn’t say. I tried using the username and password from the radio and that didn’t work either. By the look of it, when you tell AndSMB to connect as Anonymous, it actually connects with username “guest” and password “”, so I tried that from the radio and it didn’t work.

So now I’m lost. And this is way too hard. And every time something like this happens, I think he gets a little closer to buying a Mac. Sigh.

I may take an Ubuntu CD round at some point.

I'm currently available for hire, to help you plan, architect, and build new systems, and for technical writing and articles. You can take a look at some projects I've worked on and some of my writing. If you'd like to talk about your upcoming project, do get in touch.

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