Personal media servers

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Wired has an article about how to build an audio server. These are clever little systems that give you access to your mp3 collection from remote locations.

What exactly "remote" means can vary depending on your level of ambition. Wired's article starts by focusing on the Squeezebox and the Roku Soundbridge also gets a lot of attention, but both are limited to streaming over a particular local network, which effectively means you'll have access throughout your home but not necessarily beyond

The article mentions Jinzora as an option for remotely serving over The Real Internet, but it requires configuring your computer as a web host and installing server-oriented software such as Apache and PHP.

Don't get me wrong, gears are now turning here as a result of that last one, especially since it's open source and written in PHP, but I also want to highlight an even easier option: ml_www.


The unfortunate name is a result of the fact that it follows naming conventions for Winamp plugins, and also probably because it seems to have been in a permanently fizzled beta status since about 2003.

Nevertheless, it still works beautifully if you're using Winamp as your media player. (If you're not, you should give it a look, but that's a separate blog post altogether.) It's really this simple:

  1. Install ml_www
  2. Choose port in ml_www preferences and make sure your router isn't blocking it
  3. Visit http://yourIPaddress:port

You can find your IP address by visiting (or if you're feeling adventurous, its considerably more risque counterpart). If you don't know how to open your ports, there are plenty of guides out there, and if you have a geek friend who is willing to help you out it's a pretty easy task which they'll probably do for you in exchange for a free sandwich.

Or, potentially, for a login. You can leave it wide open to all comers if you want, but you can also set up authentication to password-protect access to your music -- safer, for sure, but there's very little chance of the RIAA lawsuit folks stumbling across your little media server anyhow. Of course, if your geek thinks you listen to crappy music, all bets are off.

Once you've set this up, you can stream or download the music on your hard drive from elsewhere and control music playback on the host installation of Winamp using any computer with internet access; the latter is less useful, but I once it punk'd my roommate with it from across campus.

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