A Little DAAP Will Do Ya


I’ve been eyeing the Linksys NSLU2 for a little while, contemplating its use as a file server for the house. I’m attracted to the (extremely!) small form factor, the low power consumption, and the fact that Debian is fully supported on it (see Debian on the Linksys NSLU2). I’m not keen on actually buying it, though, especially since I still own a Shuttle XPS small form factor PC. I’m also worried that the NSLU2 will ultimately prove to be underpowered for my goals.

I want a low-profile file server for two basic reasons:

The MVix MX-760HD can play music files but its support for playlists is extremely lacking, and it doesn’t expose the collection of music to other devices on the network. So I want to move all the music from the MVix to somewhere else. The MVix could still access the music from the network server, though I doubt I’d use it much for audio playback. (Incidentally, I’m still delighted with the MVix: it’s been a great addition to our entertainment center: not having to shuffle DVDs to watch some of our favorite programming is a real treat.)

Having the music files in a central location is only one piece of the solution, though. I’d like to allow all our laptops to listen to different playlists in different rooms at the same time. I suppose we could all mount a network share, and simply have our local music clients parse the share contents. That’s not quite the solution I’d like to pursue, though.

I looked at the SlimServer, the script that powers the Slim Devices product line. It looks neat, and should be easy to use. There is documentation for the SlimServer on the OpenSlug firmware, so it ought to work on Debian-on-NSLU2 just as well. The comments on that page, and in some Google searches for “nslu2 slimserver" made me a little concerned about whether the NSLU2 would be up to the task of serving media. We have 8000+ MP3 files, with more CDs yet to rip. A slow media solution is probably worse than the current configuration.

A little more investigation suggested a DAAP solution, the protocol used by iTunes. There is a iTunes Server for NSLU2, which uses the mt-daap package. There is a mt-daapd package for Debian, and I quickly found a Linux.com article about mt-daapd. Since Carina has been using iTunes of late to manage and play her media, the mt-daapd solution seemed like a good choice: she could move all her media to the file server, and continue to access all of it through her preferred client. I was pleased to learn that RhythmBox, the default GNOME media player, supports DAAP, too!

So last night I installed Debian Etch onto my Shuttle XPS. I executed apt-get install mt-daapd, and was quite surprised to see “Shuttle” show up in the sidebar of RhythmBox! I moved the collection of music from the MVix to the Shuttle, and restarted the mt-daapd process, which triggered it to re-index the music collection. This took several minutes on the Shuttle – I can only imagine it would take considerably longer on the NSLU2. Clicking “Shuttle” in my RhythmBox client showed me that more than 8,000 songs were available!

I think my worries about the speed of the NSLU2 are largely misplaced: (re-)indexing the music collection isn’t an everyday occurrence, so it’s not something that will hamper every day music playing. If you’re using the NSLU2 with mt-daapd, do please share your experiences!

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