Subsonic Media Server (or Where the hell have I been?)

Maybe I’m really late to the game here, but I just stumbled across a little app called Subsonic (link) that runs on Windows, Mac, and Linux. On a very basic level, you install it on your machine, point it to the folders that hold your music and movies, and then you can access that media from any device on your network. And with a bit of port forwarding, you can also access it anywhere in the world over the interwebs.

Once installed, you just point your browser to the IP of the machine you installed it on and log in with the default admin info. Then you change the admin password configure everything how you want it. This webpage acts as a front-end for all your media pleasure.

BUT WAIT! There’s more.  You can also set up multiple user account for your bros. You can control what type of access rights they have (stream, stream/download, stream/download/upload) and then they can enjoy your media as well! And yes, that does say upload! Through the web interface, you can upload media directly into whatever folder you like. You can even upload a zip file and it automatically extracts it on your server!

The cherry on top is the fact that there are apps for Android, iOS, and Windows Phone to let you  access, stream, and even download/cache your media directly to your phone!

And all this for free! The mobile streaming is limited to 30 days unless you donate a minimum of 10EUR to the developers. Doing so gets you get a license that unlocks your server completely. It also gets you your own URL to access your server without needing to remember pesky IP addresses. Well worth the donation.

So, needless to say, I won’t be bothering with paid music services anymore. Now I have a dedicated XBMC install at home with Subsonic running in the background. This takes care of ALL my media needs both at home and away.

Paid Music Services (an editorial)

Google Music has had its doors open to the general public for some time now, placing itself in the game with others like iTunes, Rhapsody, Rdio and Grooveshark (to name a few). That being said, I find myself wondering just how it will fit in, and just why we need another pay-per-song music service anyway. Over the years, I have found myself using all of the above-mentioned services, and the more I think about it the less the pay-per-song services make sense.

With iTunes, and now with Google Music, you can add your own existing MP3s with ease and even store them in the cloud to use with multiple devices wherever you may be (as long as you have a network connection). They also give you the option of buying new music for download and/or the cloud. Then, you can sync your music to allow for offline listening. Here’s the thing, though. When it comes to discovering new music I find Google falls short. At least with iTunes, they have radio stations based on your favorite artists or genres. Occasionally I’ll hear a song I’ve never heard and be like “Hey, who’s that? I like this!” With Google, you can “shop” for music but it has the same shortcomings as other pay-per-song services….namely, the 30-second clips. With the kind of music I like, it’s sometimes hard to know for sure if I’m really going to dig a song with nothing more than a 30-second clip. Not to mention, I have to search or browse though bands to find something I like.

In step services like Rhapsody and Rdio. They let you pay a monthly fee to have unlimited access to music. They also are cloud-based and accessible from anywhere there is a network but also have the ability to cache for offline listening.  With these services, I can play “artist radio” that will play music based on an artist I choose.  I find this to be the easiest way to discover new music. I know you’re going to say, hey Pandora does that for free! But the problem with Pandora is that I can ONLY listen to radio stations, where services like Rhapsody and Rdio let me also pick specific artists, albums, or even songs I want to hear, as well as the ability to build my own playlists with songs I don’t “own.”  (longest sentence ever?) Now I have access to full songs from any band I can think of (or never thought of) and I can listen to them on my computer, my smartphone, etc. It’s that freedom that really sets these services apart from pay-per-song services.

Well what about all those MP3s I have taking up storage space? Well, they’re yours. They always will be (the ones you obtained legally, anyway). In the meantime, I can add all those same albums to my Rdio or Rhapsody collections and listen to them anywhere (from the cloud) without having to convert them with iTunes or upload them to Google.

Then there’s Grooveshark. It lets you do most of the same things as paid services like Rhapsody or Rdio but without the “paid” part. From my computer, I can listen to all the music I want, absolutely free. The catch comes when I want to listen from my smartphone. But it’s not much of a catch because for a small monthly fee, I can download an App and listen to everything I want on my smartphone, too! Best part about Grooveshark? They have lots of GWAR!

So here’s my conclusion…I can’t see paying for music through services like Google or iTunes. If I “buy” an album I want something tangible. I like CDs. I like inserts and lyrics and all that comes along with actually buying an album. If I’m just going to be listening to music digitally, I see much more usefulness in monthly services that will let me listen to ANYTHING I want.  For me, I’ve settled in with Rdio. It’s a little pricier that Grooveshark but I find their mobile app to be much better than the competition.

Chime in and let us know what you think in the comments….

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