Dan Connolly's tinkering lab notebook

Closing music sharing loops with Amazon Cloud Player and iTunes home sharing

I enjoy the music that my wife buys, but when I shop, I seem to get overwhelmed before I get as far as the "place your order" button. It's just like in college, when I used pore over the used cassette section, only to realize it was time for my next class before I decided what to buy. Once she buys the music, I'd like to have it when I commute to work or go to the gym.

I pulled my hair out for a while trying to get my Ubuntu linux box to fool her Mac into using it as a time machine server. I couldn't even get apple file sharing working read-write (for saving playlists and metadata). When Apple came out with home sharing, I pretty much threw in the towel and resigned myself to pulling out my MacBook Air whenever I wanted to deal with the world of popular music. But mostly I just didn't bother.

Then, after she had been limping along for a while on external keyboards and mice for her MacBook due to the internal ones having broken down (and the price to service them being out of reach), we swapped out her MacBook for my Macbook Air.

This gave me a fresh shot at organizing the family music collection.

My Ubuntu box has big, cheap disks. I use LVM2 to manage three volumes, which vary based on availability and confidentiality constraints:

  • commons - for creative commons and open source stuff. No constraints; I don't have to worry about who sees it or copies it, and it remains available if I delete my copy.
  • mass-media - for popular music, DVR storage, etc. I don't have license to share this stuff freely, but availability isn't a big deal: if I lose my copy, I can easily get another, though perhaps not for free.
  • family-media - for photos, records, etc. Much of it is confidential and original.

At some point since my earlier frustrations, Ubuntu and Mac OS X have decided to get along; file sharing now Just Works. So I rsync'd all her music to the mass media volume shared it. Unlike the nightmare of merging iPhoto libraries, iTunes has an option to view "only items not in my library". Yay!

The iTunes collection includes some original stuff, such as piano recital recordings and garage band compositions. I'm dealing with my long-standing angst about that by using Musicbrainz Picard to automatically re-tag everything and then move the stuff that's outside the wisdom of crowds to the family-media volume. The collection also includes stuff that my wife imported for photo montage projects; Frank Sinatra and polka music were of great sentimental (or humor) value to the client, but I don't want it in my "shuffle all" mix on the way to work. I'm not sure how to deal with that, yet.

Reducing the redundancy feels good to the closet librarian in me, but... what if the disk goes kerflewey? It's all replaceable, but even the potential of buying it or ripping it again leads me to the aforementioned paralysis/overwhelm.

Enter Amazon Cloud Drive and Amazon Cloud Player.

Not only does the android app eliminate the hassle of firing up a Mac to use doubletwist to sync iTunes to my android phone, but cloud storage provides backup of all our popular music... or at least: all the music that I cherish enough to bother uploading to Amazon.