Subsonic: Pick the Right OS!

One of the items on my tinker list was to build a Subsonic streaming media server for home. For one, I do enjoy building things, and two, I continue to look for a clean way to stream music both at home and away without relying on a cloud service that has limited storage. Subsonic is a free, open-source, web-based streaming server. You can set up user permissions so you could allow access to your music and videos to your family and friends. When I started out this journey, I failed because I picked an operating system I was familiar with, but Subsonic didn’t really appreciate.

I began with an installation of OpenSUSE 11.4 on an old HP 6710b laptop. It had 2gb memory and a Centrino Duo processor, so I wasn’t too concerned with bogging it down. After going through the standard OS installation, I installed Tomcat to run the web server for Subsonic. I had planned to just download their WAR file, start up Tomcat and kick the tires. Not so. What I soon learned is that Linux doesn’t like wma (Windows Media) files — no surprise. I tried my best to locate codec converters such as lame and ffmpeg from third-party sites to no avail. Granted, I should have ripped my old CDs years ago in mp3 and not let Windows Media Player convert them to wma files in the first place, but the past is the past. I wasn’t about to go back and convert all those wma files into mp3 format. It sounded more intriguing to build a server than to watch music files convert from one format to another. Watching paint dry sounded more interesting. I digress.

With a rainy afternoon invested, I decided to scrap my escalation of commitment into a codec pit of despair and go with a different operating system. Subsonic offers a standalone, self-contained installation for Ubuntu 12.04 LTS. It seemed like the next best option since I wasn’t too keen on bringing up a Windows web server (ack!). I hadn’t played with Ubuntu for about 5 years and the OS has come a long way. I was impressed that while the software was installing, I was prompted to enter all the mundane info like name, time zone, and language. It seems little, but it’s a nice efficiency. The desktop interface would be very familiar for those used to using MacOS. I felt more confident about my OS selection, so now it was time to see if we could get things up and running.

A Rough Step-by-Step Installation Guide

  1. Download and install the latest release of Ubuntu. I used the desktop version, which I’m sure will be fine for most people.
  2. Download and install the latest software updates. I can’t stress enough how important it is to keep up-to-date with these to mitigate the risk of security vulnerabilities or defects within code.
  3. Be sure to give yourself a static IP address on your network. This will make it much easier to access the web interface, and later, setup port-forwarding to access your songs away from home.
  4. Follow the step-by-step instructions from Subsonic: I followed the Advanced Configuration because I didn’t want to be exposed to security vulnerabilities by running the subsonic service as root.
Once you get logged in to the web interface, it will direct you through setting up locations for your music and videos. Rather than keep all my music locally, I have them hosted on my FreeNAS file server. I am able to maintain a multi-tier sever environment and keep single points of failure out of my hair for one, but I’m also able to tighten down security a little more this way too. Especially since I’d like to have Subsonic available away from home, this is good practice.
Now, it’s time for me to tinker some more and learn about the different Subsonic players. More to come, I’m sure.