#270 Henry, Sunday, 14 June 2015 11:51 PM (Category: Linux)
(Tags: dlna)

I've been sitting here without access to my music or video. The Apple TV relies on access to iTunes on my Mac Mini, which relies on the Drobo to store the music and video. The Drobo won't stay connected, so I've turned it off. So the Apple TV has nothing to draw from. This is not a good situation.

What I really want is the Apple TV to iTunes type of arrangement but on Linux. Is there such a thing? I had Plex running at some stage, but Plex bugs me. I have a Chromecast that has a Plex browser on it. As far as I can tell, the Plex browser connects out to Plex Central which knows about my Plex server inside the house and it helps the two connect. If the Internet is out, the Plex browser can't connect to Plex Central so I cannot stream from my Plex Server in my house to my Plex browser inside my house. I am against this. I do not want to rely on outside services to connect my devices inside my house.

I remembered that when I was playing around with Plex last year, my Samsung TV saw it and used the acronym DLNA. I did some research on DLNA.

DLNA is Digital Living Network Alliance. It's a protocol for devices to share media. Plex might even be built on top of it. My TV has a built in browser. Lots of things have built in browsers. What I need is a DLNA server.

I fired up sbopkg on my Slackware desktop and searched on DLNA and there is an entry for minidlna - a Linux based DLNA server. I installed it and in seconds I had a DLNA server running on my desktop and serving up my music. My TV saw it and I could play music. I got the DLNA server to look at some videos, and it streamed them out to my TV and I watched them. Nice. The proof of concept worked.

I pulled in a small computer that was being idle, installed Slackware, installed ffmpeg and a few dependencies, installed minidlna and connected three big external hard disks. I synced all my music and videos to the hard disks (8 terabytes), told minidlna to use them and hey presto, I had replaced the Apple TV - iTunes chain with a Linux based solution.

To be honest, the DLNA browser is a little rough, but it works reliably. There's more I can do with it, but it works. Best of all, it works the way I like. iTunes displays the music and video in one big spreadsheet format. That works just fine if you have a few hundred items, but when you have a few thousand, scrolling to the end is a pain. I found I was watching movies that started with A or B or C, rather than scroll for half an hour to catch the R, S or T films. DLNA can do both. You can use the spreadhsheet mode if that's what you like, but you can also do it the hierarchical way. It follows directories.

My movies and music are already stored hierarchically, broken by genres and collections. With following directories down, I can locate a film or TV show in seconds, which if I have to scroll for would take me many minutes. This is a better way to do it, for me and the size of my collection.

So now I am back in action with music and video, and it's a Linux based solution.