Archive for February, 2011

Remote Wireless Music Syncing Android and Linux

Sunday, February 13th, 2011

Recently, an Android version of Winamp was released and included in its feature list was very useful wireless syncing with the Windows version of Winamp. Unfortunately, my file server at home doesn’t run Windows and Winamp under Wine is an unstable mess, so attempting to use that feature was out. Like a good Linux user, I didn’t take this lying down – we don’t sit around like Windows users waiting for someone to build the solution for us, we cobble something together using tools already available! What I decided to do was to emulate the mechanism that I came up with when I built my Car PC. Basically, the core of wireless syncing in the Car PC was rsync, combined with a little bit of logic to get a list of music track locations to pull over. By offloading some of that logic onto the server, this seemed possible.

First, I installed an rsync app for Android and tested it out. Rsync backup is just a front end for rsync, which is perfect because it lets you use all the normal rsync options, allows public key authentication (so you never need to enter a password) and displays rsync’s output to a log window. I wanted to pull files from my server so in my rsync profile I selected “rsync in reverse” and added the command line options “-vHrtDL --chmod=Du+rwx,go-rwx,Fu+rw,go-rw --no-perms --progress --partial” most of which is the default for a new profile, but I added:

  • -L, to follow symlinks
  • --progress, to display file transfer progress
  • --partial, to allow file transfer resuming

Android won’t know any of the new music files have been added yet, so they won’t show up in any music players (which all look up available tracks in the built-in Android media database), so you need to install something like SDrescan to run after the files have copied over which will magically make them visible in the music app of your choice.

That’s the phone side sorted out, I just need something sensible to point it at – I don’t want rsync recursing over my entire music collection wirelessly, it would take ages.

On the server, I’m running the (somewhat ageing) Firefly Media Server, which indexes and serves music for my Roku Soundbridge. I’d previously written a data abstraction class in PHP for the sqlite database it runs on, so I used that to produce a script (to run periodically under cron) which picks a list of albums from a playlist (created by another script) and creates a bunch of symlinks to them in the folder that I set as the target in my rsync profile, the idea being I have a regularly changing folder which one rsync command can look at to pick up new music.

I now have wireless syncing that works anywhere with an internet connection, as well as on the local network (unlike Winamp) and the idea of keeping a static rsync profile and using a source folder full of symlinks provides a cunning way of pushing content onto your phone. It would be quite easy to create something like a web interface to pick files on the server and have symlinks of them created on a single rsync source folder. On top of this, Rsync backup provides hooks for Tasker to link into, so you could set this up to run automatically at some opportune moment.