Build your own Spotify-like music streaming solution using mpd

Since I distrust centralized services such as Spotify that can delete content you love at any time they like, I’ve always bought my own music and have a huge collection. But there’s no denying that streaming music to any device or location is a useful feature. You still don’t need Spotify for that, thanks to the FOSS community you can build your own Spotify-like streaming system, and this guide shows one combination of software to accomplish this.

The goal: Stream your music collection from your own PC (or NAS or whatever storage you have) to any web browser, mobile phone and desktop clients.

The method: A little Linux magic involving the following components:

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Album recommendation: Enslaved – Axioma Ethica Odini

From the band you could call “the U2 of Norwegian black metal” comes Axioma Ethica Odini. It has everything you’d expect from modern, avant-garde Scandinavian-style black metal, although one of the later tracks (Night Sight) sounds awfully Pink Floyd/Led Zeppelin, and they should perhaps leave that kind of stuff to Pink Floyd/Led Zeppelin.

Here’s the title track, Ethica Odini. Very repetitive, happy, poppy, sort of slow:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9U1h5PJua7M&fs=1&hl=en_US&color1=0x5d1719&color2=0xcd311b]

And this is Lightening, the finishing track:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F8iCxMTzRGI&fs=1&hl=en_US&color1=0x5d1719&color2=0xcd311b]

Angry Metal Guy gives it 4/5
About.com gives it 4.5/5
Sputnikmusic scores it at 5/5
Metal Hammer (Germany) gives it Album of the Month and 7/7

And I’m pretty happy with it, too!

Fantastic oriental-style Israeli black/death metal

Amazon helped me find Melechesh, a wonderful band from Israel. The songs are poppy, light-hearted (for black metal) black metal, with a lot of oriental influence.

Here’s an example from an older album:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UfegItscO3g&fs=1&hl=en_US]

But check out this shit from their very latest album, The Epigenesis:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zDP81Pfla-M&fs=1&hl=en_US]

Rocks my balls off right now. Listen from 0:48 for some tight Egyptian-style stuff.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v36L4X0xs8E&fs=1&hl=en_US]

And that rocks them back on.

m/

Apple steals/is inspired by FOSS music client's icon, uses it for iTunes

Well, not exactly.

But maybe you agree that the new icon Apple uses for iTunes looks a bit like the old icon that we’ve been using for Ario for quite a while. Ario is a client for MPD, the Music Player Daemon, something vastly more open and superior than iTunes. We are superior, I say!

Here’s our Ario icon:

And here’s Apple’s iTunes icon:

Strange “coincidence”, eh? And Ario’s only been out since 2007.

Good quality music from your PC, Mac or NAS: Music Streamer

If you think music sounds good from your PC audio outputs, you are wrong*.

Most PCs come with onboard audio circuits that, at best, sound weak. As if you’re listening to your music through balls of cotton in your ears while the neighbor’s kid is marching up and down your living room shaking a bowl full of glass shards in rhythm with the music.

But there’s a cheap way out of that. The Music Streamer by High Resolution Technologies. It’s an external USB sound interface with a very good D/A converter. This is a semi-audiophile device, several levels above consumer-grade stuff from e.g. Creative. Yet it costs only about the same as your average USB audio interface these days.

This isn’t made for 5.1 surround sound gaming, it only has two analog RCA (Cinch) outputs to hook up to your amp. Of course you can also play games in stereo on it and watch films. Both sounds crystal clear.

I’ve hooked mine up to my Synology NAS (it’s plug and play) and I’m running mpd on it, so now I can listen to my collection of FLAC audio without even switching on the PC, and I can remote control it from any Android phone, a web interface or dedicated clients like Ario or ncmpcpp.

Best purchase of the year! I’m yet again discovering new aspects of albums I’ve bought 15 years ago and have heard over a thousand times. This thing reveals more detail in my music than my CD player. It’s nearly the same sensation as I had going from shitty speakers to semi-audiophile shit.

I bought the small version for CHF 120.00 (around USD 120.00), but if your ears are good enough to hear it and your equipment is good enough to reproduce it, you can go up to USD 900.00 on one of the higher-end models.

(*Okay: If you’ve hooked up some external D/A converter via S/P-DIF or TOSLINK you can get as good or better quality. But then you wouldn’t be reading this, would you?)

Amazing Mongolian folk rock

I’m spamming this band all over the place, so I’ll put it here too. You probably know I’m a big fan of folk and black metal, but I can appreciate folk rock. And this weekend I discovered a most amazing band: Altan Urag. Here with their song Xöx Tolboton:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SBNqY5pBU-4&hl=en_US&fs=1&]

I think this stuff rocks some cocks. The Mongolian throat singing, the great sound of the Mongolian language, the fantastic array of traditional Mongolian string instruments (morin khuur, ikh khuur, bishguur, yoochin, etc.)… I’m completely in love.

I’ve downloaded their two released albums. There was no other way to get them, neither legally nor illegally. Therefore, one word to Altan Urag’s label(s): Please distribute the fucking CDs more widely. Thank you.

Study confirms that "pirates" aren't killing the music biz

The Reg is posting a totally interesting survey that goes some way towards confirming what we’ve been saying since 1998 or so.

When the music industry wakes up and stops being the knee-jerk lawsuit-wielding political lobbyist it is right now, we might get some constructive discussions out of them and help them save their failing business model. The study shows that most people do not “pirate” music and, guess what, the paid-for listening and download services are actually used. By real people.

Once Big Content had removed their idiotic DRM schemes, people started trusting those services and signed up, happy to pay as much (or more) for music as they did when it mostly came on CD.

Why did we see this already in the 90s and the music industry still hasn’t realized it 10 years later? It is a slow behemoth, but even many indie labels seem to be late to the party, and those should be small and agile. Maybe if they replaced the old farts in charge of the music licensing bodies, they could move faster and at least be on time for the next media shift, whenever and to whatever that will be. It would be more useful for them than playing crybaby again when history repeats.

Archiving your CD collection as FLAC

I used to make a physical copy of all the audio CDs I buy to CD-R. Then I’d only listen to the CD-R, in fear of breaking my original discs.

Maybe you think this is madness, but I do own CDs that I’ve been listening to every month since 1989. I don’t want them to break, since they are irreplaceable. Sure, newer versions of the same albums sometimes exist, but they are usually mastered in a very bad way to turn up the loudness to all hell, so all detail that was present in the music is gone. The original CDs from the 80s and early 90s don’t have this problem, they offer much more fidelity. If you’re interested in this crazy loudness competition between studios, it’s sometimes called the Loudness Wars.

But to make the long story short: Copying to CD-R is stupid and annoying, and lossless compressed formats such as FLAC have arrived. Also, terabytes of disk space are cheap. So now I can rip the CD to FLAC and stick it on my RAID NAS, which I backup from time to time. If I ever need a physical CD copy of the music, to play on my reasonable-quality CD player, for example, I can just burn from those FLAC files as they contain pristine versions of the audio. If you use a proper audio player, you can also listen to FLAC files directly on the go, and of course on your computer or network audio player. In case you need to save space or don’t need the quality, you can encode the FLAC to Ogg or MP3 and listen to that copy on the road. All much easier than with CD-R copies!

Here’s how easy it is to rip to FLAC in any decent Linux distribution, in this example using Sound Juicer:

screenshot-sound-juicer

One click, and it rips, encodes and copies to my NAS for safekeeping.

I still have to buy the original disc and have it shipped to me, but that’s okay, I like to have a physical thing from a band in my hands, something I can hide in my sad and sunless CD archive to preserve things until the fall of mankind.