Home server music management

In the beginning (well, 2002 anyway), there was the computer. The computer was very useful. You could read and write documents, listen to music, play videos and reminisce with embarrassing old photographs.

Over time, all this data began to grow in size. It became difficult to fit it onto a hard disk on a standard computer. We began to want to backup the data, because losing precious music and photos would be A Bad Thing. Then, as we added more computers to our home in the shape of netbooks, smartphones and tablet computers, we wanted access to all this data from all these devices.

To solve this, we decided to centralise the data.

We moved all our data to computers responsible simply for data storage. These computers are called NASes (Network Attached Storage). They offered far higher capacities, could provide your documents, music, photos and video to whatever computer in your house requested it, and were easier to backup. They tended to run continuously at a low power draw, so as soon as you wanted your data, there it was. Now, companies like Buffalo, Linksys and LaCie make affordable, easy to use home NASes that provide all of these benefits.

This worked well until we found it wasn't just the data that we wanted to centralise in our homes, but the actual applications too. For instance, music streaming servers like Squeezebox and Personal Video Recorders (PVRs) like MythTV would work, in the background, while you got on with your life. This new wave appears just ready to break through. Microsoft's Windows Home Server product is a version of Windows that you can install on servers. Linux is another popular option amongst hobbyists, as is the Mac Mini.

Where does music management fit into this?

There's no reason why music management should be something a collector has to laboriously step through on a constant basis. If we define rules by which our music should be managed, music management can be done on a continual, fully automatic basis. When new music is added to the collection, rules kick-in to ensure that the music library is maintained in a consistent, complete and correct state. If the application of the rules is not certain, then we can ask a human via normal methods such as email or a Web interface, as humans are great at creativity and problem solving.

So, the result is much less time tagging and more reliable and consistent results.

bliss is written to run on a home server.

This is why it has a web interface, so that it can be reached from anywhere in your home network. It is also why, most importantly, it applies the rules you define when new music is added to your collection. This way, you dictate the rules, and bliss does all the hard work.

Where will home data storage go next? Some say 'the cloud', a vague, loaded term that tends to refer to online storage of data over the Internet (and lots more besides). While this is an excellent solution for a number of reasons, as yet the cloud is not capable of storing data in all its guises, for instance the lossless music beloved of audiophiles is simply too large both in terms of the capacity required to hold it and the bandwidth required to upload/download.

It'll be interesting to see in what directions home servers go, but so far it appears it will make music library management quicker and more accurate.
tags: server whs cloud linux home_server nas mythtv squeezebox bliss

The Music Library Management blog

Dan Gravell

I'm Dan, the founder and programmer of bliss. I write bliss to solve my own problems with my digital music collection.