James Cridland's blog

A radio futurologist writing about what happens when radio and new platforms collide
This is an archive post from my old website. Not all links will work. For new posts, visit my main writing index.

« | Blog index | »

Please make me a music player

Posted on Monday, April 4th, 2011 at 9:57 am. #

Fantastic old jukebox

Here’s what I’d quite like, please…

A music player. It can look as simple as VLC. It doesn’t need any playlist management or anything like that. It needs to play music in MP3 or AAC format, that’s all.

That can play remote files. All my music is on Amazon S3; other peoples’ music might be on their own FTP/SFTP connection.

That can deal with the special issues of playing remote files. So: pre-buffer these files locally as you’re playing them (so you’re not reliant on perfect internet connections) and cache them in a user-defined-sized cache (so regularly-played songs can be played many times without using lots of bandwidth).

That can run on Mac OSX. Because that’s the type of OS that people who do this kind of thing would probably be using.

That can run on Android. So I’ve got all my music accessible on my device – some in a local cache, some not.

There are lots of things out there that are close.

Amazon Cloud Player: except the Android bit won’t work in the UK, and I’m forced to use Amazon infrastructure. (And there’s no actual client for Mac OSX).

MP3tunes: except I’m forced to use MP3tunes infrastructure, and they’re being sued by all manner of people, so do I want to trust my music to it?

On Mac OSX: VLC + Expandrive does the job pretty well (Expandrive makes a remote filesystem appear local). However, there’s no pre-buffering or caching. Perhaps the secret is to write a little local server for VLC to connect to, replacing Expandrive? Or, convince the folks at Expandrive to do the caching bit, at least?

The Ampache project, and Lullaby. But I don’t want to run server infrastructure, with all the attendant security holes and patches, for something as simple as playing music.

The coming Google Music service: except I’m forced to use Google infrastructure, and there’s likely to be a charge for it one would think.

Have I missed something? Is there a simple solution to what I want? Would someone like to make something (open-source; I might even pay for some work on it)? (Is this one for VLC?)

It turns out you can increase the ‘pre-buffer’ size in VLC, which makes it more tolerant of network issues. I went to VLC preferences, clicked “all” at the bottom left, then went to Input / Codecs –> Access Modules –> File and increased the caching value. I’m using 5000 for each (which theoretically should mean it’s caching five seconds of audio). It seems much more resilient as a result.


Adam Bowie
commenting at April 4th, 2011 at 12:57 pm

The question is – will you be breaking the law by implementing such a system?

Or perhaps more pointedly, would you be running the risk of being sued by the record labels?

While what you’re doing sounds perfectly sensible, I rather suspect that the record labels don’t see it that way. Bear in mind that there are still issues surrounding the right to even rip your own CDs in the UK? And if you’ve bought music from an online retailer, did they include the right for you to put your music in the cloud?

It seems clear that Amazon is taking a bit of a flyer by operating as it is in the US. And of course, the music industry finds Amazon of such significant importance that it’ll no doubt think twice before suing one of its major retailers. But I wonder if UK law is more unforgiving?

I’ve still not seen clear legal advice that putting my music in a private “locker” in the cloud is legal. Remember the reaction from certain quarters at the launch of Pure’s Flowmusic service when it became clear that your initial purchase then saw that song streamed to your radio?

That all said, I’d be interested in any other findings. Is Amazon S3 the best route though? With lots of relatively small files, isn’t the per-file access charge likely to be quite high?

James Cridland
commenting at April 4th, 2011 at 1:24 pm

BPI chairman Peter Jamieson said: “Traditionally the recording industry has turned a blind eye to private copying and has used the strength of the law to pursue commercial pirates. We believe that we now need to make a clear and public distinction between copying for your own use and copying for dissemination to third parties and make it unequivocally clear to the consumer that if they copy their CDs for their own private use in order to move the music from format to format we will not pursue them.”
(6 Jun 2006, House of Commons Select Committee for Culture, Media and Sport inquiry into New Media and the Creative Industries)

(I’d remind you that it is legal for a male to urinate in public, as long as it is on the rear wheel of his motor vehicle and his right hand is on the vehicle; it’s also an offence to beat or shake any carpet rug or mat in any street in the Metropolitan Police District. And any person found breaking a boiled egg at the sharp end will be sentenced to 24 hours in the village stocks. These are all laws which have not been repealed.)

Given that, the question is whether it’s legal for the ripped files to be on my own PC’s hard drive; to be on a hard drive on another computer within my house and connected via wifi (but nobody else can access it); or to be on a hard drive on another computer outside my house and connected via the internet (but nobody else can access it). I’m confident that there is no legal difference: it revolves around access of the music.

In terms of costs…

I have 97Gb of music: storage costs for that is £8.47 a month. (Half the price of Dropbox; slightly more than MP3tunes; less than Spotify and I have access to The Beatles; much less than an external hard drive)
Assuming I listen to 24 hours of music a week (i.e. replacing average radio listening), that’s 312 songs a week. Assuming that’s 2,000 accesses a month, that would be an extra 12p a month.
Assuming that files are 4 meg large, that would be a total bandwidth bill of about five gig, which is around 50p a month.
Bandwidth/access charges are so minimal for this use, it’s not worth thinking about, therefore.

I could run this cheaper if I ran my own external hard drive via my home ADSL, and cut out the Amazon S3 thing. However, I’d need to back this up regularly, and currently the throughput of my ADSL is such that without the pre-buffering mentioned above, it simply wouldn’t work very well.

Michael Robertson
commenting at April 6th, 2011 at 12:10 am


Yes, if you store your music in the cloud you must rely on someone elses infrastructure. Whether Amazon or MP3tunes you’ll have to depend on someone. No getting around that.

What you should look for is: Does the cloud service let you easily get all your information out? Or is it a one way street trying to trap all your material within their walls to keep you captive?

MP3tunes gives you the BEST insurance possible. We make it one click easy to get ALL your stuff anytime you want. We provide LockerSync software on Mac/Win/Lin. Open software and select “Get” and everything is pulled from the cloud. This is a great way to load a new computer with your library of music. I use it to gas up my laptop before international flights. But the bottom line here is that you cant get trapped.

We’re the ONLY service to do this. Amazon doesn’t allow this. If you want to go to each song and manually download it you can do that, but that’s completely impractical.

Have confidence in cloud services which put YOU in control of your data.

– MR

CEO, MP3tunes.com

This is an archive site, and comments are now closed.