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ITunes, Laptops, and networks

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I recently moved all my audio files over to a NAS drive on my home network so they can be played from any computer in the house. For my wife and my kids, it’s seamless, since their desktops are always on the network. Any new music goes straight to the network drive and then all the computers can see it. (There’s a little issue with keeping the iTunes library in sync, but there’s software that does that.)

I have a laptop. That laptop goes places, as laptops are wont to do. When it goes places that aren’t in reach of my home network it would be nice to still play some music. What I want is to have a small collection of music, ideally updated by managing an iTunes playlist, that sits on my hard drive. This small collection would be drawn from the main collection on the NAS.

In short, what I want is some software that will make a folder on my PowerBook act like an iPod. Change a playlist and the folder syncs to the main music collection. Any ideas, suggestions, or tricks? Surely I can’t be the only person with this problem.

update: I think I have a solution.

January 20, 2006 2:50 PM

Which NAS are you using (or did you build your own)? I had a similar setup to the one you describe (with similar issues), but I got tired of wasting electricity for powering the Linux box just in order to have the hard drive full of tunes available over the network.

Adam Kalsey
January 20, 2006 2:52 PM

It's a Seagate USB drive plugged into a Linksys NSLU2 file server.

Boris Mann
January 20, 2006 3:51 PM

I posted about using rsync (, but rather from my laptop to sync any new stuff there to my main desktop store. The maker of the iPhotoToGallery plugin said a while back that he was looking at syncing. Again, all sync issues. I can get from laptop to main store with just rsync. Well, plus the scan for new files on the desktop side. The other direction seems difficult.

Adam Kalsey
January 20, 2006 3:59 PM

That works if I wanted to copy all 30GB of files to my laptop, but I really only want a subset. And that subset isn't going to be easily addressable by the filesystem since it's stored on a playlist. There's an AppleScript I found that will export a playlist to a folder. And another that will let you toggle between iTunes profiles. So I _could_ tell iTunes to use the NAS as its library most of the time, and when I want to update my playlist, run the export utility to copy the files to my local machine. Then when I disconnect, I could swap my iTunes profile to point to the local directory. One problem with this is that it doesn't look like the export script does a sync, it just exports. I suppose I could just delete the contents of my local folder when I want to sync the device. In fact, I could probably combine the scripts and add the delete part in. So with one click, the files are deleted, the playlist exported, and the profile swapped. That might work...

Timothy Appnel
January 20, 2006 6:29 PM

Instead of toggling between profiles, perhaps the script could try your NAS first and switch to the local collection if it can't be reached.

Ariah Fine
January 25, 2006 7:27 AM

Hey, thanks for posting my brother's uses for a post-it note link. I hope your readers enjoyed it. I'm taking a guess that your links are posted from delicious huh? Out of curiousity, does the text you write in the notes section show up next to each link? I'm assuming that's what that is. Ariah.

Biren Shah
February 22, 2006 10:19 PM

Adam: I am looking into doing exactly what your setup suggests. I plan to share itunes, iphoto etc with this setup. Any gottas that you can think of before I jump into this? I was looking at for hacking the NSLU2 but I would like to avoid it if possible. Have you come across any performance issues with playing itunes? Have you tried playing a movie across the network? Thanks in advance for your thoughts.

Robert Spencer
September 19, 2006 3:44 PM

How did you go editing that script? Does it work well enough, or have you found some other solution?

October 9, 2006 7:47 AM

are you able to play videos from you network drive? my network config sputters and stalls video playback every 10 to 30 seconds. i have a powerbook, 2 airport express routers linked together and a Pleiades Icecube ( drive. itunes plays songs adequetly (can't skip say 10 songs ahead without a little delay) music video even encoded as low as 320 x 240 (ipod mp4) don't play. it's a joke how much playback hangs up. importing cds to itunes is a joke as well. tech support at told me that it's airport express limitations. airport xpress allows me to play music and VIDEO! from my girlfriend's laptop shared itunes folder. span tech support says this maybe because itunes must cache shared itunes libraries on another computer. basically, i'm not sure what i bought a LAN / network drive if i'm limited simply listening to songs, no cd importing, no video playback and certaingly no converting video to ipod. anyone have any suggestions?

October 21, 2006 9:27 PM

Hey, I think I might have a solution. I was looking through automator options to just do a regular backup of the iTunes folder. And I found that Transmit, the FTP application, has an action in there called sync. Here's its description: This action synchronizes a folder on a specified server, with a folder on your local machine. Note: Since the synchronization process is self-contained, no input is necessary -- anything passed into this action will be passed back out. Options: Either a Transmit Favorite or manually specified server, user name, password, port, and protocol, the synchronization direction and method, the local path to sync, and the remote UNIX path to sync. --------------------------------------------------------- You can set the sync method to update or mirror and the direction to download or upload. And for a quick update of certain files in a playlist (I choose Recently Added) you can use this Applescript from Doug's Scripts: though I think you might have already found that. Don't know if that will help ya, but it does the job for me. I created an application for each of those automator actions going to and from the laptop for updating either way.

ben seven
November 5, 2006 5:27 PM

I HAVE THE SOLUTION! Are you running tiger? I have a program called martian slingshot, google it. It basically allows you to 'publish' folders and also 'subscribe' to them - an example of this is i 'publish' my documents folder using slingshot, then while still in slingshot i choose 'subscribe' and specify the location as a folder on my firewire drive. Thus, whenever I remember to open it, slingshot syncs the two folders. While this is cool, and the main feature of the program, here's what you really want: Slingshot has a built in compatability with iTunes, meaning you can 'Publish' a playlist and 'subscribe' to it from another machine (this machine also needs a copy of slingshot, though much like my external drive set-up if you can manage the music on your NAS from your powerbook you can use the same copy of slingshot on the same machine to publish AND subscribe). The cool bit is slingshot will automatically copy across any files used in the published playlist that aren't present on the subscriber, into their iTunes music library. So if you can publish a playlist of your 'travellin' tunes' or whatever from the NAS library, you should be able to sync it to the library on the PB... i feel like i rambled on a bit there, feel free to get in touch if you have any questions... there's a demo version of slingshot which lets you publish/subscribe one folder and playlist, so try that and see if it fits the bill. from one geek to another - adios b7

Adam Kalsey
November 6, 2006 12:21 PM

The site for Martian SlingShot is Looks like it might work. But $30 seems a little steep to just sync playlists and such.

Ben B
December 21, 2006 7:49 AM

I've had the same problem. In my case, it's an old G3 I use primarily for iTunes, with the files stored on a Linux PC and shared using Samba. If the Linux server is down, or if I forget to connect from the G3 to the shared folder, then if I bring up iTunes and try to play music, it starts labeling files as not there. I lost my entire library once, because it started looking for files, crashed, and never recovered. Adding 80GB of MP3's takes a long time, and you lose all your playlists. I tried using rsync for a while, but iTunes updates the tags in the files every time it touches them, so rsync was taking nearly as long as just recopying the entire directory. That's when I switched to just storing the files on the shared drive. Perhaps there was a parameter for rsync that I was missing. I thought it was able to copy over just the differences between 2 similar binary files, but perhaps that doesn't work so well with MP3s. Best of luck. I will have the same problem with iPhoto as soon as I get a film scanner and upgrade to a MacBook. As long as I'm on the network, it's fine, but I worry about unintended consequences when the files aren't there. For your problem, the cheapest solution is just to play music from your iPod when you're away from the network. best of luck and happy holidays.

Tyler Weaver
February 12, 2007 6:56 PM

You might want to look into daapd for this. Though you would not have the perfect solution with syncing etc. You could use one playlist for the network and have the library update every night or something.

June 6, 2007 1:52 PM

I run a Maxtor Shared Storage with daapd and Airport Express to enjoy my music at home... this keeps my itunes library really small. and a small set of music on my mbp togo....this works good for me. i just copy my music2go to a local playlist and if want to play some more stuff, i just connect to the daapd. this runs really great...i have also connected a xbox to this network, the box can read the smb share or the daapd.

This discussion has been closed.

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