A Home Music Server for AUD$352

Every now and then I like to re-connect with my geek roots.

Raspberry PiSo a couple of years ago I bought the boy a Raspberry Pi computer  which pretty much sat there collecting dust  after the initial outing.  It appears playing games on the computer doesn’t translate to wanting to find out how the computer works.  Sigh.  But on to my story.

The Raspberry Pi was pitched as a very low cost, credit card sized computer that is powerful enough to do some interesting things whilst getting you interested in computing.  I had purchased one of the first releases for the for the boy (A Raspberry Pi Model 1 B +).

Over the summer I decided to crack it out and see what I could make it do.  Turns out I could bend it to my will, but it was a little slow and frustrating, so I bought an updated unit and it was fine.  The new Raspberry PI 3 B model (faster with more USB connections, Wifi and Bluetooth).  I planned to turn it into a Music Server.  My costs for the project were:

  • $54 for the computer (more like a pack of cards, than a credit card!)
  • $12 for the power supply (I wanted to use theirs, not a spare)
  • $11 for a good looking plastic enclosure
  • $16 for a 16GB SD Card (for the oeprating system)
  • $259 for a WD My Book 4TB external powered Hard Drive (for my music)

So $352 all up (HDD from JB Hifi, Raspberry Pi and accessories from RS-Online)

With the Raspberry PI all the software was free, but you had to learn how to use Raspian, the preferred version of Linux that I installed on it.  I have almost zero experience with Linux, so it was a little daunting.  But installation was easy, you download the operating system to an SD card (like you stick in a camera), then stuck it into the raspberry PI (with monitor, keyboard and mouse connected) and booted it up.  Pretty much all instructions are online and fairly simple.  The main steps were:

  1. I configured the operating system to give the unit a name and install VNC software, so I don’t have to have a monitor and keyboard connected, i just use my laptop to connect (some call this going headless).
  2. I removed software I didn’t need to save space (the office and mathematica products).
  3. I setup the HDD to be accessed by the Raspberry Pi and make sure it got mounted in the same place in the directory structure every time.
  4. I setup Samba, the file sharing software, so that I could copy files across my network onto the new computer’s HDD.
  5. I allocated the computer a static IP address on my network, so I could always find it.
  6. I installed MiniDLNA as the media server software.

Note One.  all of the above was done by someone who had almost no familiarity with Linux or the Raspberry Pi (Im mainly a windows man).  I think the key to being able to do it,  was slowly building a manual using a GoogleDocs Document, with each of the commands and my commentary.  So that I could learn along the way and repeat the steps when I had to wipe the SD card and start over.

Note Two.  I haven’t indicated any of the commands or configuration changes I had to do.  That was all online and easily found with a google search.  What wasn’t,  which I had to figure out, was the steps and their sequence, to make it all work!

The Result:

  • A media server on our network full of music we have bought, that can send it to any device such as our network speakers.
  • A tiny footprint with a the computer the size of a pack of cards, and the external HDD being small.
  • Less noise and heat being generated in the house, by removing a big computer that needed a fan to keep it cool (it was slowly dying).
  • A low cost replacement, that is easy to repair!
  • Around 8 hours of my time invested, but as Im more familiar and recorded all the steps, so I can build another Raspberry Pi to do the same job in under an hour.

Quite chuffed with myself.  My next project will be using a Raspberry Pi to turn an old laser printer into a wireless Laser printer using the Raspberry PI wirelessly on my home network and hiding it away behind the printer.

So Raspberry Pi has evolved enough to be useful.  No longer just a learning tool!