Firefly + NAS + iPhone + iTunes = awesome

Standard

I recently purchased a network attached storage server for home for a bunch of different reasons. Mainly so I would be able to backup my important files redundantly, store all my media for the entire network to have access to 24/7 without leaving my PC on, and to eventually allow me to switch my PC over to a SSD and just have applications on my pc.

So I pickup a Netgear ReadyNAS NV+ from Canada Computers on boxing day and it was the best purchase I’ve made in a long time.

It is so much more than a file server with RAID.

  • iTunes streaming media server
  • DLNA streaming media server
  • Squeezebox streaming service
  • Bit Torrent web client
  • FTP server
  • CIFS/SMB/NFS/AFP file sharing (WIN/MAC/XNIX)
  • HTTPS web admin like a router
  • Remote access from the internet
  • SSH remote access capabilities

And most of this can also be port forwarded from your router so you can access it anywhere on the internet. Add a subdomain DNS record and you have a friendly URL to connect to it all too!

So tonight I spent a few hours setting up the Firefly open source media server that it comes with which allows you to stream music from the NAS to iTunes as a share and selectively play any songs you want as if the music was stored locally.

Sure you can say oh I could just connect iTunes to a shared folder on another computer and do the same and yes you could but can you build a computer with RAID5 and 4TB of space for under $500? You’ll spend $300 on the HDD’s alone.

So after I got the iTunes server up and running I started thinking how can I stream to my iPhone now and also I wonder if the apple remote app will work to control my iTunes server now.

The answer was yes to both!

You can grab the Apple Remote app from the app store and connect to your wifi network and authorize your iPhone/iPad/iPod to control iTunes on your PC.  You can then access the iTunes streaming server and have full control over iTunes. You could build a HTPC and connect it up to a home theater and then have wireless control of your music from iPhone with all your media redundantly stored or just store it on the HTPC as well.

Apps

iTunes Server

iTunes Server Playlist

Now if you want to actually stream your media to your iPhone instead of just control your PC with the iPhone you can do that too.  A couple apps I found that can connect to DLNA streaming devices are MLPLayer and 8Player.  Both have lite versions for free to test out.  8Player works over 3G as well so you could port forward your DLNA service out on the web through your router and have streaming music access anywhere in the world with a 3G connection on your iPhone. Not just your music but also movies and photos can be played with these apps.  I streamed a 2.3GB movie over my wifi to my iPhone seamlessly and it worked perfectly.

8Player browser

8Player movie selection

MLPlayer lite browser

District9 in HD streaming (MLPlayer)

Subtitles supported while streaming from DLNA

Update Jan 7 2012: I’m now using 8Player on iPhone and iPad. Best app purchase I’ve ever made on the app store. In 8Player the server URL you will want to specify is http://youripordnsname:8200/rootDesc.xml. Default port for the service is 8200, but you could map it with your router to any external port to 8200 internal if your router is more sophisticated.

 

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21 thoughts on “Firefly + NAS + iPhone + iTunes = awesome

  1. Hello! I know this is kinda off topic however I’d figured I’d ask. Would you be interested in trading links or maybe guest authoring a blog article or vice-versa? My site goes over a lot of the same subjects as yours and I believe we could greatly benefit from each other. If you might be interested feel free to send me an email. I look forward to hearing from you! Superb blog by the way!

  2. edan

    Thank you for your post!

    I still dont know how to open some port at router, I already bought one Readynas ultra..

    Could you please tell me more about this..

    Thank you very much!

    • Daniel H

      Opening a port on your router is different for every router. Most commonly it is under a section for “virtual Servers” or “Port forwarding”. The default port the DLNA service uses is 8200.

      You can just open 8200 and connect externally on 8200 but more sophisticated routers will let you map an external port to 8200 internally so you could use any port you want outside for better security.

  3. ba

    Great article thanks.

    I have ReadyNAS duo and also use 8player on my iPad and stream via DLNA to my PS3.

    Question on the iTunes server from the NAS box, is it only visible when the PC is on and iTunes is running? I’m sure I had seen it in but cannot access it anymore.

    • Daniel H

      The iTunes streaming service runs as long as it’s enabled on the NAS and the NAS is running. If you want to access it from your iPad or iPhone it will only work while you are on your local network (WiFi).

      There are two services. The iTunes streaming and the DLNA streaming. The DLNA streaming is the one which I port forward out to the internet and use 8player to access over 3G.

      The iTunes server is firefly (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Firefly_Media_Server) and is only internal it is a different port than the DLNA service. I don’t know the port for the firefly iTunes server and haven’t tried opening it.

      As for visibility, the iTunes server should be viewable when you open iTunes on a PC or MAC and playable as long as it’s running on the NAS and the computer your trying to connect with is connected to the same WiFi network as the NAS.

      If you used to be able to see the iTunes server in iTunes on a PC, MAC, or the Music player on the iPad or iPhone, and can’t anymore, it’s probably because you need to update the iTunes service on the NAS.

      There was an update just recently in the last couple months to fix the iTunes server streaming service for the NAS to work with iTunes 10.5. If you updated your iTunes to 10.5 and can’t see it anymore this is probably why.

      I had the same problem and updated the iTunes service on my NAS and it fixed the visibility issues.

      • Coyote

        This is interesting!
        Let’s assume that only the NAS is running (no MAC or PC on). Am I able to play the music stored on the NAS on my iPhone or Apple TV and see the albums covers? (just as I do at the moment, but by running iTunes on the MAC)

      • Daniel H

        Not that I’ve been able to figure out yet. you can play shared music from your PC on the iPhone with home sharing you can just open it in the shared section of more in the iPhone music app

        But for the NAS if you get the 8player app you can connect to the NAS through DLNA instead and play all your music without another PC on to bridge it all together

        Just the NAS and iPhone with 8 player app and DLNA enabled on the NAS but you can’t see album covers with 8 player

      • sk8tony

        One small comment. On Apple TV you can not install any applications. It automatically detects an iTunes server and plays content from them. So my question is:
        Can I stream (audio and Video) from Netgear ReadyNAS NV+ to Apple TV 3? (no computers, o applications)

  4. Jerry LeC.

    Tried out the free (limited) version of 8 Player with Serviio running on my MacBook Pro (just as a test). Worked without a hitch.

    Tonight I’ll try using AirPlay (via AirPort Express) at home, then tomorrow I get my WD My Book Live which supposedly has a built-in media server.

    Thanks for the tips!

    • Daniel H

      I’ve recently discovered that 8 Player allows you to stream to Airplay or AppleTV as well. I can get around the fact that there is no AppleTV 3 jailbreak yet by just using 8 player to stream any format of video to my AppleTV from my iPad now.

      Also if you do have a WD streaming box you can render to that like airplay as well. There is an option to search for and choose any DLNA renderer that 8 player can pickup and it will send output to that device.

      Works well as long as your network is fast or you have good wireless signal strength.

  5. J.Cosyn

    Hi,
    How can you enable subtitles in 8player? If I put a .srt file along with the video file in the same folder and with the same name, it doesn’t recognize it while playing over my home network. I raised the same question on the contact form on the 8player website, but didn’t get an answer.
    Thanks in advance.

  6. Hey – this article is awesome, I’ve been trying to research NAS drives for ages and have been struggling to find an articel that wraps all my device needs into one – but this is great.

    One question though – my laptop just died. It was old and incontinent and probably this is for the best to put it out of its misery – could the setup you’ve described work without a PC? Could I just connect my iPad, Apple TV and iPhone to the NAS drive and utilise the itunes and torrent servers, plus view all stored content on my tv without having to have a pc connected??

    • Daniel H

      You can’t stream video to appleTV3 very easily without streaming it through a device and with latency it almost certainly will have framerate issues where it wont keep up. in theory you could stream video to ipad through 8player app and then air play that to appletv but it wil lbe choppy. instead what i’d suggest if you have a readyNAS is spend about $100 on a western digital tv box. they are called WDTV. We have 2 of them in our house attached to two tv’s and they can access and stream any video from the NAS on the TV over wireless or wired connections. it uses DLNA services on the NAS to do that. you access the files with a file and folder browser on the WDTV and just play them. very easy and with a logitech harmony remote or the included remote with the WDTV you can browse the files and folders on the tv screen easily and watch video or play music through the TV and stereo system.

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