Talking tech since 2003

The Digital Audio Access Protocol, also known as DAAP, is the proprietary protocol that Apple developed and implemented into iTunes versions 4 and above.  This protocol is responsible for the library sharing aspects of iTunes, which allows users within the same local network to stream music from one-another’s computers.  Despite its being proprietary and closed-source, reverse engineering of the protocol has determined that the protocol itself is nothing more than an advanced HTTP (Hyper Text Transfer Protocol) protocol.

With the reverse engineering, people have been able to put DAAP into use as a standalone music-sharing protocol.  An example of such implementation is the Firefly Media Server.  This application allows a user to define a music folder or folders on a local hard drive, and share the music via the DAAP protocol.  An additional feature is the ability to auto-scan said folders, automatically updating the library.

Firefly Media Server is beneficial, because it allows you to share a music library without the need to have iTunes constantly running, or even installed on the host machine.  Thus, it takes up a smaller footprint and fewer system resources, making it appealing for use on a home server (link to my home server article here).

Setting up Firefly Media Server is a fairly simple process, only taking a matter of minutes.

  • The first step is to ensure that you have Apple’s “Bonjour” software installed on your host machine.  This software has a relatively small footprint, and can be acquired from Apple’s website
  • The next step would be to download the appropriate binary from Firefly’s website
  • Once you have downloaded the binary, launch the installer.
  • Read and agree to the license, and accept the default installation directory (unless you have a need to select otherwise)
  • The next step is probably most important, because at this point you tell Firefly Media Server where your music is stored on your hard drive.  Enter the directory, and click “Install”.  We will go over adding multiple directories in a bit.
  • Installation should have only taken a matter of seconds, and at this point you should be presented with a confirmation screen.  Click “Next” and then “Finish”.
  • To finish configuring Firefly Media Server, find the icon in your system tray and right-click it to select “Configure Firefly Media Server”.
  • The main screen of the configuration manager will allow you to change the library name, the location of the main music folder, and allow you to set a password for accessing your library.
  • Moving over to the configuration manager will allow you to access the web-based administration panel, which provides a few more options that are not given in the standard configuration manager.
  • Once inside the web-based administration panel, select the “configuration” tab on the left-hand side.  The page that this brings up will allow you to set the administrative password for remote web-based administration, and allow you to configure additional music sources.

Once you have Firefly Media Server completely configured, it should show up as a shared library within iTunes on other computers within your local network.

This will ultimately give you access to the music in the defined folders.  Additionally, with the administrative password set, you can access the web-based administration panel from http://SERVER:9999 (the port can be changed in the “Server” tab of the desktop-based configuration manager if necessary), obviously replacing “SERVER” with the hostname of your server.

You can also configure smart-playlists from within the web-based control panel.  This allows you to automatically put music into playlists (which will be available as a sub-section to the shared library on networked computers) based on given criteria.

All in all, Firefly Media Server is a very efficient music-sharing application, and is ideal for use on a home server where you would not want to leave iTunes running all the time.  I have Firefly Media Server running on my home server, and have found it to very stable, reliable, and simple to use.  Firefly surely beats simply having a shared music folder, because it gives me access to all of my music from within iTunes, allowing for searching and sorting as well.

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