Sockso, Personal Music Server

excellent
key review info
application features
  • Simple setup (no install! just double click and go!)
  • (5 more, see all...)

These days, when people think about sharing their music, or taking it with them, iTunes comes to mind. It makes it very easy to share music on your local network so you can listen to it from another computer and the sync functionality makes it a snap to take it with you on your iPod. While this approach works perfectly, there are situations when it is less than ideal, such as when you have more music than you can carry at any given time, or when you want to listen to your music from a computer that is not on your local network. From this point on, things get complicated as we're still far away from the point where you can take all your information with you at all times. Fortunately, that need not even be the case, as you can just access the information from where you normally keep it, over the internet. All you need is some specialized software, such as Sockso.

What it does
Sockso is an open-source personal music server. It is free and easy to use, letting you access your music from any computer with an Internet connection and listen to any and all tracks on your home computer. With minimal setup and a very functional web interface, all you need is a mouse, a few tracks.

Working with it
Sockso is very easy to use. That having been said, starting it up is a bit difficult, especially for the average user. The read-me has no OS X instructions, but the Linux ones work just as well. You need to run a shell script from the Terminal and while the read-me gives you the command, you have to navigate to the right folder from within the Terminal, which can be a problem if you've never done anything like this before. Alternatively, you can use a file browsing application with terminal integration, such as Path Finder to go to the appropriate location and just paste the command.

Once the Java interface loads up you are good to go. It may not be Cocoa, but the cross-platform Java interface is decent at what it doesÂ… manage your shared music and playlists. At the top, you have two tabs, Music and Collection. From the collection tab you can add the folders from your hard drive that you want processed for songs. Sockso supports MP3, OGG Vorbis and WMA, so depending on what your library is like, you might need to reformat songs before you can access them remotely with this program.
From the Music tab, you can browse through artists, albums and tracks as well as manage your playlists. It's not very fancy, but then it does not need to be, the only function that is wonky is how reordering songs in playlists looks like it fails despite the action actually being carried through.

On the receiving end, we have the web interface. This should be accessible as soon as the java interface starts up and you should be able to at least see it even though you may not have any music shared yet.
The browser interface is very elegant and functional, despite not working particularly well in Safari. You have everything you need, from search, browse, playlists, to random and a party shuffle-like thing. As soon as tracks are added into the Collection, they are visible from the web interface and the statistics such as new and popular are dynamically updated.
The little player window gives you control over playback of the track as well as volume and track selection and is quite small and well designed. Strangely enough, I have managed to get the player to play my music at 2x the normal speed on several occasions, but it is in no way a reliable bug.

Practical
Sockso is not revolutionary in any way, but then it does not need to be simply because it is so very practical. Work computer where you are not allowed to store personal files, visiting with a friend that had dull tastes in music, or to whom you've been raving about some new album, whatever the situation, your music is just a few clicks away. It requires no special hardware and should work fine on just about any Internet connection considering that if worse comes to worse you can just download the track and then listen to it.
The program is even intelligent enough to package everything in a ZIP file and will also keep your folder hierarchy intact so that everything takes up less space and stays organized. Moving all your music from one location to another could not be simpler.

Last but not least, Sockso is platform independent so you can access the music from anywhere regardless of what system is running on that computer.

The Good
A very easy and comfortable way to access your music from any computer with an Internet connection. Cross platform and browser based, there are no limitations to how you can enjoy your tracks.

The Bad
Can be nasty to turn on and the web interface can be buggy in Safari, but these are minor annoyances.

The Truth
Not everyone needs a personal music server, bit for those who do, Sockso is a perfect choice. It has everything you need, is easy to use and is both free and open source.

Here are some screenshots, click to enlarge:

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user interface 5
features 5
ease of use 4
pricing / value 5


final rating 5
Editor's review
excellent
 
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