Installing minidlna

Posted on September 19, 2023

I’ve found the draft of this article I almost completely wrote (checks) more than 3 months ago, and I guess it’s time to finish and publish it.

The very first A10 based device that entered our home, before they started to use it for SBCs, was a Chinese media server with a slot for a 3.5" hard disk and a few analogue audio outputs.

Of course from the time it entered our home it has always been running Debian.

Now that we may have a few, more powerful, A20 SBCs available, it has been fully dedicated to music: it is connected to the stereo, the hard disk has a clone of the git-annex repository where I’ve ripped all of my CDs1 and is played by connecting via ssh and running alsaplayer.

It’s simple (for my tastes). it works. Unless you’re in a different room than the one with the stereo.

And then I read this post on the fediverse that suggested installing minidlna on an old Raspberry Pi, and on a whim I decided I needed it.

I installed the package from Debian, set a few easy settings in the configuration file (such as which directories to serve), restarted the service.

And that’s it, it just worked.

The only thing I had to take care about is that to use git-annex repositories as the source of media files either the root of the repository should be used as media-dir, or the wide_links options should be set to yes, otherwise the symbolic links that point outside of the media-dir won’t be served.

As a client I used VLC (note for myself in case I ever forget, it’s under View → Playlist and then Local Network → Universal Plug ‘n’ Play), mostly because I already had it around.

Now that I’ve used it for a few months I have to say that it isn’t a perfect solution: the main format I store my music in is in flac 2, which isn’t supported by dlna; for a significant part of it I’ve also already generated single-song ogg files for convenience 3, and at least it works for those.

I don’t store (yet?) my video collection on the A10 device, but I did a quick test, and no, of course a raw dump of a DVD as generated by dvdbackup isn’t supported, so I would have to convert those too. And there is some support for subtitles as a separate file (which is something else I tend to have around), but only one file, with strict requirements for the name, which is a bit restrictive.

On the other hand, the hassle to set this up was so low that the functionality / hassle ratio is most definitely worth, and I’m quite happy I did and plan to continue using it.

  1. (yes, I’m still using CDs, I have objections to those newfangled streaming services)↩︎

  2. full CD rip in a single file, with an embedded cuesheet, to preserve as much as possible of the original disc.↩︎

  3. in theory the flac was supposed to be future-proof storage, with the ogg files for actual use, but then I always listen to full albums, so the flac just work, and I only tend to bother generating the ogg when I’m already generating mp3 for the car.↩︎