accessTunes 1.2.1, by Bains Software
Posted: 8-Oct-2006

4 out of 5 Mice

Vendor: Bains Software Type: SHAREWARE

Reviewer: Todd Ward Class: MULTIMEDIA
     
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Overview
Those of us who use iTunes know that we can share our iTunes libraries over our Local Area Network; however sharing your iTunes library over the internet is a bit difficult ever since Apple disabled that feature a few years ago. If you want to share your iTunes music library over the Internet, accessTunes from Bains software just might be your answer.

With iTunes, the application has to be open to allow sharing over you local network. accessTunes allows your music to be shared without iTunes even being open. Sharing starts as soon as you launch accessTunes, or you can even set it up to start sharing as soon as your Mac is turned on. accessTunes allows you to share your iTunes library on your local area network as well as make your iTunes library accessible anywhere via the web. You also can monitor what people are listening to and protect your library with a password for some extra security.

NOTE: At the time of this writing, accessTunes was owned by Bains Software; however, it has recently been sold to
Zelek Software and is currently unavailable from either web site.

Requirements
accessTunes requires any Mac running Mac OS 10.3 or later.

Setup
Setting up accessTunes is pretty simple. accessTunes is a downloadable application that is compressed in a *.sit file. Once the *.sit file is expanded, an image is mounted automatically displaying a folder containing the accessTunes application.


accessTunes folder - Install image

To install accessTunes, all you have to do is drag the accessTunes folder to your hard disk. The first time you launch accessTunes, the application asks that you register your copy of accessTunes by entering a serial number. accessTunes also gives you free trial that allows you to stream 50 songs. Once the trial is over, accessTunes requires you to purchase a license. Additionally, you'll need to install the accessTunes daemon process before you can use accessTunes. This one-time process installs a background task and requires an Admin password.


Installing the accessTunes daemon


When first launched, sharing is off. Click on "Start Sharing", and accessTunes searches your iTunes music library and automatically allows your music to be accessible. It automatically opens your accessTunes preferences to let you adjust these settings.


Sharing your iTunes music via accessTunes Preferences


The preferences tab allows you to select just how you share your music via the web, iTunes, or iTunes and the web. The preferences pane also allows you to set a password that requires authorization to access your music via the web. The "Share naming" drop down menu applies to iTunes Music Sharing. This drop down menu allows you to change the text that shows up in the "Shared Music" list in iTunes. If "User on Computer" is selected, you would see "My shared music" in the shared music list. When the check box is checked by the name of the user (e.g., "Todd Ward" in the figure above), the music in that iTunes library will be shared by accessTunes. If the user's name is double-clicked, additional settings are available.


Additional settings for music sharing


This preferences window allows the user to select the entire library or specific play lists to be shared by accessTunes. A drop down menu allows you to use a standard name or your own custom name. There is also a field that allows you to enable a password to be used for people to access your music.

After setting up your sharing, back on the accessTunes window, click again on the "Start Sharing" button, and accessTunes activates sharing. Once sharing has started, anyone on your local area network can begin listening to the music you have selected to share.


accessTunes main window - Sharing now activated

Sharing between iTunes via accessTunes is a no-brainer, but using accessTunes to share your iTunes library via the web requires a little more setup. How accessTunes shares your iTunes library via the web is done by accessTunes running it's own web server on port 8100. If your computer is not behind a router or firewall, then you should be able to access your music by simply using your IP address. In accessTune's web menu is a copy feature that copies your IP address to your clipboard for this use.

If your computer is behind a firewall or router, however, then you will have to setup port forwarding. In my case, I wanted to be able to share my music if I was out of town, in my hotel or even let a few buddies able to listen to all my Pearl Jam bootlegs. The read me file gives a great tutorial for setting up a port in your router as well as ideas on how to set up a DNS so you can access your music anywhere in the world via the web. The setup instructions were very clear and straightforward for any user who knows how to setup a router.

In Use
Sharing via iTunes is the same as it would be to "share your music with iTunes". Any computer on your local network can open iTunes, and under the Shared music section, the music that is in the library or lists selected in accessTunes are available in iTunes. Note that any music that has been purchased using the iTunes Music store will not be streamed unless the computer accessing the music is authorized. For this reason I made one specific play list that excluded those files and shared that play list only.

Accessing your music over the web is where accessTunes really shines. Anyone with internet access can enter your computer's IP address or DNS address in their favorite web browser and start listening to your music. By default, the web sharing list downloads a .m3u file which is then displayed in an external player (which is typically iTunes). This can be changed by clicking on the "Options" link on the web page.


accessTunes web options


After clicking on Options, change the music to play in "your browser". After clicking on "Save Changes", and then re-clicking on the Shared Music library ("Todd Ward" in the example above), the library is again displayed in your web browser, but this time if you click on the song, it will play directly within the browser.


Playing music in the browser from an accessTunes shared library


As shown in the figure above, the music is now displayed in the lower left area of the web page, and includes the standard Quicktime player controls, with the exception of saving. accessTunes does a good job of ensuring that people cannot download your music to their computer. The one downside of listening to music via the web, whether played in the browser or in an external application, is that it only plays one song. If it plays in your browser, it plays the song and then stops. If it plays in iTunes, it plays the song and then plays the next song in your library, which depending upon your current library sort, is likely not going to be a song from the accessTunes shared library. Web sharing is a great way to let people sample your music, but not the best method for playing playlists.

After giving a few of my friends access to my music library, they thought that the streaming of my music had good quality and was on par with music that you would get streamed from the internet. While others are playing my music, I can monitor the connections by looking at the accessTunes main window. It doesn't display from what IP address the connections are coming from, but it does display the song that it currently being played.


accessTunes activity monitor displays song and time played

Shortly after installing this application, I had to go on a business trip. With all the broadband Internet access that is available in hotel rooms today, it was a pleasure to be able to listen to my music in my hotel room while working. Especially since I forgot my iPod.

Summary
accessTunes is a handy iTunes supplement that allows you to share your iTunes library locally via iTunes, or share it on the web. The way accessTunes shares music via iTunes is similar to Apple's built-in sharing, but sharing music via the web is accessTune's strong point, providing an easy and nifty way to share your music with friends and family, or even with yourself when traveling. The music streaming is top quality, and provides ample protection to prevent downloading your music illegally. The application was very stable, and the web layout for viewing your library on the web is quite nice. Playing music via the web only plays a single song at a time, so it's not the best way to listen to playlists, but it is a great way to share music. All in all, I recommend accessTunes for anyone who is interested in sharing their music via the web.

Pros

  • High quality streaming access to your iTunes library anywhere with internet access
  • Great way to share music with friends and family
  • Can play music via iTunes or directly on the web
  • Great web interface

Cons

  • Sharing via iTunes feature is already built into iTunes
  • Playing music on the web only plays one song at a time
  • Setting up web sharing is a little involved if you are behind a firewall


Overall Rating:

4 out of 5 Mice