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A Linux media server is often useful for sharing music, videos and files across the house or workplace. It saves on money because each computer does not need a big enough hard drive to hold a music library, and if you make them synced using Icecast, you can hear the music across the house from different sources. You can also save on a DVD player if you can play from your computer and stream it to your TV - it is all great in an economic recession.
You can make a Linux media server from any computer by installing any Linux distribution. In this article I am going to use the popular Ubuntu operating system, but you may use whatever distribution you like as long as it has the same packages. (You may have to see the actual distribution page to find out).
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Lights, Cameras, Action!
The first piece of software that could come in useful for our Linux media server is VLC Media Player. This is useful because not only can it play media on the local computer, but it can also stream to a network of computers. It can stream anything to the network including DVDs, music and videos of just about any type or size.
If you are using Ubuntu you can just type: sudo apt-get install vlc into your terminal to download the program. Once it has downloaded and you have opened it you can click Media from the tool bar then click "Streaming..." which will allow you to add files or disks to stream across the network.
In order to access them from another location the easiest way is to download VLC player onto that computer (which is cross platform) and open the network stream, but there are also other ways to tune into a VLC stream.
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Icecast is quite an awesome piece of software in that it will let you stream content onto your network or even onto the entire internet for someone in another country to listen to. This way, you can leave one computer running a supported application playing music and access the music stream from any other computer in the world.
Icecast can be installed by running sudo apt-get install icecast2 then edit /etc/icecast2/icecast.xml as root to change your passwords, and finally edit /etc/default/icecast2 (again as root) and change the bottom line to "true" so it activates Icecast.
Once Icecast is active, you should be able to control it from a web-based environment, from the port set in the xml file that you edited. If you need more help or assistance check out the main Icecast homepage.
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Samba is not really a media server thing but it is something I think is very helpful to have on all servers. If you do need to take a music file or video file somewhere on a portable laptop, you will most likely need Samba. Samba allows you to set up sharing of files and folders across a network with ease.
In order to start using Samba, you will need to install it using: sudo apt-get install samba which will install Samba for you. Next, you can just right click the folder in nautilus, click "Sharing" and set up the permissions. Now you can access that folder from all over the house using the network sharing center on Windows or just "Network" under Linux.
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So there you have it. A media server which can send music, video and files across your network and the internet. If you need any help with any of these programs or have a recommendation please feel free to leave a comment below and I will get back to you.