Mobile music briefcase using BitTorrent Sync

Streaming, cloud, social, …. Nice stuff! But, what if your behind a firewall and have to rely on the local storage on your mobile device? I was thinking on how to solve this situation, a listen later briefcase.

Use Case

  • You want to select music files to listen to on a device.
  • Costs, Security, and bandwidth limitations preclude streaming.
  • Security will not allow use of thumb drives and other ‘attachable’ devices.
  • You should be able to delete these files.
  • Removing them should not delete the original files.
  • These files should be quickly and securely transferred.

This approach is just a modern version of the “CD storage case” we used in the old days to store some tunes for the long drives.

Solution
One way of implementing this is using BitTorrent Sync (BTSync). Basically we create a “briefcase” folder where we will drop copies of what we want to listen to later. To make this easier to follow, I’ll use the origin as being a Desktop PC. We also create a folder on our mobile devices that will be synchronized with the other folder. BTSync will handle the process of keeping these folders in sync. And, since BTSync is so fast, the sync will happen as the files are dropped on the briefcase folder.

    PC                          Device
+--------+     +---------+     +-----+
| Music  | === |Briefcase| ~~~ |Music|
+--------+     +---------+     +-----+

Though mobile example is used here, the device could be anything, even an automobile with advanced music system. While it is parked in front of home, it could be “charging” on some tunes.

How to setup
1. Of course, you have to first have BTSync installed on both the PC and the mobile devices.
2. Then on your PC run BTSync and choose “Add folder”.
3. Click ‘Generate’ button to generate a secret key.
4. Click ‘Browse’ to navigate to the folder to use as the Briefcase. (I used “Music-BTSync” as the name).
5. On mobile devices create a folder that you want to use as the listen later storage. (I created a “Music-BTSync” on my external SDCard).
5a This folder must be accessible to your mobile music player application.
6. On your mobile device run BitTorrent Sync and choose ‘Add Sync folder’.
7. Use the folder created above.
8. Now we have to get the secret read only key from the PC to the mobile device.
8a. On the PC, share the “Briefcase” folder. By using the mobile option, you can generate a QRcode.
8b. On mobile device, scan or enter that key.
9. On the mobile device, on BTSync’s list “MY SYNC”, the new folder should be listed (mine was music-BTSync).
10. Click the settings sprocket to the right of it.
11. Check on “Automatic sync”

Testing
Loading: Just copy an mp3 into the Briefcase folder on the PC. It should immediately be copied to the mobile device. With a File app on the device you should be able to see it in the sync folder.
Deleting on PC: Delete the file from the Briefcase folder on PC. It should be deleted automatically on the device.
Deleting on Mobile: Load another file on PC, it gets copied. Now delete that file on the mobile device only. It should remain on the PC. This is because of the use of the ‘Read only’ secret key. To change this behavior, do the sharing using a regular secret key.

Listening
This where the problems start. The ability to access and automatically refresh a changed folder varies among portable music player apps. Some like Google Music Player, for example, doesn’t even expose the concept of file folders and other nice to know configuration settings. Poweramp is better in this regard, with some prodding it recognized the new synced files. Still looking for a player that will behave with this sync process.

Alternatives
Various music apps have ways of using caching to store music. They also have various sync capabilities. However, these could be difficult to use in this scenario. Plus, the various parties are trying to monetize content, so optimizing the use of your private music collection is not a great concern.

Does it work?
This morning I put gigabytes of music on a folder on my PC, BTSync synced it to my phone. Now I’m listening to Black Sabbath and Barry White at work. How cool and eclectic is that?

Notes
Microsoft Windows used to have a Briefcase feature. It was removed in Windows 8. This was a limited two-way file synchronization process. With BTSync, there can be many folders in sync. For example, multiple mobile devices can sync to the same PC or home folder.

Tested on
Galaxy Note version 1
Android 4.1.2
BitTorrent Sync v1.3.21.0

Windows 7 64bit
BitTorrent Sync 1.3.94

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