iTunes Sharing Lets Mac Users Become Low-end Radio
by Alan Zisman
( c) 2003 First
published in LowEnd Mac
, May 28, 2003 Mac2Windows column
Mac2Windows is usually about making Macs and Windows
computers work together, but until Apple ports iTunes to Windows
(anticipated by the end of 2003), this column will only benefit Mac
Recently, Apple made some big moves on the digital
music front, gaining a lot of press for its iTunes Music Store.
At the store, Apple has made over two hundred thousand tunes available
for download at US$1 each with the blessing of the recording industry,
yet with fewer restrictions than other commercial music-downloading
services. Even though it's currently limited to US-located Mac-owners,
Apple's Music Store was able to boast over two million tunes
downloaded in its first weeks of operation.
To make use of the iTunes Music Store, potential
customers need to use iTunes version 4. While Apple stands to make a
nice bundle of pocket change from the Music Store, there's another
significant feature of the new iTunes that has gathered far less
iTunes 4 has a sharing feature that offers every user
the potential to be (on a decidedly small-scale level) their own radio
station. Yes, iTunes now does music streaming.
Go to the iTunes preferences, and you'll see a Sharing
icon. Click on it, and you'll see a simple-to-use set of options: turn sharing on or off,
share all songs in your iTunes library (vs. specified playlists), and
whether or not to password-protect access to your iTunes library.
If sharing is turned on, that dialogue will also show
how many people are currently accessing your shared library. With
sharing turned on (and iTunes running), your Mac magically becomes a
music-streaming server, letting users on other Macs listen to the
songs in your iTunes library.
On Apple's iTunes
web page, the feature is mentioned, but the discussion about
it focuses on how it works with Rendezvous to automatically locate
other Macs on a home network. Their example states: "Let's say, for
instance, that you have thousands of AAC and MP3 music files stored on
a Mac in your home office. With iTunes 4, you can stream that music to
other Macintosh computers anywhere in your house."
Apple neglects to mention that this sharing isn't
limited to other Macs on your local network. In fact, with sharing
turned on your Mac will happily stream music to any other iTunes user
across the Internet.
Major radio stations don't need to quake in their
boots, however. There are a couple of pretty significant limitations
iTunes sharing is limited to a maximum of five users
at a time. This is probably a very good thing, as few of us have ISPs
who would be happy with the bandwidth consumed if large numbers of
people wanted to connect simultaneously. (To say nothing of the
demands this would place on your Mac's hardware). In order to connect
over the Internet, potential listeners will have to know your IP
address beforehand. In other words, you can listen to the tunes stored
in your home Mac's iTunes library while at work (assuming you also
have a Mac at work). And you can send your IP address to a few
friends, and they can listen to tunes stored in your iTunes library.
You probably don't know your IP address offhand. And
if you're connecting to the Internet via a router (perhaps connected
to a cable or DSL broadband modem), your Mac's IP address over the LAN
isn't its address over the Internet.
You can find out the IP address your computer is using
to connect to the Internet from WhatIsMyIP.com.
And if there is a router in between your Mac and the Net, you will
need to do a bit of configuration to allow requests made over the
Internet to contact your Mac. On my wireless Linksys router, for
instance, I had to log into the router's configuration program, go to
the Advanced tab, then go to forwarding tab. There, I enabled Port
3689 for the Mac's network IP address. (If you have a dynamic IP
address that changes frequently, you may want to sign on with a free
service like dyndns.org that
provides users with a virtual static address).
This is not quite as transparent as Rendezvous
automatically locating other Macs on your home network, but it's not
too hard to do, either.
Once that's done, your iTunes library is available
online -- at least to anyone who knows your IP address and the
password that you've set.
There are a couple of ways to connect. You can click
on the iTunes Advanced menu and choose its Connect to Shared Music
item. Type in the IP address, and that library's share name should
appear in the iTunes list of available sources. Alternatively, typing
"daap:\\ip_address" in a browser should get you connected.
Some Mac users have gone public with this, offering
their libraries to the world. iTuneShare
is maintaining lists of users, organized by music category.
Unlike Napster, Limewire, Kazaa, and the like, iTunes
file sharing lets remote users listen to tunes across the Internet or
a local network, but it doesn't allow them to actually download the
music files onto their local computer. I'm sure this was done on
purpose, allowing Apple to argue that this iTunes feature isn't there
to encourage pirating of copyrighted music.
A number of programs have been posted that get around
this limitation, allowing users to actually copy music files from one
Mac to another, but we're not going to tell you where to find
Update: As we go to press, Apple has released
iTunes 4.01, which disables sharing your playlist over the Internet.
If you want to be able to share your tunes over the Internet, do
not update to iTunes 4.01. See iTunes
update disables Internet playlist sharing on MacCentral for more