Introducing Vortexbox

If you want to install Squeezebox Server (LMS) on a Linux computer from scratch, then please be aware that there is a deal of effort involved in getting together all the component parts and making sure it all runs sweetly together. However there is an easy way. Vortexbox.

Vortexbox is a complete Squeezebox Server package that can be installed on a suitable desktop or laptop computer (Note 1, Note 2). The package contains a version of Fedora Linux, the Squeezebox Server application, and all the libraries needed to make it work (plus some other goodies that we can discuss somewhere else).

The default Vortexbox setup puts everything on different partitions on a single hard drive - operating system, software and media storage. It is possible to use multiple hard drives, but the easy way is to use one single drive, and we recommend that, at least to start with, for first time users. Make sure your drive is big enough to comfortably hold all your data 

Once it's all set up, you can run Vortexbox headless (without a screen or keyboard) and manage LMS  via a web interface. Darta files via your File Manager and Linux OS commands via a SSH utility (Note 8). Vortexbox does include a CD/DVD ripper, which can be useful, but it's also possible to copy files across your LAN from another computer, and this has some advantages too. 

The instructions provided on the Vortexbox website are clear and quite comprehensive, although they could be arranged more logically, we think. Anyway, thanks to the Vortexbox team for a good job documenting the product. We won't replicate all the instructions here, as we have provided links to them. We'll just add some notes describing what we found as we went through the installation process, so you'll know what to expect.

Installing Vortexbox - Overview

Step 1 Prepare your target machine

Plug in a screen, mouse and keyboard for use during the installation process. Make sure the computer is connected to the Internet, because you will need to update some files and test the machine immediately after installation. 

If you are upgrading a machine that is already running Vortexbox, and plan to same the same hard drive, then remember that everything will be wiped. So back up everything in your music folder, including playlists. Also you should make a note of which plugins you have enabled and any settings that are important to you. Taking screen shots is a quick and easy way of doing this.

Step 2 Download a Vortexbox Image

If you are installing on a 64-bit machine then you should choose Vortexbox 2.4. This is the current most recent version that supports 64-bit. 

Version 2.4 does not support 32-bit processors, so if you are installing Vortexbox on a 32-bit machine, use the current most recent 32-bit version which is version 2.3 (September 2016). 

The latest downloads of Vortexbox 2.3 and 2.4 require you to install using a disk image which you will burn to a CD or USB flash drive. If you plan to make a bootable CD, download the ISO image. For a bootable USB, download the ZIP version, except if you are using a Mac as it's easier to use the ISO for both. The disk images for both 2.3 and 2.4 are on the Vortexbox wiki at:

http://wiki.vortexbox.org/available_images.

Step 3 Copy the image to a Bootable USB drive or CD

Once you have downloaded the appropriate image, you need to copy it to a USB drive/key or CD and make it bootable. The instructions for doing this depend on the operating system you are using to make the bootable drive.

Making a bootable USB drive using Windows: 

http://wiki.vortexbox.org/installing_i386_images_using_a_usb_key

Making a bootable USB drive using Linux:

http://wiki.vortexbox.org/linux_installation_instructions

Making a bootable USB using Mac:

It is possible to do this using the command line to convert the ISO file to a DMG, then clone it to the USB. http://www.lewan.com/blog/2012/02/10/making-a-bootable-usb-stick-on-an-apple-mac-os-x-from-an-iso

Far easier is to use a utility such as UNetbootin: https://unetbootin.github.io/

Making a bootable CD using Windows or Mac:

http://wiki.vortexbox.org/installing_i386_images_using_a_writable_cd

Making a bootable CD using Linux:

Use a Linux utility such as Brasero or K3 or xfburn - whatever is easily installable from your distro's repository.

Step 4 Boot from USB/CD

Power the installation target machine off, insert the USB or CD and power on again. The machine should boot and start the installation automatically.

(If your target machine does not boot from the external drive, go into the bios and change the boot order.)

You don't have to do much during this stage of the installation process. You will be asked to confirm that you are happy for the entire disk in the target machine to be wiped. Assuming you have already backed up any data you want to keep, agree. Allow the installation to proceed, which will take anything from five to thirty minutes depending on the speed of your machine.

Eventually, you'll be given an option to reboot. Choose 'reboot'. You'll then be asked to remove the install image (CD/DVD/USB) and then confirm reboot.

After the re-boot you will be able to log in to your new Vortexbox. Login defaults are login: 'root' and password: 'vortexbox'.

Step 5 Update the System

(Expanded from http://wiki.vortexbox.org/vortexbox_2.3_installation_instructions)

If you haven't already logged in to the console, do so:

vortexbox login: root

Password: vortexbox

Now we need to update all the files on the system to the latest versions.

If you have just installed VortexBox 2.3 then enter the command:

[[email protected] ~]# yum -y update

For VortexBox 2.4 use

[[email protected] ~]# dnf -y update

The update process will download a lot of files and install them. Time for a cup of coffee.

When the update is finished, you should expand your root partition to 30GB:

[[email protected] ~]# config_4-30.sh

And when that is done, make plenty of space available for your media files by assigning the remaining hard drive space to your storage partition:

[[email protected] ~]# config_local_storage.sh

When that is done you will need to reboot to create the new partition space.

[[email protected] ~]# reboot

Log in again.

Use the command line to find out the IP address of your Vortexbox:

[[email protected] ~]# ifconfig

You might need thr IP address to access the web interface using your browser.

Step 6 Finishing Up

On a separate machine (not your server) point your browser to the Vortexbox machine's IP address. (Note 4). You should arrive at the Vortexbox home page. Other pages can be reached by clicking on the icons on the left. 

Start with some housekeeping, as further described in the offical instructions:

  • Check that the disk size shown on the Vortexbox Home page matches the size of your hard drive. (If not you may need to repeat the partition sizing described above.) 
  • Set your time zone in System Configuration.
  • Set a static IP address in Network Configuration. (Note 5.) VB reboot will be required.
  • If you have more than one Vortexbox machine, or want to change the new machine's name for any other reason, you can do this in Network Configuration. VB reboot will be required.
  • If you need to, change the SMB workgroup name in Network Configuration to whatever you use on your network. (Most people just use the default name "workgroup".) VB reboot will be required.
  • If you intend to use SSH to communicate with your Vortexbox from your admin machine, and this is a Vortexbox upgrade, you might need to clear the SSH setting on your admin machine to allow a new session to be created on your upgraded server.

You'll find some more detailed info on getting started with Vortexbox here:

http://info.vortexbox.org/tiki-index.php?page=Begin

Loading some music

Access the "Files" share on your server using SMB. This is one easy way to copy your music files across the network. Set up some folders for your library structure. And just click and drag to copy some music! (Note 6)

Once all the files are copied, you can tell Squeezebox server to scan them and place them in the 'My Music' library. Vortexbox makes that easy too. There is a link to the Squeezebox server web interface on the Vortexbox main page. Go there, then click the Settings link in the bottom right. You'll arrive on the Basic Settings page. Look for Rescan Media Library and hit the Rescan button to add all the music to your library. (Note 7) Now use your Squeezebox device or app to play the music. Aahh.

Working with Vortexbox

You will be able to interact with your Vortexbox in the following ways, all of which are covered in the Vortexbox online documentation. 

  • You can configure the system and carry out updates, backups and so on via the web interface using your browser. Just enter the IP address of your Vortexbox machine into a browser. Note that the same IP address plus Port 9000 will give you the web interface of the LMS / Squeezebox server. If Vortexbox is 192.168.1.57, then LMS is 192.168.1.57:9000.
  • You can access the media files through the file manager on another machine on the same LAN. Vortexbox sets up the storage area as a Samba share which can be seen on Linux, Mac and Windows machines. You can click and drag files from a desktop into the Files folder, manage tags, and delete files easily through this graphical interface.
  • If you know how to work with Linux you can do just about anything using the command line interface. Working directly on the Vortexbox machine, you obviously need to have a mouse, keyboard and screen plugged in. Or you can do exactly the same remotely using an SSH session. From Linux or Mac you can set up an SSH session from the terminal/command line. For Windows, use PuTTY (Note 8).
  • SSH is also useful for automating synchronization between machines across the networks. You can use rsync, or a similar sync utility to keep two libraries in sync, or to backup files across the network instead of using a connected USB drive.

Backing Up

Vortexbox can back up your music and other media files to an external USB drive. Plug in an empty drive and click the Backup button on the web interface. This is only a manual backup, so if you want to back up regularly, you can set up a cron job on the system and back up to an attached USB drive. (Instructions being prepared.)

Say Thank You

If you enjoy using Vortexbox, you should say thank you by making a donation: http://vortexbox.org/about

Further Notes

Note 1. If you don't have a spare machine to repurpose you can buy a box with Vortexbox already installed. You can find links to vendors on the Vortexbox site: http://vortexbox.org/buy

Note 2. The official Vortexbox system requirements page has disappeared. Maybe that's because it really doesn't need a lot of resources to run well, and some quite elderly machines will work. You could give it a try on just about any x86 box with as much RAM as you can plug in. More realistically go for Pentium or equivalent with 2GB RAM. Whatever processor you use, it would be good to treat your music to a shiny new (and big) hard drive. It's probably better to get a hard drive optimized for continuous operation rather than go simply for speed. A 5400 rpm hard drive works just fine for most purposes, and will run more quietly and use less energy.

Note 4. Point your browser to http://myvortexbox.com, where Vortexbox will helpfully tell you the address of the server you've just installed. If that doesn't work for some reason (such as you have more than one Vortexbox on your network, or some weird firewall problems) then you can pay a visit to your LAN router's web interface, or use the ifconfig command on the Vortexbox command line to find the IP address.

Note 5. Setting a static IP address ensures that Vortexbox always receives the same IP address. You can use the one that's already been automatically assigned. If you have a regular home network, then the Subnet Mask will be 255.255.255.0. Gateway is just your router's address on the LAN. You can leave the DNS entries blank and Vortexbox will use OpenDNS servers. Alternatively you can set a DHCP reservation in your router.

Note 6. As you copy the music files into the Files folder, Vortexbox "copies" them into the Music folder that is visible to Squeezebox and the other server applications. Music is a read-only folder so other apps (players) can't mess around with the data directly. 

Note 7. The default setting is for Squeezebox to wait for the Rescan request before loading new music. However you can schedule Squeezebox to do a scan once per day if you prefer: go to Settings/Advanced then choose the dropdown (top left) for Rescan Music Library. Set the time you want the scan to happen, then switch on. You can set a daily scan and do manual scans as well, if you wish. From version 7.8 on, Squeezebox server now has a 'watch' function that scans automatically when it recognizes that new files have been added, or existing files updated. To use this you need to enable the plug-in called (confusingly) Rescan Music Library, which really does scan automatically, not like the built-in function called Rescan Music Library, which doesn't.

Note 8. PuTTY is a useful utility which provides secure access (SSH) to the LMS host machine from another PC. This is helpful if you intend to run Vortexbox as a 'headless' installation (no screen or keyboard). On Windows 10, I had to download PuTTY v.67 to avoid a protocol problem. This version is available from http://filehippo.com/download_putty/ A short article describing the use and configuration of PuTTY is available at https://mediatemple.net/community/products/dv/204404604/using-ssh-in-putty- The host name is the IP addess of the vortexbox (192.168.1.57 in our example); the default login is 'root' and default password 'vortexbox'.

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