How to replace iTunes with Linux solution

Discussion in 'Windows, Linux & Others on the Mac' started by CUDA_Switch, Nov 5, 2016.

  1. CUDA_Switch macrumors newbie

    Jul 23, 2015
    Hi folks, I have a question that doesn't really fit anywhere but this seemed the closest place. Apologies for the huge post but perhaps someone will think this is an interesting question.

    TL;DR: I'm preparing for the day when I completely move off of Apple computer hardware. I'm looking for a simple solution, and my preference is going 100% Linux. The biggest problem I can foresee on the software side is how to get away from iTunes.

    I have a 2012 Mac Mini quad that does a pretty good job. It's my file server, my Plex server, and my iTunes server that has 100 playlists from the last ten years. My wife and I have iPhones that sync with the iTunes instance, so something like Synology's iTunes server (which I also have and use as a rsync/Time Machine box) that only does smart playlists and acts as a shared library wouldn't work. Other than Find My iPhone, we don't use iCloud (and we're not interested in iTunes Match).

    But here's the problem: Apple doesn't make computers for people like me anymore. I like to upgrade my PCs as needed so I can get more value out of them. For example, my wife has a 2009 MacBook Pro 5,5 that still works fine because it's been upgraded to an SSD and is maxed out on 8GB memory. It's been great but I don't think the C2D CPU is going to be viable for more than a couple of years tops. The Mini is good but I'm concerned that Apple's going to drop support for it sooner than I would like. I like macOS, but not enough to either buy a machine with no upgrade options or a super expensive computer that can't perform like other PCs that cost less. So I'd like to consider some options before one (or both) of the machines no longer meets our needs. I am Linux-savvy and have run many distributions over the years.
    • Hackintosh - I don't have the time or the interest
    • Run a Windows VM just for iTunes - ugh, I'd really rather not
    • Run a macOS VM just for iTunes - frowned upon if you're not using Mac hardware, which again I want to get rid of. Also a cat-and-mouse game that I'd like to avoid.
    • Buy an iMac once they finally get refreshed, have my wife Screen Share into it, and sell the Mini - not a terrible solution but it just kicks the can down the road. Also most likely too expensive for what you get.
    • Finally, just do nothing and let it ride as is. Well, sure I could do that but that's not why I'm posting this ;)
    So has anyone else figured this out? I know you can run a Time Machine server off of Linux that uses netatalk and avahi, but has anyone heard of a Linux iTunes-like replacement that can import playlists and handle iOS sync? I think that's really all I need.
  2. jblagden macrumors 65816


    Aug 16, 2013
    I’m in the same boat. I’ve had a 2011 MacBook Pro for the last five years or so, and it’s been great. Like you, I’ve upgraded it to a Solid State Drive and 8 gigabytes of RAM to get more value out of it. Also like you, I like being able to upgrade my computers, and Apple no longer makes computers for people like me. I’ve been trying out Ubuntu Gnome on PC from 2010, and it’s pretty good. There are also a lot of extensions for it, which is nice.

    For an iTunes alternative, it really depends on what you’re looking for.

    If you’re looking for something which will handle playlists, even smart playlists, Rhythmbox is good, and I expect that other music players can probably handle playlists. I know Clementine is very focused on playlists.

    If you’re looking for something which will play videos purchased from the iTunes Store, you’re pretty much out of luck. Your only options are a Windows Virtual Machine, or using something like Tune4Mac to decrypt your iTunes videos. Also, it used to be possible to run an old version of iTunes in Wine, but that won’t work anymore for videos.

    If you’re looking for something which will allow you to sync iOS devices, you might have some luck there. There are some solutions for that - for music syncing. I believe Banshee can take care of that, and possibly some other music players. But if you want to sync apps and videos, you won’t have any luck there.

    What do you want to use iTunes for in Linux?
  3. CUDA_Switch thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jul 23, 2015
    I'd like to stick with iTunes if possible because we synchronize our phones with it for media and apps, and use AirPlay around the house. We don't use iCloud and don't have any plans to because it doesn't have enough capacity. I already have a Linux server that just needs a couple of extra drives (which are supposed to arrive today) and I have a Windows 7 license as well. So I think the easiest approach for me is to just use a Windows VM for iTunes and a couple of other Windows-specific things. I could just keep using the Mini for these things, but I feel like this is the perfect opportunity to sell it while it's still worth the effort. I think it's a shame that Apple isn't making computers for hobbyists like us anymore and I'm concerned about their long-term commitment to the OS. Maybe they will prove me wrong with that awesome pipeline we keep hearing about :rolleyes:
  4. jblagden macrumors 65816


    Aug 16, 2013
    At least for music, I know you can use Rhythmbox. Here’s a tutorial for syncing an iPhone with Rhythmbox:

    For syncing photos, you’d probably have to use Dropbox or OwnCloud or something like that.

    For videos, I’m not sure. Unfortunately, there’s no full syncing solution on Linux. Well, not without having to jailbreak the phone, which is something I wouldn’t want to do. However, this looks promising:
  5. Mikael H macrumors 6502a

    Sep 3, 2014
    I wouldn't bother spending time on getting iTunes to work with a Linux server. If you succeed you'll likely be in a similar cat-and-mouse game as the Hackintosh people are, as Apple continuously need to show rights owners that their customers keep paying for material.

    Personally I rent almost all of my music via an Apple Music family subscription. I still have some stuff on physical media, but Apple (or if you want to get away from them: Spotify) cover all my needs with none of the hassle.
  6. CUDA_Switch thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jul 23, 2015
    So I'm almost totally migrated off of the Mini at this point. I'm using an Ubuntu 16.04 LTS server with all non-OS data residing on a software RAID 5 container that has three WD Red Pro 4TB drives. I'm using Thunderbird instead of Apple Mail, Plex on Linux instead of Plex on the Mini, and rsync for backups instead of Time Machine. But after doing some research, I agree 100% that a pure Linux solution couldn't get me where I wanted to go for iTunes. Since I don't use iCloud, finding a way to synchronize music on our iPhones locally over wifi was the biggest problem. So what I ended up doing was creating a Windows 7 VM for iTunes, which works so far for everything I needed. I have VMware Workstation so I created the VM with that, and I run it off of the Ubuntu server using VMware Player. The thing I was most worried about is having to keep all that data inside the VM, but it turned out that it was possible to leave the iTunes library and all the other supporting files, as well as the music files themselves, on the Ubuntu server and share them out with the VM using a mapped drive configured through Shared Folders. This actually seems to work just fine in iTunes, and I haven't run into any show stoppers *yet* with this approach. I'm using VMware since it's what I have, but it's possible that VirtualBox would also do the job (it just depends on how compatible their version of host/guest file sharing is with a Windows VM running iTunes off of an Ubuntu host).

Share This Page