Of Plex and hardlinks

For a long time, I always thought iTunes was Apple’s best feature up until relatively recently. It, plus a few other things Apple with the user experience that I am not a fan of, has caused me to no longer think that. And, in fact, I’m now running Linux a majority of the time (and how freeing it is! Oh Tux how I’ve missed you!). Linux Mint in my case. The hardest part of the switch was trying to escape Apple’s crumbling iTunes ecosystem. I didn’t want to go back to searching for music by way of the file-system though. That’s what iTunes did so well. For music, finding music by file is a nightmare. In iTunes I could search by artist, album, song, genre, BPM, grouping, rating, time played, etc. I dare you to try that with a file-system.

It took a lot of searching but I finally ended up with something that I’m super happy with – Plex! It handles both music and video, mobile, desktop, Roku, Pi. It’s a glorious unity that frees me from the chains of Apple. And, yes, I know, these days people use Spotify and Pandora. And those are great for some things, but I have an eclectic mix of music, many of which is not found on any of those platforms, as well as my personal vinyl record recordings, EDM tracks, you name it. Plus I like owning my music. There are some *-as-a-service things that are great, but I don’t feel that music should be like air. In any case, I want to be the curator. And Plex lets me to do that!

It does have a few shortcomings. Genre is based on the album, not song, which works a majority of the time, but not for some EDM albums. Likewise, sub-genres are not really a thing or grouping, which was a feature I used quite a bit in iTunes. To solve the grouping part, I finally figured out a great use for hardlinking. Outside of rsync and Time Machine backups, I never quite figured out what would be a good use case, well now I have! As you can imagine, I have a huge amount of songs in iTunes having used for over 10 years (yikes). It’s a lot of data and I made the mistake of letting iTunes manage the file-structure. So it’s a bit of a mess. So rather than copying music files to folders and wasting disk-space, I simply create hard-links. I keep by iTunes collection as well as well well curated collections both in Plex and, in the worst case, I can bust out my Mac and open iTunes if need be.

A good example that I did just this morning was to copy over flashgoodness’ Tower of Heaven soundtrack into my Game collection in Plex. So now if I want to listen to video game music, I just go to the Game library in Plex. But that album is also a chiptune album, so I may end up creating a Chiptune library in Plex as well. Chiptune is a pretty well defined genre, but there are still some crossover and hybrid artists (such as My band of course) such that a single genre may not be useful enough. BAM! Libraries and hard-linking to the rescue!

I honestly probably didn’t explain why that is so cool well at all but it really works super well in Plex, at least so far, and means that, one day, I may have ridden myself entirely of iTunes without having a disk space nightmare on my hands. Hate iTunes but like metadata and searching music the way it should be searched? Try Plex!