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Chapter 4. iTunes for Macintosh and Windows > Playing Songs Across a Network

4.11. Playing Songs Across a Network

If you've taken the trouble to set up a home network so your family can share a printer, an Internet connection, and so on, more treats await. With iTunes 4, you share songs and playlists with up to five networked computers—Macs, PCs, or a mix of both. You could, for example, tap into your roommate's jazz collection without getting up from your desk, and she can sample the zydeco and tejano tunes from your World Beat playlists. The music you decide to share is streamed over the network to the other computer.


In iTunes 4.0, you could even listen to music on Macs elsewhere on the Internet, as long as you knew their IP addresses (network addresses). It didn't take long for people to figure out how to exploit this feature and share music all over the Internet in sneaky ways that Apple had never intended.

In response to hysterical phone calls from the record companies, Apple removed this feature (and the Advanced→Connect to Shared Music command) in version 4.0.1. Now you can connect only to other machines on your own office network.

To share music across a network, the machines involved must meet a few requirements:

  • The Macs on the network need to be using at least iTunes 4.0.1 and Mac OS X 10.2.4 or later. The Windows computers need iTunes 4.1 or later.

  • The computers must be on the same subnet of the network. (If you don't know what that means, read on.)

  • The iTunes Sharing preferences for each computer involved need to be configured properly.

4.11.1. Preparing to Share

The Subnet Mask (that is, the chunk of the network you're on) is identified by four numbers separated by periods, like this: (Nobody ever said networking was user-friendly.)

To check the subnet number of a Macintosh, open System Preferences and click the Network icon.

To check the Subnet Mask on a Windows machines, choose Start→Control Panel, double-click the Network Connections icon, and right-click the icon for your connection. Then choose Properties from the shortcut menu. In the Properties box, click Internet Protocol, and then click Properties to see the subnet information.

4.11.2. Sharing Your Own Music

To "publish" your own tunes to the network, choose iTunes→Preferences (Mac) or Edit→Preferences (Windows) and click the Sharing icon. Turn on "Share my music" (see Figure 4-23). You can choose to share your entire collection, or just selected playlists.

Figure 4-23. Top: The iTunes 4 Sharing Preferences box lets you share as much of your music collection as you would like with other people on the same network. It also allows you to seek out music on other connected computers yourself. To share your music, you must first turn on the sharing feature and indicate what you want to put out there for others to sample. Bottom: Once you've decided to share, your subnet pals can sample your collection right from their iTunes Source lists.

Whatever you type in the Shared Name box in the Sharing preferences will show up in your friend's iTunes Source list. You can also require a password as a key to your own music library—a handy feature if you feel that your colleagues mooch off of you quite enough in other areas of life.

You can share AAC, MP3, AIFF, WAV files, and radio station links with your network buddies, but not Audible tracks or QuickTime files. And sharing means "streaming" here. You can listen to shared music, but you can't burn someone else's music files to a CD, copy them to an iPod, or add them to your own iTunes library.

And one more point of fine print. Remember that songs bought from the iTunes Music Store can play on a maximum of three machines. If you want to listen to such a song across the network, one that hasn't been authorized on your computer, you must enter the Apple account name and user password that was used to purchase the song before you can play it. Your computer now takes one of the three spots on the song's authorized list (see Chapter 6 for details on authorization). If you don't type in the owner's name and password for purchased songs, iTunes will skip those tracks.

4.11.3. Listening to Someone Else's Tunes

It's easy to listen to somebody else's music collection; once it's been shared, their iTunes libraries generally appear right in your Source list, labeled with whatever name your benevolent buddy has chosen for the shared collection. (See Figure 4-23, bottom.)

Double-click the desired song to fire it up and play through your computer's speakers. (If your pal has put a password on the shared collection, you'll have to type that in before you can listen.)


Want to know if a certain song is shared? Select the title and press -I (Mac) or Ctrl+I (Windows), or choose File→Get Info. If the word "Remote" appears next to Kind in the Summary area, you're looking at a shared file.

If the other person's tunes aren't showing up, choose iTunes→Preferences (Mac) or Edit→Preferences (Windows) and click the Sharing icon. In the Sharing preferences box (Figure 4-23, top), turn on "Look for shared music."

Freeware and Shareware for iTunes

Just as dozens of friendly little programs have made the iPod easier and more fun to use, music-loving programmers have also come up with some handy tools to enhance iTunes. Searching VersionTracker (http://www.versiontracker.com) for the keyword "iTunes" will generate results for over 80 programs. MacUpdate (http://www.macupdate.com) is another site that keeps tabs on available programs for the Macintosh. Among the inexpensive software and freeware offerings for iTunes:

EasyView X 1.0 (Mac). A visualization plug-in for iTunes that displays the information for the current song with large colorful text (http://www.trinfinitysoftware.com/easyview.shtml).

iAlarm (Mac). People who use the Mac for everything anyway can now use it as a talking alarm clock. The iAlarm freeware can not only start playing iTunes songs at a specified time, but it can speak the weather and news as well (http://users.wpi.edu/~isam/iAlarm).

iTunes SideKick (Windows). This plug-in lets you adjust the opacity of your minibar and keep it on top of your other windows, keeping your music in view at all times. You can also minimize it to the tray and see the current artist and song name in a tooltip (http://www.ipodlounge.com/ipodnews_comments.php?id=2195_0_7_0_M).

iHam on iRye (Mac). Playing music over a network is just as much fun as playing it on your own computer, especially if the other Mac has plenty of hard drive space and can serve as a jukebox. The iHam on iRye program works a remote control for controlling iTunes on another computer on the network, especially older Macs with older versions of iTunes that can't share on their own, from the comfort of your own machine (http://www.swssoftware.com/products/iham).

iTunes Watcher (Mac). If you can never remember what song is playing and don't feel like drilling down through your Mac's open windows or constantly clicking into the Dock to find out, the iTunes Watcher is for you. The tiny program creates an equally tiny information panel that always floats onscreen on top of other open windows (http://www.charlesarthur.com/fungible).

ViewTunes (Mac). Let your chat buddies on AOL Instant Messenger know what you're listening to while you trade instant messages. ViewTunes adds the song information to your AIM profile (http://homepage.mac.com/mmurph/murphsoft).

WhiteCap. With 180 different visual effects, customizable settings, and a morphing slideshow, WhiteCap expands the entertainment possibilities so much you may forget all about TV. Available for Windows, Mac OS 9 and X systems (http://www.55ware.com/whitecap/download.html).

iTunes Catalog (Mac). Artwork addicts will love this $10 shareware program that copies artwork into iTunes, looks up lyrics, and creates music-collection catalogs in HTML, text, or PDF formats. (http://www.kavasoft.com/iTunesCatalog).

Avalon (Mac). Think of it as an egg timer for your Mac OS X machine: Set up Avalon to go off at a certain time before you leave, and it fires up iTunes and any other programs you want to have up, running, and waiting when you get back (http://www.firestormcreation.com/fsavalon.html).

Volume Logic (Mac). This $20 audio plug-in for Mac OS X digitally remasters your music as you play it to balance the sound and keep volume levels consistent, while not actually altering your files (http://www.octiv.com/index.asp?content=iTunes).

On Deck (Mac). You can display artwork for the current album in a separate window and also use the program to upload art and track information to an FTP or Web server (http://verseguru.com/?applications/OnDeck).

iTunes Visuals Plugins (Mac). You can really dress up your Visualizer (in Mac OS 9 or X) with this free passel of plug-ins (http://www.trinfinitysoftware.com/itunesplugins.shtml).

4.11.4. Turning Off Music Sharing

If you want a little privacy for your music collection, you can easily turn off the Sharing function. Just go back to the iTunes Preferences box (Figure 4-23) and click the Sharing icon. Turn off the "Share my music" box and click OK to disable the feature until the next time you're feeling generous. Your playlists are no longer visible to other people on the network.


To add audio effects—adding a crossfade between songs when playing, enhancing the sound, or even leveling out different track volumes with the iTunes Sound Check feature—choose iTunes→Preferences (Mac) or Edit→Preferences (Windows) and click the Effects button.

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