The Server Network and Home Music Servers

The Server Network

Music files get big, and both bandwidth and server space are expensive. (Disk is cheap, but rack space in colocated server farms with good connectivity isn't.) So here's the deal: we'll pay people to cache and serve music to members.

We're not talking about a huge revenue stream here: a cent or two per download isn't going to pay for much in the way of rack space unless you're really big. But there are a couple of reasons why you might want to bother:

If you think this sounds a lot like Napster, Gnutella, or some other peer-to-peer filesharing scheme, you're both right and wrong. This isn't an application you run on your desktop PC -- it's a server. It runs on Linux or some other unix, under the Apache web server (which is the top choice anyway), using virtual hosting. You give up some control over what's on your machine -- you'll have a copy of anything your users have requested recently, and about an equal amount of random stuff being backed up from other places. It's a bit like freenet in that respect, only without the privacy protection.

You'll also give up some privacy; we will probably have to be able to snag a log summary in order to figure out how much we owe you, and to make sure people aren't cheating. If you're already running a Linux box as your interface to your DSL line, though, you will still be able to use it for other things and we'll even help you keep your security patches up to date.

The software, by the way, is all open source, so you'll be able to see exactly what it can and can't do, and how much control and information you're giving us.

Your Local Music Box

I expect that most of these servers will be hung off of members' DSL lines and cable modems, primarily for personal use as a fileserver. The fact that anything you think is good enough to post on PenguinSong is a only a few clicks away from being there is incidental.

Before you start thinking that this is a complex Linux workstation, let me assure you that it's not (unless you want it to be, in which case you can head straight over to and help develop it). It's a cheap PC (the low-end Linux boxes Fry's is selling for $250 are overkill) with no monitor or keyboard: after you've installed the software (from the CD-ROM or the net; a couple of clicks and you just sit back and wait) you put it in your closet, hook it up, and forget about it until you have something to upload. All configuration after the initial installation is done from the web.

So what can it do? Well, apart from just backing up your PC's and protecting your home network from evildoers, the main thing is that it's specialized for two things: storing music and maintaining your PenguinSong web pages. You can even hook the soundcard up to your stereo and use it as a jukebox. And you're not limited to PenguinSong music for that function: rip all your CD's, transcribe all your vinyl and tape, play them to your heart's content -- you just can't share them with the Web at large unless you post them on PenguinSong and assert that you own the rights to do so.

Although the server will record and play music, for serious home recording you'll want a separate box (which we are currently working on the software for). This will be, not a hard-disk recorder, but a networked recorder: it streams audio directly over ethernet to your fileserver. The advantage of this is that the recording box can be completely silent -- no fan or disk noise. The cost will be $500-600 for a suitable box and soundcard -- and eventually we might be able to sell them through