DD-WRT + OpenVPN + LaCie Ethernet Disk Mini Home Edition = Listen to my Home Music at Work!

by Michael Sheehan on February 26, 2008

in Apple, Family, Gadgets, General, Hardware, Linux, Open Source, Software

itunes_at_work_sm

To write this all up would probably take way too much time. But for a while I have been trying to find the ultimate solution for listening to my iTunes library where ever I am. There are obviously other combinations of this that would work, but this is the latest iteration that I have come up with that I’m happy with.

The Goal: Be able to stream my iTunes library based at home from where ever I am (e.g., at work).

The Tools (briefly): What I used to “make it work”

  • DD-WRT – this is an open-source project that allows you to flash a “compatible device” router with firmware to enable hundreds of new features. You essentially turn a $100 router into a $1000 high-end routing device.
  • OpenVPN – another open-source project that brings VPN functionality to various operating systems (Windows/Mac/Linux)
  • LaCie Ethernet Disk Mini Home Edition – the hardware that I recently reviewed that, coupled with Axentra server technology, allows me to stream my iTunes mini within my local network

Other possible Combinations: What I listed above worked for me. However, there are plenty of other things that you can use to make it work as well.

Routers – Well, just about any router that can handle VPN connections will work.

VPN – if you have access to a VPN server (e.g., Microsoft or Linux), setting up a VPN connection is what you need to have. Also worth noting is LogMeIn Hamachi.

MediaServer – there are many NAS (Network Attached Storage) devices that have built-in iTunes media server capabilities. Alternatively, you can simply share your music library using iTunes. As long as you have a VPN connection and can connect to your home network, you should be able to see your shared library.

My Details: I’m not going to go into the full setup that I went through. If you have any questions about what I did or how it works, just leave a comment. However, below are some details on what I used.

  • DD-WRThttp://www.dd-wrt.com About 2 years ago I read about an open source application that allows you to flash certain routers (the run of the mill ones that you can get for under $100) and make them into full “high-end” network devices. Probably the best place to learn about the features and functionality is on the DD-WRT wiki. I purchased a Linksys WRT54GL (which is the “Linux” version of a standard Linksys router). However, there are many supported devices (you might even have one already). Just be sure that you carefully review the supported devices to be sure that you have/get one that will work. I recommend that you carefully read through all of the flashing steps. They are specific to: 1) the type of router you want to use and 2) the type of firmware you want to use. I won’t answer the router type, that is really your call. However, in order to make the solution work that I used, you need to choose one of the VPN firmwares. My process, if I remember far enough back, was to flash with the generic mini version, then install the generic standard version. Later I upgraded to the generic VPN version which worked fine (saved all of my settings). Configuring the router with my VPN setting was a difficult step and took many many hours of work and plenty of searching various threads. If any one is curious about the final command setting that I sent to my router, I can write about that. Drop me a comment.
  • OpenVPNhttp://www.openvpn.org OpenVPN has really made some good progress at being a solid VPN solution without the cost (if you don’t take your own hours into account). The latest release for Windows includes an installer that will configure your system (including Vista) for use. Note, as of this writing, I used version 2.1_rc7 (released on 1/29/08). The hardest part of this process is 1) setting up your router with the proper configurations and 2) setting up your client – your computer – with the configs. I did my initial config over a year ago so I don’t really remember the steps. The DD-WRT wiki page tells how to really configure the router (it’s complicated). I was able to copy my computer config files to other computers (both mac and pc’s) and they worked without any real tweaking. [Note, on the DD-WRT wiki, there are some outdated links.] There is also a great Mac OpenVPN client called Tunnelblick that I use and it works great. Be sure that you read through the entire Wiki page, especially paying attention to the “Troubleshooting” section. The sections on the DD-WRT wiki page that I used are: “Server Mode with Certificates” and “Troubleshooting”.
  • LaCie Ethernet Disk Mini Home Edition – I don’t really need to say that much about this device. If you have questions about it, I suggest that you read my full review. The thing that makes this all work is the software installed on the Mini created by Axentra. Their software enables an iTunes media server that allows you to play music from any home-networked (or in this case VPN-networked) iTunes.

So this setup works pretty well for me. I have been streaming music from my home without any interruptions to the music stream (of course both my Media Server at home and my Work computer have good wired Ethernet connections). Some other things that I think might be cool with this is to get OpenVPN on a USB keychain so that you can basically play it on any computer that has iTunes potentially. I may investigate that.

HTD says: This is a great way to have your full media library available to you where ever you are.

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  • http://www.ocell.net/blog/ Chris

    I have been wanting to setup my router as a VPN server with DD-WRT, so I’m glad you did this write up. Unfortunately, it looks like it’s over my head and free-time. I guess I’m waiting until HamachiX gets updated for Leopard, or biting the bullet and patching the command-line version of Hamachi.

  • http://www.ocell.net/blog/ Chris

    I have been wanting to setup my router as a VPN server with DD-WRT, so I’m glad you did this write up. Unfortunately, it looks like it’s over my head and free-time. I guess I’m waiting until HamachiX gets updated for Leopard, or biting the bullet and patching the command-line version of Hamachi.

  • http://www.hightechdad.com hightechdad

    @ Chris,

    Thanks for your post! Yes, it was VERY time consuming. The DD-WRT flashing is pretty straight forward, however, configuring the OpenVPN is more time consuming. The steps on the wiki are pretty straight forward (but complex).
    For the HamachiX, did you see this thread?
    I haven’t tried it, since I have OpenVPN working on my Leopard mac currently. If you can figure out how to get OpenVPN working on a PC, it’s EASY on the Mac.
    Good luck and let me know if you have any questions.
    -HTD

  • http://www.hightechdad.com Michael

    @ Chris,

    Thanks for your post! Yes, it was VERY time consuming. The DD-WRT flashing is pretty straight forward, however, configuring the OpenVPN is more time consuming. The steps on the wiki are pretty straight forward (but complex).
    For the HamachiX, did you see this thread?
    I haven’t tried it, since I have OpenVPN working on my Leopard mac currently. If you can figure out how to get OpenVPN working on a PC, it’s EASY on the Mac.
    Good luck and let me know if you have any questions.
    -HTD

  • http://www.ocell.net/blog/ Chris

    I had a nice reply written, but the CAPTCHA was wrong, so I lost it… I’ll try to recreate it (and hit command S before submitting this time)

    I already have DD-WRT installed, so I wasn’t too afraid of that. However, I tried OpenVPN on Leopard in the past (with Tunnleblick) and quickly got lost with trying to generate keys.

    I just tried Hamachi again. From what I understand, the tun/tap drivers only work for the command line version, and not the GUI (please correct me if I’m wrong). I couldn’t get past the “make install” step. It’s embarassing, but I’m still a fish out of water with a lot of the Unix operations.

    I don’t see why someone hasn’t already brought an easy to use, consumer oriented VPN solution to market. I guess it would cut into profits from the expensive professional solutions?

  • http://www.ocell.net/blog/ Chris

    I had a nice reply written, but the CAPTCHA was wrong, so I lost it… I’ll try to recreate it (and hit command S before submitting this time)

    I already have DD-WRT installed, so I wasn’t too afraid of that. However, I tried OpenVPN on Leopard in the past (with Tunnleblick) and quickly got lost with trying to generate keys.

    I just tried Hamachi again. From what I understand, the tun/tap drivers only work for the command line version, and not the GUI (please correct me if I’m wrong). I couldn’t get past the “make install” step. It’s embarassing, but I’m still a fish out of water with a lot of the Unix operations.

    I don’t see why someone hasn’t already brought an easy to use, consumer oriented VPN solution to market. I guess it would cut into profits from the expensive professional solutions?

  • http://www.hightechdad.com hightechdad

    @ Chris,

    Yeah, sorry about the reCaptcha stuff. I usually write the full comment and copy it to my clipboard before I try to Add Comment.

    Yeah, if I remember correctly, the generating keys was the hardest part. That is why I recommended, if you can, to do it on a PC. It’s much easier (and much more documented). You are probably right about the tun/tap and command line. I haven’t tried it in quite a while.

    I would think that OpenVPN would make the process a bit easier or someone would port to mac. There is probably a linux build somewhere that could be modded to have it work better on Leopard.

    I was also wondering if the “Back to my Mac” thing with .Mac might work in some way…but I haven’t had time to investigate that.

    Let me know how it goes if you do attempt.

    -HTD

  • http://www.hightechdad.com Michael

    @ Chris,

    Yeah, sorry about the reCaptcha stuff. I usually write the full comment and copy it to my clipboard before I try to Add Comment.

    Yeah, if I remember correctly, the generating keys was the hardest part. That is why I recommended, if you can, to do it on a PC. It’s much easier (and much more documented). You are probably right about the tun/tap and command line. I haven’t tried it in quite a while.

    I would think that OpenVPN would make the process a bit easier or someone would port to mac. There is probably a linux build somewhere that could be modded to have it work better on Leopard.

    I was also wondering if the “Back to my Mac” thing with .Mac might work in some way…but I haven’t had time to investigate that.

    Let me know how it goes if you do attempt.

    -HTD

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