Audioserve Audiobooks Server – Stupidly Simple or Simply Stupid?

If you read some of my previous articles you know that I’m quite fond of audiobooks.   In past I was looking for good media server, which supports audiobooks  and ended with  airsonic (a subsonic clone).   The problem with majority of media servers is that they rely totally on audio tags, which are often messed in audiobooks. Also many of “advanced” functionalities are not applicable to audiobooks (random play, shuffle tracks, moods, etc.)  I’m bit of old school so I rely more on reasonable directory structure and do not want to mess with tags for every audiobook I download. I also think that for personal collection I do not need likes, favorites, sharing and similar stuff,  as I can easily remember which books are good and which I have listened or want to listen, but I do need few things, which are usually missing – like bookmarks. Interesting function is to continue listen on a device, when I left  on previous device, but since I basically listen only on my mobile phone, it does not seems to be critical. So ideal audiobooks server actually requires much less functionality than today’s media servers provide.  As I’m progressing with Rust language I decided two weeks ago to create simple audio streaming server adhering to KISS principle – Keep It Simple, Stupid, – Result of this exercise is an  application that provides minimum viable functionalities for streaming and listening of audiobooks – it’s called Audioserve.  In this article I’ll show it’s basic design and demo current application in a video.

Required functionality

  • Support for common audio formats, especially mp3, opus (I think opus is a great format for audio books), m4b, m4a …
  • HTTP audio streaming
  • SSL/TLS support
  • Some simple authentication mechanism, no need for users etc., as this is a personal server, but something to prevent unauthorized access
  • Provide transcoding to opus to save bandwith and to support more formats
  • Browse audiobooks as they are stored  – e.g. in their directory structure, order alphabetically according to file/dictionary names
  • Support some additional metadata on folder level – cover image and audiobook/author description
  • Some simple search
  • Prefer audiobooks split to chapters, but should be able also to play long files (several hours)
  • Play whole book – automatically start next chapter after current chapter is finished
  • Quick and convenient seek –  quickly find required part in audio file – even for large files
  • Remember last position, to  continue with it listening later, optionally bookmarks to different positions in different audiobooks
  • Simple web based client,  possibly native mobile (Android) client for better cashing, off-line playback
  • Possibility to cache ahead chapters or even whole books – so one can survive connectivity  loss or even  listen off-line
  • Small, lean and fast

Implementation

Audioserve is implemeted in Rust language, it’s using the hyper library for HTTP support, but no complex framework to make it lean. Audioserve provides very simple JSON API to browse the collection and functions to serve audio files directly or transcoded (external ffmpeg utility is required).  Authentication is achieved through shared secret phrase. Audioserve also contains bundled web client for modern browsers (latest Firefox or Chrome).

From above requirements now we do not have good support for caching (only currently played audio file is cached to some extent, but it’s browser dependent,  Firefox seems to provide better caching then Chrome). Reliable caching will require native mobile client, which is not available or in-depth dive into browser APIs, for which I did not have time yet.  Also generic bookmarks are not implemented (thought it  should not be difficult), only one last played position is remembered.

Demo

Installation

Easiest way how to try Audioserve is to use provided Dockerfile and run Docker container. See README in Audioserve repository.

Currently Audioserve is tested only on Linux, but can work on other platforms were Rust code can be compiled.

 

 

 

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