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---
title: A simple method to play self-hosted music on Android
tags: [tutorial, vlc, connectbot, ssh, android, music, sftp]
updated: 2022-06-11 15:53:12
description: My setup to be able to listen to self-hosted music using a mobile phone.
---
## Introduction
Here is simple way to listen to self-hosted music on Android
without installing specific streaming software on your server.
This method relies 100% on SSH.
## Table of contents
<!--TOC-->
- [Introduction](#introduction)
- [Table of contents](#table-of-contents)
- [Software needed](#software-needed)
- [GNU/Linux](#gnulinux)
- [Android](#android)
- [Configuration](#configuration)
- [Introduction](#introduction-1)
- [New user](#new-user)
- [OpenSSH](#openssh)
- [ConnectBot](#connectbot)
- [Key pair generation](#key-pair-generation)
- [Add a new host to ConnectBot](#add-a-new-host-to-connectbot)
- [Test](#test)
- [Port forwarding](#port-forwarding)
- [VLC](#vlc)
- [Final testing](#final-testing)
- [Problems](#problems)
<!--TOC-->
## Software needed
### GNU/Linux
- [OpenSSH](https://www.openssh.com/portable.html)
### Android
Install these apps from [F-Droid](https://f-droid.org/)
- [Connectbot](https://f-droid.org/en/packages/org.connectbot/)
- [VLC](https://f-droid.org/en/packages/org.videolan.vlc/)
## Configuration
### Introduction
At the time of writing VLC for Android does not support public key authentication with
SFTP. To solve this problem, we will use ConnectBot to:
- connect to the server
- make a local SSH tunnel for VLC
The following instructions apply to a GNU/Linux system.
### New user
Connect to the server.
For sake of security I created a new user called `music`:
```shell
useradd -m -s /bin/bash music
passwd music
```
I then moved all the music files in a directory called `/home/music/files`.
### OpenSSH
To further harden the server in terms of security we must disable TTYs and force the
internal SFTP server for the SSH daemon. Here is what I added to `/etc/ssh/sshd_config`:
```conf
Match User music Address 127.0.0.1
PasswordAuthentication yes
IPQoS throughput
PermitTTY no
ForceCommand internal-sftp
Match User music
X11Forwarding no
AllowTcpForwarding yes
PermitTTY no
ForceCommand internal-sftp
IPQoS throughput
```
Now, restart OpenSSH
```shell
systemctl restart ssh
```
### ConnectBot
#### Key pair generation
Open ConnectBot on your phone and generate a key pair:
1. tap the menu icon, in the top right of the screen
2. *Manage Pubkeys*
3. tap the `[+]` button
4. set these values
- *Nickname*: `myserver`
- *Type*: `RSA`
- *Bits*: `4096`
- *Password*: \<a password\>
- *Load key on start*: true
The encryption password will be prompted unless it has not been previously unlocked,
for example by a previous connection.
Unlock the key by tapping it. Tap the key longer and select *Copy public key*.
You now have to copy the public key to the server (`/home/music/.ssh/authorized_keys`).
You can send it by email for example (it is now in Android's copy-paste buffer).
#### Add a new host to ConnectBot
Now we need to add an SSH host on ConnectBot. Go back to Connectbot's home screen
and tap on the `+` button. Add the host and tap *Use pubkey authentication*.
Enable these flags:
- *Compression*
- *Stay connected*
Disable this flag:
- *Start shell session*
Set the `myserver` public key by tapping *Use pubkey authentication*.
#### Test
Disconnect from the server and reconnect to it. If everything works as
expected you won't see any errors.
#### Port forwarding
Make a long tap on the host and select *Edit port forwards* and then
tap the `+` button.
To be able for VLC to connect to the server we need to create a port forward, like this:
- *Nickname*: `vlc`
- *Type*: `Local`
- *Source Port*: `2222`
- *Destination*: `127.0.0.1:22`
{% include image.html file="connectbot_port_forwarding.jpg" alt="connectbot port forwarding" caption="ConnectBot port forwarding" %}
### VLC
Open the VLC app.
Go to the *Browse* section and tap the `+` button. Select `SFTP` as protocol and
edit the fields like this:
- *Port*: `2222`
- *Server address (domain name)*: `127.0.0.1`
- *Username*: `music`
- *Folder path (optional)*: `/home/music/files`
- *Server name, for conveniency*: `MUSIC`
Once you add the server tap the new directory icon you find in VLC *Browse* page.
The first time you do this you will be prompted for the `music` user's password.
You should now be able to see and play the music files.
## Final testing
Close ConnectBot and VLC and retry everything.
## Problems
- Not bandwidth efficient.
- No transcoding is possible using this method.
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