rsync(1) on FreeBSD with a modern Walkman


One of the primary draws to a modern Walkman is that it presents as a generic storage device, meaning my FreeBSD tower can now act as a media hub, rather than relying on dedicated software like iTunes or Apple Music.

Photo showing the tiny A55 in my hand, playing Esther Golton's Stay Warm album

You can drag and drop music to the Walkman and its built-in microSD card reader, but I’m using rsync(1) for a few reasons:

  • I already use it for everything.

  • It makes it trivial to diff my local music folder for new albums and songs I’ve added, or ones I’ve fixed ID3 metadata on. I tend to only add an album or two a month, but if I can get a computer to do this work, why not?

  • I plan on using a FreeBSD devd.conf(8) rule to detect and mount when the Walkman is connected, then transfer new music, then unmount without interaction.

One thing I noticed though is that rsync(1) was transferring the entirety of my music library each time, regardless of whether the music already existed on the Walkman. I’m not sure if this was a FAT limitation or quirk of the device, but using size-only meant it only transferred new tracks:

$ rsync --recursive --delete --size-only \

Note that you don’t want to do this when running rsync outside edge cases like this, because file size isn’t a sufficient metric for meaningfully comparing files. But for static music files on an SD card, it’s fine.

I copped a lot of flack from Hacker News folks for daring to write about a dedicated music player with offline files, when I could just use a streaming service or my phone. I hope this shows another fun use case.

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Ruben Schade is a technical writer and infrastructure architect in Sydney, Australia who refers to himself in the third person. Hi!

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