I used to dream about the day when Linux had better media management/playing software than Windows, or Macs. That day is here.
I hate iTunes on Macs. Kludgy, and reminiscent of a recalcitrant adolescent. I never could figure out how to play just a set of songs from a particular directory in the hard drive in iTunes. It creates a library and then shoots itself in the foot – a mess! Don’t teach me a new paradigm – allow me to listen to my music, whichever way I want to get at the music and play it, dammit!
I hate the MediaPlayer on Windows too, too many shiny things in there, and it looks suspicious – sort of like a coupon book trying to sell culture to you when you are online. I dislike teen-pop, so MediaPlayer, ould you please just play exactly those songs that I want you to, and hide your ugliness so it doesn’t get in the way? Using mediaplayer to queue songs and play music is for me a very irksome task – one which subtracts from the pleasure that follows.
In any case, I will leave it to the User Interface experts to convert my subjective dislikes to technical terms and to reason on which components caused me to feel the way I did. Basically, I am not one to “adapt” to the computer and make my behavior, wants and needs fit what the computer is capable of (and Windows users like to think they own the computer, hah!), but want the computer, which I bought, and, though this is easy to forget, is a dumb inanimate machine, to do what I want it to.
Amarok came as a pleasant surprise – given my presentiment that anything that “imports” songs and creates libraries is a sure loser. Part of the hesitation was also due to fact that it is a KDE app, and I use the Gnome desktop environment, but I decided to try it out anyways. Good thing I did, ’cause I love it, except for the fact that it demands a lot of the old desktop at home.
Thanks to the recent visit to India, I now have 150+ GB of songs – songs I mostly have not heard before, that I really want to. Amarok simplifies a lot of things. Using ID3 tags, it sorts songs by artist/album/genre etc, in a tree-like fashion, and lets me decide what comes first, and the structure of the tree. I can browse songs on my computer by directory (I can’t do without this), by genre, artists, albums, ratings etc too. I can drag and drop songs, albums — pretty much anything that is in one pane to the playlist to queue the songs up. Amarok uses Musicbrainz to automatically fill in the ID3 tags. It fetches me album covers and lyrics for songs, and the best part is – it suggest songs similar to the currently playing song – that are present in my existing collection! This is a godsend when you have a lot of new songs to explore. Say you like one song, and want to find more of the same, Amarok comes with an option that appends similar songs to the end of your current playlist. It also has the ability to let audioscrobbler (now last.fm) know of the songs you are playing. Check out my last.fm profile page if you want to see what it looks like. last.fm provides recommendations for songs too.
There are oh-so-many more el-neato features, I don’t want to bore you with them – but this is for sure – this music player is here to stay on my desktop. It is, after all, the first one that has stood up to each one of the challenges Carthik threw at it: “Can you do this?” says Carthik, “Of course, dear sir!” says Amarok. Reminds me of a very efficient and genial butler, who got in the business early, and is still pretty young, and who likes to wear bright-colored ties. In fact, if future versions deviate too much from where it is now, I will stay at this spot in time, and not upgrade. It couldn’t be better, I say.