...making Linux just a little more fun!
I have always been skeptical of media players and music management software... using a bare minimum player like XMMS to play my digital music. I have tried quite a few different ones: Rhythmbox, Banshee, etc.; I've also giving a fair time to demos of iTunes and the Yahoo Music engine, recommended by excited Mac and Windows weenies.
So, when a friend came to me and said "try amaroK!", I said, "Yeah, right!" and blew the idea out with a puff of smoke.
Then, yesterday morning, I got stuck in a traffic jam and as a result didn't feel like writing any kind of code - so I decided to install amaroK. :) Installing it on FreeBSD 4.11 could be only covered under a full-fledged technical orientation session; since that might scare lots of people, we will not dwell on those perils. Besides, I have it installed under Linux as well.
So, after I installed amaroK... was I blown? or was I blown?
The really cool thing about amaroK is that you can install it and it's ready to serve you in its full glory within a couple of minutes - at least under Linux. :)
Tracks are imported into a "collection", which is displayed in the left pane in a file manager-like fashion. Tracks must be added to a playlist before one can hear them. There is a playlist tab which has "Smart Playlists", and - of course - you can create your own.
Unlike most applications on Linux, eye-candy is not overlooked here, but is actually given as much importance as usability and features. I especially liked the "on-screen display" which comes up every time amaroK starts playing a new track; mousing over the task bar icon shows the name of the current song and also adds a little album cover. A lot of work has gone into creating such a visually appealing tool, and in my opinion at least, the effort was well worth it.
amaroK copies the winamp/XMMS shortcuts and does a great job of handling them. It also adds XMMS shortcuts to a meta key of your choice and gives you "Global Shortcuts." Dont like the current song? You don't have to switch applications/virtual desktops, search for amaroK, or look for any 'skip' keys - just press WIN+B. Sweet, or what?
And did I tell you it displays the lyrics of the current song in a little box? did I mention it also gives you a musicminds recommendation? maybe I forgot about the fact that it also looks up the artist at Wikipedia and shows the information in a little box. Oh, yes... I did forget to mention that it automatically downloads album covers from Amazon.
Sometimes, though, amaroK gets in my way rather than helping. For example: every time you play a song, it changes to the "Current" tab. This is rather irritating; if you were in the 'Playlists' tab and going through a collection - listening to a bit of this, and a bit of that - you'll be forced to the 'Current' screen.
That being said - I really like amaroK and am really looking forward to version 1.4. What I particularly like about it is the cover/lyrics/tag fetching, as well as the potential value of dynamic mode and its iPod support.
I have Linux on my laptop, and it's also running amaroK now. In my opinion, 'gstreamer' is a whole lot more stable than 'aRts'; the latter seems to be unmaintained, and imposes a lot of overhead.
Amarok appears to be written by hackers who themselves are truly fond of music. It is a increasingly attractive and capable tool, and these guys seem to be just getting warmed up. I'm really looking forward to seeing what they'll do next!
I work at Yahoo! on global Yahoo! operations, application level monitoring, writing articles on, speaking about and researching on monitoring and how it helps application performance. In my free time I do testing, documentation and bug fixes for the free software projects that I use the most.