A priority for any user of a new system is probably getting their music up and running. When using Windows, I was an ITunes user. This was not because I particularly liked ITunes, or its way of doing things, though I got used to it eventually. However, I have a large ipod, and I have not found another way of organising it so well, which was pretty much all I used ITunes for.
When switching to Linux, therefore, I needed another player that could organise my IPod. Since I could no longer use ITunes, I was going to have to look at other systems I may not like so well, but that also gave me more flexibility to look for something that actually plays and organises music in a style I like.
I’ve tried xmms and winamp in the past, and though I was once a great fan, I have to say that I no longer particularly like it. I’ve found that organising music purely through folders is useful in terms of keeping them organised, but clumsy in terms of playlists. To play an album requires making a play list for it. The newer versions have worked on this, and now have libraries that can be organised in a very similar manner to ITunes, but I still found I don’t like them. Therefore, this time I didn’t look at this style of player at all.
I started off using Amarok, which is supposed to be a good player if you like ITunes. Indeed, I found this to be pretty accurate. It does seem to be an excellent player for people who like ITunes. Unfortunately, I don’t like ITunes, and have been looking forward to getting rid of it. I moved on.
Next I tried Quod Libet. I really like this player. It’s based on an entirely new way of organising things, focussed around tags and searches rather than folders or libraries. It also works with your IPod – though it does take a long time to load the IPod song list. It can often appear to have crashed while doing this, but it does get there in the end so have patience with it! You can add songs from your music library by right clicking, and choosing ‘copy to device’. You can do the same with playlists. If you prefer a GUI music player, this is definitely the one I would recommend.
As I have mentioned before though, I’ve been experimenting heavily with Command-prompt programs, and if you want command prompt music, there’s only really one application worth looking at; MPD. MPD stands for ‘Music Player Daemon’ and is intended to facilitate running music over a network, or even over the internet. It can also be used for a personal desktop music system very effectively.
MPD is just the back-end of a music-playing database. In order to use it effectively, you also need a client. You can find a list of the main clients on the MPD website here. The basic command-line client is MPC, which can be installed from the Ubuntu repository also, but does not come packaged with MPD. A slightly more graphical command line client is NCMPC, which makes it easier to visualise and manipulate your playlists and music database. If you prefer a GUI interface, Sonata is excellent. All of these can be downloaded from the repositories.
The beauty of MPD is that the clients just give the orders. It’s MPD that plays the music, and it runs happily in the background regardless. This means that you can load Sonata to organise your music, tags, and playlists, if you find its GUI interface easier. However, if you’re working in a terminal but don’t want to shift your train of thought, you can quickly type out a command to MPC. You can use whichever client suits your mood, or all of them at once! It also means that your music keeps playing even while you’re not in X-Windows. And of course, it can be used across a network, receiving commands remotely.
The drawback, for me, is that MPD does not have any IPod support, and there are no plans to implement it. This means that I cannot use MPD to manage my IPod. However, it can be used to create .m3u playlists, (I found ncmpc very effective for this). Quod Libet doesn’t seem able to create or read .m3u lists (please correct me if I’m wrong about this) but GTKPod, a program specifically created purely to manage and maintain ipods, can. This means that you can create playlists with MPD, then add them into GTKPod to add to your IPod. GTKPod can also deal with all the other major IPod tasks that I can think of, managing podcasts, photos, choosing ‘skip shuffle’, an essential for me since I have a lot of audio-files that I don’t want shuffled in with my music.
I haven’t yet decided which i prefer, MPD or Quod Libet, and in reality they are probably not truly comparable. However, the MPD/GTKPod combo does seem quite powerful for my needs, and as I’ve said before, I do like my Command Line apps. Don’t go for Rhythmbox or Amarok unless you really like ITunes.