Welcome to the first issue of AWN hosted on the official Amarok website. This makes it a bit more official, so I had to stop screwing around and at least drop the word "Weekly" from the name. So here it is, the Amarok Weekly Newsletter under its new name: Amarok Insider. Not weekly anymore :). Ljubomir
After many months of hard work developers prepared a preview release for your compiling pleasure (and including *ubuntu packages). The release summarizes all the work done on Amarok2 so far, and includes, but is not limited to, the following features:
Redesigned media device architecture
New Internet Services Framework with numerous plugins
New Snazzy Playlist
New Podcast catcher system
That's a lot of interesting features, but still many more needs to be done - there is a reason why it's called "pre-alpha software". The Amarok team encourages everybody to try the new release and to provide feedback. Just keep in mind that the user interface is the least finished part of the Amarok and needs much more work. If you can find your way in GIMP, Photoshop or in particular, Inkscape, and would like to help with the artwork, you're welcome to contact us!
Version 1.80 will be the last released version of Amarok using Qt 4.3. We will begin development using Qt 4.4 TP2 a few days after its released, assuming it has no show-stopper bugs. Qt 4.4 provides features (like QGraphicsWidget) required or highly preferred by some parts of Amarok (including the Context View and Playlist). By the time Amarok comes out, the final version of Qt4.4 should already be released. At least that's the plan. :)
Redesigned media devices architecture
Jeff Mitchell drops a few notes about media devices in new Amarok: The media devices architecture in Amarok has come a long road lately. Although not changed much visibly, the underlying code responsible for the device discovery and much of the device handling has been redesigned and rewritten with Solid in mind. Provided a few things,* users of various types of media devices should be able to simply plug in and go - the device should be recognized and the correct plugin automatically loaded. Generic storage devices also benefits from this automation - if they are listed as a portable audio player in HAL (which can be configued in Amarok), they will be picked up automatically for use with the generic plugin.
Thanks to the independence that Solid provides, all of this should work on Windows and Mac too, provided someone writes the appropriate Solid backends :)
There are also some architectural changes so that the devices can theoretically expose collections to the collection browser, which should make it possible to play "directly" from the device. This isn't in place yet - all of the device plugins need some further work- but it's planned.
* A working version of HAL 0.5.9 or greater, a supported device library, and a distribution which provides necessary FDI files.
Jeff Mitchell is an Amarok developer who, amongst other things, created the media device architecture. Check his blog to read more about his interesting work.
One of the other great KDE4 libraries which makes developing easy is the multimedia layer called Phonon. Applications using it can play audio and video files on any supported software platform with no changes in the code. That, along with recent Trolltech's contribution of GStreamer, DirectShow and QuickTime Phonon backends to KDE means Amarok plays music on all major operating systems, including Linux (and other UNIXes), Windows and MacOS X!
Work continues on Plasma powered Context View. Some plasmoids load, however many important features (like HTML display and proper layouting) are still to be written, and are waiting for Qt4.4. Expect much work on it later.
Amarok's service framework flourishes. Two big services joined the pack recently: the Last.fm service which has been written by Shane King, and a completely new Ampache service, which adds a great amount of possibilities to Amarok. Read more about this exciting service on Nikolaj's blog.
The playlist has quite improved since the last issue of AWN. It supports smart album grouping, optional (and unfinished) "classic" view, and features a nice artwork. The inclusion of Qt4.4 will help to improve it further.
Podcasts in Amarok are no longer treated as ordinary playlists, but have a separate browser. It's functionality is currently limited, but (as others part of Amarok) will improve in the future.
Amarok on Windows
Our Windows guru, Shane King, writes about progress on Windows support:
One of the biggest (and most controversial!) features of KDE4 and Amarok 2 is cross platform support. There's been a fair bit of discussion about Amarok 2 on Windows, and as Amarok's "Windows guy" I've been asked to give a quick overview of where it's at.
Firstly, I can't take a lot of the credit for the porting. Most of the hard work is in Qt and KDE itself, and was already done before I started. Amarok itself is a good code base and required very little to make it cross platform. I've spent far more time investigating and fixing Windows specific fixes in the KDE libraries than in Amarok.
Currently, for basic music playing and organizational tasks, Amarok on Windows is in a comparable state to the Unix version. Thanks to Qt's audio backend, audio works well. The major things missing are outside of Amarok: libraries need to be ported (eg for media device support) or the KDE libraries are incomplete on Windows (some missing features, or not very "native" feeling in places). In general though it's pretty good for pre-alpha software.
This is why I find it funny when I've heard people worry Amarok will gain Windows only features: it's a struggle to even get to feature parity with Unix! Linux distributions really make life so easy for development, you can rely on a whole bunch of libraries being installed, having someone who will package your program for you, and most of the software you use assumes a Unix environment. For this reason I think Unix will always be the primary platform of Amarok.
I think Windows development will bring a couple of benefits to existing users. The obvious one is that although a lot of people don't necessarily want to use Windows, for a variety of reasons they have to. Having Amarok available will at least ease the pain. The less obvious benefit is that making the program available on Windows means the chance to attract more developers. Amarok can never have too many developers. For example, if it wasn't for the ability to run Amarok on Windows I wouldn't be working on it, and the work I'm now doing on the last.fm service would have to be done by someone else (or not get done). So even if you never plan to touch Windows, the port is actually a gain for developer attention on Amarok, not a distraction.
To answer the inevitable question: I hope to make Windows binaries available for the preview release. Check out the developer blog, they will be announced there when available.
To sum things up, Shane provided a nice screenshot:
It's hard to notice it's running on Windows, isn't it? Well, that's good :)
IRC helpers needed
Always wanted to help but didn't know how? Know a bit about Amarok? Worry no more - join the IRC force. We're experiencing increased need for people who'd help beginners on the IRC, and your contribution would be valuable. So, grab you gear and visit us at #amarok on freenode. And you can always become a Rokymotioner and help spread the word further!
Amarok at HdM LinuxDay 2008
The conference season started early for our promotion team this year. Lydia and Sven visited Stuttgart, Germany, to take part in the LinuxDay at the HdM university. Lydia talked about the open source community, how a FOSS project organizes itself and about KDE4. Sven showed the audience and the people on the live stream the wonderful world of Amarok, including a first peak at Amarok 2. Slides are available, recordings of the talks will be published soon on the LinuxDay website. The talks were in German, the slides mainly in English.
Kirocker Music Display 4.0
The next version of the award winning (well, it had to receive *some* award, it's way too cool) Kicker applet has been released. Those who haven't used this piece of art before should visit the homepage immediately. Besides improved eye candy, bugfixes and enhanced performance it features beautiful themeable fullscreen support, with support for automatically scrollable lyrics, and comes with a large amount of quality themes preloaded.
It appears however that Kirocker's development has been ceased. Any takers?
Cool tips: Dynamic Playlist
One of the features of Amarok which you should not miss is the support for dynamic playlists. Those are the special playlists which generate their content dynamically based on user defined criteria. Our Community Manager Lydia made a blog post about interesting uses for a dynamic playlist.
Amarok for Life: Amarok developer gets a tattoo!
Amarok developer Mark Kretschmann writes about his impressions on Amarok's first channel party:
So the other day we were having our first #amarok.de "CP" (channel party), which was a complete blast. You can read about it in Nightrose's blog. But the real shocker is something we didn't make public yet. In a state of drunken madness, I had foolishly declared to get a tattoo! My first tattoo. Don't ask why the hell I would do that; I guess I wanted to pull a stunt that everyone would remember. Something special to celebrate our very special weekend together.
So the question surfaced what kind of image it should be. Well, for me there could only be one answer: The Amarok logo!
Markey at the tattoo shop:
Together with Myriam Schweingruber, Rokymotion member:
I hope you enjoyed this release of AI (what a funny abbreviation ;)). I'd like to remind you that Amarok2 is under heavy development, and ask you not to judge the look, at least until the first beta version arrives. Let the Rok be with you!