In This Issue
I met with Amarok developer Bart Cerneels (Stecchino on IRC) on #amarok in IRC and he kindly gave us a interview.
S: When did you get interested in contribution and why?
B: I started using Linux on and off in 1999. Later, I discovered and in 2006 I made my first contribution to Amarok. It was a big patch to improve the podcasting support on Amarok.
S: So how did you get involved in Amarok development?
B: I made various improvements, many small things regarding to RSS feed parsing, etc. It's too long ago to specifically remember. Unfortunately, Seb Ruiz, the maintainer of that piece of code back then had already rewritten it and that patch was rejected. Since we started with Amarok 2, I decided to completely re-do the podcasting support.
S: Had you developed any other open source project before Amarok, or is Amarok your first big thing?
B: No, Amarok was my first and is my only big project. I've done various small hack projects and many small prototype style ideas that never got to be actual projects. Amarok is my only big project in my free time. Also, I’m paid to work on Open Source by Collabora, but that is for customer or internal projects such as MeeGo, Telepathy & GStreamer.
S: Very interesting. Why Amarok rather than any other project?
B: Because I have to work for money, so there is not much free time. I stick to Amarok for fun and friendship. I still have a long and challenging to-do list for Amarok, so I will probably stay focused on that for a while.
S: Sounds great. What parts of Amarok are you working on?
B: My area of Amarok is Podcasting support, Saved Playlists and everything that comes with that. This includes the playlist-browser (the part of the Media Sources panel that shows them), Playlist Synchronization and media device playlists. For that reason I'm collaborating with others to rewrite the media device plugins to support playlist synchronization. I'm also rewriting the USB mass storage plugin since I own only those type of devices.
S: That’s sounds like quite a lot to do. Amarok 2.4 Beta 1 is out; what is going to be changed or improved from that for final release? [ed. This was written shortly before release]
B: There will be a lot of bugfixing, including all regressions and crashes, hopefully. So everyone should keep testing to find all of them. I'm also working on an under-the-hood change that should dramatically improve startup times and the performance of the Podcast and Saved Playlist views. Post the final release, we'll merge the media device rewrite branches, an incremental social podcast directory and hopefully a gpodder.net internet service and a podcast provider.
S: That sounds very good! Users always want more performance. I can imagine that when software is near to final release, it causes more work for developers. So, does beta stage of Amarok cause more work for you?
B: After any Amarok release we get a surge of bug reports. Specifically during a beta cycle there are a lot of easy-to-fix bugs, but by the end the hard and mysterious bugs are all that's left. By then we get tired of bug-fixing and want to do more features. Luckily with git we can work in a feature-branch and merge it after the release is tagged and master opens for features again.
S: Indeed, there would be no new features at all if you developers would spend your time just fixing bugs. Anyway, lately KDE announced that they are planning meeting called 'K16' which asks where KDE will be in five years. What do you think where Amarok will be in five years?
B: Amarok *will* be on mobile and tablets. That is the next big target for this project. We are riding the Qt Quick & MeeGo wave. There is little that can stop that.
S: You read my mind; I was just going to ask if Amarok will be released on mobile platforms. Else?
B: The plan is to improve the core of Amarok in speed and stability, but we also plan to make it very flexible so it's easy to, for instance, create an SQL-free build of Amarok. On top of that we'll let user interface designers invent a QML base look-and-feel.
S: That’s great! What do you think that is the biggest part on Amarok that should be improved?
B: We depend too much on SQL at the moment, specifically the embedded MySQL. In addition to our main collection, a lot of Internet services depend on it. For new platforms these kind of dependencies are troublesome, sometimes even making it impossible to run on a specific platform. A good move would be to refactor those plugins and introduce new ones that don't need SQL. Then we can, for instance create a QtSparql based collection that will use tracker (the metadata database) on the MeeGo phones for instance.
S: And for last question, do you have any features or ideas you would like to see on Amarok someday?
B: The biggest thing on my TODO is using internet radio stations as playlists. Every track change on the station will create a new entry in the playlist so at any time you'll be able to see the "history" of the stream.
S: And scrobble the song to last.fm with AudioScrobbler perhaps?
B: Yes, and separate rating for each song as well and you'll be able to look up similar artists, etc.
The new queue manager provides a convenient dialog to sort the queue and remove tracks from it. In former versions the queue could only be edited with the context menu in the playlist-pane. As of version 2.4, click on the Edit Queue symbol on the bottom of the Playlist pane to open the dialog.
After clicking this button, a dialog listing all tracks which you queued is opened.
The first two buttons change the position of the currently selected track in the queue, while the third one removes it. To clear the complete queue, just click the last button.
Amarok can be extended using script files. These files are managed by the Script Manager. The main dialog window is opened by clicking on Tools -> Script Manager.
Now the dialog with all currently installed scripts is visible.
With the Install Script-button, local script archives can be installed. All installed scripts can be removed by selecting them in the list and clicking the Uninstall-button.
The Get More Scripts-button enables you to search through a range of scripts inside Amarok.
The list of scripts can be sorted several by following properties:
There is also a search box to search in the list.
As an example we will install the game Music Quiz and try it out. This script asks you questions about your music collection. Click on the Get More Scripts-button and search for it either by scrolling through the list or typing "music quiz" in the search box.
Click the Install-button to download and install the script. After the installation a dialogbox appears.
Restart Amarok and there will be a new entry Tools -> Music Quiz in the menu bar.
Click on this menu entry to start the script.
Click Start to get to the main menu of the game. Collection will start a game that asks you questions about all tracks in your collection. Playlist will do the same thing but only for your current playlist. Artist will only ask questions about the artist specified in the combobox below.
The Personalize-button shows a dialog to configure the questions that you will be asked.
Modify the settings to your wishes and return to the main menu and start a game.
That's it, have fun :)
Amarok works on Windows. No, really, you didn't misread that last sentence!! Yes, I am an iTunes user, but Amarok is way better. To the right is your playlist, to the left is your music, and right in the middle is what's playing. There are all sorts of tools like: tabs, supplied by Ultimate-Guitar.com, so you can play along on guitar, bass, or drums. Also, lyrics, so you can learn and sing along to you favorite music. They included Wikipedia, so you can read about the band to which you're listening. All of that is done while listening to a song. Amarok can fetch and download all that without any help. Amarok knows what song you're listening to, and fetches the tabs or lyrics for that song by that artist, auto-magically!
I am using a Dell Inspiron-mini with the netbook version of Windows XP. This isn't the most powerful computer on which to run a heavy duty application, but I wanted to know how Amarok was going to work, and I wanted the Amarok Insider readers to know how Amarok runs on a lightweight computer.
But first, a word from our sponsor....
This Windows build of Amarok is brought to you by.... Nitrostemp.
Anyone wanting to install Amarok on windows will need to go to this site: http://amarok.kde.org/wiki/Download:Windows. Here you will find Nitrostemp's Windows installer for Amarok. You will also find a set of instructions for installing Amarok on Windows KDE. The Windows installer is the one that actually worked for me. I suffered a day of pain trying to install Amarok using the KDE for Windows instructions and would not recommend it. Now, the good people at the #amarok IRC channel steered me away from KDE for Windows. So, after a 500 MB download (choke) and a ten minute install process I was ready to try out my shiny new toy.
When I tried to start it up, at first, I got the Amarok splash screen that went over everything I brought up and it wouldn't go away. It turns out it was hiding a nag window for Amarok bug reporting, but you couldn't really tell it was hiding that window. Just an annoyance. Once I got past that, the program started right up, and I was able to check out all the different features. The first time Amarok ran, I saw just the playlist bar and the music bar, but all my music was there. I played a song, and there were lyrics within fifteen seconds … People, that's pretty cool. The thing that really blew me away was when I saw the tabs option. I used the Jamendo option and searched an artist. It lets you navigate the music as if it's in your collection. I was also able to play the song right from the Jamendo site, but when I tried to download the song it crashed (I promise I'll fill out a bug report). I was able to bring up the Podcast Directory pretty easily, though I was unable to find my dad's favorite podcast – The Linux Action Show. I was able to enter the RSS feed, and it downloaded just fine. I tried the various internet services for listening to streaming music. As an iTunes user, I had no idea that stuff was out there!
Amarok is the best music player I've ever used, and I highly recommend it. Though, there were a few problems with the Windows version. When I tried using the equalizer it said my current Phonon version doesn't support the equalizer so I was disappointed with that. Also, when I tried connecting to my iPod Amarok couldn't find it, so I was sad about that. Occasionally, the audio playback would stutter and repeat, but this may have been due to my computer. I plan to keep using Amarok, and hopefully I can help it get better.