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back to article Ubuntu v iTunes: the music playoff for Applephobes

With Ubuntu 10.04, Canonical delivered a good-looking Linux distro that just works. Mark Shuttleworth's outfit has put together an impressive user interface to solve its famous bug number one - luring people away from Windows. But good looks and great hardware support are just the beginning. If Ubuntu really wants to help people …

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mocp ftw

moc player has been my favorite for quite some time. Text only, ncurses based, and very lightweight. Handles streams and playlists pretty slick as well.

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What about clementine

As Amarok is becoming less popular, it is definitely worth considering clementine player. It's a true Ronsil product and it will be in the ubuntu repositories for the next release. Also truly cross-platform!

http://code.google.com/p/clementine-player/

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J 3
Linux

Rhythmbox

"Rhythmbox can be slow on older hardware"

Well, let me qualify that a little bit. On my 8 year or so old hardware (1.8 GHz single core, with 1 GB RAM) running Kubuntu 10.04, Rhythmbox runs very well. So if you have anything like that or better, fret not.

Actually, I started using Rhythmbox because Amarok started being a resource hog sometime ago (I don't know whether they have fixed that later, but I haven't gone back to check). On that hardware, Amarok would take forever to start, and then stutter during playback anytime there was a little bit of harder work by the CPU. That very rarely, if ever, happens with Rhythmbox.

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Happy

I will do you even one better!!!

On an old D^HHell GX150, 1.3 Ghz P3 with 512MB of memory, Rhythmbox runs fine. O/S is either Karmic (9.10) or Lucid (10.04). Getting those two to play nice with each other, and have shared (although not concurrent) access to the Music and Video files was a tad tricky.

It took a bit of Gooooogling to determine that you should NOT completely share `/home` across different O/S instances. (Something to do with clobbering settings). Sharing Music (as `/home/Music`) and Video (`/home/Video`) made things work out sweet.

I plan to try to pull this off at the office for a *nix based test platform. The question - how many O/S instances can you make work without virtualization?

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Anonymous Coward

Ditto

I've had no issues running Rythmbox on a 1.1GHz AMD Duron processor(very old) not until it exploded anyway so it really isn't a resource hog.

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Old hardware?

You're calling it old and yet measuring its clock speed in GHz? Really, now...

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Linux

Linux does play MP3

I was going to write "There are good reasons why Linux doesn't support MP3 out of the box" but luckily I spotted the error in that sentence. I'll try again:

There are stupid, legal reasons why Linux doesn't support MP3 out of the box. The same reasons cause issues when people want to watch DVD's they own on Linux systems. This isn't a failing on the part of Linux distributions, which are following the letter of the law, this is a failure of the legal system that allows patents on software routines that want to decode the media you're interested in. All modern Linux distributions will advise you of these issues and offer assistance on how to resolve them with a couple of clicks.

Update your article with a simple link to one of the many sites that fully explains these issues instead of glibly saying a non-MP3 playing PC isn't a PC at all. No one in my family uses MP3 and we get along just fine with our PC's whether they use Windows or Linux (we also use a variety of portable players too without problems).

If you meant to write an article supporting Linux then do just that, support Linux!

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Silver badge

But...

Surely the point is that anyone coming from iTunes will have music in AAC not MP3 if iTunes ripped it or they downloaded it from the store and that the latter will be using fairplay or whatever it's called unless bought within the last year or so?

Using iTunes most likely means using Apple music player.

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Sly
Linux

audacious is the best winAmp clone so far

and uses winamp v2.x skins as well. So if you're a win-AmpHead, audacious will be the easiest to use in linux.

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Alert

MPD?

Gah, you missed the most important idea behind MPD - it's a sound server, so you can have it run remotely and control it from your desktop. At work we've patched in a sound output on one of our machines in the server room downstairs to a set of speakers in the office via CAT5, and can then upload podcasts to it via GMPC etc. If you want a communal sound system that anyone can "have the remote for" then it's brilliant.

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Linux

Shame you chose Ubuntu

and not Kubuntu. The default Gnome apps are pretty good but nowhere near their KDE counterparts in many ways. Again it's a shame that Ubuntu defaults to Gnome, I know Kubuntu is the KDE flavour but that's not really the point - people will use whatever the default Ubuntu environment is and Kubuntu gets 2nd class treatment for everything. Although it's still the best KDE based distro.

Amarok is awesome, way ahead of Rhythmbox. Digikam is the best photo management software anywhere. Even supporting apps like Kget, Konsole, Dolphin etc. are way ahead of Transmission, Gnome-terminal and Nautilus.

But again, because you're comparing the default DE of the default Linux distro then you get the apps that ship with the Gnome implementation - Great start with Rhythmbox as it's actually very good but I'm going to cringe once you start comparing F-Spot and Pitivi with iPhoto and iMovie.

At least Ubuntu is the only social-by-default OS so if you compare that it's a nailed on win ;)

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I cannot vote this post high enough.

Kubuntu whoops the hell out of Ubuntu. It's better in almost every single way. But Shuttleworth and the rest of the Ubuntu bunch don't give a toss about KDE, so we're still missing some of the highly-touted new features from this release, the previous release, and the one before that!

Wish they'd get off their arses and sort it out. Kubuntu might as well slide off and become a seperate distro. They'd never notice.

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Kubuntu is niche

Ubuntu is main stream, kubuntu is niche. Seems like an obvious and sensible choice to me. And it sounds to me like you've not looked at Gnome in some time. It used to be the case that KDE was streets ahead of Gnome years ago but that's not the case now. I switched and tried using KDE 4.3 for a whole month to give myself plenty of time to get to grips with it, but was glad to go back to Gnome at the end. It's just too buggy, I don't like the look and feel, and I hated using Amarok, kmail and Dolphin.

You need to take your blinkers off. Amarok is bloody awful. It has the worst playlist implementation I've ever seen; the way controls and options are layed out is very unintuitive, and it's design wastes lots of screen real estate. Kmail (like most things KDE) doesn't bother to differentiate between ordinary functions people use every day and advanced functions, and just packs its menus full of crap that would fill an 'ordinary' PC user with confusion and fear. It doesn't integrate all that well with gmail (a must for me) and mail account setup is way too complicated for a non-techie to grasp. If you want to see an MUA done right, take a look at Thunderbird. Setup is a breeze. For example just give it a gmail/yahoo/hotmail email address and it knows what needs to be done.

I like to use multi-column views for file management where it's available, and navigate around using the keypad more than the mouse. Implemented properly its a fast way to work. Dolphin is badly broken here and doesn't work the same as every other file manager I've ever used. It was just impossible for me to be productive with it. Nautilus just blows it out of the water.

So in summary, you can keep your KDE. If it works for you then I'm happy for you, and maybe The Reg authors will do an article for you one day. In the mean time this series is for the rest of us, and I look forward to the next one.

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FAIL

You can not be serious

You're not going to cover one on the most popular Linux media players, Amarok, because of some sort of weird thinking that "KDE apps have a huge overhead before they'll run in GNOME".

I have no idea what you are one about.

'sudo apt-get install amarok', wait a few minutes, done.

There's a small amount of storage overheard for the minor parts of KDE Amarok relies on, but it's always been a trueism that KDE and GNOME apps will happily run in each other's window managers.

What an odd position to take...

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Bronze badge

May I pick your brain?

You seem to be an advocate of KDE applications. I use K3B to burn CDs, but have come across a major fault with it: although I have two drives it won't burn more than one disc simultaneously. It will automatically select the drive with the blank disc in it, but it won't allow you to burn two discs, nor will it allow another instance of itself to run to get round the problem. This omission is compounded by the fact that it won't make ISO images of audio CDs, so you can't even burn from the command line to make two discs at once.

Do you know of a CD burner with the power of K3B that doesn't have this limitation?

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Bronze badge

If Amarok is better than Rhythmbox, why can't it play CDs?

CDs are "the past", apparently - that was the developers' excuse. I was astonished when I did a distribution upgrade and I could no longer play CDs with Amarok. Just because hard disk and memory card space is cheap doesn't mean CDs are redundant - there are many reasons why you might want to play them, and the majority of computers have a drive which takes them, so why won't the music player play them?

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See, I think the exact opposite

While I appreciate that Kubuntu does not make up the numbers compared to Ubuntu (for obvious reasons), I actually moved to KDE from GNOME because GNOME was too god-damned buggy!

Every time I opened a system dialog, bits of it were missing, or I had to do some bits there and drop to a command line for others. Some bits of it worked really well, other bits were broken.

KDE gave me a much cleaner experience. For a start, it looks nicer - don't argue, it just does. (It doesn't help that the guys at Ubuntu are experts in choosing horrific colour schemes.) Load up GHNS, install Aurorae, have some fun. The desktop/taskbar widget system is excellent, and to my mind more configurable than the ones under GNOME, which used to really piss me off in a multi-monitor environment. The system dialogs are well thought out, and they work. And now that they've integrated kcm_touchpad in KDE 4.4, I've no complaints.

Similarly, I prefer the KDE suite of apps. I don't understand your assertion that Nautilus is superior to Dolphin. I hit CTRL+T, I get a tab. I hit F4, I get a terminal that tracks the folder I'm looking at (nice touch, guys). Hell, the latest version has SVN integration, so if I'm in a project folder files are colour coded by version status, just like TortoiseSVN on Windows, and I've been begging for that for a long time. Again on SVN, KDESVN kicks ten bells out of RapidSVN every time - it's less buggy, easier to use, and auto-caches the server history to speed things up.

I really like Rhythmbox, but I like Amarok too. (I will give you the 2.0 release - that was garbage.) Global hotkeys without messing around, configurable playlist, and I really like the OSD doodad. It's a player that I can load stuff into and then just flick through it with the keyboard while I'm working.

And to answer (K)Ubuntu critics elsewhere in this thread, our company recently hired a few new people, so as an experiment I gave them all laptops with Kubuntu preinstalled. Sat down on day one and waited for the complaints....which didn't come. They had absolutely no problems finding the menu, getting the programs they needed and using the laptops. The fact that KDE looks quite a bit like Windows helped, I'm sure, but still, it was a good few days before one of them even noticed they were running a different system. Since then I've had the odd question raised, mainly to do with things being in a different place, but little more serious than that, and certainly no more trouble than I would get from a user on a Windows machine.

Some of our customer support lot - unfortunate souls running Vista machines - even requested to be moved to Kubuntu, and aside from the odd problem with running GNOME apps in KDE, they love it!

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@Greg and others

Don't start the (largely redundant) desktop wars. No one who matters cares. And who matters? New users. Why do they not care? The PC is a utilitarian device to them, just like their washing machine. They don't care what UI the washing machine has, nor do they care what UI their PC has; so long as it is a usable one.

Only Linux geeks care and they operate under the totally misguided idea that everyone else should care too. This leads to schisms within the community, fragmentation, poor compatibility and confusion for new users. The up-shot? New users stay away as the bewildering amount out choice befuddles the hell out of them.

The default UI for Ubuntu is Gnome. That is the one they concentrate on and that is the one they do best. This plan is working and is slowly attracting new users *without confusing them*.

If you like KDE, then why not donate money or time to the Kubuntu project? Or switch to another distro that uses KDE as their default? You have that choice, or is that too confusing?

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KDE is better cos you dislike Ubuntu's old colour scheme??

"KDE gave me a much cleaner experience. For a start, it looks nicer - don't argue, it just does. (It doesn't help that the guys at Ubuntu are experts in choosing horrific colour schemes.)"

I agree that we shouldn't be having desktop wars, but if we must then at least make sure we use facts, and substantive ones at that.

1) Ubuntu's colour scheme is no longer orange. You are no better than a Windows user dismissing Linux on the grounds that "you will have to recompile your kernel to do that" by justifying your arguments with out of date information.

2) We all know that it is trivial to change a colour scheme. The mere fact you have to mention it shows that you're grasping at straws.

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@handle

Woah, calm down lad.

First up, the "colour scheme" thing was but a substatement (if there is such a thing) of the overall "KDE looks nicer" point. No matter what colour scheme you apply, I still prefer KDE. What I said was that it doesn't *help* that Ubuntu choose horrible colour schemes.

And as for your assertion that I'm out of date, I beg to differ. I've seen and used the colour scheme for GNOME in 10.04 - it's also horrible. I like dark themes and use them all the time in KDE - I mentioned GHNS above because I know changing colours is easy - but the default one in 'buntu 10.04 is just nasty.

The default colour scheme for Kubuntu isn't the sexiest thing on Earth, but at least it isn't offensive to the eyes. ;-)

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Stop

Choose

Right on. Users hate choice. I just chose a ham sandwhich and it was terrifying, let me tell you. How fortunate that Microsoft removes our choice of desktops for a small fee. And I know they would remove my choice of sandwhich too, if they could, which is a nice thought.

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Agreed, Tom Chiverton 1

You can get the best of both worlds by installing KDE apps on Gnome. The initial install requires about 100 MB of KDE framework, as I recall, but after that, apps install fast.

I've always been a patient Amarok fan, but reading this article and thread makes me want to experiment...

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KDE overhead

Try running any KDE app (inc. AmaroK) in a console in GNOME and see just how many KDE components are started up, just so you can run that one app. All of those take up memory.

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Oh, terrible indeed.

Having a lot of choices is perhaps bewildering to those who cannot think for themselves. I guess the supposedly superior alternatives are monoculture and a simple choice between crap and rubbish. If that's what most users want, then it explains a lot (but is hardly a virtue to be celebrated).

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Paris Hilton

Shame really

All of the imitation (well poor and diluted for sure) but none of the originality or inspiration?

However, I suppose it is (slowly) making progress.

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Linux

Catch-22

If they weren't imitating then there would be some other "usability" related excuse to slam them.

The other fellow's complaint about playlist handling in Amarok is a good example of this.

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Re: Shame really

Imitation is the highest form of flattery.

Unless it's imitation of an Apple product, in which case it's "All of the functionality, none of the lock-in."

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Paris Hilton

Hmmm

Just got to get the punters to switch Os. No easy feat, just ask Steve Jobs

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Nice article, but

"Unfortunately, MPD and its accompanying control apps can be a bit awkward when it comes to managing a huge library of music."

Huh? My collection isn't exactly small (~15GB of CD's converted to aac/ogg/mp3), and MPD is by far the best and fastest solution I found, using the ncmpcpp mpd client, which by the way should really be in the list, it's one of the best command-line solutions around.

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FAIL

Not exactly small?

Erm, sorry but 15GB of music is tiny by comparison to some collections!? I have a friend with 2TB of compressed audio (he has a BIG CD collection) not to mention his WAV copy...

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Anonymous Coward

That's pretty small

Most people I know have well over 50gb

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Pirate

Don't believe you

Lets assume 4MB per track and 20 tracks per CD -- 2TB would be 25.000 CDs worth of music. Either you're lying, or your friend has one biggest collections of illegal music I've ever heard of.

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waste of space

If your friend had any sense then he'd compress his WAV with FLAC.

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FAIL

iTunes streams internet radio

Just sayin.

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iTunes streams internet radio - so does Rhythmbox

Listening to Radio 4 via Rhythmbox now (yeah I know - Radio 4?)

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Ahem

If the goal is to find a player that an AVERAGE user could use to replace iTunes, it seems silly to suggest anything command-line. Likewise, if you're talking about an AVERAGE user, then codecs have to be installed right off the top. Lecturing them about the evils of MP3 serves no purpose.

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Not quite

It's not really that Linux distributors WANT to move people away from patent-encumbered file formats. It's more that if they stick support for them in their product, they will get a phone call from the patent trolls^Wholders, begging for money and offering lawsuits. So yeah, playing MP3s and DVDs right there and then would be nice, but... The people who think they own your music collection say no.

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Anonymous Coward

Awkward Question

But what do you do with all of the iTunes content you've purchased with DRM? All those lovely expensive m4p files that can only play under iTunes.

You could of course use Requiem to strip the encryption and convert the file to m4a but is this legal? Also, you can only get requiem from a torrent so you need a torrent client. Finally you still need to convert your decrypted m4a files to mp3 within the iTunes interface.

A lot of faff for nothing if you're an ordinary PC user. If it ain't broken don't fix it and all that.

You then get onto the question of the real usability of Ubuntu, for a lot of PC users you might want to work from home and connect to your employeers Citrix Access Gateway. Installing the Citrix web client in Ubuntu is not particularly simple for the ordinary PC user (i.e. people who don't read The Register).

Even if you get the Citrix client working it's got all manner of bugs of glitches that you don't experience under Windows Vista or 7.

I could go on and talk about support for Logitech mice and the forward/back/double click support which is awesome to use under Windows but I think I've made the point: for ordinary folk Windows or OS X just work so why bother switching to another O/S?

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Anonymous Coward

Vista

There are some ordinary folk for whom Vista does not just work. Paying for an upgrade to 7 is an unpalatable option.

The most cost effective remaining option is Ubuntu.

Agree its very possible to spend a LOT of time faffing with Ubuntu to get the functionality you are used to.

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Citrix.....

Why install the web client when there's a native one?

In fact you've listed nothing that I've found any difficulty with, but YMMV.

Point taken about the iTunes DRM and MP3 codecs, but as a previous comment said, it's not really a fault of Ubuntu is it? It's got far more to do with a legal system that lets vendors control the product that you bought.

Personally I prefer Kubuntu out of the two, but it comes down to personal choice. I'd much prefer Gentoo if I really had the option, but I do need my laptop to just work.

Why bother?

A few ideas that may (or may not) be enough;

- Money

- A killer app (Beryl made quite an impact I believe)

- Over control by MS/Apple (don't think we've reached that point yet)

And there's likely to be a few others. So long as people are using the right tool I don't really give a F*ck, converted the wife so at least I don't have to fix Windows every time it breaks (or she breaks it). Being able to SSH in in the background is very very useful.

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Anonymous Coward

Couldn't agree more

Linux is a fine OS - but for the average user everything just works in Windows and OS X. Moving between OS X and Windows isn't perfect, but it's not bad.

Migrating to Linux IS hard work as the poster above mentioned.

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Linux

letters and/or numbers

The usability thing is moot, but I use Citric under various flavours of Linux to access my employer's environment all the time. Installation is a breeze and it works flawlessly (which is more than I can say for their Windwoes environment) as long as I use the Java client rather than the ICA client. The ICA client works, but the installer is broken and doesn't load the certificate, which is a manual task and a PITA, but the Java client seems to work just as well.

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One that answers itself.

I should think that the very fact of having a bunch of horrid DRM-encrusted media should serve as a reminder and an incentive to abandon the platform you are using.

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Megaphone

See comments above

Someone already responded to your critique above. Before you go charging into an argument make sure your facts are still accurate. (Hint Facts change very quickly in the IT world.)

I think you make the argument yourself why any person Techie or not, should not want to have to deal with a company like Apple (or M$) that will make them jump through such hoops just to listen to music they have purchased and (think) they rightfully own.

Double Click and Mouse support? - Ubuntu 9 had these issues sorted out on all the machines I tested on, and that includes old Via Mini PC's, SuperMicro Serves, and various laptops. and that is the OLD 9 version. 10 is even better, and other than the forced DVD/Silverlight "rights" issues. I have not had anything not work just plugging it in.

Haven't used Citrix specifically, but all the extra fixes I have had to do have been extremely easy.

Searches come up with very relevant easy to follow directions for any problem I have had. Try that with M$ or Apple. There are enough people using Ubuntu for home and work, that if Citrix VPN client doesn't work, then Citrix is in the wrong, and will find themselves disadvantaged in the marketplace to those VPN solutions that do work. (all mine seem to work OK)

I think the better question is why would someone be so stupid to buy all their music from Apple with DRM attached? Don't they sell CD's in stores near your town, or in your town even?

Buy CD, rip, then you get to own the disc for your car, and listen to it on your various music players.

And are you SERIOUSLY trying to say using Windows instead of Ubuntu is a way to avoid bug glitches? I have tried installing both on several different types of machines... your statement suggests you likely have not. Having used both extensively I can firmly say you are wrong in your assumptions.

My wife is a non--techie, was even something of a luddite holdout. She has done more actual work on her PC with Ubuntu, than with Decades of me trying to get her to use MS or Apple machines of various types. Organizing photos, setting up social media accounts, listening to live net radio, the list goes on and on. All things that can be done with M$, but never was worth it to learn for her. She is not only using it, but eager to try and fix things and figure them out herself, and WITH RESULTS!

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Gold badge

Nice article.

@J 3, good to know, I wondered about that... Ubuntu is pretty decent with a P3 with 256MB, it is usable (but not snappy...) on a P2, and can be run with 192MB although not too well (Xubuntu shaves a bit off the RAM usage past that.) As a consequence, for me as a Linux user "low end" is like a P3... Whereas, I've seriously heard Windows users now say a machine is uselessly obsolete if it's not a dual core!

Good article! I haven't looked into Linux music players in a loooong time, and it's nice to have an overview of what's available.

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Not quite

For what I would call a "usable but slow" Windows machine I'd be looking at a 1.6Ghz Pentium "Mobile" with 512Mb RAM.

OK - it's double the RAM, but processor wise you don't need anything heavy duty like a dual core.

Applications... well it's a different beast. For office workers I'd suggest a low end dual core and a gig of RAM. (ERP system, Office 2007, 7-Zip, Citrix client, AV etc.)

Windows may not be as lean as Ubuntu - but I wouldn't call it a resource hog.

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Linux

File Formats, Codecs etc

Although I can understand the fussing about MP3 playback, it's actually worth pointing out that the approach used by most Linuxes to get the necessary codecs either built in or as a clickable download has actually left many linux music players far more capable of playing the full range of type out there. Ogg on WMP anyone? Flac, VP8 etc etc no problem on linux

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Go

Just Works?

Re: "With Ubuntu 10.04, Canonical delivered a good-looking Linux distro that just works." Uh huh, yeah right. Not with a couple of USB Wi-Fi adapters I have.

And apparently it doesn't work with a considerable number:

https://help.ubuntu.com/community/WifiDocs/WirelessCardsSupported.

Oh what the frakk, I got XP all over the place and one Win7 and they do everything for me. Well, doesn't keep me warm at night like wifey does, but jeeeze, can't have everything in the basement I guess.

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