KDE Look Part 6: 4 Months In

I started using KDE in November of last year so I figured that I’d give an update on how things are working for me four months in.  First off, KDE 4.6.x has not yet hit the official Fedora repositories.  Since I like to yum upgrade or preupgrade from release to release, I try to stay with the official repos and RPMFusion.  So no KDE 4.6 for me.  At this rate, it doesn’t seem that it’s going to make it until around Fedora 15.  But, if that means they iron out any extra bugs, that’s fine with me.  So, with that said, let’s get to the info.

OVERALL, KDE 4.5 is nice and stable.  It’s not as buggy as the 3.5 series was (at least on Fedora).  That said, it has been a teensy bit buggier on the whole than Gnome.  It’s usually not too bad – it certainly hasn’t put me off KDE.  Since Amarok is separate from the KDE Software Compilation, we were updated to Amarok 2.4 in Fedora 14.  Now, I don’t know for sure that it’s linked, but it seems to have caused an issue with Plasma and the KDE 4 notification area.  Basically I’ll see some error in the notification about Amarok and it’s sql-lite database.  Then I’ll start getting a bunch of empty notifications.  They just have a picture of the KDE 4 cashew.  And when this is happening KDE becomes very slow to switch between desktops.  This doesn’t, to my knowledge, happen if I’m not running Amarok and it settles itself a while after I quit Amarok.  Again, I’m not sure if it’s coincidental because it doesn’t happen all the time if Amarok is running.  I’m just calling it like I see it.  That is a bit annoying for me because I like having things distributed across a bunch of virtual desktops and I almost always have Amarok playing music.  Amarok itself hasn’t been very crashy.  It has crashed once or twice when I’ve tried to switch tracks a few times.  But it hasn’t lost the data it had collected since I’d last run it, so it wasn’t too bad.  I still enjoy using it as my everyday music player.

Choqok has been the crashiest of all my KDE apps.  I’m not sure what happened, but ever since going from .9 to 1.0 it’s become a lot more unstable.  It’ll die as soon as I start it up.  And I know there are tons of other people reporting this bug to bugzilla. I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt and say that it’s probably the content of someone’s tweet or dent that’s crashing it.  I say this because I’ll restart it after a crash over and over again and it’ll keep crashing, but a few hours later it’ll work.  Perhaps the offending tweet or dent has fallen off the edge.  I’m not sure.  This is really the only KDE program that has really annoyed me.

Kontact was annoyingly crashing a lot when I was in the feed reader and then losing track of all the feeds I’d read since last startup.  But then it got updated to 4.4 and it became a LOT more stable.  It’s been great using it for all its components.  It is so much more stable than it used to be in the late 3.5/early 4.x days.  The only thing that sucks is that in a move that somehow made it more stable, they had to get rid of the special dates section from the bottom of the summary page.  I was using that to remember all sorts of family and friend birthdays that I just can’t memorize.  I hope it comes back in the update for KDEPIM that got kept out of 4.6.1 because it was too buggy.

I stopped using Compiz back when I was using Gnome.  It was just too buggy and it didn’t give me much benefit once I got over windows having inertia.  There’s a vocal group on the nets that complain about Gnome 3 not having Compiz, about Compiz not working well with KDE and so on.  Xfce, if I remember correctly, was the first majer DE to incorporate a native compositor.  I think that was the right way to go.  It helps things to be more tightly coupled.  I love KDE’s compositor.  It’s nice and subtle – I set it to have a fade in/out between virtual desktops.  I use some transparancy effects on my Konversation window so I can see the background image behind it.  And that’s perfect.

Now that I can have different plasmoids per vitual desktop, I’ve really started to make use of them. You can see an example here.  I’ve changed it a little bit recently now that I have two widescreen monitors instead of a square and a widescreen one.  A lot of people seem to be into system monitors, but I rarely need to know those things.  And if I do, a quick run of “top” will let me know what I need to know.  I don’t need bars and graphs for the sake of animating a desktop I rarely see.  I use the last.fm plasmoid as an easy way to verify that scrobbling is working.  It’s helped me diagnose issues and also be able to tell that scrobbles are happening without having to load up the browser and get to last.fm.  I love the “now playing” widget.  At least I think that’s what it’s called.  It integrates with Amarok perfectly.  Sure, I can go back and forth between tracks using Amarok’s systray icon, but that requires more clicks.  (Right-click then left-click)  Also, the systray icon doesn’t let me scrub to any point in the song or change the Amarok volume level.  It’s also quicker to see the track’s title and artist if it’s a song I’m unfamiliar with.  The weather widget is, of course, useful for knowing the weather without having to load up a website.  The character map widget is useful for my webcomic work so I can select non-ASCII text.  And the Google Translate widget is also used for my webcomic.  The folder view widgets are self-explanatory.

The other widgets I use are the KGet and KTorrent plasmoids.  KTorrent, its plasmoid, and KDE integration have gotten me off of Deluge.  (Still my top pick for a gtk system!)  The plasmoid is a great at-a-glance look at all the important info.  Not seen in the screenshot on the post I linked to before is the fact that it includes that graph you’ve seen in every torrent program that fills in the bits of the file it’s grabbed until it’s a solid bar.  Now, this doesn’t matter to me because I only torrent legal stuff like Linux distros, but it also tells you your share ratio.  I know in the past that some of those sites that peddle shadier content have ratio restrictions.  After all, since the activity is illegal in most developed countries (thanks to US trade bullying) they don’t want you grabbing the data without sharing some of the risk.  Otherwise, you’re being a jerk.  (Even I agree with that)  So requirements range from having a 1.0 ration (you’ve shared the entire file that you’ve downloaded) to 2.0 (you’ve shared it to two people – or the equivalent data transfer).  For me it’s a matter of pride when I’ve shared out a Linux distro to a 1.0 or greater ratio because I’ve helped take the load off of their download servers and saved them money.

KGet is a great download manager for KDE.  I’d like to see a little more work done on it.  It doesn’t, as far as I can tell, enable functionality equivalent to “Download them all!” which is the first program to make download managers relevant again now that we have broadband.  After all, the only point I ever saw in download managers was the ability to resume downloads so that you didn’t have to restart your download from scratch if the connection was dropped.  This is a good time to segueway into Chrome integration into KDE.  There isn’t any.  This means that the dialog box is GTK and needs double-clicks while KDE needs single-clicks.  And it doesn’t have the folders you’ve bookmarked in Dolphin.  Overall, that’s not a biggie.  But I haven’t figured out how to get it to use KGet for its downloading.  So the workaround has been to make it so that KGet watches the clipboard for URLs and then asks to download them.  This has only worked varying degrees of success.  Sometimes websites are setup so that you can’t see the actual path to the file you’re grabbing.  In those cases I can’t get KGet to grab the file.  Another problem, but I’m not sure what the culprit is, is when using the URL copy method to get files it stops responding for a while until a few files have downloaded and then keeps asking if I want to save.  That’s dumb.  I want to set everything to d/l and then go have dinner; not have to keep coming back every few minutes to hit save!  Now, I know I could use Konqueror, especially now that the webkit backend can be used.  But if I do that I end up losing the bookmark, settings, etc sync between all of my Chrome-running computers.  So I’m not sure what the solution is there.

Finally, I started using Yakuake. Yakuake is a terminal that drops from the top of the screen whenever you need it.  This has replaced my usage of Konsole in nearly every situation.  I also love that I can bring it up on any virtual desktop to check on the status of the command I ran.

So, in general, I’m still loving KDE.  I hate that I can’t use it at work.  It makes everything about using a computer a pleasure.  I love that I’ve been able to customize it to my specific needs and I look forward to doing that even more once KDE 4.6 lands in Fedora and I can make better use of Activities.  It makes me really feel that Gnome 3 and its rigidity is probably not for me.  I’ve mentioned before that I don’t do radical customization of my desktops.  But I do like to make it work for my unique situation.  I’m going to reserve final judgement until I get to use it.  Who knows, maybe it sucks me into its madness.  But somehow I doubt that will be the case.  I’m really loving KDE too much.

When KDE 4’s Activities Finally Made Sense

I’ve been using KDE since November of 2010 around the time that 4.5 was released for Fedora. Around the time of 4.4, the KDE folks, especially Aaron Seigo and the rest of the Plasma team, started really pushing activities. I kept talking to people on identica and I couldn’t quite figure out the point of activities. They seemed to be redundant in a world with virtual desktops. (And, as you can see in the comments of the article I’ll be linking to, most people feel the same way) The biggest reason I seemed to hear was that each activity could have a different set of widgets. But one weekened I was messing around with KDE system settings and found out that you could set each virtual desktop to have different widgets and not have to mess with any of these activities. So after that weekend I *really* didn’t understand the whole hassle of activities. This is how I configured my desktops:

 

desktop 1 - kde 4.5 - 10Feb2011
desktop 1 - kde 4.5 - 10Feb2011

 

desktop 2 - kde 4.5 - 10Feb2011
desktop 2 - kde 4.5 - 10Feb2011

 

desktop 3 - kde 4.5 - 10Feb2011
desktop 3 - kde 4.5 - 10Feb2011
desktop 4 - kde 4.5 - 10Feb2011
desktop 4 - kde 4.5 - 10Feb2011

 

And I thought that was that. Then I came across this article on activities on identica and it completely changed the way I thought about activities. I’ll summarize here, but if you want the full description, check out his page. I think he exaggerates the problem of having too many windows open, but the key is that in 4.6 you can assign windows/programs to activities. So you would have programs that go with each activity and when you start that activity, those programs and windows open up.

Here’s what happens with me. I have 4 virtual desktops, as you saw above. They are named main, chatting, coding, and web. Main holds Kontact and Amarok. Chatting has Kopete, Choqok, and Konversation. Coding either has Blender, Inkscape and Dolphn or Kate and Konsole. Web holds my web browser. So when I start up my computer, I need to start all these up. I could leave them all open when I logout and let KDE save that as a session. But that means KDE is sluggish to start up as it starts up all those programs. And if all I want is to listen to some music, I have to wait an unreasonable amount of time. What activities will allow me to do is associate those programs with an activity and whenever I start up the activity, those programs will automatically load. So on a day I’m not working on INM (http://www.notmadcomic.com), I don’t load the Blender activity. Same goes with coding. But when I *do* want to work on a new comic strip, I just load up the Blender activity and it will auto-load blender, Dolphin (to the right subfolder), and inkscape. When I’m done, I just close the activity.

Whether this turns out to be awesome in practice depends on how annoying it is to switch activities vs how annoying it is to switch virtual desktops. Virtual desktops work well enough for me that the benefits aren’t worth it if it becomes more annoying to get to what I want to do. I can’t try it just yet – as I write this (it will be published about a week later) Fedora doesn’t have KDE 4.6, but I’m definitely excited about trying this new workflow.

KDE 4 Look Part 3: A Week of KDE 4.5

So I’ve used KDE for about a work week.  During that time I’ve pretty much gone to using the KDE versions of all my programs except Konqueror.  I’m not sure if the Fedora 14 version of Konqueror is the one with Webkit, but last time I used Konqueror with KHTML it was mucking up a bunch of web pages including my blog.  So I stuck with Google Chrome, which is what i use on Gnome, LXDE (Lubuntu on my laptop), and on my Windows 7 install.  (Also, I stuck with gPodder for podcasts because that’s working perfectly)  So how did it go?  First of all, I love the stock screenshot tool in KDE, KSnapshot.  I love that lets me choose full screen, region, window under cursor, and section of Window.  With Gnome I hit print screen and then I have to edit the png in the GIMP.  So it gives me less work for my Linux-related blogging.
I mentioned it last time, but I’m really liking the integration of everything into the info icon so I can go back and see what’s happened – really liking it.  Here’s a sample of the types of notifications in here:
KDE 4.5 info
KDE 4.5 info
If you click on the “x” you can dismiss the message.  It’s also neat that you can click on the buttons on the bottom there and divide it up by the service that’s causing the notifications.  I really do love that a LOT more than the system as implemented in Gnome in Fedora 14.  (And all previous versions that have had the Ubuntu look-a-like notifications).

I’m still really loving Amarok.  So, to expound on what I wrote a few days ago, although I’m still really loving the dynamic playlist.  I’ve been hearing songs I haven’t heard in ages.  However, I think I have a better understanding of how the dynamic playlists work now.  I have it set to 10 songs at a time and one song came up twice.  That’s only happened once so far.  But, perhaps, once a song falls off the five songs I have on the back end it gets put back into the pile?  Statistically I should almost never come up with the same song again because I have so many, but I will on occasion come across a song again.  Am I right about the way it works?  What’s the reason not to tell it to compute the next 1000 songs or save the last 1000 songs?  I was also thinking, and this is nothing against Amarok – it would be the same with any of the music players, but when I have this awesome random playlist in which I’m trying to get through all my music, if I wanted to listen to a specific song, I’d have to lose the playlist.  At least that’s the way it feels.

So, I’ve been using Kontact for all the built-in programs.  As I mentioned before, I really like the summary page when it starts up.  I was ready to say that the Kmail component doesn’t properly thread my email while Evolution does.  Turns out that I had to go to View->Message List->Aggregation to fix that.  Looking through the sort menu (appears above aggregation) you can see the awesome configurability of KDE programs.  You can REALLY have your mail sorted the way you want.   I’m not 100% sure I got it the way I wanted, but KDE’s help system is severely broken in my install of Fedora 14.  I need to do some research to see if I have some package uninstalled.  The only other complaint I’ve had is that emails that are starred on Gmail appear green and not red when they’re unread.  So it’s hard to see if I’ve read them yet.  I’m about 75% sure about that – I don’t have any examples right now in my inbox.  What I do like about the way Kontact organizes email is that it’s similar to Outlook by dividing my emails by day:

KDE 4.5 - Kontact - kmail
KDE 4.5 - Kontact - kmail

The calendar part of Kontact works perfectly with the Google Calendar.  It adds it to my summary page and gives me pop-ups when necessary.  I wasn’t able to figure out how to export my TODO list to Kontact, so I haven’t been using it.  But I played around with it a bit.  It looks like it was modeled after a slimmed MS Project or whatever Gnome’s Project-equivalent is (KPlato in KOffice).  I’m pretty stoked that you can assign sub-tasks.  This might revolutionize the way I do TODO lists.

I haven’t used the feed reader part of Kontact too much.  It’s an integration of Akgregator.  In the past it’s been very crashy.  From what I’ve used so far, it seems pretty pretty good.  There’s an interesting discrepancy in the displayed webpage, however.  Here’s a page from Dan’s blog on Akgregator:

Kontact's Akgregator displaying Dan's page
Kontact's Akgregator displaying Dan's page

Here’s the same page in Liferea – my second favorite gtk program:

Liferea displaying Dan's page
Liferea displaying Dan's page

So what’s the reason for the discrepancy?  I looked around in the options and I couldn’t figure out how to make it act like Liferea.  It’s not a game killer, but it could really sour me on Akgregator after a few weeks of that crap.  If anyone has any help, provide it in the comments.  Thanks!

I would just use the KDE uBlog Plasmoid, but I would need one plasmoid each for Twitter and Identica.  So I did some research and found out that Chokoq is the KDE version of Gwibber, which I love on Gnome.  So, first the deficiencies.  Unless I do a quick post, I can only send to one service at a time.  Gwibber, by contrast lets me send to all my services at the same time.  Since I usually post to both places, that’s a bit annoying.  Also, Gwibber has had Facebook integration for a while.  I’m not all that into Facebook, but I *do* like being able to post stuff there.  I also use it to keep up with my friends’ feeds without having to visit the stupid website.  Now what I like.  My favorite feature of Chokoq and, perhaps, the killer app is the fact that it lets me know which notices are unread (white in the following screenshot):

Choqok 1.0 Beta 4
Choqok 1.0 Beta 4

Most of the time I’m enjoying Choqok without noticing that I’m not using Gwibber.  The main developer has decided to have a system where you can request new features and he sets a donation target to work on that feature.  Overall, this is great – it’s what rms said the future of programming would be once we commoditized software.  However, I find it a bit worrisome in the way I perceive it happening on Choqok.  After all, does this mean no features are developed if no one pays the full bounty?  I see some features there that have been stuck with half their donation amounts for the past few months.  Does this mean those features don’t ever get implemented?  I guess what it allows for is someone else to just do it all for free and then Choqok loses all their users.  I’m not against software developers making money via donations.  Or, in this case, payment for features.  I’m just not sure it’s progressing in the right way as I understand it from the Choqok website.

So, I got some info in a dent that NEPOMUK is going to be better integrated with Dolphin in the next release.  That said, I wanted to see what the results of all the freakin’ indexing would lead to.  So I decided to search for Girl Talk songs.  I know that those particular files have the proper metadata because they show up properly in Rhythmbox.  And I know that the artist’s name is not in the filename since it’s not a track I ripped off a CD.  NEPOMUK and Dolphin failed to find it:

In KDE 4.5 NEPOMUK and Dolphin search fails to find Girl Talk songs
In KDE 4.5 NEPOMUK and Dolphin search fails to find Girl Talk songs

I know that it must be looking inside of the text-based file formats because the Discworld PDFs don’t have those words in the filename.  So, I decided to try the Strigi search program in case it I needed that to specify MP3 metadata.  Here’s what I got:

Impotent Strigi-client
Impotent Strigi-client

None of the buttons appear to do – when I press them nothing happens.  When I type to search it doesn’t even find as much as NEPOMUK and Dolphin.  If I’m doing something wrong, feel free to let me know.

So now I move to looking at Kopete.  As you know, I recently switched to Empathy from Pidgin.  I didn’t find it to be immensely better, but I liked the theming and the Gnome integration.  What I don’t like about Kopete off the bad is that it’s a lot harder than in Empathy to tell people’s status if you allow their buddy icon to show.

kopete-buddy-list
Kopete buddy-list

I’m still not a huge fan of how the away status is separate from the message.  It’s quite a bit trickier to tell what’s going on with that.  However, given the decrease in the use of the status message due to the rise of micro-blogging, it’s not as important.  Most of the time a simple away is fine.  I just wish it were more intuitive if I *did* want to put a message.  Finally, unlike Empathy, it does not have Facebook integration.  With Chokoq I didn’t mind it as much because most of the time I don’t keep up that much with Facebook statuses.  Although I don’t have that many friends, I have enough of them that I can’t read them all or that’s all I’d be doing all day.  But I *do* want Facebook chat.  At lot of people I know, especially older people, only have a FB account.  They don’t have AIM or Gmail or the others.  So it’s the only way I can talk to them.  So, Kopete guys – let’s get some Facebook chat going on!

For IRC I’ve been using Konversation.  I find that it works just as well as Xchat-Gnome.  I use IRC here and there so I’m not too picky about my IRC client.

Konversation in KDE 4.5
Konversation in KDE 4.5

There’s only one issue with Konversation.  With both Xchat-Gnome and Konversation I have it setup to auto-log me in (provide password) and sign into the rooms I always go into.  Yet, with Konversation it adds me to the rooms BEFORE it authenticates my nick.  So I’m always dumped into #Fedora-unauthorized and then have to rejoin Fedora.  So I have to do some research to see if I can set a delay or something.

I’m enjoying Plasmoids.  They’re definitely neater than SuperKaramba – especially since they’re so integrated into everything.  I added both of the [default installated] weather plasmoids to see which one I’d like.  I ended up with some interesting results.

Weather Plasmoids
Weather Plasmoids

They’re both using wetter.com and they both have exactly the same city listed.  The one on the right is correct.  The one on the left is….very much not.  Anyway, I have some exploration to do over time to figure out which Plasmoids are useful and something I’d like to keep on the desktop.

I haven’t gotten into activities yet.  So far I haven’t seen a need for it, but that doesn’t mean I won’t in the future.

Kpackagekit appears to be set to find updates a lot more often than Gnome’s Packagekit.  I’ve certainly updated more in this week than I have in Gnome.  And I know that the Gnome one doesn’t check that often because there’ve been times when Pup hasn’t alerted me but when I do a yum check-update I see that there are updates to install.  I like it although I think it’d be nice if they also used the package metaphor to help keep it nice and easy to see what’s installed or selected to be installed.  Otherwise it’s been a pleasure using it to do installations.  It actually appears to search the repos more quickly than the Gnome version.

Now, I can’t remember if this comes from a Fedora package I installed, but GTK apps in KDE use KDE native icons, themes, etc.  I love it!  Back in the bad old days, it sucked to use GTK applications in KDE because they looked so ugly and out of place.  Sure, some programs out there use wxwidgets and still look ugly and out of place, but the majority of the major programs out there either use GTK or KDE-QT for their widgets and icons and so on.  Look how nice and integrated gPodder looks:

gPodder with KDE look/feel
gPodder with KDE look/feel

So, after about a week of using KDE 4.5, what do I think?  Well, I really like it!  For now it’s going to be my default desktop environment on Super Mario.  I’m going to take advantage of all the little things that KDE does better than Gnome and see if the things I don’t like about KDE can either be tolerated or fixed with future updates – or maybe even commenters who will tell me what I’m doing wrong.  I used to use KDE 3.3, 3.4 and 3.5 as I’ve mentioned before.  At some point, the memory needs of KDE and its excessive tendency to crash (when compared with Gnome) drove me away.  I went back and forth between Gnome, Xfce and the *box window managers.  Perhaps I’m now back to stay for good.  Only time will tell.  And, of course, I’ll re-evaluate things when Gnome 3.0 comes out.  But, until then, I think I’m KDE all the way!

To anyone who’s wondered about the KDE 4.x series or who thinks they need to move on to Trinity:  I think you need to check out KDE 4.5.  I’m very happy with the way it’s been handled in Fedora 14.  (Your mileage may vary when it comes to other distros)  Although I always tried to make sure I was very nice and fair in the way I did it, I definitely expressed my disappointment in earlier KDE 4.x releases.  It is super customizable now.  I made a disappearing, tiny panel on my right monitor that only contains launchers for my favorite programs.  And I put it on the top of my screen.  Overall, the programs and DE are very stable.  This entire week I only had Kontact die on me once.  Up until a recent series of fixes with Evolution – it was dying on me nearly every time I added a task to the TODO list.  It does appear to need a bit more RAM thank some of the others DEs and WMs.  So depending on how much of a gear head you are and how much money you have for computer tech, that might be an issue.  But KDE is SO customizable that I’ve barely scratched the surface – discovering new options in my attempts to make sure I scoured every option before complaining that a program wasn’t doing what I wanted it to.  So perhaps if you turn off all the special effects and make some other customizations it can also be very light.  But definitely give it a shot.  Don’t hang onto the past just because you’re afraid of change.

KDE 4 Look Part 2: Amarok 2.3.2 in KDE 4.5 and Fedora 14

Amarok 2.5.2
Amarok 2.5.2
There was a time when I thought Amarok was the best music player on Linux.  I even used to run it in Gnome as you can see from this 2005 screenshot.  In that first link you can read me gushing over Amarok 1.4.  I loved all the integrated technologies, especially the metadata juggling Amarok did.  The first few Amarok 2.x releases with the KDE 4 libraries were complete crap.  They were ugly and were missing nearly all of Amarok’s features.  (Mirroring the complaints people were having about KDE 4 at the time)  When I took a look at Amarok and KDE 4.4 in October I said I would take another look at Amarok.

Well, all this time KDE had been calling to me.  There was something elegant and beautiful in KDE 4.4 that kept tugging at me.  Maybe it was time to abandon Gnome again?  I probably wouldn’t stop using all gtk apps – I love me some gPodder.  But perhaps I would switch my major apps and desktop environment over to the KDE side.  It would be the first time in a very long time that I did that.  (Although with Gnome 3 coming, perhaps it’s the perfect timing for KDE’s new-found stability?)  So after I did an upgrade to Fedora 14 that left Gnome’s panels a bit buggy, (I later realized it was *probably* my fault because I forgot to run yum distribution-synchronization – although as I write this I haven’t tested Gnome since running that command) I decided it was time to log into KDE and check out Amarok.

Amarok 2.3.2 on startup
Amarok 2.3.2 on startup

Amarok detected most, but not all of my new albums on the new Album widget.  I didn’t check if the missing albums (new MC Frontalot songs) were in the library or not.  But what it made me think was that I need to check and see if I can configure the widget to show more than just five albums.  I mean look at all that empty space.

Look at all that horrible, horrible empty space!
Look at all that horrible, horrible empty space! Look at it!

When I compare this to how it looked in Amarok 1.4 – you can see that the three panel layout makes more sense.  Before you had to switch back and forth between the playlist and the context stuff that’s now handled with the widgets.  The thing that’s LESS elegant in Amarok 2.3 is that these widgets are all separated whereas they’re stacked in Amarok 1.4.  So you have to click around rather than getting all the album and track info at a glance.  It allows for a more customized experience, but I hate having to click around.

When I got home I decided to play around with the widgets before I complained about it.  After all, it was only fair!  So I started playing around with the widgets and found that most of them could be configured if you right-clicked near the title of each widget.  So for the albums applet I was able to up the number of albums via this setting:

Changing the Albums applet setting in Amarok 2.3.2
Changing the Albums applet setting in Amarok 2.3.2

And viola!  It had more albums (including at least one of the missing MC Frontalot albums) See:

Amarok 2.3.2 finds more albums when you tell it to!
Amarok 2.3.2 finds more albums when you tell it to!

Also you may notice that it fixed the problem I was talking about with wasted space.  Check this out.

Amarok 2.3.2 - no longer wasting space!
Amarok 2.3.2 - no longer wasting space!

Apparently, if you put the modules in the proper order – they’ll sort themselves out like this.  There’s just one problem – I can’t figure out how exactly it works.  Like can it only be three things?  What determines how many things you can fit on one screen?  It wasn’t quite intuitive to figure that out.  Still, it is indeed neat to have the photos there.  It’s just that if I put the album info above the photos, then the photos don’t show!  Perhaps someone can explain in the comments?

Now, as you can see, the automatic ratings are working correctly here.  The more I listen to a song, the higher it goes.  If I skip songs, it lowers.  I like that.  It allows the computer to do a better job of being an objective observer than I can be.  There are lots of songs that I have marked as 4 stars in Rhythmbox.

Amarok auto-scoring my songs
Amarok auto-scoring my songs - it gets more accurate with time

As a quick recap: I have at least one week if not two weeks of continuous music on my computer.  I want to be able to just randomly play from this music without having to constantly skip songs I don’t like.  So I have an auto-playlist (AKA smart playlists in some music programs) that grabs all songs rated greater than four stars.  So I have to tag all my music.  Untagged music is not heard by me.  I recently either blogged or microblogged about discovering some albums I had COMPLETELY forgotten about because they had languished unrated.  Of course, rating songs takes my attention away from other things.  So I have to only rate songs when I’m doing a task that I don’t mind being interrupted from every 3-5 minutes to rate a song.  Rhythmbox has one other flaw (depending on your point of view) – when you play songs on random, it gives greater weight to higher rated songs.  Actually this reminds me of another flaw that I will mention in conjunction with this one.  Just give me a second.  So it’s not really random and I’m actually more likely to hear songs I’ve tagged as five stars (I REALLY like them).  But the point of random is that I don’t want to always hear the same songs and get sick of them.  This combines with the other flaw I just remembered – Rhythmbox does not save playlist state.  In other words, let’s say I have a playlist of the newest songs I’ve added to my library.  I start listening without random turned on.  I get partway through the list and I go to bed.  I will turn off my computer because I’m not going to use it again until I get home from work the next day somewhere around 16 hours or more later.  I don’t want to waste money on electricity, harm the environment, or wear our my computer’s parts.  The next day I boot into Fedora and turn on Rhythmbox and go to that list.  If I hit play it will start from the beginning of that list again!  Now, I can look on the right and figure out the last song I played yesterday and go from there, but that’s annoying.  So if you combine both of these “flaws” – I tend to hear the same songs very often even though I use random.

Wow, that wasn’t a quick recap at all.  Hope you’re still with me.  Anyway, let’s get back to why it’s awesome that Amarok automatically rates my music.  So, as I go through my collection, I know that if I rate something as 3 stars I’m effectively never going to hear it.  Right now there’s an insane amount of music in  my 4 star and up list.  I don’t need more music in there.  So the initiative is for me to rate a song at 4 stars if I think I’ll want to hear it again.  (I *do* use 1 and 2 stars for songs I NEVER want to hear and songs I hate, respectively, in case I ever make a list of 3 stars and up)  So there are songs that I may THINK I like just because I want to make sure I hear it.  Or there may be songs I THINK I like because of emotional reasons – favorite song in HS, first song I slow danced to, etc But a majority of the time when it comes up in Rhtymbox I’ll skip it.  An automatic rating system based on how much I skip a song will provide a more accurate rating of what I like.  Additionally, as my music tastes change (as they have with my age), the ratings will evolve to reflect that.

Now, there was one thing that was making me hesitant with going back to Amarok.  With Rhythmbox, Banshee, Songbird, iTunes, etc your entire music collection is already a playlist.  You just start playing any track in your library and it keeps playing from there.  But Amarok is based on playlists!  I know I’ve talked somewhere on this blog (or maybe the old one) about how I hate making playlists.  I get paralyzed about which songs to hear.  Just like when my wife asks what I want for dinner and suddenly I can only think of about three of the dozens of recipes we know how to make, when I try to make a playlist I can’t remember from the hundreds of artists I have on my computer.  So what to do?

Amarok’s dynamic playlists to the rescue!  It generates a random playlist based on some criteria or on pure randomness.  I went with the latter.  I was happy with the results.  It was truly random.  I heard a Shakira song I hadn’t hear in ages.  And, here’s the best part compared to Rhythmbox!  I exited Amarok to reboot after a kernel update.

Amarok 2.3.2's dynamic playlists
Amarok 2.3.2's dynamic playlists

When I came back, it had found my spot and I was able to keep going.  For once I will truly be able to go through my entire collection (more or less) and not hear the same song again until I’m done!  Things are really looking up for Amarok!

Amarok 2.3.2 playlist comes back after restart!
Amarok 2.3.2 playlist comes back after restart!

Some other features I noticed that I liked include the ability to love tracks on last.fm from within Amarok.  As far as I know, Rhythmbox ONLY allows this if you’re listening to a last.fm stream.  With Amarok you can do it while listening to your library.  It’s not a killer feature on its own, but I know that I have “loved” far fewer songs than otherwise because, right now, I have to go to the last.fm website to do that.  So that’s something I really like.

Another feature that has finally made it back from the 1.4 days and is working properly again is the ability to set playback to stop after a certain song has finished.  This doesn’t happen THAT often, but there are times when I want to finish listening to a song as I get dressed or do something else, and then have the playback stop without me having to go back to the computer to stop it.

One quick thing I wanted to address specifically for Dan.  I mentioned him before as another huge fan of Amarok from the 1.4 days.  He said that he can’t use it because it messes up his Japanese songs and the metadata is just squares.  Dan, check out Sambomaster on Amarok:

Amarok 2.3.2 and Sambomaster!!
Amarok 2.3.2 and Sambomaster!!

Not only that, but the upcoming events even works!

Amarok keeps you abreast of Sambomaster events!
Amarok keeps you abreast of Sambomaster events!

Is there still room for improvement?  Sure!  Perhaps fixing the widgets up a little more.  Improving the ability to scan the library more quickly.  Really the danger is that it’s finally so good that the devs will get bored and either bloat it up with useless features or let it decay.

I have decided to stick to KDE for a week or two to properly assess whether I will migrate back to KDE from Gnome.  So in that time I’ll be using Amarok for music playback.  That should give me a lot more time to notice any niggles that annoy me as well as find any stability problems.

For a quick chuckle…I don’t know what Amarok is using for the backend for grabbing the band photos, but there was a bit of a FAIL with the old 1950s/1960s band The Playmates

Not THOSE Playmates!
Not THOSE Playmates!