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!

The Unix Ideal

From the time I started listening to podcasts until about two months ago, I had been using Rhythmbox to manage my podcasts.  When I first started using a Linux music application, Banshee ran hideously slow on my computer.  (As did most mono-based products)  As time has passed I’ve acquired a more powerful Linux computer and the mono code has been made more efficient.  But it was too late, I was already ingrained into Rhythmbox and it had all my music rated.  So I continued to use it.  On Linux Outlaws they kept mentioning how much they loved gPodder.  I checked out an early version and I didn’t see the point.  But after upgrading to Fedora 11, I decided to check it out.  It is so much better for managing podcasts than Rhythmbox and that goes to the Unix ideal – have your program do only one thing and do it well.  Banshee, by the way, is the opposite of that.  It seems to be moving in a Windows Media Player direction, recently gaining the ability to play videos as well.  So, here’s a comparison of Rhythmbox and gPodder and you’ll be able to easily see why I switched.  First, here’s the podcast interface for Rhythmbox.

Rhythmbox Managing Podcasts
Rhythmbox Managing Podcasts

It’s ok.  Nothing terrible about it.  But it’s also a bit dull and if I have the browse button selected, it is also selected for music mode and that’s just annoying.  Here’s gPodder’s interface.

gPodder Interface
gPodder Interface

I’ve got all the podcast titles listed on the side as well as the icon.  As you know, sometimes having an icon is a much quicker way to find something than trying to read the names of all the podcasts.  (Note, I used to have all these podcasts in Rhythmbox, but I was in the middle of transitioning to gPodder that’s why they don’t all appear in the interface screenshot above.  There’s really only one negative in gPodder in comparison and that is that it doesn’t show how long each podcast is.  I do, however like the ability to just hit a button and sync all the podcasts to my iPod shuffle.

All this is well and good, but to see the main reason why I switched, just look at how the info is displayed for the podcast in each program.  First, here’s Rhythmbox:

Rhythmbox Podcast info - messy and not as informative
Rhythmbox Podcast info - messy and not as informative

Annoyingly, Rhythmbox does not parse the HTML.  Check out gPodder’s rendering of the same podcast:

gPodder Podcast info rocks!
gPodder Podcast info rocks!

It’s much easier to read and much more useful.  I can click on the links and Firefox starts up.  This saves me from having to go to the podcast’s website to look at the show notes.  Unfortunately, most podcasts I listen to are not featuring such great details, but the Linux and Technology ones are.

So definitely give gPodder a go and see why the Unix ideal of having one program do something and do it well is a great idea!

Taking another look at Songbird

Songbird 0.6.1 Installation Screen

It’s been a really long time since I last looked at Songbird. In fact, according to my blog, the last time I checked it out was version 0.2 back in October of 2006. The UI certainly has a bit more polish. I submitted some bug reports on their Bugzilla about Metadata problems with WMAs and problems with podcasts. Eventually, I just got frustrated and stopped using it. I updated to version 0.4 a while back, but it still seemed a bit unstable. With Rhythmbox and Amarok meeting my needs on Linux, and with me hating Windows Media Player so much, I’ve pretty much stopped listening to music on my Windows computer.

However, in the most recent Linux Outlaws podcast, they mentioned how much they liked Songbird and how it had improved. They mentioned that it had been updated to include improvements from Firefox 3. (Songbird’s web browser code borrows from the Firefox core) Another reason I found to check Songbird out again is that one (or some) of the developers behind Songbird were also involved in Winamp before it was sold to whoever. (AOL, I think) I loved Winamp back in the day when I first got started with digital music.

When Songbird started up, the Birdhouse tab indicated that I had upgraded and it rescanned my music directories and updated the tags. I’m ok with that since the software is currently somewhere between alpha and beta, but I don’t want it rescanning my music with every single update once they’re out of beta, that would just be way too annoying. The other tab in the Birdhouse was a webpage showing a bunch of places where I could use Songbird’s functionality to grab music.

Songbird 0.6.1 - Birdhouse

I then clicked on the library tab and it took a while to load up. Annoyingly, the Avenue Q album I added while the program was loaded did not automatically get put into my library. This is something Amarok and Rhythmbox can already do on Linux. I’m running Songbird on Windows – does it lack the capabilities to allow it to be updated without initiating another library scan? One negative off the bat – everything seems to be glacially slow in Songbird. They really need to make it more responsive as I click on the menu items on the left. Right now it just can’t compete at all with my Linux music players.

I installed a scrobbler plugin so I restarted Songbird. It’s a bit slow to start up, but not too bad. You just can’t want to listen to your music in a hurry. I found that Songbird now does a good job of reading the tags on WMA files. It also doesn’t stutter on WMA playback like it used to. Strangely, some of the songs show as having a 0 second length until you play them. This causes problems with the Scrobbler (last.fm) plugin because it thinks you’re listening to a 0 length track and refuses to scrobble it. You can see this in the screenshot below:

Songbird - Playlist

It still didn’t see Avenue Q. Am I supposed to manually rescan my hard drive every time I add songs? Unacceptable!

They seem to have added support with Shoutcast and have a whole bunch of Shoutcast radio stations involved.

Songbird 0.6.1 - Shoutcast

One of the best things that Songbird inherits from Firefox is the ease with which extensions can be developed. Here are a few of the ones I installed to see what they were like. Here’s a tag cloud. It looks very nice, but I would have preferred for it to have different sizes for the tags depending on how many songs I have. Otherwise, what’s the real benefit of this over the default list?

Songbird 0.6.1 - tag cloud media view

Here’s a bunch of really cool looking charts and graphs. Looks like the type of thing I’d love, but as of now it appears to be pretty useless.

Songbird 0.6.1 - Chart Media View

Here’s a really cool extension that downloads pictures from flickr that have to do with the song you’re listening to at the moment:

Songbird 0.6.1 - flickr plugin

Overall, I think Songbird is still a little rough around the edges.  It needs to poll for new songs added to whatever directory I choose (say, My Music) and automatically add them to my library.  It needs to not think that WMAs have 0 second lengths until they are played because, for people like me, if you can’t scrobble your music, what’s the point of listening?  They need to work on startup time for the program as well as the lag when I go to my library or other pages within the application.  Also crucially missing are “smart” playlists or auto playlists, whatever you want to call them.  I shouldn’t have to drag songs manually into playlists – not when everyone from Rhythmbox to iTunes to Windows Media player can already do that.

However, they seem to be the most exciting thing happening on the Windows music scene.  The add-ons like the flickr integration bring a more to the experience than just listening to music.  The integration of a web browser and being able to search for music to easily download are big plusses.  I think I’m prepared to make Songbird my default player on Windows again.

Gnome Music Player Showdown

I’ve been reading a lot of reviews recently about the upcoming Banshee 1.0.  (Arstechnica and Linux Magazine, for example)  It looks like it’s going to be an awesome release, but I wanted to see where it is now and compare that to Rhythmbox.  As I mentioned here, I switched to Rhythmbox in May 2007 (a year ago!) from Banshee which I had been using approximately from May 2006 (when Mono programs were first introduced into Fedora).  Back then Banshee (and other Mono-based programs) were around version 0.1, but it was the new cool thing and everyone was talking about how awesome Mono would be for Linux.  (This is before everyone turned against it and Miguel de Icaza)  Eventually I left Banshee because it was slow and bloated (as are most Mono programs), couldn’t handle podcasts (which I had recently discovered), crashed when updating my large music library and when I changed Metadata it wouldn’t stay changed.  Since then Rhythmbox has been meeting all of my needs.  For Banshee to be worth switching to, it would have to provide all the features of Rhythmbox along with adding some new features.

So let’s take a look, feature-by-feature and see how they stack up.  For comparison purposes, I’m checking out Rhythmbox 0.11.3 vs Banshee 0.13.1 – these are the latest updated versions available in Fedora 8.  First of all, apparently Banshee is not able to detect when I’ve added new music into my music folder.  Both Rhythmbox and Amarok do this, so subtract points from Banshee from the start.

Here you can see the difference in the way the programs look when they are first started up:

Initial Screen on Both Rhytmbox and Banshee

First of all, from a user’s perspective, Rythmbox has nice, intuitive buttons.  Text appears under each button letting the user know what it does.  While no one will have any problems with Banshee’s play, forward and backwards buttons, I have no idea just by looking if it’s in random mode or in a mode to play straight through my music.

Also, right off the bat we see that in this version of Banshee, although it can Scrobble my music, it does not appear to have any last.fm support built-in.  By contrast, Rhythmbox comes with Neighbor Radio and the ability to add more radio stations based on similar artist, artist, and tags.  Very nice features.

Rhythmbox lastfm support

Banshee does finally have Podcast support, which is good.  Banshee is also lacking support for Magnatunes and Jamendo.  This is becoming a huge trend to provide a free version of the iTunes store.  (Even Amarok has support for Magnatunes)  So, here you can see what you get in Rhythmbox:

Rhythmbox Jamendo support

In addition to getting access to the Jamendo and Magnatunes catalogues for listening to, there are additional buttons added to the interface to facilitate the extra features of these services such as buying tracks or downloading albums.

Rhythmbox Magnatune Support

Looking at the radio selections, Banshee wins on the sheer number and variety of stations it provides “out of the box” so to speak.

Internet Radio support in Rhythmbox and Banshee

So I was just about to write off Banshee as a nice try, but something I’ll have to get back to when 1.0 finally comes out.  Then I decided to play a song….

Banshee playing a song

Here’s the kind of information being provided that makes me love Amarok!  I’m not sure if this information comes from last.fm, but here I get similar artists, top songs and top albums by the same artist!  Clicking on any of the songs from the top tracks switches over to that track.  What I’d love would be the ability to use that to create a playlist.  So instead of jumping to that song, I’d like to see it allow me to right click or middle-button click and get it added to a playlist.  After waiting for the song to end so I could scrobble it, I clicked on the items and they take you to the corresponding page on last.fm – so that must be where the info comes from.  I’d like to see that better integrated to include the functions I mentioned above.

Final verdict?  I think that Banshee has great promise to take over as my main audio program in the future.  Features such as the last.fm integration I mentioned above are just the kind of extra info I expect to get if I’m going to run a music player more complicated than XMMS.  However, I’d like to see better integration with last.fm radio, Jamendo, Magnatunes, and any other such programs.  I didn’t test podcasting since I have a ton of podcasts I’m currently following in Rhythmbox, but they appear to support it now. So I say stick with Rhytmbox for now if you want feature-completeness and keep a close eye on Banshee throughout the rest of 2008 to see what great suprises they have in store in 1.0.  Of course, if you’re a Mono-hater, then you’ll be stuck with Rhytmbox, but I don’t see those guys laying down on the job and I expect the feature set to continue to grow and get better.

One last, good look at KDE 3 Part 1

As you can see, by trawling through this, I have gone back and forth between KDE and Gnome a lot. As I’ve mentioned many times before, I initially loved KDE over Gnome. It looked more like Windows, it had more neat options, and great programs. Not only is Amarok the best media player out there (although Rhythmbox is not far behind), but the KDE programs feel so much more tightly integrated than Gnome. That’s one part where they’ve always had a huge lead over Gnome, although Gnome has been catching up recently. Still, I hope that KDE continues to evolve its KParts and KIOSlaves infrastructures. (Or whatever they evolve into in KDE4) KDE programs also just seemed to fit together visually so much better, I don’t know why because Gnome has the HIG.

But I left KDE for Gnome for a few reasons. First of all, as Gnome has been getting leaner and leaner on system resources, the KDE 3 series remained bloated as a blue whale sloshing around in my RAM as though it was just a kiddie pool and not the ocean. Also, I have had KDE programs crash on me orders of magnitude more often than Gnome programs. Finally, KDE has always been treated as a second-class citizen within Red Hat. That’s why Mandrake was original started! It was originally just a KDE version of Red Hat before branching off and losing RPM compatibility.

But now I want to look at KDE again because a few things have come together to change some of the reasons why I left KDE. First of all, with KDE 4 by basing the desktop on QT4 plus other refinements it’s supposed to be light as a feather on RAM. Sure, it still won’t equate to Fluxbox, but I have a modern system, I just don’t want it to swallow up my RAM like that Kobiyashi at the Nathan’s Hot Dog eating contest. Also, ever since Fedora 7, The Fedora Project has had the KDE Special Interest Group to make sure that KDE is treated well within Fedora. It finally has integration with the updatesd program, responsible for notifying me when there are updates to download. It was really a pain to see that in Gnome and not in KDE. I also wanted to look at KDE 3 now to document what it looked like and how it worked for me so that I can compare this to my experience with KDE 4.

So, I logged into KDE from a fresh startup in Mario. It loaded up a little bit slower than Gnome, but not by too much. And, it’s not fair to look at that because KDE saves the state of your desktop when you logout so I have it automatically loading SuperKaramba, Kopete, KGPG, Kerry Beagle, KGet, and Tomboy. Recently I’ve switched to accessing my Gmail via IMAP vs POP3. This allows me to login via KDE or Gnome and have access to the same emails in my inbox. So, since I always have Evolution and Rhythmbox open in Gnome, I opened up Kmail and Amarok.

So here’s what my main desktop looked like:

Main KDE Desktop

Before I continue, let me say that the developers of Konqueror have some work to do. Apparently they don’t support AJAX very well because I am not able to use any of the advanced features of my blog nor does Gmail work with full functionality. So who cares if it passes the Acid2 test if it doesn’t work on the sites that I need it to.

Amarok is my favorite media player for all of the work it does with your metadata. Whereas other media players stop at using the music’s metadata to sort the music or, if it’s more advanced, to create auto-playlists, Amarok does SO much more! For example, here’s the data it shows on each song as it plays:

Amarok Artist info

The info on how many times you’ve played the song and the last time you’ve played it is nothing special, but beneath lies the power of Amarok. You can add labels to each of your songs and then use that to create dynamic play lists. Amarok then consults last.fm to figure out which artists are similar to the one you’re listening to. So you can use this to acquire music by other artists that may be similar to the one you’re listening to. Then, it also lists all the music in your current music library that are by similar artists. And it also shows the rating each song has. After all, you may have songs by similar artists which you don’t like. This is a good point to mention that I really like Amarok’s rating system. Unlike others which are on a 5 star scale, Amarok is a 0-100 scale so it gives a lot more room to tell how much you like the song. Also, their auto-rating system works better than any other I’ve ever used. Anyway, under that is a list of your favorite songs by the same artist. So if you can easily jump to any of those songs by double-clicking. Then it shows each of your albums by the same artist and if you click those you can see the songs on those albums. Tell me you’ve seen another media application that makes such a good use of the metadata it has on your music! But it doesn’t stop there.

Amarok Lyrics Tab

If the song you’re listening to is reasonably popular, clicking on the lyrics tab will bring up the lyrics to the song. You can learn them or just use it to sing along to one you don’t know as well. And there’s one more bit of nice integration thanks to the use of KParts, Amarok can integrate Konqueror into it and you can see the Wikipedia page for the artist you’re listening to.

Amarok Artist Wiki

And sometimes I start up a media player and I’m not sure where to go; what I want to listen to. Here Amarok is also helpful.

Amarok Opening Tab

What I like here is that it lists your newest five albums.  For Rhythmbox I had to create a dynamic playlist to hold my newest albums.  It also lists your favorite albums.  So if you want to quickly jump to listen to some music you know you’ll love, you can just double click on those and get the songs.  Or you can drag the album over to the right into the playlist.

I’d also like to look at Kopete for this look at KDE 3 because I think it’s very, very good.  It has a very different aesthetic than Pidgin, so it’s hard to say objectively which one is best.  However, Kopete *does* have many, many more configuration options.  Check out how many plugins it has:

Kopete Plugins, Options and Main Window

My favorite is the Now Listening plugin.  Pidgin has a similar one, but it doesn’t seem to actually ever work.  The other really great thing about Kopete is how you can customize it to suit your style.  Unlike Pidgin which is mostly an AIM clone, Kopete lets you pick everything from your Smiley Style to Chat Window style.

Kopete Visual Configuration - SmiliesKopete Visual Configuration - Emulation Style

And here’s how I have my chat window:

Kopete Chat Window

So far KDE hasn’t been too unstable.  I’m glad I finally fixed the problem where Compiz kept starting in KDE as it was having a huge detrimental affect.  So far I could potentially go back to KDE.  More in a future post.

When Random isn’t so Random

I’ve noticed for some time now (yet, despite what I thought, have not blogged about) that when I listen to all my music on random, it doesn’t appear to really be random. It’s mostly random, but not random enough as I noticed some songs coming up more often than they should. At first I chalked this up to the fact that humans are horrible at figuring out stats and how often things should occur. But then I had somewhat concrete proof, I had some artists with lots of songs and those artists were being played less than artists with just a few songs. Recently I found the culprit – when Rhythmbox plays random songs, it weights the songs you like heavier so they appear more often.

iPod Shuffle

For years I had been saying that I would not buy an iPod product.  After all, they sell music in the iTunes music store with DRM on it.  All of my music on my Linux computer is in the OGG format and it can’t be played with iPods.  However, when it came time to buy an audio player I did a bit of research.  It had to be something I could buy at the local Best Buy because I had a coupon and gift card.  Of the players sold at Best Buy, the players which supported OGG were, ironically, not well supported on Linux.  In fact, the best supported and integrated player in Linux was the iPod.  That’s important to me since I use my Linux computer for serving my main audio needs.   All of my podcasts come in through Rhythmbox.  The second requirement I had is that it had to be of the same form factor as the 2nd Generation iPod Shuffle so that it could use it at the gym clipped onto my shirt or shorts and not weigh me down at all.  I used to work out with an iPaq in my pocket and it was not very comfortable at all. 

First I installed gtkpod onto my computer.  Then I plugged the Shuffle into Mario, my main Linux computer, and Rhythmbox promptly crashed.  I tried a few different combinations such as plugging in the iPod first or starting Rhythmbox first.  Then I ran gtkpod and realized that something was not setup correctly on the file system of the Shuffle.  So I plugged it into my Windows computer and ran iTunes and the first little setup wizard.  I named it 1UPMUSHROOM to go along with my Mario theme. 

After that everything worked perfectly.  So even though everyone was scared that with the latest updates, iPods wouldn’t work with Linux, the gtkpod people got it working – at least it worked for me with an iPod I just bought from the store.  I’ve been enjoying it for the past week or so and am able to listen to my podcasts at the gym instead of those stupid radio programs they usually play.

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