Experiments in Linux

Tux, the Linux penguinHello everyone. My name’s David, and I’m a Linux user.

Yes, it’s true. Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been spending the majority of time with The Other Operating System, only dipping my toes into the Teletubby-blue waters of Windows for an occasional play of Full Spectrum Warrior (the only game I know to be able to include the line “Charlie thirty-two, this is Charlie niner-zero, please confirm objective, over” and not sound silly). A significant chunk of the apps that I use regularly are cross-platform anyway (Firefox, Thunderbird, OpenOffice…) and the rest have reasonable substitutes under Linux (AMSN for my instant messaging needs, vi for my text editing, etc). I may also have a shot at using Eclipse for PHP development, courtesy of Ben saying it’s rather shiny.

There is, however, one gaping hole in my Linux application portfolio. That’s a really good media player.

Maybe I’ve been spoiled a little under Windows – I’ve got Winamp and iTunes, both of which support nice things like a persistent music library with ratings, play statistics and, importantly, dynamic playlist generation. iTunes will stream music over the local network (astoundingly useful when at college) and Winamp has insane levels of customisability.

Linux has xmms. This is a media player which does what it does perfectly well – sadly, what it does is roughly comparable with what Winamp 2.8 did. This isn’t a good thing, especially when one has a 6 gigabyte MP3 collection and wants to play only a selection of it (say, anything less than 6 months old which I gave a 3-star or higher rating). Not easy to do.

I have, as a result, revived a past liaison with Last.FM. It’s rather shiny – in essence, it’s an Internet radio station which streams music to you. This much isn’t so special, as there are many other Internet radio stations. However, as you rate the songs it plays for you, it learns your tastes. This means that, while it will occasionally do something silly like play Macy Gray at you, it eventually ends up playing music which is attuned pretty damn well to your tastes. I shall keep listening to it until I get back to college, whereupon I will no doubt defect back to Windows for the purposes of listening to a selection of 30-odd iTunes network shares. I’m shallow like that.

One Response to “Experiments in Linux”

    •  Gravatar for Ben
    • From Ben
    • Friday 31 December 2004 at 14:09

    The lack of a decent media player was my reason for telling Linux to shove it too. I really didn’t like XMMS, WinAMP has past on for good reason (feature-bloat in an age of Firefox minimalism, for one). The is “beep”, which is a GTK2 port of XMMS and at least allows you to use a newer file picker that organises files by ID3 tag rather than files/folders. I found it very slow though.

    There is also an iTunes-interface-clone, can’t recall the name but has “Music” in it. Or maybe “Media”. It’s not a player, but offers iTunes-ish media library capabilities. It actually lets you do filtering with something resembling a query language, which might be nice for you… but I found the benefit of unlimited query construction verses iTunes nicer interface a non-starter.

    Music is the current desktop-failure of Linux, in my opinion. Office + Browser is probably there, but it still has some way to go.