A (somewhat) Sad State of Affairs for Linux iPod Users

9 02 2009

I have a 30GB iPod Video (5th generation) that I use with Ubuntu Intrepid. My music collection is larger than the capacity of my iPod, so I can’t simply sync everything– what I do is sync specific playlists. This, coupled with the fact that I view album art support a must, creates a specific need that not every program can satisfy.

I’ve tried out most of the popular players and IMO, the only one that really does everything properly is AmaroK 1.4. Here’s why the others don’t live up:

Songbird: Can effortlessly sync my playlists, is (AFAIK) the only program that can “restore” your iPod to factory defaults like iTunes can, BUT has no support for artwork (yet). This is a deal-breaker for me. Another strike against Songbird in my book is the fact that it ignores use Gnome’s window manager and uses its own.

GTKPod: I have to admit I hate this one. The things you have to do to get stuff on the iPod are just silly. The interface is not intuitive. Also there seemed to be no easy (possible?) way to just sync the playlists I want– I can transfer a whole playlist there, but when I update the playlist there is no quick way to sync the changes to the iPod. It does support artwork, however.

Banshee: Supports artwork. Does a pretty good job overall but again, no real “sync” feature. Like with GTKPod, I’m stuck having to drag and drop things I want and can’t just sync changes to my playlists. This one is a bummer because Banshee is my preferred app for library management & playback on my desktop.

Rythmbox: Basically the same as Banshee with respect to syncing. Didn’t bother to check if it will put the artwork on my iPod.

…which brings us to…

AmaroK: I’m not a big fan of KDE apps in Gnome due to the differences look and feel (especially ugly KDE 3.5 apps) but AmaroK 1.4 just does everything I want, the way I expect. It supports selective syncing (e.g. my playlists, even when I update them) and puts the artwork on the iPod. AmaroK 2 doesn’t have device support yet, so I’m sticking with 1.4 for this sole reason.

If not for AmaroK 1.4 I would have to rely on a Windows app under WINE or VirtualBox, which would just add another layer of complexity to the whole thing.  The biggest annoyance here would be the fact that I would have to edit my playlists to be Windows-frienldy (change every slash to a backslash in the playlists using a text editor) then save a “Windows” copy for the syncing player to use.   This is on top of my current process which is:

1. Edit playlist(s) using Banshee, my preferred app
2. Export the playlist
3. Import the playlist to AmaroK
4. Sync

So even as it stands now, I have to do a couple more steps than I’d like (if only Banshee synced the way I like, I wouldn’t have to bother with exporting/importing the playlists like I do).

“Why not use AmaroK for your music playback?”

Not a bad idea, and I actually used to do this– but now that I have a burgeoning video library in addition to my music  (for use with XBMC downstairs or playback on the computer in my room), I like that I can use  one app for both audio and video.

So, seeing as 2009 will certainly be the year of Linux on the Desktop, I hope that this will improve with time.  In the case of Banshee, which is currently under active development and becoming more and more popular, I’m sure that will be the case.  I eagerly await future releases of what has become my player of choice lately.


Reading Material

28 01 2009

Due to the business my company is in, publishers often send promotional copies of books in hopes that we’ll republish their content.  Some of what we receive are technical books.  Recently, as sometimes happens, our marketing department was good enough to give away books that are no longer needed — whether they were used or not.  I was lucky enough to score several technical reference books.  One of them was Mark Sobell’s A Practical Guide to Ubuntu Linux, second edition.

After just a short time, I’m already 120 pages in and have learned a lot about what makes the OS tick and what forces drive GNU and Linux in general.  It has been an invaluable resource and is already helping me to better administer my desktop PC, where I have been using Ubuntu Linux for nearly two years (since just after the Feisty release).  If you have the means, I highly recommend this book.  It is well worth the while!

Somebody check the temperature in Hell…

28 11 2007

It was announced early yesterday that Verizon Wireless plans to open its network to “any apps, any device” in 2008. All I can say is it’s about damn time.

What this means is that any company (heck, even any individual with the means) can produce devices for direct-to-consumer sales, provided that said devices meet the technical standards to be set forth by the carrier. This of course is welcome news to many technophiles out there. Many of us have a bit of a love/hate relationship with VZW in that while we love the wide coverage area and solid network performance, we hate Verizon’s history of removing/disabling features from phones as well as replacing elegant manufacturer-designed interfaces with their own God-awful UI.

Now with this announcement Verizon has pledged to work with anyone who chooses to purchase a compatible phone from a source other than directly from the wireless company. New Android-powered über handset out? No problem. Just ask Verizon to activate the phone for you. What I wonder though is how much this would cost. Right now, customers in many places (maybe the whole country) are subject to a $20 charge just for activating a phone on their existing phone number (a process which basically entails the Verizon rep keying in the ESN/MEID of the phone to be activated, a process which takes about 30 seconds in most cases). Would this charge (and only this charge) apply? Time will tell. Let’s just hope Verizon makes good on what could really be some truly pro-consumer pledges.

Ideally this could usher in a new era of competition and innovation among handset makers, which should result in more choice for Joe Consumer. Of course the downside is that device prices could be substantially higher (Verizon subsidizes the prices of the handsets it sells). Again, time will tell. I believe it will be quite some time before we see any great selection of available “open” phones on the market. I will be watching and waiting with great interest.

Macros are a godsend

5 11 2007

Throughout my work day I spend a significant amount of time working in a web-based CRM. Because the vast majority of my work is tracked through said application, it serves as the program in which I spend most of my day working. So naturally, there are a few required tasks I perform repeatedly (often dozens of times per day, hundreds of times per month). Tasks that which are not by any means difficult but become very tedious. Mind-numbingly tedious.

So it was with great delight that I stumbled upon iMacros for Firefox, a powerful macro-writing extension for the popular browser. Within a few minutes of downloading I was able to fully automate one of my most hated tasks— closing a completed activity then sending an accompanying email that is chosen from a list of available templates— the one that I perform most in my day-to-day activities. Now all I have to do is run the macro and I save about 90 seconds and 15 clicks per task!

I highly recommend the extension: it is well laid out and easy to use and is exceptionally well documented. It even comes with over 15 demo macros pre-loaded. I find interface, which is presented via a sidebar, to be easy to use and intuitive.

It’s times like this that I’m so glad I work for a small company. Time-savers such as this (as well as others I’ve put together while working here) would not be possible if I didn’t have the freedom to install whatever applications I choose at my workstation.