amaroK, two years on

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It’s over two years since I posted my experiences with amaroK. At the time I was impressed by the meta information like album grouping and album art lookups on Amazon.

Two years later, and I’m still using it. So obviously it’s stood the test of time. I’m using the Xine engine in amaroK, and have the multimedia keys on my M$ keyboard mapped using xbindkeys (config below) I am still on version 1.3.9, on Fedora Core 4, so some of the dcop stuff might now be redundant.

Some things I would recommend for listening to music on Linux

Use the Xine engine in amaroK
I think the sound quality is better than gStreamer, and file support is broader.
Rip to FLAC
amaroK/xine sounds great, so make sure you’re using a good source file. Disk is cheap these days.
Use replaygain to losslessly “normalise” your track volumes
replay gain uses tags to tell your player what volume to play your files at. There is a replay gain script for amaroK, which reads the replay gain comments out of the file, and adjusts your volume for you.
Rip with ABCDE
Add the following to your /etc/abcde.conf to tell flacenc to use add the replay gain comments to encoded music. FLACOPTS="--replay-gain"

As mentioned above, I use xbindkeys to bind commands to certain key presses. This is especially useful for making use off the multimedia keys on keyboards. My keys just call the DCOP commands in KDE to tell amaroK to stop/start/pause,adjust volume. I’m not sure if newer versions of amaroK still use DCOP, but for now, it works for me

from ~/.xbindkeys when using Microsoft multimedia split/ergo keyboard.

    "dcop amarok player stop"
    m:0x10 + c:164

    "dcop amarok player playPause"
    m:0x0 + c:162

    "dcop amarok player prev"
    m:0x0 + c:144

    "dcop amarok player next"
    m:0x0 + c:153

    "dcop amarok player volumeUp"
    m:0x10 + c:176

    "dcop amarok player volumeDown"
    m:0x10 + c:174

amaroK Music Player rocKs

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I rebuilt my work machine to Fedora Core 4, and couldn’t be bothered recompiling BeepMediaPlayer with MP3 and iTouch, WMA etc.

So I googled around a bit and found amaroK getting good ravings. The first few versions I tried were really unstable (running under XFCE), but recent versions have improved greatly. It’s still a bit flakey when the network is busy (downloading a large file) and playing music over the network, like from a share. It goes into squeaky fastforward mode, and then locks up if you have not changed tracks by the time it (quickly) gets to the end of the current track.

There are some Killer features for me though.

  • Album Art lookups on Amazon
  • On Screen Display (OSD)
  • Grouping of tracks with rankings and stuff.
  • RSS Podcasting support (I don’t have a iPod though, so have not tested the external device support)
  • Wikipedia lookups for artists is also a nice touch.

The things I am currently living with are:

  • no WMA support, or AAC I think (although this is possibly more a limitation of gStreamer than amaroK. I should check that)
  • The Network contention issue mentioned above
  • Can’t change volume from command line (I use xbindkeys for mapping my Multimedia keys to amaroK commands like next, previous etc)

All in all. I can live with this stuff for now, and the killer features really are keeping me amaroK’d up for the time being.