Pythonaro blog

23 November 2009

Amarok 2 revisited

Considering the sort of negative person I am (I'm sure scientologists would classify me as "suppressive personality" in zero time), it doesn't come as a surprise that one of the most popular items on this blog is a rant about Amarok 2. Having recently upgraded my Linux laptop, however, I found that Amarok was also upgraded to release 2.2.1, and I decided to give it a go. The experience was, overall, a positive one, so I thought I owed to the developers a follow-up to my previous rap.

Amarok 2.2.1 finally addresses 99% of the problems and regressions that plagued 2.0. The terrible default layout is now highly customizable (click on View -> Lock Layout to unlock the widgets, then drag&drop them where you want), so you can recreate the much-saner 1.x disposition. You can also customize the top toolbar (which by default is wasting so much screen real-estate, you could probably display three different applications in the same amount of space) to be more compact, by selecting View -> Slim Toolbar. Support for radio and podcasting is now first-rate (I don't know about external disks/mediaplayers), and plugins for various Internet services are quite good. MySQL is back to being an optional back-end for the internal music catalog. In short, if you still are on 1.x and can upgrade to KDE4/Qt4, you should probably give it a go.

So, 18 months down the line, Amarok is basically back to where it was in release 1.4, plus some eyecandy and (we are told) a better, more modular infrastructure. In order to achieve this, developers endured a year of bad publicity and hate-mail from their own users, lost market share, and basically looked hapless at prioritizing features and designing interfaces.

Was it worth it? To me, it still looks like another proof that benefits of "big rewrites" are dubious at best, like Joel Spolsky said so many years ago. I suspect we will eventually come to say the same about the whole KDE4 process, but I guess the jury is still out on that one.

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posted by GiacomoL @ 8:01 PM   1 comments links to this post

11 December 2008

On Amarok 2, Or: How You Can Always Find A Way Of Shooting Yourself In The Foot

At the beginning, it was WinAmp. And Linux people saw it was good, and lo, XMMS was born. But then XMMS grew old, as it was built with obscure graphic libraries for X-server that no-one knew anymore, and its interface was kludged by too many broken skins. So the desktop-people spawned dozens of their own players, all broken in one way or the other, and the Linux people grew sad.

One day, from the sky a new player fell, and it had excellent playlist and collection management, and it would read your mind and find music you didn't even know you had anymore. They called it Amarok, and started spreading the good news to the unfaithful, and lo, even the barbarian "windowsers" started being converted by the power of the Loved Wolf.

But in their hearts, people knew that the good times would end sooner or later. Because it was written that decent programs, when condemned to upgrade cycles, will inevitably be subject to feature creep and unneeded refactoring. And so it was, once again: Amarok 2 was unleashed onto the world, and people could see its brokenness. The program had been corrupted (like many before) by the temptation of integrating "with the web", renouncing playlists and smart features in order to pander to brainless chavs -- people more interested in seeing an album sleeve or reading about the sex life of boybands than listening to the actual music. And the Linux masses were left stranded, once again, without a decent media player, condemned to wander forever in the land of sadness and broken players.

(All this to say that Amarok 2 sucks -- they've taken away good features in exchange for eye-candy which reminds me of the terrible Windows Media Player. I'm staying on Amarok 1.x forever.)

Update: a year later...

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posted by GiacomoL @ 2:24 PM   8 comments links to this post