Eee 701 Planetoid

2011/07/28

The search for a lightweight music player

Filed under: Linux, Software — Tags: , , , , , — Tim @ 17:46

Water, water, every where,
Nor any drop to drink.

Coleridge’s famous couplet from The Rime Of The Ancient Mariner, sums up surprisingly well how I feel, after spending a fair amount of the last week trying to choose a lightweight alternative music player to Rhythmbox

I admit the link between a 200-year-old poem and early-21st-century software may not be immediately obvious, so let me explain 🙂 Basically, there is far from being a shortage of music player/manager apps for Linux—in fact, there are rather more than I can name off the top of my head—but some are too “weighty” for my needs, and many of the “lighter” players seem to lack features I would like to see.

Truth be told, I am moving away somewhat reluctantly from Rhythmbox on my Eee—it’s probably my favourite music-management app on any platform, and I’ll continue to use it on other Linux machines if they have the power. However, it doesn’t really suit the Arch system I’m putting together for the 701—it’s based on GNOME (which I’m trying to avoid where I can), and takes 15-20 seconds to load—so I’d ideally like to find a music player app with a bit less “lard”!

I won’t bore you with the details, but I tried a few “lightweight” apps, and the nearest I came to finding something “in the ballpark”, was the not-especially-well-known (and intriguingly-named) Pragha. A fork of another now-abandoned music player/manager project, Consonance, Pragha is in Arch’s “community” package repository (i.e. you can install it straight from pacman without needing to build your own package).

Pragha offers some of the look/feel of music managers like Rhythmbox, and I could get on with the program if I really wanted to. However, whilst reasonably stable, Pragha feels like an early beta, with quite a few features absent that I really miss from Rhythmbox—a particular bugbear, is that Pragha’s “sort by artist and album” view seems to ignore the “track number” in the ID3 information of a music file, meaning that tracks aren’t listed in correct order in albums.

Screenshot of XMMS

XMMS (with Conky stats display behind)

I like Pragha—as much for its potential as its current state—so I’ll be keeping the app on the system for future reference. For the moment, though, I am falling back on an “old friend”: XMMS, the veteran music-player app which quite a few people probably think of as “WinAmp for X”.

Yes, XMMS has been around for “donkeys’ years”, and I don’t think it is being developed very actively these days, but XMMS “just works”; it’s lean and not especially demanding on system resources; I rather like its “retro” looks; and there are plenty of plugins, “hacks” and scripts people have put together to extend it. (You may notice in the screenshot, there’s a “now playing in XMMS” section of my Conky stats display—you won’t believe how much hacking of other people’s scripts and add-ons that took, but it’s a good story for another day 🙂 )

Screenshot of wmxmms

wmxmms

There’s even a “remote control” dockapp, “wmxmms”, which fits into the Fluxbox “slit” (dock)—it’s so old that I couldn’t find it in the Arch Linux AUR, so had to compile it myself from source—but it works, as long as you can find a mouse sensitive enough to point over the tiny controls! (I wonder if there’s an XMMS GKrellM plugin…)

Given that playing and managing my music collection is one of the more frequent tasks I put my Eee to, I doubt this is the last I’ll be writing on the subject. Whilst XMMS “does the job” and doesn’t make a fuss while it’s at it, I’d like to try a few more music player/managers—Quod Libet looks interesting, for one—and of course, if you have any suggestions for suitable apps (preferably not GNOME- or KDE-based, but I don’t mind earlier versions of GTK), please comment here!

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