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Flipping the Linux switch: Amarok

Wikipedia Entry for Current Song and ArtistMaybe you've got older hardware. Maybe you've had enough of restrictive EULAs. Maybe you've just received a teeny tiny Eee for Christmas (thanks Mom!). Or maybe you've been thinking about making the switch to Linux, but you wonder how you'll live without certain applications.

A major obstacle in making the transition from Windows to Linux for many is music. Does Linux even play media files? While Linux can't play DRM-laden files, it handles unencrypted mp3s, and, with the proper codecs, Windows media files.

"So what?" you say, looking at your ripped mp3s, organized into perfect play lists on your iPod, "There's no iTunes in Linux!"

Enter Amarok. Sure, there are countless other music players in Linux. They do the job, and most do it quite well. Why single out Amarok?
First impressions mean a lot. Amarok is a pretty application. It integrates nicely with KDE, its native desktop environment. That's not to say it can't run on GNOME, Xfce, or other window managers. You'll just have to consult Amarok's site for system requirements, or check the documentation for your distribution.

It is completely customizable, allowing you to change colors, fonts, icon themes and on screen display settings. Plugins and add ons abound. Want it to match your magenta wallpaper? Want to use that new font? Need the on-screen display to be translucent? No problem, and no coding skills needed.

Alas, looks only get you so far (believe us). Amarok's true beauty is in its functionality. Organized with a large play list pane and a tabbed side panel, Amarok's many features are readily apparent and accessible. Most of these tabs are self-explanatory (Files, Collection), but some deserve a bit more explanation.
Magnatune Tab
The Magnatune tab is the portal to Amarok's music store. You most likely won't recognize many (or any) of the musicians here. Face it, they're not major bands. Or minor bands. Some might not even be bands at all. It's worth a look, though, if you're into indie music.

The Context tab displays album art for the current song on the play list, as well as vital statistics about your playing habits. Lyrics are pulled off the 'net for the song, and artist information is loaded from Wikipedia. Of course, these sources can be customized. See a mistake in the lyrics? Fix it right there!

Amarok's other features include dynamic play lists, Shoutcast streams and integration.

Amarok supports many personal media players. The most notable absence is the Zune. While this may not surprise you, it's interesting to note that the libmtp library which supports modern devices like the Zune allows for tracks to be viewed in Amarok. You can see your music. You just can't listen to it, due to an authentication issue between the Zune and libmtp.

Apple, iRiver, Creative and many other devices are supported for data transfer. That's great, right? Sometimes it's not quite that straightforward. Amarok can communicate with these players, but libraries peculiar to each device might need to be installed. For instance, installing a Creative Zen Touch involved installing several underlying libraries.

Fear not, the most commonly used libraries are often supplied through your distribution's repositories. Amarok, if not installed by default in your Linux of choice, is available in various binary formats. It's also available (of course!) as a source tarball and from Subversion, for those that like to be on the cutting edge.

Making the switch from Windows to Linux can be traumatic. Soothe that trauma with your tunes, courtesy of Amarok.

Tags: alternative, amarok, iTunes, linux, linux-switch, media, mp3, music, opensource