Archive for February, 2009

Amarok 2.x – HUGE Dissapointment

Sunday, February 15th, 2009

I was actually really psyched when I noticed the new Amarok when I upgraded my Ubuntu workstation to 9.04/Jaunty. I was expecting the same, great, feature-laden audio/media player I’ve been using for the last several years with a slick new GUI and tons more new features to mess around with. Unfortunately it seems it’s got all the same problems Amarok 1.x had, but most of the great features of Amarok 1.x that were good enough to make one overlook its flaws have been removed.

Here’s my first list of things that made this upgrade a huge downgrade for me:

1. It’s still slow and bloaty feeling with a large (>1TB) collection of audio and covers. I.e. still locking up and interrupting the current audio playing while doing CPU intensive tasks, like using “cover manager” to manage/view album covers. To their credit, so far, it seems that the collection tab searches are less prone to lock the system up. In fact, adding/removing/editing audio seems a little smoother. But then again, I haven’t been doing a lot of reorganizing since I started playing with the new Amarok, so the verdict’s still out. Update 03/03/2009 – The verdict’s in. It’s still crashing and interrupting when calculating new music (say 100-200MB of new music added to the overall collection). In fact, it seems much worse as it wasn’t even allowing me to play music while this was going on.

2. The 50 random tracks (from the entire collection) is gone. This is unforgivable! (And how hard could it have been to bring this over from 1.x? Silly.) In fact, the new Playlist menu is just plain confusing. It did actually seem to have a random tracks type functionality, but it only loaded like 8 tracks. And, figuring out what “repopulate” and “on” mean under “dynamic playlists” seems weird since you have to toggle between them. Not very intuitive at all.

3. I lost my previously customized (Amarok 1.x) playlists. Okay, so that’s deprecated. It still sucks. And those regexp-friendly playlists were one of my favorite features of Amarok — and something that distinguished Amarok from other media players. Yet, the Amarok site mentions wanting the new 2.x version to distinguish itself in a field full of competing products. Way to go!

4. The “statistics” tool that gives you overall collection stats is gone. Duh!

5. The new GUI isn’t that great. I added a few of the newer widgets to the center screen and they laid out oddly and overall the feeling is kinda’ squishy and not clean. I think the simple layout of 1.x Amarok with the ability to toggle “Context” on the left with more details was a very sleek and efficient look. I also prefered having the track list be central, not shoved over to the right frame –thereby not allowing you to have lots of fields in view (bitrate, year, date, title, artist, length, filesize, etc. etc.). Also, the widgets available by default, like the “lyrics applet” and “albums” fall squarely in the “who cares?” category. Were people really dying to have these weak applets added to the old Amarok?

So this upgrade is a huge disappointment for someone like me who has been a big fan of Amarok for 3-4 years. FWIW, their site mentions that since this is a complete re-write and since they’re using the new KDE4, they are forced to work around the limitations of the new systems and how they interact. They also indicated that many of the lost features will reappear with each new version of Amarok 2.x. I’m hoping for a speedy recovery since the new one is making me re-think my previous love of Amarok.

Update 03/03/2009 – It got so bad on the new Ubuntu that I couldn’t even play music anymore. Amarok kept crashing and restarting it (or X) wasn’t helping. I could load music, but not play it. The crash reports it was giving contained no useful information whatever.

Note: I have since used this version to better effect on Fedora 10 & 11. Maybe Ubuntu’s Gnome-centric nature¬† is part of the problem. Perhaps the newer KDE stuff just isn’t that well integrated. (Yes, I’ve heard of and tried Kubuntu. It was 3-4 years ago and I was not impressed,¬† and am not in the mood to try it again.) That being said, the new Amarok still seems feature-depleted in comparison to its 1.x predecessor. In fact, on my main workstation at home I’ve gone back to Ubuntu 8.10 and am feeling so much happier with the old Amarok.

10 Things Guitarists Need

Wednesday, February 4th, 2009
  1. Less instructional books & DVDs (and other visually oriented instructional materials), more learning from auditory stimulus
  2. Less learning by watching
  3. Less patterns
  4. More listening, as differentiated from transcribing, kinda’ like critical listening, or just plain listening — perhaps with questions like “is this really good?”. Also, broader listening habits are a good thing.
  5. More listening to other players (and that doesn’t just mean “guitar players”)
  6. More practicing music, less practicing non-musical technique garbage
  7. More skills as an accompanyist (which includes but is not limited to more chords, more harmony knowledge, using more space, etc. etc.) In some part of guitar’s history it was considered a rhythm (section) instrument, not as much a solo instrument.
  8. Less gear, more time learning how to use the gear they have
  9. More time playing with others
  10. Less time on the Internet pontificating like I am right now.

Of course, I’m talking about myself with all of these. I’m sure no other guitar players match my description.