14.2. Multimedia Players

14.2.1. amaroK

The amaroK media player handles various audio formats and plays the streaming audio broadcasts of radio stations on the Internet. The file types supported depend on the engine used, currently xine or Helix.

On first start, amaroK launches a First-Run Wizard, which helps set up amaroK. In the first step, configure your preferred look and feel for amaroK. Choose to display player and playlist in separate windows (see Figure 14.4, “The amaroK Media Player” (↑Applications)) or combine their functionality in one single window (default). In the second step, determine where amaroK should look for your music collection. amaroK scans these folders for playable media. By default, amaroK is configured to scan the selected folders recursively (to include all their subdirectories in the scan), monitor changes to the content of the selected directories, and import any playlists located there. All the settings made with the wizard can be modified later by starting the wizard again with Tools+First-Run Wizard.

Figure 14.4. The amaroK Media Player

The amaroK Media Player

14.2.1.1. Quick Start

On start-up, amaroK scans the folders that are part of your collection for music files. Although you can use amaroK without building a collection, it is recommended to do so, because most of the powerful, advanced features are only available with an existing collection.

The amaroK main window is divided into two parts. The sidebar browsers on the left contain different views of your music collection and your playlists, a file browser, and an interface to an iPod. Change the browser by clicking a tab on the far left. The right part contains the playlist window and, below it, the player (if you have not configured it to be shown in a separate window).

To play music, first create a playlist. Just drag and drop items from any of the sidebar browsers to the playlist window. Use Shift or Ctrl to select multiple items. Double-click an item in the playlist to play it. You can add or delete items from the list during playback. Use the icons in the bottom right corner to Undo and Redo changes or to Clear the entire list.

14.2.1.2. The Sidebar Browsers

Context

With this tab, view information and statistics about your collection and the current artist. Switch to different views using the tabs on top of the Context browser. The Home view provides statistics on your listening habits, listing your favorite, newest, and least-played tracks or albums. Current provides data related to the track currently being played, such as the album cover (see Section 14.2.1.3, “The Cover Manager” (↑Applications)), the listening statistics related to this track, and much more. If available, Lyrics displays the lyrics of the track currently played. You need to be connected to the Internet to use this feature. Artist shows information about the artist. This information is fetched from Wikipedia, so an Internet connection is needed as well.

Collection

Use this view to manage and display your personal collection of titles. The toolbar on top of the browser allows you to configure the way your collection is displayed and to rescan or reorganize the collection. Define the order your titles are displayed in the browser with Group By. You can choose between predefined criteria or create your own sort criteria using Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary. The next two icons let you toggle between tree and flat view. Use the update icon to rescan your entire collection for changes and add or delete folders to scan by clicking the wrench icon.

If you are searching for a particular album, title, genre, or year, use Filter here. The selection in the browser is adjusted as you type. You can only search in criteria used to group the collection. If you have grouped your collection by Artist / Album, it is not possible to search for titles belonging to a certain genre.

Playlists

You can access different playlists with the playlist browser. Playlists holds your personal playlists found in your collection folders. Every time you create and save a new playlist from the playlist window, it appears here. Right-click to open a menu where you can manually add a new playlist or a subfolder. To add new items from the playlist window to an existing playlist, just drag and drop them on the playlist in the browser window.

[Important]Sharing Playlists with Other Players

Save playlists in m3u or pls format, so you can share them with any other players using these formats.

Smart Playlists offer various views of your collection, such as tracks never played, newest tracks, or tracks by genre. Right-click to add subfolders or to create your own smart playlists.

Radio Streams lets you listen to live radio streams from the Internet. An extensive list is already shipped with amaroK. Right-click to add more or create subfolders.

Podcasts imports podcasts to amaroK. Right-clicking opens a menu where you can add podcasts and subfolders, refresh all podcasts, or set the scan interval.

At the bottom of the playlist browser window, you can Enable dynamic mode and configure it with Show Options. Dynamic mode is a feature that allows you the flexibility of picking music from your entire collection while keeping a relatively small playlist that is easy to maintain. Refer to the online documentation (open it with F1) for details.

Media Device

If you own an iPod, you can use this browser to play music from it or to add music from your collection to the iPod. It must be mounted at /mnt/ipod before starting amaroK. To listen to tracks from the iPod, drag and drop them from the list view to the playlist window. To add tracks from the collection to the iPod, drag tracks from the playlist window to the list view.

File Browser

This tab opens a file browser. It corresponds to the standard KDE file selector dialog with the usual controls for navigating the file system. Enter a URL or a path directly into the text input field. From the contents displayed, drag elements to the playlist to include them. You can also perform a recursive search for a file in a given directory. To do so, enter a text string for the title and the location at which to start the search. Then select Search and wait for the results to appear in the lower section of the window.

14.2.1.3. The Cover Manager

With amaroK, you can assign a cover to each album of your collection. With the Cover Manager, easily add, delete, and retrieve album covers.

Start the cover manager with Tools+Cover Manager. A tree view in the left part of the window lists all artists in your collection. The main part of the window lists the covers of all albums. To filter the covers displayed, click an individual artist in the tree view or enter a term in the input field at the top of the window. Use View to toggle between displaying all albums, albums with covers, or albums without covers.

There are three different methods for assigning covers to the albums:

Automatically Assign Covers

amaroK can automatically fetch all missing covers displayed in the main windows from Amazon. Use Amazon Locale to determine from which Amazon Web server the covers should be fetched then click Fetch Missing Covers.

[Important]Proper Tagging Needed

amaroK fetches the covers from Amazon using the query string Artist - Album. This information is extracted from the tags of your music files. The better they are tagged, the better the hit rate is when automatically fetching covers.

Manually Choose a Cover Fetched from Amazon

If you want more control over what image to use and what query string to use to retrieve a cover, right-click an album in the main window and choose Fetch from amazon. Next Cover lets you cycle through all images available. Save selects the actual cover and assigns it to the album selected. If you are not satisfied with the covers displayed, use New Search to refine the search. Use Amazon Locale from the toolbar of the main window to determine from which Amazon Web server the covers should be fetched.

Manually Assign Covers

If you already have your own cover images, you can assign them by right-clicking an album and choosing Set Custom Image.

14.2.1.4. Visualizations

amaroK comes with a number of visualizations that display a graphical effect for the music played. Native amaroK visualizations are displayed in the player window. Cycle through the various available display modes by clicking the animation.

In addition to the above, amaroK also supports the visualization plug-ins of the XMMS media player. To use these, first install the xmms-plugins package then select Tools+Visualizations from the amaroK menu. This opens a window listing the available plug-ins. XMMS plug-ins are always displayed in separate windows. In some cases, there is an option to display them in full-screen mode. For some plug-ins, you may not get a smooth visual effect unless you use a 3D-accelerated graphics card.

14.2.1.5. The amaroK Tray Icon

Like other KDE applications, amaroK adds an icon to the KDE system tray. You can use this icon to control a large number of amaroK's features. Hovering the mouse over the icon displays information about the track currently played. A single left-click closes the application window without affecting playback. Click again to reopen the window. Clicking with the middle mouse button pauses playback—middle-click again to resume playback. Right-clicking opens a context menu where you have access to the player controls and can exit amaroK. Scrolling the mouse wheel changes the playback volume.

Using the Shift and Ctrl keys together with the mouse gives you access to more advanced features. Holding Shift while scrolling the mouse wheel seeks through the current track. Holding Ctrl while scrolling the mouse wheel skips through tracks in the playlist.

You may also drag and drop items on the tray icon to add them to the current playlist. A pop-up menu opens, asking whether to append the track to the playlist, append and play it, or queue it after the current track.

14.2.2. Banshee

Banshee is a GNOME music management and playback application that lets you import CDs, sync your music collection to an iPod, play music directly from an iPod, create playlists with songs from your library, and create audio and MP3 CDs from subsets of your library. To access Banshee, select Applications+Multimedia+Audio Player+Banshee Music Player.

The first time you open Banshee, it prompts you to import music. Click Automatic Import to search for music in your home directory and add it to the library. Click Import Folder to tell Banshee where to look for music. After successfully importing your music, your library is displayed.

Figure 14.5. Banshee Library

Banshee Library

14.2.2.1. Managing Your Library

You can use the library to do a variety of things, including playing, organizing, and importing music. You can also view a variety of information about your music collection, including playback statistics (when a song was last played and how many times).

14.2.2.1.1. Playing Your Music

To play a song, simply select the song in the library and click the play button. During playback, an icon appears in your panel. Right-click the icon to get a list of available options. You can pause the current song, repeat the song, play the previous or next song in the list, shuffle the playlist, or exit Banshee. You can also use the buttons on the upper left corner to pause a song or play the next or previous song.

Banshee also has an integrated CD player. When you insert a music CD, your CD title appears in the left pane. Select the title and click the Play button to play your full CD.

14.2.2.1.2. Organizing Your Music

To create a new playlist, click Music+New Playlist (or press Ctrl-N). A new playlist is displayed in the left panel. Double-click New Playlist and enter the name you want. You can drag and drop songs from one playlist to another or use the options on the Edit menu to remove or delete songs and rename or delete the playlist.

To view the properties of a song, select a song in the library and click Edit+Properties. This shows the duration of a song, the number of times it has been played, when it was last played, and when it was imported.

Figure 14.6. Track Properties Editor

Track Properties Editor

You can edit the artist, album, title, track number, and track count. If you want to set all fields in a set to the same value, select multiple songs in a playlist then click Edit+Properties.

Figure 14.7. Multitrack Editor

Multitrack Editor
14.2.2.1.3. Importing Music

Banshee can import music from a file, folder, or CD. Click Music+Import Folder, Import Files, or Import CD then specify the files, folder, or CD to import. To copy music from a CD to your music collection, click the Rip button near the top right.

14.2.2.2. Using Banshee with Your iPod

To play music from your iPod, simply plug your iPod into your system. Your iPod appears in the left pane. Select the song to hear then click the Play button.

Figure 14.8. iPod List in Banshee

iPod List in Banshee

When the iPod is selected in the left pane, information about your iPod is displayed at the bottom left, including disk usage and Sync, Properties, and Eject buttons.

Figure 14.9. iPod Buttons in Banshee

iPod Buttons in Banshee

There are three ways to manage the music on your iPod:

Manually

Browse your iPod and drag music between your library and the iPod.

Automatically Sync

Automatically copies everything in your library to the iPod.

Automatically Merge

All the music on your iPod that is not in your library is downloaded to your library and all the music that is in your library and not in your iPod is uploaded to your iPod.

Use the iPod Properties dialog to rename your iPod and view vital statistics.

Figure 14.10. Banshee iPod Properties

Banshee iPod Properties

14.2.2.3. Creating Audio and MP3 CDs

To create audio and MP3 CDs, select the songs you want then click the Write CD button in the upper right side of Banshee.

14.2.2.4. Configuring Preferences

You can configure Banshee preferences by clicking Edit+Preferences. The Preferences dialog contains the following tabs:

Library

Specify a music folder location. This location is used when you import music.

Encoding

Determine encoding profiles for CD ripping and iPod transcoding.

Burning

Specify CD burning options. You can choose a disk drive, write speed, and disk format (Audio CD, MP3 CD, or Data CD). You can also configure advanced options, such as ejecting the CD when finished.

Advanced

Choose the Helix/RealPlayer engine or the GStreamer engine for audio playback in Banshee.

14.2.3. XMMS

XMMS is another full-featured media player with robust audio support, so that pops or breaks during playback should be very rare. The application is easy to use. The button for displaying the menu is located in the upper left corner of the program window. For those preferring a GNOME-like look and feel, there is a GTK2 version of XMMS available, the Beep Media Player. Just install the package bmp. However, not all XMMS plug-ins are supported by this port of XMMS. XMMS applets for KDE or GNOME are also available.

Figure 14.11. XMMS with Equalizer, OpenGL Spectrum Analyzer, and Infinity Plug-Ins

XMMS with Equalizer, OpenGL Spectrum Analyzer, and Infinity Plug-Ins

Select the output plug-in module with Options+Preferences+Audio I/O Plugins. If the xmms-kde package is installed, the aRts sound server can be configured here.

[Important]Using the Disk Writer Plug-In

XMMS automatically redirects its output to the Disk Writer Plugin if it is not able to find a configured sound card. In this case, the played files are written to the hard disk as WAV files. The time display then runs faster than when playing the output through a sound card.

Start various visualization plug-ins with Options+Preferences+Visualization Plugins. If you have a graphics card with 3D acceleration, select an application such as the OpenGL spectrum analyzer. If the xmms-plugins package is installed, try the Infinity plug-in.

To the left under the menu button, there are five buttons with different letters on them. These buttons allow quick access to additional menus, dialogs, and configurations. Open the playlist with PL and the equalizer with EQ.