Kubuntu 10.04: One Month In, Impressions

Dolphin Works For Me, Amarok Does Not

These two apps seem to generate the most web searches for me, and in doing so, I discover I am not alone with things not being quite 100%.  First off, Dolphin is a very nice file manager.  Throughout my research I have encountered this discussion that Dolphin is for “normal,” computer users and power users still use Konqueror.  I never understood this devotion to Konqueror, seeing it as just as clunky at the Windows Explorer/Internet Explorer hybrid that Microsoft produced, bastardized, and then ditched.  I much prefer the traditional Unix design philosophy of, “one purpose, one app.”  To me, browsing the Internet and browsing file systems are very different, even if the file systems are network-attached.  Thus, even though I consider myself a power user, I find myself taking advantage of Dolphin and not Konqueror (I use Firefox to browse the web).

Dolphin is highly customizable, which is why I like it.  I don’t like clutter, but I like information, and though I am not a fan of the default layout of Dolphin, I have been able to customize it to a very Mac Finder-esque Places, Columns, Information layout.  I just wish I could get rid of the status bar, but that does not seem to be possible at the moment.  I do like the CTRL-M command to hide the menu bar, something that I like to do to save screen space.

Now if only Amarok worked half as well.  On Windows, I like Foobar for my media player, the epitome of customization.  On Mac, I am forced to use iTunes, and though I don’t dislike it, I also prefer lighter-weight applications when doing something as arguably simple as playing and organizing my music.  For me a media player should play my music, organize my music, and provide device syncing.  I don’t need Scrobbling (what is that?), I don’t need built-in web browsers, and until someone provides me with built-in access to Amazon’s music store, I don’t need a built-in store at all.  Yet, this is where all Linux media player apps seem to be going. Though I do like Banshee on GNOME, even it has its flaws, with slow performance on almost any task and the hesitancy about using Mono.

I am going to say it, Amarok is just ugly.  That’s my first complaint.  Desktops and plasmoids can be made so beautiful with KDE 4, what the heck happened with Amarok.  Also, customizing its interface is painfully limited.  Like Dolphin, I cannot get rid of the status bar (are these some sort of requirement in the design guidelines that I am missing?), but unlike Dolphin, I cannot really customize much of anything.  The playlist view, for all its simplicity, is just not elegant.  Others have noticed and commented on this as well, including asking why the cells in the matrix view don’t align in a more visually appealing way about which I am also curious.

I also have a big problem with a media player that asks for my library, but then doesn’t let me easily access it.  There is no simple, “Play through my library,” function in Amarok.  Also, I like the spreadsheet and filter approach to music management because I like information but not clutter, but Amarok seems to try its hardest to prevent users from using this paradigm.  Instead, you get Wikipedia and Lyrics-fetching. Great! But how will the app know what to fetch if I can’t even find the song I want to listen to!  Again, this shows the dedication the KDE team has to the future, and obviously many new users appreciate these features, but it seems to be at the sacrifice of simpler times.

This of course leaves me without a media player.  When I install a desktop environment, I try to stick to its default widget toolkit. Call me a purist, I am ok with that.  Eases resource use, my mantra.  Sadly, this means I cannot use Banshee, or even Rhythmbox.  Exaile is GTK as well.  I would try Songbird, but I am saddened by their discontinued official advancement of the Linux line.  At the moment, I am rocking out to Qmmp, and though it lets me listen to my music collection in the form of a entire-library playlist, I cannot sync it with my device.


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