Amarok Weekly Newsletter - Issue 6

Can't stop the Rok (05.02.2007)

Issue 6:

Amarok 1.4.5

After months of hard work the developers are releasing the next version of our beloved music player. The official announcement is available on the Amarok website. Those who followed development of Amarok know what to expect from this release:

(*) Shoutcast browser allows easy shoutcast browsing and playback. Combined with Cool Streams, Last.fm Radio and Magnatune Online Store, there is a lot of streamed music to choose from.



(*) The next big feature is support for track labeling. Labels can be assigned manually, or synchronized with Last.fm. This is another addition to the growing set of user-definable properties which can be assigned to tracks.



(*) Many Magnatune fixes have been applied. All security concerns regarding transaction with online store have been addressed, as Nikolaj Hald Nielsen explained:

As a side note, as far as I can tell, the upcoming 1.4.5 release
resolves the major concerns the Open Suse people had about the
integrated Magnatune store, so hopefully this version will be included
fully functional in a future Open Suse release

The issue was mainly that we had not clearly enough communicated or
stated on the purchase dialog whether the connection used to send the
credit card information was properly encrypted (which it is) and
whether we, the Amarok developers, have access to any of the
information sent to Magnatune (which we do not).

More information on this topic is available in the first issue of AWN.

From now on, Amarok also features a re-download manager, which makes downloading previously purchased music easy.

(*) Enhanced equalizer shines in new Amarok. Xine engine users noticed reduced sound volume, and possible quality loss, while using equalizer in Amarok. Those issues has been addressed, so equalizer is now nothing but pleasure to use!

(*) Lyrics are now searchable (AWN #1), on-screen display shows sound volume (AWN #2), progress bar displays both track times, and newly added playlist items are coloured (AWN #3)


(*) Context browser shows album covers. Great news for eye candy lovers! Final appearance differs a bit from one seen in AWN #4, but not much.


(*) Update button, aka "fast rescan" makes its debut in new Amarok. It makes manually adding new tracks to collection real fun. See 4th issue of AWN for more information about this handy addition.


This is by no means official set of features in new Amarok. Many other improvements are hanging around. Pick up your favorite and go spread the word on Digg. No, really. We mean it!

Plans for 1.4 series

1.4.5 is the last feature release of Amarok. So, are maintenance bugfix releases without new features all we can expect from "Fast Forward" series? Well, partially. No new features are being allowed in 1.4 branch, however some existing but unavailable ones are still waiting their debut. Coloured rating stars, for example. Readers of AWN #3 and AWN #4 might remember them:

Due to short development time and lack of consistency with other parts of application, it has been removed from the final version of Amarok 1.4.5. Some developers were unhappy with this decision, and declared their will to fix remaining bugs.


Despite hard work of Amarok team, icon theme has not yet been completed. It will probably be finalized in some later 1.4 release.


√Čric Alber informed developers about his VLC engine:

I've written an engine for Amarok in order to use the VLC media playback
library (http://www.videolan.org) as backend for your excellent audio player.
There are still several bugs with the equalizer and the scope, but music
playback works well :)
VLC can be configured with the following file :
~/.kde/share/apps/amarok/vlc-config.xml

I've written this plugin because I wanted to use Amarok to play music on my
loudspeakers connected to my freebox (a set-top-box provided by the french
ISP free.fr). The freebox accepts mpeg audio streamed over http with VLC, so
I just had to connect all this stuff together with an engine for amarok.
I think this cas be adapted to other set-top-boxes.
It works with VLC v.0.8.6. If you are using another version of vlc, change
the MODULE_SYMBOL define in VlcDefines.h. For instance, with Ubuntu edgy,
change it from 0_8_6 to 0_8_5 as edgy uses an svn version of VLC which is
still internally tagged as a 0.8.5 .

It is still unknown if his code will be available via Sourceforge, or merged with 1.4 branch.

So, as you see 1.4 isn't exactly closed yet. With all interesting scripts and themes, it'll give you a lot to play with until the next major version arrives. And that would be...

Amarok 2.0

Yes! Development of the long awaited, (over)hyped, Qt4-based version of Amarok has officially started!
Seb Ruiz writes:

Now is the time we are beginning to work on Amarok 2.0. Big times
ahead. It's exciting, but in order to have a successful 2.x series, it
is important to do some planning in advance and know how we will
tackle some problems. We mentioned most, if not all of these at our
May meeting in Holland last year. An audio transcript of the
discussion can still be found at:
http://www.sebruiz.net/files/amarok.k3m.discussion.ogg

Let me list a couple which need to be decided upon:

* Engines to be external processes due to licensing?

* Database restructuring? We obviously need a more OO designed
interface, but do we want to use Kexi?

* Engine Controller redesign. We are using the Observer pattern which
is useful, does this need an overhaul?

* MVC designed browsers/components?

* More complete plugin API (not just scripting). Think Firefox extensions.

* Interface redesign. We had a couple of suggestions already, but are
we ready to take such a huge leap? Conversely, Amarok has always been
at the front of the pack because we do take risks.

* Native ports to Windows / OS X. More than likely will occur, but
let's keep this on the backseat until we have a function application.

This list isn't exhaustive, and by no means are all of these points
going to be achieved or even attempted. I have posted them for
discussion reasons, it would be useful to have some discussion on the
mailing list which is more permanently archived than IRC meetings.

Interface redesign followers might be interested in Max Howell's mockup of Amarok 2 interface, which he posted on the mailing list last year:

I was struck by some inspiration of late, so I made a mockup, which is
somewhat a culmination of mine, and other people's ideas at k3m and things.

May I suggest, view the mockup fullscreen so my colour scheme doesn't
clash with yours. Kuickshow can do this if you push Enter.

http://methylblue.com/images/amarok_2_mockup.png

In a way I regret the web-2.0-esque toolbar as it detracts from the main
point, which is the narrow playlist design so that the context browser
can become central and key.

Personally, I like the web-2.0-esque toolbar as it looks cool and
differentiates, but tellingly, my gf hated it, so maybe I did it wrong
or am just delusional.

The playlist contains some single tracks, and also a whole album that is
"wrapped up". I envisage that you can somehow extract the tracks from it
if you want to rearrange the order. You would get albums into the
playlist by dragging and dropping the whole album. My thinking was that
streams would also be "wrapped up", and last.fm streams would be
displayed slightly differently too. We needn't have a philosophy that
everything is a 'track' with Amarok 2.

The context browser is straight from the last.fm player, don't read too
much into the layout, I haven't mocked that up, all that matters is the
context browser is now always visible and not a browser.

Anyway, it'd be good to get feedback, and it would be even better if the
feedback contained reasoning for your opinion etc. Thanks,

No comments on my music taste please ;)




Cool tips: running Amarok in fullscreen

People wondered if there is a way to run Amarok in fullscreen like in Apple Front Row. Well, from now on it's easy, just take a look here: http://www.kde-apps.org/content/show.php?content=52641
It's a simple, nice looking GUI for Amarok, developed with fullscreen mode in mind. Nice feature for parties and public terminals.