Bad, vile and meaningless: AmaroK from Alan's clob


AmaroK is a flashy addition to the KDE/Gnome music player arena. I remember I hadn't even heard of the project until a month ago or so. Its developers are clearly out for making the flashiest, coolest -- and undoubtedly the most clobbered player in the history of the Universe. A screenshot of its main window probably helps to get an idea.

The developers have clearly invested some love in the visual look. You can see that there's a subtle shade effect under the titles on the left-hand side panel. There's a spectrum analyzer at bottom to convert some of the noise into visual format. (For such an annoying gadget, it's remarkably invisible and thus does not need to be immediately disabled.)

The image covers are automatically fetched from the Internet. It seems to abuse Amazon's searching capabilities, probably scavenging the HTML result. Of course, the automatics don't always find the right image and the results for rarer albums are quite hilarious. For instance, "Brain Powerd" got covers from some audiobook that was about "enhancing your children's brains". This despite the fact that "Brain Powerd" would be extremely selective sort of term, if any covers can be found. You need to do better than this. Only accept exact matches, for instance.

There's an "On screen display" thing that opens a window and interrupts whatever you were doing when the song changes. I realize it tries to be inconspicious but it fails. It's too prominent and it's in the wrong place. I wonder isn't there any other nice way to post messages to screen, somewhere in the taskbar for instance. That'd be better than this huge box at the top-left corner. This feature just had to go, it is way too inconvenient for everyday use.

Here's some random annoyances with this app:

This application is easily the fastest of all the players I've used, when it comes to importing music libraries and converting them into long playlists. It takes only something like 2-3 minutes for 9000 tracks. Additionally, it can show me a percentage dialog about progress. Clearly we are dealing with a program written for realistic-sized collections. This totally avoids the toyish fragility of rhythmbox or the slowish startup times of juk.

There's some disturbing noise at the start of the application about it using SQLite instead of MySQL. I don't think many end users care about that sort of thing, and in fact I suppose many will get confused about such a question. Clearly this application is already very fast with its embedded database engine.

I don't yet understand how you are supposed to use this application. I mean, suppose I want to suddenly start playing, oh I don't know, Yello's "Oh Yeah". The steps are like this:

This is weird. I am half-sure there has to be some simpler way to navigate in the menu structure. Maybe I should just import everything into playlist and navigate it much like I would in JuK.

Somehow I don't like this bit of the player. It's definitely too hard to get to the song I want. After the song is playing, the Context part handles the related stuff nicely, I think. However, since I have never used playlists (and even today fail to see the utility), I would suggest getting rid of the leftmost row of icons alltogether and just keeping all files in the list. That way this application would be JuK++, now it's its own kind of beast and generally a bit confusing at that.

In the "features that get you laid" department:

Audio Scrobbler Window

It's nice to see this sort of features to make it into the apps. You could well end up attracting significant bits of Scrobbler community to your audio player. Nobody loses, and it even seems to fit in the general theme of coolness. "I'm cool because I listen to this kind of music." Like I said, features that get one laid.

There's a small extra window that pops up if you happen to play Amarok from Mike Oldfield. It says that it's one of the best track from Oldfield. Hmm, maybe so. At least it's enlightened and bright. I like it, too, although I personally believe Tres Lunas is the Mike Oldfield jackpot album. Personal differences aside, it's good to have some publicity for mr. Oldfield's remarkable music.

I recommend at least trying this player out. It's sure to impress your idiot friends. But me, I'm sticking back to JuK. Despite all its faults, it is a simple player whose usage is totally obvious. I will miss the context stuff, though.