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Amarok's folly

Submitted by Druss on Fri, 2015-01-30 22:13

The title sounds like the name of a fantasy novel ... but I'm of course talking (or, as you, stranger of the Internet, will find out, ranting) about the KDE audio player. Amarok is the default audio player for KDE which makes it the default audio player of Kubuntu, my Linux distro of choice. Now, some history before I begin spitting all over you. I usually use Windows as my primary desktop. This means that my audio player of choice is (and I'm not exaggerating here) the fantastic foobar2000. But, having built a new system, I've decided to use Kubuntu as my primary desktop and use rely on my laptop for my, now occasional, Windows needs.

My brain has, over the years, registered in the background that users tend to have a love/hate relationship with Amarok. The same brain also remembered that many peeps prefer to stick with what they love and install the Windows-only foobar2000 on Linux using Wine. This was what I first tried as well as I have a serious software-fetish-crush on foobar. While it installed fine, there were one too many wrinkles with the Linux experience. I could not, for example, get the taskbar icon to vanish upon minimise. There were also a few GUI niggles (like toolbar icons not refreshing correctly) that were deal-breakers for me. So, I looked for other options.

Amarok, being the default player and pre-installed, was, of course, what I turned to. It loaded up pretty quickly and I was greeted with a UI full of bells and whistles. First thing I removed was all the "context" nonsense which loaded up artist info etc., from Wikipedia. Adding a small folder with about 120 songs to the library was a cinch and I, after installing some non-free libraries, was up and running, listening to music.

First wrinkle on my forehead: There's a play button on the top-left. Where are the rest of the buttons? There's a big volume button on the top right which does what exactly? It mutes/unmutes. Oh wait! They've styled it so that it works like an iPod-esque knob. Except it's not very cool and involves too much work to set the volume.

Possible solution for first wrinkle: Choose the slim toolbar layout which brings back the standard play, stop, previous, and next buttongs, as well as a love button and a flag for doing something unnecessary for 99.73% of the userbase. OK, that's cool. The iPod volume button has been replaced with a 90s volume icon which when clicked provides a progress bar to set the volume. That still requires two clicks. Not ideal, but whatever. I could live with that.

Second wrinkle: Wait, don't the usual playback control buttons include a shuffle and repeat button? Looking around the interface led me to a set of buttons at the bottom of the playlist, one of which, upon clicking, informed me that this was where I could control shuffle and repeat. I could live with this too except that there was only one button to do this and it could only do one thing at a time: you could either shuffle your music or repeat it. If you want to shuffle a playlist and repeat it forever, you're simply shit outta luck. I facepalmed myself (not kidding) IRL when I realised what the designers had done. (Aside: Amarok does provide a "Repeat Album" feature, something that foobar2000 does not and I wish it did.)

Incidentally, the reasoning behind the positioning of the shuffle button below the playlist window is that it's apparently a playlist-specific function (according to ze uzabilitee peepal). Of course, the next and previous buttons don't warrant such special treatment :|

Third, fourth, and fifth wrinkles: Purely by chance, I had to check the output of htop and noticed that something was chewing up a lot of memory. That something was obviously Amarok. It was consuming around 2GB of my 8GB of memory and 15% CPU to play a fucking MP3 file. It consumed the 2GB even when idle. Foobar2000 (playing the same file from the same library of 120 songs) when running under Wine consumed only 40MB memory & 7% CPU in comparison. The Wine wrapper consumed 10MB. What the fuck is Amarok doing hogging all this shit? Strike three for Amarok. It was out of the reckoning.

Googling around informed me that lots of users have the same gripes about Amarok which apparently went over to the dark side after version 1.4. Many pointed to Clementine, a fork of Amarok 1.4, as an noteworthy alternative and I installed it. It worked like a dream and consumed even fewer resources than Foobar! However, just as I was about to wax eloquent about it, it sprang a memory leak and crashed my system while trying to play a FLAC album rip with a CUE file. So, I might need to tweak Clementine somewhat before deciding if it's the one.

Anyhow, stay the hell away from Amarok, at least for the time being. It's got a bloated UI with a number of usability niggles, and is a resource hog of a ridiculous level. Or to put in another way, until it has a memory footprint of under 200M, I won't be giving it the time of day.

(Incidentally, TIL that Amarok apparently refers to a gigantic wolf in Inuit mythology which is said to hunt down and devour anyone foolish enough to hunt alone at night. Kewl!)