back to article Ubuntu v iTunes: the music playoff for Applephobes

With Ubuntu 10.04, Canonical delivered a good-looking Linux distro that just works. Mark Shuttleworth's outfit has put together an impressive user interface to solve its famous bug number one - luring people away from Windows. But good looks and great hardware support are just the beginning. If Ubuntu really wants to help …


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  1. Trevor Dell

    mocp ftw

    moc player has been my favorite for quite some time. Text only, ncurses based, and very lightweight. Handles streams and playlists pretty slick as well.

  2. shearne

    What about clementine

    As Amarok is becoming less popular, it is definitely worth considering clementine player. It's a true Ronsil product and it will be in the ubuntu repositories for the next release. Also truly cross-platform!

  3. J 3


    "Rhythmbox can be slow on older hardware"

    Well, let me qualify that a little bit. On my 8 year or so old hardware (1.8 GHz single core, with 1 GB RAM) running Kubuntu 10.04, Rhythmbox runs very well. So if you have anything like that or better, fret not.

    Actually, I started using Rhythmbox because Amarok started being a resource hog sometime ago (I don't know whether they have fixed that later, but I haven't gone back to check). On that hardware, Amarok would take forever to start, and then stutter during playback anytime there was a little bit of harder work by the CPU. That very rarely, if ever, happens with Rhythmbox.

    1. Fatman

      I will do you even one better!!!

      On an old D^HHell GX150, 1.3 Ghz P3 with 512MB of memory, Rhythmbox runs fine. O/S is either Karmic (9.10) or Lucid (10.04). Getting those two to play nice with each other, and have shared (although not concurrent) access to the Music and Video files was a tad tricky.

      It took a bit of Gooooogling to determine that you should NOT completely share `/home` across different O/S instances. (Something to do with clobbering settings). Sharing Music (as `/home/Music`) and Video (`/home/Video`) made things work out sweet.

      I plan to try to pull this off at the office for a *nix based test platform. The question - how many O/S instances can you make work without virtualization?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      I've had no issues running Rythmbox on a 1.1GHz AMD Duron processor(very old) not until it exploded anyway so it really isn't a resource hog.

    3. Captain Thyratron

      Old hardware?

      You're calling it old and yet measuring its clock speed in GHz? Really, now...

  4. Snospar

    Linux does play MP3

    I was going to write "There are good reasons why Linux doesn't support MP3 out of the box" but luckily I spotted the error in that sentence. I'll try again:

    There are stupid, legal reasons why Linux doesn't support MP3 out of the box. The same reasons cause issues when people want to watch DVD's they own on Linux systems. This isn't a failing on the part of Linux distributions, which are following the letter of the law, this is a failure of the legal system that allows patents on software routines that want to decode the media you're interested in. All modern Linux distributions will advise you of these issues and offer assistance on how to resolve them with a couple of clicks.

    Update your article with a simple link to one of the many sites that fully explains these issues instead of glibly saying a non-MP3 playing PC isn't a PC at all. No one in my family uses MP3 and we get along just fine with our PC's whether they use Windows or Linux (we also use a variety of portable players too without problems).

    If you meant to write an article supporting Linux then do just that, support Linux!

    1. Mark 65


      Surely the point is that anyone coming from iTunes will have music in AAC not MP3 if iTunes ripped it or they downloaded it from the store and that the latter will be using fairplay or whatever it's called unless bought within the last year or so?

      Using iTunes most likely means using Apple music player.

  5. Sly

    audacious is the best winAmp clone so far

    and uses winamp v2.x skins as well. So if you're a win-AmpHead, audacious will be the easiest to use in linux.

  6. Jeff 11


    Gah, you missed the most important idea behind MPD - it's a sound server, so you can have it run remotely and control it from your desktop. At work we've patched in a sound output on one of our machines in the server room downstairs to a set of speakers in the office via CAT5, and can then upload podcasts to it via GMPC etc. If you want a communal sound system that anyone can "have the remote for" then it's brilliant.

  7. dirk_diggler

    Shame you chose Ubuntu

    and not Kubuntu. The default Gnome apps are pretty good but nowhere near their KDE counterparts in many ways. Again it's a shame that Ubuntu defaults to Gnome, I know Kubuntu is the KDE flavour but that's not really the point - people will use whatever the default Ubuntu environment is and Kubuntu gets 2nd class treatment for everything. Although it's still the best KDE based distro.

    Amarok is awesome, way ahead of Rhythmbox. Digikam is the best photo management software anywhere. Even supporting apps like Kget, Konsole, Dolphin etc. are way ahead of Transmission, Gnome-terminal and Nautilus.

    But again, because you're comparing the default DE of the default Linux distro then you get the apps that ship with the Gnome implementation - Great start with Rhythmbox as it's actually very good but I'm going to cringe once you start comparing F-Spot and Pitivi with iPhoto and iMovie.

    At least Ubuntu is the only social-by-default OS so if you compare that it's a nailed on win ;)

    1. Greg J Preece

      I cannot vote this post high enough.

      Kubuntu whoops the hell out of Ubuntu. It's better in almost every single way. But Shuttleworth and the rest of the Ubuntu bunch don't give a toss about KDE, so we're still missing some of the highly-touted new features from this release, the previous release, and the one before that!

      Wish they'd get off their arses and sort it out. Kubuntu might as well slide off and become a seperate distro. They'd never notice.

      1. The BigYin
        Thumb Down

        @Greg and others

        Don't start the (largely redundant) desktop wars. No one who matters cares. And who matters? New users. Why do they not care? The PC is a utilitarian device to them, just like their washing machine. They don't care what UI the washing machine has, nor do they care what UI their PC has; so long as it is a usable one.

        Only Linux geeks care and they operate under the totally misguided idea that everyone else should care too. This leads to schisms within the community, fragmentation, poor compatibility and confusion for new users. The up-shot? New users stay away as the bewildering amount out choice befuddles the hell out of them.

        The default UI for Ubuntu is Gnome. That is the one they concentrate on and that is the one they do best. This plan is working and is slowly attracting new users *without confusing them*.

        If you like KDE, then why not donate money or time to the Kubuntu project? Or switch to another distro that uses KDE as their default? You have that choice, or is that too confusing?

        1. Jim 59


          Right on. Users hate choice. I just chose a ham sandwhich and it was terrifying, let me tell you. How fortunate that Microsoft removes our choice of desktops for a small fee. And I know they would remove my choice of sandwhich too, if they could, which is a nice thought.

        2. Captain Thyratron

          Oh, terrible indeed.

          Having a lot of choices is perhaps bewildering to those who cannot think for themselves. I guess the supposedly superior alternatives are monoculture and a simple choice between crap and rubbish. If that's what most users want, then it explains a lot (but is hardly a virtue to be celebrated).

    2. Macka

      Kubuntu is niche

      Ubuntu is main stream, kubuntu is niche. Seems like an obvious and sensible choice to me. And it sounds to me like you've not looked at Gnome in some time. It used to be the case that KDE was streets ahead of Gnome years ago but that's not the case now. I switched and tried using KDE 4.3 for a whole month to give myself plenty of time to get to grips with it, but was glad to go back to Gnome at the end. It's just too buggy, I don't like the look and feel, and I hated using Amarok, kmail and Dolphin.

      You need to take your blinkers off. Amarok is bloody awful. It has the worst playlist implementation I've ever seen; the way controls and options are layed out is very unintuitive, and it's design wastes lots of screen real estate. Kmail (like most things KDE) doesn't bother to differentiate between ordinary functions people use every day and advanced functions, and just packs its menus full of crap that would fill an 'ordinary' PC user with confusion and fear. It doesn't integrate all that well with gmail (a must for me) and mail account setup is way too complicated for a non-techie to grasp. If you want to see an MUA done right, take a look at Thunderbird. Setup is a breeze. For example just give it a gmail/yahoo/hotmail email address and it knows what needs to be done.

      I like to use multi-column views for file management where it's available, and navigate around using the keypad more than the mouse. Implemented properly its a fast way to work. Dolphin is badly broken here and doesn't work the same as every other file manager I've ever used. It was just impossible for me to be productive with it. Nautilus just blows it out of the water.

      So in summary, you can keep your KDE. If it works for you then I'm happy for you, and maybe The Reg authors will do an article for you one day. In the mean time this series is for the rest of us, and I look forward to the next one.

      1. Greg J Preece

        See, I think the exact opposite

        While I appreciate that Kubuntu does not make up the numbers compared to Ubuntu (for obvious reasons), I actually moved to KDE from GNOME because GNOME was too god-damned buggy!

        Every time I opened a system dialog, bits of it were missing, or I had to do some bits there and drop to a command line for others. Some bits of it worked really well, other bits were broken.

        KDE gave me a much cleaner experience. For a start, it looks nicer - don't argue, it just does. (It doesn't help that the guys at Ubuntu are experts in choosing horrific colour schemes.) Load up GHNS, install Aurorae, have some fun. The desktop/taskbar widget system is excellent, and to my mind more configurable than the ones under GNOME, which used to really piss me off in a multi-monitor environment. The system dialogs are well thought out, and they work. And now that they've integrated kcm_touchpad in KDE 4.4, I've no complaints.

        Similarly, I prefer the KDE suite of apps. I don't understand your assertion that Nautilus is superior to Dolphin. I hit CTRL+T, I get a tab. I hit F4, I get a terminal that tracks the folder I'm looking at (nice touch, guys). Hell, the latest version has SVN integration, so if I'm in a project folder files are colour coded by version status, just like TortoiseSVN on Windows, and I've been begging for that for a long time. Again on SVN, KDESVN kicks ten bells out of RapidSVN every time - it's less buggy, easier to use, and auto-caches the server history to speed things up.

        I really like Rhythmbox, but I like Amarok too. (I will give you the 2.0 release - that was garbage.) Global hotkeys without messing around, configurable playlist, and I really like the OSD doodad. It's a player that I can load stuff into and then just flick through it with the keyboard while I'm working.

        And to answer (K)Ubuntu critics elsewhere in this thread, our company recently hired a few new people, so as an experiment I gave them all laptops with Kubuntu preinstalled. Sat down on day one and waited for the complaints....which didn't come. They had absolutely no problems finding the menu, getting the programs they needed and using the laptops. The fact that KDE looks quite a bit like Windows helped, I'm sure, but still, it was a good few days before one of them even noticed they were running a different system. Since then I've had the odd question raised, mainly to do with things being in a different place, but little more serious than that, and certainly no more trouble than I would get from a user on a Windows machine.

        Some of our customer support lot - unfortunate souls running Vista machines - even requested to be moved to Kubuntu, and aside from the odd problem with running GNOME apps in KDE, they love it!

        1. handle

          KDE is better cos you dislike Ubuntu's old colour scheme??

          "KDE gave me a much cleaner experience. For a start, it looks nicer - don't argue, it just does. (It doesn't help that the guys at Ubuntu are experts in choosing horrific colour schemes.)"

          I agree that we shouldn't be having desktop wars, but if we must then at least make sure we use facts, and substantive ones at that.

          1) Ubuntu's colour scheme is no longer orange. You are no better than a Windows user dismissing Linux on the grounds that "you will have to recompile your kernel to do that" by justifying your arguments with out of date information.

          2) We all know that it is trivial to change a colour scheme. The mere fact you have to mention it shows that you're grasping at straws.

          1. Greg J Preece


            Woah, calm down lad.

            First up, the "colour scheme" thing was but a substatement (if there is such a thing) of the overall "KDE looks nicer" point. No matter what colour scheme you apply, I still prefer KDE. What I said was that it doesn't *help* that Ubuntu choose horrible colour schemes.

            And as for your assertion that I'm out of date, I beg to differ. I've seen and used the colour scheme for GNOME in 10.04 - it's also horrible. I like dark themes and use them all the time in KDE - I mentioned GHNS above because I know changing colours is easy - but the default one in 'buntu 10.04 is just nasty.

            The default colour scheme for Kubuntu isn't the sexiest thing on Earth, but at least it isn't offensive to the eyes. ;-)

    3. Tom Chiverton 1 Silver badge

      You can not be serious

      You're not going to cover one on the most popular Linux media players, Amarok, because of some sort of weird thinking that "KDE apps have a huge overhead before they'll run in GNOME".

      I have no idea what you are one about.

      'sudo apt-get install amarok', wait a few minutes, done.

      There's a small amount of storage overheard for the minor parts of KDE Amarok relies on, but it's always been a trueism that KDE and GNOME apps will happily run in each other's window managers.

      What an odd position to take...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Thumb Up

        Agreed, Tom Chiverton 1

        You can get the best of both worlds by installing KDE apps on Gnome. The initial install requires about 100 MB of KDE framework, as I recall, but after that, apps install fast.

        I've always been a patient Amarok fan, but reading this article and thread makes me want to experiment...

      2. Adam Williamson 1

        KDE overhead

        Try running any KDE app (inc. AmaroK) in a console in GNOME and see just how many KDE components are started up, just so you can run that one app. All of those take up memory.

    4. handle

      If Amarok is better than Rhythmbox, why can't it play CDs?

      CDs are "the past", apparently - that was the developers' excuse. I was astonished when I did a distribution upgrade and I could no longer play CDs with Amarok. Just because hard disk and memory card space is cheap doesn't mean CDs are redundant - there are many reasons why you might want to play them, and the majority of computers have a drive which takes them, so why won't the music player play them?

    5. handle

      May I pick your brain?

      You seem to be an advocate of KDE applications. I use K3B to burn CDs, but have come across a major fault with it: although I have two drives it won't burn more than one disc simultaneously. It will automatically select the drive with the blank disc in it, but it won't allow you to burn two discs, nor will it allow another instance of itself to run to get round the problem. This omission is compounded by the fact that it won't make ISO images of audio CDs, so you can't even burn from the command line to make two discs at once.

      Do you know of a CD burner with the power of K3B that doesn't have this limitation?

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Shame really

    All of the imitation (well poor and diluted for sure) but none of the originality or inspiration?

    However, I suppose it is (slowly) making progress.



      If they weren't imitating then there would be some other "usability" related excuse to slam them.

      The other fellow's complaint about playlist handling in Amarok is a good example of this.

    2. The Original Ash
      Thumb Up

      Re: Shame really

      Imitation is the highest form of flattery.

      Unless it's imitation of an Apple product, in which case it's "All of the functionality, none of the lock-in."

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton


    Just got to get the punters to switch Os. No easy feat, just ask Steve Jobs

  10. da_fish27

    Nice article, but

    "Unfortunately, MPD and its accompanying control apps can be a bit awkward when it comes to managing a huge library of music."

    Huh? My collection isn't exactly small (~15GB of CD's converted to aac/ogg/mp3), and MPD is by far the best and fastest solution I found, using the ncmpcpp mpd client, which by the way should really be in the list, it's one of the best command-line solutions around.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Not exactly small?

      Erm, sorry but 15GB of music is tiny by comparison to some collections!? I have a friend with 2TB of compressed audio (he has a BIG CD collection) not to mention his WAV copy...

      1. handle

        waste of space

        If your friend had any sense then he'd compress his WAV with FLAC.

      2. Macka

        Don't believe you

        Lets assume 4MB per track and 20 tracks per CD -- 2TB would be 25.000 CDs worth of music. Either you're lying, or your friend has one biggest collections of illegal music I've ever heard of.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      That's pretty small

      Most people I know have well over 50gb

  11. AlanR

    iTunes streams internet radio

    Just sayin.

    1. Peter 44

      iTunes streams internet radio - so does Rhythmbox

      Listening to Radio 4 via Rhythmbox now (yeah I know - Radio 4?)

  12. Barry Rueger


    If the goal is to find a player that an AVERAGE user could use to replace iTunes, it seems silly to suggest anything command-line. Likewise, if you're talking about an AVERAGE user, then codecs have to be installed right off the top. Lecturing them about the evils of MP3 serves no purpose.

    1. Mostor Astrakan

      Not quite

      It's not really that Linux distributors WANT to move people away from patent-encumbered file formats. It's more that if they stick support for them in their product, they will get a phone call from the patent trolls^Wholders, begging for money and offering lawsuits. So yeah, playing MP3s and DVDs right there and then would be nice, but... The people who think they own your music collection say no.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Awkward Question

    But what do you do with all of the iTunes content you've purchased with DRM? All those lovely expensive m4p files that can only play under iTunes.

    You could of course use Requiem to strip the encryption and convert the file to m4a but is this legal? Also, you can only get requiem from a torrent so you need a torrent client. Finally you still need to convert your decrypted m4a files to mp3 within the iTunes interface.

    A lot of faff for nothing if you're an ordinary PC user. If it ain't broken don't fix it and all that.

    You then get onto the question of the real usability of Ubuntu, for a lot of PC users you might want to work from home and connect to your employeers Citrix Access Gateway. Installing the Citrix web client in Ubuntu is not particularly simple for the ordinary PC user (i.e. people who don't read The Register).

    Even if you get the Citrix client working it's got all manner of bugs of glitches that you don't experience under Windows Vista or 7.

    I could go on and talk about support for Logitech mice and the forward/back/double click support which is awesome to use under Windows but I think I've made the point: for ordinary folk Windows or OS X just work so why bother switching to another O/S?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      There are some ordinary folk for whom Vista does not just work. Paying for an upgrade to 7 is an unpalatable option.

      The most cost effective remaining option is Ubuntu.

      Agree its very possible to spend a LOT of time faffing with Ubuntu to get the functionality you are used to.

    2. Ben Tasker


      Why install the web client when there's a native one?

      In fact you've listed nothing that I've found any difficulty with, but YMMV.

      Point taken about the iTunes DRM and MP3 codecs, but as a previous comment said, it's not really a fault of Ubuntu is it? It's got far more to do with a legal system that lets vendors control the product that you bought.

      Personally I prefer Kubuntu out of the two, but it comes down to personal choice. I'd much prefer Gentoo if I really had the option, but I do need my laptop to just work.

      Why bother?

      A few ideas that may (or may not) be enough;

      - Money

      - A killer app (Beryl made quite an impact I believe)

      - Over control by MS/Apple (don't think we've reached that point yet)

      And there's likely to be a few others. So long as people are using the right tool I don't really give a F*ck, converted the wife so at least I don't have to fix Windows every time it breaks (or she breaks it). Being able to SSH in in the background is very very useful.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Couldn't agree more

      Linux is a fine OS - but for the average user everything just works in Windows and OS X. Moving between OS X and Windows isn't perfect, but it's not bad.

      Migrating to Linux IS hard work as the poster above mentioned.

    4. Big-nosed Pengie

      letters and/or numbers

      The usability thing is moot, but I use Citric under various flavours of Linux to access my employer's environment all the time. Installation is a breeze and it works flawlessly (which is more than I can say for their Windwoes environment) as long as I use the Java client rather than the ICA client. The ICA client works, but the installer is broken and doesn't load the certificate, which is a manual task and a PITA, but the Java client seems to work just as well.

    5. Captain Thyratron

      One that answers itself.

      I should think that the very fact of having a bunch of horrid DRM-encrusted media should serve as a reminder and an incentive to abandon the platform you are using.

    6. Rob Dobs

      See comments above

      Someone already responded to your critique above. Before you go charging into an argument make sure your facts are still accurate. (Hint Facts change very quickly in the IT world.)

      I think you make the argument yourself why any person Techie or not, should not want to have to deal with a company like Apple (or M$) that will make them jump through such hoops just to listen to music they have purchased and (think) they rightfully own.

      Double Click and Mouse support? - Ubuntu 9 had these issues sorted out on all the machines I tested on, and that includes old Via Mini PC's, SuperMicro Serves, and various laptops. and that is the OLD 9 version. 10 is even better, and other than the forced DVD/Silverlight "rights" issues. I have not had anything not work just plugging it in.

      Haven't used Citrix specifically, but all the extra fixes I have had to do have been extremely easy.

      Searches come up with very relevant easy to follow directions for any problem I have had. Try that with M$ or Apple. There are enough people using Ubuntu for home and work, that if Citrix VPN client doesn't work, then Citrix is in the wrong, and will find themselves disadvantaged in the marketplace to those VPN solutions that do work. (all mine seem to work OK)

      I think the better question is why would someone be so stupid to buy all their music from Apple with DRM attached? Don't they sell CD's in stores near your town, or in your town even?

      Buy CD, rip, then you get to own the disc for your car, and listen to it on your various music players.

      And are you SERIOUSLY trying to say using Windows instead of Ubuntu is a way to avoid bug glitches? I have tried installing both on several different types of machines... your statement suggests you likely have not. Having used both extensively I can firmly say you are wrong in your assumptions.

      My wife is a non--techie, was even something of a luddite holdout. She has done more actual work on her PC with Ubuntu, than with Decades of me trying to get her to use MS or Apple machines of various types. Organizing photos, setting up social media accounts, listening to live net radio, the list goes on and on. All things that can be done with M$, but never was worth it to learn for her. She is not only using it, but eager to try and fix things and figure them out herself, and WITH RESULTS!

  14. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    Nice article.

    @J 3, good to know, I wondered about that... Ubuntu is pretty decent with a P3 with 256MB, it is usable (but not snappy...) on a P2, and can be run with 192MB although not too well (Xubuntu shaves a bit off the RAM usage past that.) As a consequence, for me as a Linux user "low end" is like a P3... Whereas, I've seriously heard Windows users now say a machine is uselessly obsolete if it's not a dual core!

    Good article! I haven't looked into Linux music players in a loooong time, and it's nice to have an overview of what's available.

    1. The Original Steve

      Not quite

      For what I would call a "usable but slow" Windows machine I'd be looking at a 1.6Ghz Pentium "Mobile" with 512Mb RAM.

      OK - it's double the RAM, but processor wise you don't need anything heavy duty like a dual core.

      Applications... well it's a different beast. For office workers I'd suggest a low end dual core and a gig of RAM. (ERP system, Office 2007, 7-Zip, Citrix client, AV etc.)

      Windows may not be as lean as Ubuntu - but I wouldn't call it a resource hog.

  15. spegru

    File Formats, Codecs etc

    Although I can understand the fussing about MP3 playback, it's actually worth pointing out that the approach used by most Linuxes to get the necessary codecs either built in or as a clickable download has actually left many linux music players far more capable of playing the full range of type out there. Ogg on WMP anyone? Flac, VP8 etc etc no problem on linux

  16. Doug Glass

    Just Works?

    Re: "With Ubuntu 10.04, Canonical delivered a good-looking Linux distro that just works." Uh huh, yeah right. Not with a couple of USB Wi-Fi adapters I have.

    And apparently it doesn't work with a considerable number:

    Oh what the frakk, I got XP all over the place and one Win7 and they do everything for me. Well, doesn't keep me warm at night like wifey does, but jeeeze, can't have everything in the basement I guess.


      OT Trollish Nonsense

      > Oh what the frakk, I got XP all over the place and one Win7 and they do everything for me.


      You can whine about wifi cards. I can whine about TV tuners and network printing.

      Infact. Device driver support is so great on Windows7 that someone decided there would be a market for a product that solves the aforementioned TV tuner support issue in Media Center. It's middleware that turns things like the HD-PVR into a sort of homemade HDHomeRun that MCE will actually use.

      Personally, I prefer GigE over Wifi...

    2. Ben Tasker

      Dear God.....

      It's like a return to the bad old days. First thing I had to learn was how to use ndiswrapper *shudder*.

      Guess I've been lucky in my testing, the built in on my laptop works fine.

      My Edimax EW somethin worked once I'd blocked two conflicting drivers (and smoked a pack in frustration)

      thought those days had been laid to rest!

      Oh and you've made a mistake - move the PCs out of the basement, and they'll help keep you warm at night! Wifey works fine until she relegates you onto the sofa, then it's nice to have a coupla servers running in the living room!

    3. fskmh


      I have an RaLink 2500 wireless card in this box and it just works in Linux. I had to stfw for a Win7 driver though. I guess your OS can't do everything for you when you're just plain ignorant.

  17. Moistvag


    Every now and then I'll load up a new virtual machine image with the latest ubuntu OS and every time I am left confused and wondering why the f**k the OS is so much like MS windows. Why don't the developers try and create a unique product? Sure things might work and function inside the OS but nothing is grabbing me and keeping me there. Why do they insist on hiding away my applications from me in an old school tree view that requires me to know where I have put my apps(aka Windows).

    Sure I can create a shortcut or put things in the crappy excuse for a dock but why can't I find a complete application to drag and drop between my computers running ubuntu without having to do a reinstall. itunes is great for me (on my mac) and always has been and I have been using it since the first soundjam mac ports and it has always functioned as a useful jukebox and organization tool for mp3 and higher bit rate audio and airtunes and apple tv ipod/iphone remote control and multi speaker functions are quite incredible. Linux on the other hand seems disjointed and lacking.

    1. Mark 65

      So much like windows?

      Must be downloading Kubuntu.

    2. handle

      Why? Because you just want to find fault with it.

      Your argument goes along the lines of "the default configuration looks like Windows and I'm a Mac fan so the whole thing is crap." If you want a "start menu" with a box where you can search for an app by typing in its name then you can install one. If you want a Mac OS clone "dock" than you can install one. And for someone reading a site like this, you should not only realise that Linux has the versatility to customise it in so many ways, but you should have the intelligence to be able to do so. It's not hard.

      Are you talking about dragging and dropping files between computers? Trivial - the default file manager will do that. Simply open one of the "places" and go File->Connect to Server. Assuming your computers have SSH servers installed (which they don't by default because it's not what most people want, but simply install them with the Software Manager) you choose the SSH protocol, fill in the details, and lo and behold, you can browse another computer's file system and drag files between them. It will even remember all the details including password so that you can do the same thing with one click the next time.

      And that's just one example of how you can do it. Naturally, you can mount Windows shares as an alternative, or use, say FTP to a local or Internet server. It's all been done for you.

      Not only that, but X-forwarding (usually done with SSH nowadays) allows you to run as many apps as you like on as many computers as you like, displayed on the local host. It's only been able to do that for 20 years or so.

      Was that really so hard?

    3. Ben Tasker


      "wondering why the f**k the OS is so much like MS windows"

      But the answer is simple: Canonical are keen to convert people.

      Why not try a different distro if you don't like Ubuntu? Whether it's a derivative or something like Mandrake, Fedora, Slack, Gentoo (I like) etc. If you don't like the Windowsesque look stay well clear of Linspire (are they even going anymore?)

      If you're happy with Win/Mac then all power to you, but neither suits what I like to do. I've long been at the point where I don't even need to dual boot, though I do have a Win 7 VM just-in-case.

      If I understand your question right, you want to transfer files between two machines (a la 'Windows file sharing')? You've got a number of options, some with significant work involved, some without

      - Samba (can be configured from a GUI IIRC)

      - SSH

      - FTP etc. etc.

      For SSH, you don't need to use the command line. IDK if this works in Ubuntu, but in Kubuntu put the following as an address in the file manager - fish://user@MACHINE - and it'll let you move files around to your hearts content!

      I wouldn't go so far as to call Linux lacking, in fact quite the contrary. But some of the more 'advanced' functions do require you to do more work than the average end user would like. For example:

      I've a JACK audio server with a client in each room. Through one web interface, I can choose which music plays in which room (or of course broadcast one to all). I can access the interface from my phone if a laptop's not in reach, and have considered putting a touch screen into each room (thin client maybe).

      The cost?

      PC for each room (could have used thin clients of course)


      Some CAT5 (could have used wireless, but until N was released the bandwidth wasn't enough for my liking)

      A bit of my valuable time

      Try doing it cheaply on Windows/Mac?

      Of course, you may have no need/desire for such a setup. I set it up largely to see if I could, the next project will be to attach some servo's and a temp sensor to the bath so I can run it remotely. But it'll have to wait till I'm next on leave from work.

      So to sum up - Point 1) If Win/Mac works for you then great. Point 2) There's far more to Linux than Ubuntu Point 3) Linux is far ahead on Multimedia if you have the time, skills and inclination

    4. geronimo hashbucket


      Don't feed the trolls.

    5. Captain Thyratron

      Indeed, why don't they?

      Well, as soon as they do create a unique product, a bunch of people will complain that it is unfamiliar to ordinary users.

  18. lucmars

    The peripherals, stupid

    The eternal problem with the distros is to satisfy the peripherals' user. That's the main reason why people can't switch painlessly to a distro.

    Since a lot of people have an iPlode, and the iPlode is only workable with iTunes, then you're late of a train and you can't satisfy your consumers.

    Is that not the reason why iTunes has been ported to Windows ? To satisfy far more consumers than the Apple's share market.

    Maybe, nowadays, the PC is nothing, but the peripherals are all. The latter curb the former.

  19. gimbal

    Beg pardon, but KDE apps don't run "in GNOME"

    There's a technical mistake that's been made, which I can't help but want to comment on. I'll try to stay respectful, to explain this as well as I understand it, myself, and not get silly with any kind of torch, flame-thrower, or other fire-producing device.

    GTK apps, QT apps, libXt apps, TCL's Tk apps, ... these all run in X-Windows.

    GNOME and KDE are desktop environments, featuring some GUI components that also run in X-WIndows.

    GNOME apps use GTK widgets.

    KDE apps use QT widgets.

    Except for desktop-environment configuration applications, other applications don't run specifically "in" any one desktop environment or another.

    The meeting-space between a given desktop environment and the X Windows system is largely of an abstract nature.

    To keep it simple: KDE apps don't need anything more to run in GNOME than they would need to run in KDE - and vice-versa.

    "KDE apps", as it might be said, are - essentially - applications using QT widgets and the further system services provided by the K Desktop Environment.

    In a similar sense, "GNOME apps" use GTK widgets and services provided by the GNOME desktop environment.

    The services of each respective desktop environment can be running simultaneously.

    Odds are, if you're seeing any kind of a graphical application on a Linux platform, either it's running in an X Windows client/server session, or else, by the magic of SDL. In such a case as the former, It's X-Windows that makes that graphical stuff happen - not, insomuch, either of GNOME or KDE.

    I'm no master of details, about this material, but I'm pretty well aware of how it fits together. Maybe it would suffice it to say that to suggest that KDE apps would need anything additional to run alongside GNOME is pretty-much inaccurate - and it seems, to me, that it would be a matter of oversimplification. I realize, it must've been unintentional. It's one of those details, though, that can get under the skin of some "Linux veterans" ;) Some matters of inaccuracy, as well, would make it harder to resolve issues that would result from confusion consequent with those matters of inaccuracy.

    Not to make it out as if to be any more than it was - I say, an inaccurate statement, as to how the system actually operates, as it were, "Under the hood"

    That said: Hey thanks for lending some exposure about Linux. The typical Linux software developer might be anything but a marketing genius, after all ;)


    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      X Windows^H

      Methinks you mean "X Window". Singular.

      (go ahead now and call me a nitpicker)

  20. Jim 70

    Linux for standalone music player

    There used to be a few Linux distros that specialised in turning old PCs into standalone jukeboxes.

    Are they still around? Installing a new Ubuntu & MP3 player seems an overkill.

  21. aThingOrTwo

    iTunes U

    Does Linux have an iTunes U equivalent?


    Compatability with Linux hostile iThings?

    The latest version of Ubuntu can mount an iPhone in a more interesting way. Did anyone at El Reg bother to test this? Apple has worked to make their newer devices unusable with 3rd party tools. Is that still the case.This issue would have been a logical one to address.

  23. PeterC

    Ipods syncing?

    Ive been using Ubuntu for the last year and agree its great just as it is - im not a demanding user (no programmer!) and browsers, office needs are all I need. Its been the best OS ive used for years - nearly everythin g I ask it to do, connect to, plug in etc works with no fuss whatsoever..

    HOWEVER - anyone who says that Rythmbox (etc) integrates with ipods is having a laugh. Ive tried to follow every guideline I can find and Ive never been able to get my Gen6 Ipod Classic (80gb model) to sync successfully with any media player.

    Sadly thats why I have to keep an old copy of windows and itunes on my dual boot :-( too tedious.

  24. Gordon 17

    linux anyone?

    i have used linux on and off over years different versions boxed retail and, downloaded.

    some great some not so great.

    just tried ubuntu 10.4, ok great on laptop, no problems with anything apart from dvd's trying to get them to play from disk, what a pain, load this do that, code this, all i wanted to do was play dvd, it plays every other type of video file great, music no problem, streaming great.

    after an hour of trying to get dvd to play i gave up, i just could not be arsed, I was doing it to see if a person who never used linux could just load it and get everything to work, well No they can't. they have made it a breeze to install now, and some good applications but still few bugs and niggles, its not for main stream and not really for people who have just started using computer.

    If they sort the problems out then its a very good OS, but would not give to a person unless they had some tech know how.

    Get Licensing extra sorted so it can play dvd etc, then people will see it as something to change to from windows or mac.

    most people want is to play dvd's, music, emails, surf web, edit photos, may be burn few dvd's/cd. video chat, shop online, be safe and secure, this to be done out of box.

    Its getting very close to ticking all the boxes. but not just there yet.

    1. Svantevid

      Playing DVDs?

      "dvd's trying to get them to play from disk, what a pain, load this do that, code this, all i wanted to do was play dvd"

      Just installing the Totem would solve your problems, I think.

      1. JEDIDIAH

        Bang on that legal achilles heel.

        >> "dvd's trying to get them to play from disk, what a pain, load this do that, code this,

        >> all i wanted to do was play dvd"


        > Just installing the Totem would solve your problems, I think.

        This might still be a sticking point because of that whole mess with unauthorized DVD player software being ILLEGAL in some places. That could put a crimp in Ubuntu's style. It's a little more messy than vague patent issues.

        Totem comes by default. It has wicked codec management that puts Windows and MacOS to shame.

        Since we're talking about iTunes, it's a bit moot. iTunes doesn't have the cradle-to-grave-wipe-the-spit-off-your-chin ease of use approach for video that it has for music.

        1. Gordon 17


          tried it no luck, i installed vlc player it worked played all ok, but not on inserting disk no mater what i did, unlike other linux, suse, xandros, etc i have used which disk pops in it plays.

          not to worry. still good to use on my laptop, i like the early versions of ubuntu, to play with or kubuntu, the later ones have alot of things missing or hidden.

          I am getting to old to code, i can just about remember my phone number never mind about what code i just put in to do what. I also think its part my being spoiled by windoz and mac. in my early years coding yep great no problem but now can't be arsed!

    2. Rob Dobs

      How hard did you try?

      This took me all of 2 minutes to figure out, including the download.

      Open the package manager - type "DVD" in the search box.

      a file called libdvd should be the first package.

      Click to install it

      Done, now DVD's play. I didn't even have to reboot the machine.

      Typing "Ubutnu play DVD" to google should get you several hits in the first 10 that will give you good instructions.

      Seriously what were you doing for an hour? Probably on hold trying to fix it the windows way?

      I believe the only reason this cannot be included for FREE on Ubuntu because of US copyright laws, so you just have to install from a less stupid legal area.

  25. Yannick

    Rhythmbox, Banshee, Daemon unleashed

    Where's Buffy when you need her???

    Seriously tho, really looking forward to the follow up articles about photo and video editing. YUM YUM!

  26. bass daddy

    Ubuntu One ...

    this has been one big fail for me.

    Didn't sync files properly and when I tried to buy some tunes threw up a 500 internal server error....and i got charged!!

    If this is to go mainstream then these things must be fixed.

    Still dropbox and Amazon for me until they can top the ease of use of these apps.

  27. TeeCee Gold badge
    Thumb Down

    Er, not quite.

    "Also, if a music player doesn't support MP3s, then it's just not a music player for the ordinary PC users."

    Yes, but if you ask the Great Unwashed what their music player plays, the answer will be "MP3s". This will hold true even if their portable device is an iPod and all their music comes from iTunes(!) The serious lusers (who don't only get their stuff from iTunes) tend to call these "Apple MP3s", to differentiate them from their "Windows MP3s" (WMA). Likewise, one of the questions I am repeatedly asked is "Why doesn't this MP3 I've downloaded play properly?". Pointing out that what they have is actually encoded in OGG or somesuch produces a blank stare followed by the inevitable: "Yeeeees, but why doesn't it play properly?".

    I've even heard the term "video MP3s" bandied about for digital video files.

    So when you say that MP3 support is important for Joe Public, it's important to first define exactly *which* "MP3" you're talking about.

  28. Bassey


    NAS boxes are becoming ever more popular amongst the home masses. The last time I tried out Linux (I've been trying it roughly once a year since the mid nineties) one of the real hassles was playing music from my NAS. DLNA support seemed thin on the ground and required a degree in repository navigation to get up and running.

    A section on which (if any) music players will stream from home NAS boxes over the usual systems (DLNA uPnP) would be really handy.

  29. beanfarmer

    the main thing holding me back

    the only thing thats holding me back from running ubuntu single boot on my main rig is gaming.

    ubuntu can do everything i use my winbox for, midi, video editing, sound recording etc the only thing missing is decent gaming support.

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    And I think you have described the problem succinctly.

    No, not the gaming bit, this bit:

    "ubuntu can do everything i use my winbox for"

    Which is functionally the same as:

    "Windows does everything that ubuntu can"

    Given that the vast majority of people buy a computer with Windows already installed there is no real advantage in changing from Windows.

    Sure the technical savvy may want a bare bones system and a free OS, and some may even decide to remove Windows out of ideological reasons. And some may even chose to dual boot for whatever reason they need or want both linux and Windows. But the average computer user has absolutely no reason at all to install a new OS, even if they had the know-how to pull it off fully.

    Canonical need to be getting people to buy computers with ubuntu pre-installed, until that catches on (and £50-£100 off the retail price should at least gain notice) the idea of converting Windows users is just a pipe-dream.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @ Lee

      you said:


      "ubuntu can do everything i use my winbox for"

      Which is functionally the same as:

      "Windows does everything that ubuntu can"


      Sorry, that's wrong. If Ubuntu can do more than Windows, then Beanfarmer's line is valid while yours isn't.

      I didn't see a mention of video or podcasts in the article either. I use my 5.5gen iPod for podcasts mainly, and a fair number of them are video. Last time I looked I didn't find many tools for those two areas.

      I guess it's time I had another search though, it'd be nice to get rid one of the three reasons I still keep a webbook with multiboot (Palm sync/desktop, iTunes, and general updates that are only supplied for windows. HTC Hero update most recently).

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Shallow Article

    The main value of this article, as it happens, is in the comments section where a number of insightful remarks can be found.

    I'm not trying to knock anyone down, but I'm not sure Scott Gilbertson is the most qualified chap out there to write about Linux: to a Linux audience his articles are incredibly shallow and rather often uninformed or filled with unsubstantiated/plain weird remarks (I didn't quite get the bit about KDE apps "huge overhead" while running under GNOME); meanwhile, to a non-Linux audience they give only a partial picture mostly limited to Ubuntu this and Ubuntu that.

    There might be reasons why he chooses this approach, but I haven't found them explained in any of his articles. I suspect this is down to limited experience with the OS.

    I would prefer it if the Reg carried a few articles written by proper Linux people addressed to a Linux audience (it's not too much to ask from an IT lesbian blog, is it?). Or at least, you could try re-evaluating these two points:

    1) Humorous bug tickets notwithstanding, Linux's main goal is not to lure users from any other OS any more than say Windows goal is to lure people away from OSX or vice-versa. I personally don't want to hear how a certain distro or application compares to some other OS' counterpart, rather I'd like to know about its features, usability, etc., in its own merit. e.g., I've never used Winamp or iTunes, so telling me application X is better or worse than those tells me nothing at all.

    2) When reviewing task-specific applications I don't really see the point in considering specific distros (much less specific desktop environments), as if they were monolithic units. Nearly all applications are available across distributions and Linux users will use whatever suits them best, regardless of whether that's their distro's default. And that's not even considering the case where the user runs multiple distros in parallel (e.g., I'm writing this on a browser running on a Debian machine but displaying on an openSuSE box).

    Lastly, as I understood iTunes to be a music marketplace (but looks like I'm wrong?) I was expecting an article about alternative marketplaces (whether Linux-oriented or not) where I could buy music, rather than an eclectic and partial comparison of music players. But I suppose this last point is my fault due to my own ignorance anyway, so never mind.


      The whole "store" thing.

      > Lastly, as I understood iTunes to be a music marketplace (but looks like I'm wrong?) I was

      > expecting an article about alternative marketplaces (whether

      Want another marketplace? Doesn't the UK version of Amazon sell mp3s?

      Integration with the other marketplaces out there actually would have been a useful thing to address in this article (along with more than just a small list of GNOME options).

      Amarok used to be my player of choice on my GNOME based Ubuntu setup before they made recent UI changes and turned me off.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The whole "store" thing.

        Fully agree on every count, including the bit about Amarok. They totally fucked it up, luckily VLC does the job just fine (better, actually) -- but of course, we will never know that from this article.

        (same AC as above, btw)

  32. Trollslayer
    Thumb Down

    Oh dear

    This is a great article meant to open up Linux to people wjho may not look at it otherwise.

    Now we have the fanbois kicking off again (go on, downvote me and prove me right).

    Perfect? Not by any means but how about making things better instead of tearing down whatever doesn't fit in your little world view?

    The author is trying to do so.

  33. R.Moore

    Banshee, Rhythmbox, Amarok all too slow

    I've got just under 500Gb of mp3 encoded audio and Banshee, Rhythmbox, Amarok all lock up from time to time when navigatnig around the library, managing playlists and/or playing music.

    I need something that can handle a reasonably sized collection more on a lowish spec machine efficiently (atom processor with 3Gb ram).

    Any suggestions?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @ R.Moore

      Albeit lacking bells and whistles, you could try DeaDBeeF -

      It's very light and I've not had any issues with my library of 50gb

      There are proposals for it to become the default from Aqualung in Lubuntu 10.10

      1. R.Moore
        Thumb Up

        @ debaser & geronimo hashbucket

        Thanks for the advise - I'll try them both.


    2. geronimo hashbucket


      gmusic browser is in the repo's for Ubuntu - it advertises itself as a player "capable of handling large collections".

      There's also Zeya which is a kind of web-browser based service (also in the Ubuntu repo's), once you've pointed it at your collection, and let it munch the data, you then go the appropriate address in a browser and it lists the lot and has simple player controls too.

      Hope that helps.

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "Sorry, that's wrong. If Ubuntu can do more than Windows, then Beanfarmer's line is valid while yours isn't."

    However, one would assume that if ubuntu could do more than windows then beancounter would have said so. Which he didn't. In fact he said it did less.

    However, the point is still valid, the question being: what reason is there for the average person to move from Windows to ubuntu? The answer is quite simply "none".

    The question should instead be something like: what reason is there for the average person to buy their next computer with ubuntu installed rather than windows? The answer to this one is more involved, but that is what should be being addressed. And isn't.


      The worm ate my homework...

      > However, the point is still valid, the question being: what reason is there for the

      > average person to move from Windows to ubuntu? The answer is quite simply "none".

      The average person would move from Windows to Ubuntu to avoid the tendency of Windows to eat itself. This is also the main reason they would dump Windows for a Mac. Windows has always been a bit crap but people have feared other platforms out of "compatibility" concerns.

      So they continue to put up with DOS and Windows over the decades rather than finding something better.

      The real question anymore is "why bother with Windows?".

  35. Adam Williamson 1

    Music player sync

    Odd that the article didn't mention one of the nicest features of Linux music players. Most of them can support almost any portable device capable of playing music just like an iPod. This is thanks to a neat bit of HAL (I guess it'll move to udev soon, if it hasn't already) which is essentially a little list of the USB IDs of devices that can play music, the formats they support, and what directory structure needs to be used to store music on them. So you can plug some six year old MP3-playing cellphone into a Linux system, run Rhythmbox, and see it pop up, with all the tracks on it accessible. You can drag a track from your library to the phone, and - if you have the appropriate codecs installed - Rhythmbox will automatically transcode it to a format the phone supports (if necessary) and transfer it.

    I always thought that was awesome, and something Windows just really doesn't do as well (seems like every device comes with its own janky app for transferring music).

  36. Paul 77


    I was slightly alarmed when you said that Songbird was no longer in development, so I went to and found that a new beta was released on 14th June :-)

  37. Tothmes

    One point missing - Shared Itunes libraries

    Missing one point in this erudite discussion: does any Linux-player connect to the fellow-fanboi´s shared itunes library without too much voodoo? I know I never made it with the various Ubuntu versions and players I´ve tried. But then I´m just a mere fanboi miself.

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