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Ubuntu’s Multimedia Challenge

2010.08.26

Having used Ubuntu exclusively now for a few weeks, I am a true believer.  It’s just a great operating system, with great looks, speed, and power.  And it does almost everything a modern platform should.

Until you need multimedia power.  Specifically, photos, music, and video.

Ubuntu’s photo managers, like F-Spot, Shotwell, and the like are all hopelessly simple.  They tend to choke on large collections.  The first time I started F-Spot, I pointed it at the folder containing my photos and watched it die a miserable death.  They don’t organize well by metadata: sort by date, or sort by folder.  That’s it.  They either don’t connect to photo sharing websites, or connect only very clumsily.  The editing capability is terribly lacking.

Here, the paradigm is Picasa.  Picasa handles importing, organizing, simple editing, and uploading to a sharing site with absolute aplomb.  It is super fast, handles huge collections with ease, is very easy to use, and is surprisingly powerful.

Picasa is available as a download from Google (it isn’t available through the Ubuntu software manager) and only runs as a WINE app.  It’s stuck on version 3.0 and there is no sign of a future release, even though Google remains staunchly pro-Linux.  Nevertheless, Picasa 3.0 running under WINE is far better than any native Linux alternative.

In order for Ubuntu to succeed in the mainstream, it needs native Picasa, or a sufficiently robust alternative.

Next up is music.  The default player, Rhythmbox, is woefully inadequate.  I was sorely put to the test when I tried to perform the most basic of music management tasks: create a playlist and put it on my iPod.  I created the playlist easily enough, but found there was no way to copy it to the iPod.  FAIL.  Undaunted, I copied the tracks from the playlist to the iPod, then created a new playlist on the iPod and dragged the tracks into it.  This almost worked, except that when I tried to order the tracks to my liking, I found that they remained in the original order on my iPod.

And then when I tried to rename the playlist, Rhythmbox crashed.

Here there is One App to Rule Them All.  iTunes?  Ha!  I scoff at the suggestion.  Nay, not iTunes.

MediaMonkey.  Far and away the best music management app, ever.  By a longshot.

If all you do is buy songs from iTunes and play them in iTunes and on your iPod, then iTunes might be good enough for you.  And it would be better than any of the native Linux alternatives.  Of course, iTunes on Linux ain’t happening.

But if you have a complex mess of MP3s, FLACs, stuff your friend loaned you on a flash drive, songs you ripped from your CDs, and other serious organizational tasks, MediaMonkey’s database-driven design puts everything else to shame.

In order for Ubuntu to succeed as a mainstream OS, it needs music management software on par with MediaMonkey.

I’ve already mentioned how badly I hit my head on video editing.  I don’t expect Ubuntu to ship with a free copy of Vegas.  But the existing video apps are super weak.  Let’s pick one and run it over the NLE goal line, OK?

At least Ubuntu runs VirtualBox well.  I will need it for a few Windows apps that I’m not going to be able to leave behind.

At least, not yet.

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  1. 2010.08.26 at 22:49

    Well, there is a simple reason for that:
    Most media people use Mac OS, not GNU/Linux. So there has never been a real need for any of that because free software developers mostly scratch their own itches.

    Seeing how you’re both a developer and want better apps for that, why not jump in and contribute? 🙂 It would certainly be great to have more sophisticated applications. The problem is that if no one actually steps up and gets coding, nothing changes. Complaining is easy.

    Anyway, Shotwell is evolving at a fast pace and F-Spot is going to be rethought in the next version. Also, have you tried the Banshee music player? Most people use it to replace Rhythmbox.

    And on your too-many-computers problem; why not give some to http://www.kidsoncomputers.org/needed since you already switched to the bright side? 🙂

    • 2010.08.27 at 12:37

      *** BUSTED ***

      OK, you called me out. Perhaps I should develop my own music player 🙂

      I will try Banshee. I tried a few other players and didn’t find them rewarding.

      And thanks for the suggestion about kidsoncomputers.org. I will look into it!

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