Jan. 9, 2011, 6:55 a.m.
posted by spooned
Put Another Nickel In . . .
Ripping songs from your CDs and storing them on your PC so you can listen while you work (or play) is fantastic. Start up Noatun or XMMS, pull a few songs into your playlist, and enjoy the music. Life couldn't be any better. Except . . .
You see, all this collecting of music, ripping of songs, and building of huge libraries of MP3s or OGGs on your computer's hard disk is eventually going to become a nightmare to administer. Sure, all those CDs in jewel cases have disappeared into that virtual space that is your hard disk, but now you have all these songs in a number of large folders with little or no organization. If you want to play something, you have to go searching. What you need is a jukebox.
In a much earlier part of my life, I made extra money babysitting some of my parents' friends' children. One of their friends repaired jukeboxes for a living. Consequently, a real honest-to-goodness jukebox was always in the house, full of 45 RPM singles. From time to time, the model and type of machine would change, but, with the coin mechanism disabled, I had all the music I wanted available. Now, that's entertainment! As luck would have it, your Linux system comes with a very fine jukebox program called Juk, so you won't have to babysit anybody's kids to use it.
Juk (command name juk) is part of the standard KDE multimedia package, so it is very likely already on your system. This program, being a KDE application, integrates nicely into the KDE desktop, with a tray icon to drop the application out of sight quickly. It includes support for your MP3 and Ogg Vorbis files, collection and playlist management, tag editing, and much more. Look for it in the Multimedia menu, or run the command juk from your <Alt+F2> quick launch.
On startup, Juk asks for folders where music is kept. To tell the program where to find songs, click on the Add folder button. A directory navigator window will appear, from which you can choose the locations of music on your system (Figure). In my case, I have a separate partition, called /mnt/music, where I keep all my music.
Start by adding the names of folders you want Juk to keep track of.
Juk is smart enough to scan all your subdirectories for songs, so there's no need, other than speed, to list each and every directory where you keep music. You don't want to scan the entire system, however, because you won't have permissions for many directories. You can add as many folders or file systems as you want. If you make a mistake, you can select that entry and click the Remove Folder button.
When you press OK, Juk will start scanning those folders and build a base collection. It will read the information tags on each song to try to determine the title, year, etc. of each song. After the process ends, you'll wind up with a collection list similar to the one in Figure.
Juk creates a default collection list of all the songs in the folders you specified.
Juk uses a fairly simple two-pane interface, with a sidebar on the left and a large work/display window on the right, both of which you can size to suit. The expected menu and quick-access icons are along the top. The sidebar has a single folder icon, labeled Collection List. By default, all your songs appear in the default collection list. Because organization is key, you can create additional playlists by right-clicking in the column under the Collection List icon and then selecting New and Empty Playlist. Enter a name; then click OK. To populate a new folder, make sure you have your default Collection List selected; then drag and drop song titles into your playlist folder of choice. The titles appear in your new playlist but remain in the master collection as well. Now let's pretend you already have a folder called Love Songs; you could just add that as a predefined playlist. Right-click in the Collections List sidebar again, and select New followed by Playlist From Folder. No need to add anything else.
From the main track list window, you can click each of the columns to sort by album title, artist, date, or other catalog identifier. At this point, you could just click on a song and press the Play button (directly below the File menu) and your choice would start to play. Double-clicking works as well. When a song starts, the interface changes somewhat to display the current title. As you play more and more songs, a history of the last two titles you have played will appear to the right of the song information (Figure).
As you play more and more songs, Juk starts displaying a history of your past choices.
As anyone with a collection of songs on their computer knows, the information contained in the information tags isn't always perfect. To deal with this problem, we have Juk's tag editor. What I really like about this feature is that you can edit information inline by right-clicking on a song title, artist name, or any of the columns and selecting the appropriate Edit option. It gets better, though. Juk can try to intelligently decipher the track information based on the filename or by searching on the Internet. Right-click on the title, select Guess Tag Information, and choose From File Name or From Internet (Figure).
Editing tags is easy, but letting Juk figure it out on its own is easier. Choose by filename or from the Internet.
Here's one final treat. When a particular song is playing, it's nice to be able to see the cover of the album it comes from. You could scan each album or CD cover, save the file on your system, and use the Cover Manager to import them. Luckily, there's a much better way. Right-click on a song of your choice, and select Cover Manager from the menu that appears (Figure). Look to the right of that selection and you'll see two additional options. One lets you import your cover based on a local file (Get Cover From File); the other will connect to the Internet, look for the album cover that fits your song selection, and let you download it automatically.
Let Juk search the Internet for album or CD covers and automatically import them.
Now as your song plays, you'll see a nice cover image beside the song title (Figure). Click on the cover and, depending on the cover you chose to import, a larger version of it will be displayed.
After importing an album cover with the cover manager, it is shown to the left of the title while a song from that album plays.
Rockin' On with amaroK
Juk is the standard KDE jukebox program and a fine one at that. Before I move on to other things, I want to tell you about another jukebox program that may not be included in your distribution. Nevertheless, it is impressive enough that I consider it's well worth looking at if you are serious about your music. It's called amaroK, and you can get it from http://amarok.kde.org/.
amaroK looks fantastic and comes packed with great features like a powerful cover manager (downloads covers from Amazon), a context browser that keeps track of your favorite and most listened to songs, great visualizations, and more. There's even a lyric download feature so you can sing along with your favorite tunes without worrying about whether you are getting the words right or now.