Monday, March 06, 2006

iPod w/Linux: Woes and Triumphs

As a Linux user who only recently hopped onto the iPod bandwagon, I've come to see us (Linux users) as the red-headed-step-children of the iPod community. In no way let this sound like whining. I was not only fortunate enough to get an iPod, but a VIDEO iPod and for FREE!!! Thanks to my brother's extravagant Christmas-time generosity, I can count myself among the iPod/MP3-player generation 2-3 years sooner than I would have on my own coin. A wise man would quit while he's ahead, but no one's ever accused me of being wise before, so why start now?

In my haste to get started, I downloaded just about every tool Google scraped up for me to use with the new technical wonder. From JPodder to iPodderX to Juice to gtkPod to Banshee to amaroK. And that's only about half of them. Long story short, some were vapor-ware, some were duds, and some actually kinda worked.

After some to-ing and fro-ing I settled on the combination of gtkPod and amaroK for my basic iPodding needs - moving existing music (cd's, gnutella, and other sources that shall remain nameless) to my iPod.

gtkPod cleanly and quickly synced the local audio files it could find to my iPod. The only catch was that it only found about 3/4 of my total music collection. Still not sure why. There are also some niggling little quirks in the interface that I won't get into now, but that frustrate the usability purist in me.

amaroK provides a very clean and professional looking interface with a wide variety of tools and options for syncing and playing and managing local audio files. My biggest complaint is that the syncing process requires a great deal of babysitting which is a pain when you're trying to sync most of your 1000+ CD collection. I'm still working on getting the remainder synced over and it's been a little tiresome. If anyone out there has advice, give me a shout.

Now when my iPod crashed a while back after all the experimentation I mentioned earlier, my iTunesDB got corrupted in the process. I believe it might have been jPodder that I used to build a new iTunesDB and start the recovery. I'll have to look back to make sure, as I might have just recovered an uncorrupted backup file, but I somehow remember having none, and nearly falling back to my roommate's PC as a last resort for salvation. In any case, neither of the other two mentioned could resolve this problem for me: yet another drawback of being held at arms length it seems, by the rest of the iPodding community.

Finally, I come to the iPod's most recent triumph, the video podcast. At Christmas time, the word was "Linux user? Sucks to be you!!" Now, I've found a client that for me, works for watching vid-podcasts locally. PenguinTV is a pretty sweet Python-based video-blog/vid-pod client for Morgan Freeman...sike! I mean for Linux. Once I installed PyCurl via YaST (OpenSUSE on my laptop) the PenguinTV setup ran without a hitch. Actually, just one hitch. You had to be logged in as or 'su' to root for the install to finish (directory permissions issue). But once I got past that, I was able to grab my favorite web shows, TikiBarTV and the This or That! Gameshow (starring my elementary school chum Julie Atlas Muz), and watch them on my laptop in no time. Can't wait to get home and try out Happy Tree Friends!!! Sadly, no word yet from the developers on iPod integration (synchronization in particular).

As I find new stuff or as new releases of the products mentioned above change significantly and overcome any of the headaches I'm still having (sync management, ltms support, video podcasts, etc.), I'll keep you posted...right here! Also if you've found something that works for you, feel free to contribute it to the discussion.

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