First Day KDE 4 Multimedia Meeting

In the rainy Netherlands, eighteen KDE hackers have been working in the Annahoeve on Multimedia for the fourth incarnation of KDE. This report outlines the meeting topics, and the results of interesting presentations and explains how KDE developers outbid each others marshmallow records.

The meeting officially started at noon, but the organization and Matthias, Martin, Alexandre, Florian and Gábor were already at the Annahoeve at 9:30. We had things up and running rather quickly and some smalltalk went on. Marshmallows were put on the table and Adriaan told everybody they could earn a marshmallow if they were able to stick 10 pieces into their mouth. Sebastian got close.

The afternoon started with a brief keynote, followed by presentations about Phonon and amaroK. Matthias Kretz talked about the basic design goals of Phonon (see his slides). It should provide the multimedia support that 80% of the applications need in a simple way; the other 20% are simply not its focus. For example, if an application needs precise control at sample level, it is better off talking to a media framework directly. Generally speaking, most applications just need some basic things like playing or streaming video and audio. Matthias further explained how effects worked, and what to consider when building a back-end, and demonstrated some some code examples.

Max Howell talked about moving to amaroK 2 and the Windows port that will come with that. The amaroK hackers are really excited about amaroK 2 and they really want to move on and work on it. A core redesign is needed to prevent regressions from coming up in new releases. This weekend will be used to plan large parts of this redesign.

Max also pointed out some issues with packaging, mostly due to packagers making weird choices when building amaroK packages like depending on MySQL. These things should be solved by making packaging amaroK easier and by more communication with the packagers.

Other topics were and Audioscrobbler integration. offers more services that amaroK doesn't yet make use of, it can be used to give and share arbitrary labels and other information about songs - the amaroK developers want to add support for this. also offers personal radio streams, with for example your favorite music, or music listened to by people with a similar taste. Integration in amaroK will allow you to skip songs in the stream, and even learns from that.

Usability has always been an important focus in amaroK, but it's hard to get consensus about certain issues. Still the plan is to do some serious work for amaroK 2 with the help of the two usability experts available at the multimedia meeting. Being able to meet face to face makes usability discussions much easier - as you're less likely to step on someone's toe if you can see them...

After a great dinner, the hacking continued. Lively discussions and silently hacking were intermingled, and the resulting code was committed.

All in all, we came to an important conclusion:
The important thing in Free Software is not the free beer; it is the Free bar which ensures the beer will STAY free.

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It's not a weakness, it's done on purpose to attract DRM corporations. If it does, it's fulfilled its purpose. Why on earth would it be MIT/X11 otherwise?

Why do you hate freedom?

"Submitted by stro on Thu, 2006-05-25 07:57. Gnome Multimedia
I want an audio player that will do everything that Apple's iTunes does..... including working with my iPod ..... and do it natively on Linux. That's a tall order. I've tried many fine Linux programs..... KDE's amaroK, RealPlayer 10 for Linux, Xine, etc. .... but none have scratched my itch."

As usual, dirty anti-campaigning on Gnome's side. A clear example that Gnome is unethical software or a least the former Ximian staff promoted an unethical culture. "..but none have scratched my itch." Get real!

No, I will not use Banshee, perhaps Juk.

""I want an audio player that will do everything that Apple's iTunes does..... including working with my iPod ..... and do it natively on Linux. That's a tall order. I've tried many fine Linux programs..... KDE's amaroK, RealPlayer 10 for Linux, Xine, etc. .... but none have scratched my itch."

As usual, dirty anti-campaigning on Gnome's side. A clear example that Gnome is unethical software or a least the former Ximian staff promoted an unethical culture. "..but none have scratched my itch." Get real!""

Well, I really scratched my head at that one considering that amaroK ticks all of those boxes for me.

It just seems as though Banshee came about as a Mono project via some guys at Novell because they just didn't have anything that could compete with amarok. Notice that no one at Novell had to start amaroK as a project, but resources or developer time into it. Oh, the power of KDE development!

by FloS (not verified)

Hi there.

I really love KDE and especially amaroK. *thumbs up*. Keep on that excellent work....
And by the way: I CAN wait!!!

by Anonymous Coward (not verified)

(Posted anonymously because I get enough spam already. I miss the days when posting your e-mail address in your .sig was without "consequences".)

I hope I read the above in-correctly: that Amarok v2 will require MySQL or some other DB back-end.

Please, don't. Just make this an option. Amarok should just be an audio player, not some swiss-army-knife-style big honking application.

And as for usability, quite a few of your users *do* have suggestions for you, listen to them too, not just the "experts". End-users know what confuses them, what makes their life easier. Not everything they request is frivolous, even if you think it's "oldskool" (sp? whatever).

And one last thing: make sure one does not have to re-compile to change an option. Ok, maybe not all options require a recompile, but to add support for engine xyz, I had to do it recently. If the Amarok devs can look into this, it would be great!



by Adriaan de Groot (not verified)

Regarding the database: that's the whole point, that amaroK is often *packaged* with, say, the MySQL database required, even though it's a totally optional (compile-time) piece of functionality. By default, sqlite is used and doesn't require much overhead. But because amaroK is packaged with MySQL as a dependency, the developers get grief for being overly complicated, even if the source doesn't require it.

by Roberto Alsina (not verified)

Even if built with mysql support, amarok doesn't require you to install the MySQL database server.

It may require you to have the client libraries installed (which take all of 4MB of your disk), but probably that should be optional too, if amarok uses dlopen instead of linking.

On the other hand, if you don't enable mysql support at compile time, and you want to use mysql, then you are SOL and have to rebuild from source.

Or keep two 99% identical packages in the distro's repos.

amarok with mysql enabled == good.

by Anonymous Coward (not verified)

Bingo! You just mentioned something that I mentioned in my original post: having options that are configurable only at compile time. In your reply, you mention MySQL support. Isn't there a way to make it as some sort of plug-in option or something that can just be checked on or off in a dialogue box?

If not, can you or any other amarok developer explain why?



by Rinse (not verified)

But what's the problem with mysql support in amaroK?
My version of amarok (comes from guru) has support for mysql, postgresql and sqlite.
By default is uses sqlite, and i left it that way :)
i don't have mysql or postgre on my system, and i am not bothered by the fact that amarok has build in support for both database servers.

by Anonymous Coward (not verified)

I think you missed my point.

What I'm saying is that you have to do a (re)compile amarok to get support for x, y or z. Instead of dropping a plug-in in a designated folder and re-starting the app.

MySQL support in amarok is not a problem in itself, it's *how* you enable it.

And weither (sp?) it is MySQL support or AAC/aacPlus decoding capability you want to add to amarok, an end-user should not have to re-compile the application to add to it. Not everyone has the environment necessary to recompile amarok installed on his/her desktop. In a attempt to get a functional amarok on my Kubuntu Dapper box, I downloaded the source, and the amount of stuff I had to install was surprising. G++, Ruby, various devel. libs, etc. I was able to get "configure" to stop complaining, but how-many end-users would be able to do so? Not everyone is a geek.


by AC (not verified)

Ah ok.
I never compile applications myself, and i think that users shouldn't be bothered with compiling applications.
Looking at amarok: i see no reason why a packager would compile it without support for mysql/postgre.
They just should not let the package depend on it.

imho compiling amarok with mysql/postgre without actually depending it in the rpm/deb/whatever package is much better than providing amarok without mysql and demanding the user to lookup/download/install seperate plugins.

by sundher (not verified)

End users aren't as knowledgeable as you think. I don't mean that derogatorily either. The best analogy is to a patient coming in with a sore throat. You, the doctor, listen to his complaints and ideas. He thinks it's strep (bacterial). You do the tests and it's not. Instead it's a viral infection but he still wants antibiotics and doesn't understand why won't give them (a common occurrence in medicine).

Users know that something *is* wrong but they're not always sure how to mend it. They may know something confuses them but their suggestion to fix it might actually make things worse. It's worth listening to users, of course, to know something is confusing or needs tweaking. It's also good to keep their suggestions in mind, but people trained in an area, like usability, probably deserve more credibility for their expertise e.g.

by Anonymous Coward (not verified)

My point is that end-users are like those mine-sniffing dogs: they don't know how to defuse the mine, but they sure can find them. End-users can't always suggest the best way to fix a problem, but they sure can point to real problems better than developers. That is why a developer should never do Q-A testing, because he or she will unconsciously (sp?) avoid potential problem areas and will too often test an application a specific way, "The One True Way The Application Is Meant To Be Used"(tm).

End-users (or "real" testers) will often do things the devs never thought about. I see it frequently at work -- the proportion of applications that break very quickly once they leave the dev shop is staggering.

This being said, sometimes, a request by an end-user comes from a real need. For example, I did request some time ago for the WinAmp-like amarok player window to have the option of being made bigger (especially its volume control), because I found it too small (sign of me getting older, I guess) and hard to control. I am sure the Winamp & XMMS devs must have gotten the same feedback from their users, because both of them have the "double-size" option. Simple request, real need also seen elsewhere. That would not have made things worse for amarok.

That is why I say again, don't always dismiss what end-user say. They can have needs that (possibly younger) developers don't.



by sundher (not verified)

What you said was "And as for usability, quite a few of your users *do* have suggestions for you, listen to them too, not just the "experts". End-users know what confuses them, what makes their life easier." This is what I was responding to.

All users have suggestions. Most of them do come from a real need. Not all of their suggestions are good. I didn't dismiss what end users say in fact I said that it's worth keeping their suggestions in mind and listening to their problems. You put "experts" in quotations and that tends to imply a dismissal of knowledge and training. (Just because I can change my oil doesn't mean I'm going to dismiss what a mechanic "expert" says.) Usability experts have been trained in usability and their opinions should be given more weight. Everyone on /. and their cousin can lecture on usability. Few know what their talking about. (For real hilarity, the economic/science story comments are especially prone to modded up ignorance.)

I think there might be some miscommunication here. When you said "experts" it was imprecise and I took it to mean usability experts since "experts" was referring to the clause before the comma when you mentioned usability (And as for usability,. . . not just the experts). If you meant experts as devs, then we're not really arguing since I think devs aren't always the best source of usability advice (/. again) and when they don't listen to users or actual experts you can end up with UI nightmares. *coughgimpcough*

by Anonymous Coward (not verified)

I have put the work _experts_ between quote because the last 10-16 years has seen an influx of non-technical people, individuals without any technical instincts in the field. Think about all of these paper MCSEs, and before that all these paper CNEs. Think about all these "internet designers" that have zero technical skills (like your typical paper MCSE).

Too many so-called usability experts have produced UI abominations for me to take the title "expert" at face value. Too many of them end up thinking like geeks and forget how Normal People(tm) think.

There *are* true UI experts, and they can do very good work. But like these "internet professionals", there are too many, huh, charlatans out there for me not to be skeptical at first. That was why I said "experts".

by Ascay (not verified)

> Max Howell talked about moving to amaroK 2 and the Windows
> port that will come with that.

Very cool! For converting people from Windows to Linux it is quite important that they can still use the same application. And a cool crossplatform mediaplayer that can substitute iTunes (without the DRM...) e.g. is a big plus.

by Doubt (not verified)

> For converting people from Windows to Linux it is quite important
> that they can still use the same application.

It doesn't work like that. The correct phrasing would be:

"For converting people from Windows Media Player to amaroK it is quite important that they can still use the same operating system."

It would be a real help if windows apps got ported to linux, but the pposite makes no sense for linux (although it certainly can make sense for the apps that get ported to windows).

amaroK is exactly the only thing that has proved capable to make my windows friends curious about linux. It ill be great for it to run on windows, but n the long term this is a great disadvantage to both Linux and Free Software.

And don't assume that spreading a Free app will make people appreciate Freedom. They already appreciate freeware and that's all that amaroK, openoffice etc. will mean to them.

by superstoned (not verified)

i'm afraid i agree with you. i still kind'a think porting KDE to windows might not be the smartest thing the project ever did. on the other hand, it might bring in more help and (commercial) support, and of course knowledge...

by Doubt (not verified)

It's smart for KDE, and we will probably see more KDE apps, both proprietary _and_ free. But it's probably bad for the free world, and in that case it might also backlash against KDE.

Now this is really a difficult topic, and I won't say more :-)

by Max Howell (not verified)

Linux will always be our priority, we love Linux too much :)

by Ricard (not verified)

But well, if it's good for the app, then it's good for the users!
Just hope this won't slow down linux's version developpement too much.

And it's true that many of my friends are switching to linux thanks to amaroK among others.

by SiberianHotDog (not verified)

thats a real ignorant way of thinking.

its simple: people switch when the barrier to do so is low enough. people don't switch if its to much work.
so what do you have to do to lower the amount of work needed to switch? the easiest way is to only switch part of the environment. of course, that works especially well if its the hidden part that is switched ;).

but now we have a problem! can we realy wait for microsoft to port IE, their (windows) media player, the msn messenger, outlook and Office to your desired plattform?

unfortunately thats realy unlikely to happen ;).

so if you don't get their software on your platform, you have to get them to use your software on their platform. thats realy the only way to lower the effort for switching later.

there is no doubt that porting windows apps to other platforms would be way better. but still, just wait for things to happen will get you even less than porting your desktop stuff to windows.

so other platforms like linux don't realy have a choice if they want more users. they need to make switching easy, and the only way to do that IS compatibility.

by Doubt (not verified)

> thats a real ignorant way of thinking.

Sir, out of sheer ignorance I do wish to ask you a question:

> its simple: people switch when the barrier to do so is low enough.
> people don't switch if its to much work.

You seem to assume that the first sentence follows from the second. Why that?

'people don't switch if its too much work' - right, that's what 'too much' means after all

'people switch when the barrier to do so is low enough'. Wrong. People switch when there is a reason to switch that they can comprehend. They don't just switch because it's easy. And they very rarely see an advantage in an _operating_system_ (they have mostly no clue as to what that is).

But then, I don't necessarily think that something is wrong with the windows port. I just Doubt. It's good to ask questions. It's bad to call people 'ignorant', unless you know exactly why you do it.

by skywaker (not verified)

I am a FreeBSD user and I love KDE its nice and beauty becouse its too simply ... I hear that KDE 4 can be more simple to use? What is good of this is that there are new technologies about phonon and more, ... I am not programmer but sometimes i create a UI dialogs and run it with kmdr-executor (in slackware) ... I think that QT is more powerfull than Gtk+ Lukas.

by josel (not verified)

Why is it so important to convert people from Windows to Linux? If you care about that then its not a subsitute for iTunes but a subsitute for Windows mediaplayer that is needed. They just need to make it simpler to use - i dont think that amarok cuts it in terms of simplicity.

by Rinse (not verified)

i think applications like kaffeine, kplayer and kmplayer are more like a windows media player replacement.

by Guillaume Laurent (not verified)

As a dev of a "media producing" KDE app (Rosegarden), I must say I really like what I've seen on Matthias Kretz's slides. Clear and practical goals, no "we will allow configuring chorus+reverb+delay on the system bell" stuff... Much much better than aRts. I hope this will all go nicely.

by Ben (not verified)

If phonon is as easy to program as Matthais's slides promise, it'll be a big breakthough for KDE.

Hopefully, it'll be powerful enough to construct general filter graphs for audio/video. That would make building WYSIWYG video/music apps soooo easy.


by Thesa (not verified)

Hello !

I wrote an amaroK plugin to play radios in amaroK 1.*! You can find it here:

by Andreas (not verified)

I'd find it cool if Amarok 2.0 gets a Skin-Engine like Winamp 5 or Xmms.


by Christian Nitsc... (not verified)

No. Please don't use those skins on any application in KDE.
A consistent look of my applications are very very important to me.
When it was a new feature to skin your applications (thinking of WinAmp 1.x) it was cool to have different skins.
Nowadays there are so many applications that don't use the common look of the toolkit's widgets - and most of the time it is plainly ugly.

Conclusion: Never ever make KDE applications skinnable - that's what the Qt-Style API is for.
It'd waste developer resources and most the time doesn't even look good.

Just my 0.02 EUR

by ac (not verified)

I'm going to use skins on all KDE applications.

by sebastian (not verified)

Well, I use
o Noatun/KJofol whenever I don't use the playlist very often. It is just nice to look at it when noatun works in the background. Yes, sometimes skinning could be nice indeed.
o JuK, because it is just simple and works. The visual layout of the NON-skinned interface is just asthetic, well-ordered, simple and clean (though sometimes it hangs when starting the sound engine)
o Amarok - just when noatun or juk have trouble in playing a song. I used Amarok 0.x until they introduced this animated listbox selection and the ugly sidebar. It may have all functions someone wants to have. The problem is: The very few additional functions compared with JuK are *at least for me* less significant compared with the visual appearance and the usuability point of view.

Indeed, I believe the Amarok team should listen to users complaining about the look of their application. JuK already showed that it is possible to look great without skinning, but sometimes I still miss the abilities of KJofol.

These are my 2 eurocents

by Max Howell (not verified)

The odds are low that amaroK will ever have a skinning engine.

by rebuilt (not verified)

Right, it will only have a theme-ing engine.

by aerion (not verified)

i figure this thread isnt still alive, but i find it very interesting, so whatever.
ive never heard anyone against skins like that before, its very intriguing. though i guess windows programs dont have as customizable graphics as kde... if thats what was in fact bein talked about. i dont really know much about it.
i thought about this, and i think that the thing is with skins, at least for winamp when i used them, is that they werent just for different looks. ive always thought that a really good skinner would have his/her own skin that he could use extremely easy, the buttons being exactly where he wanted, etc. sure, the old winamp skins were fun, but i think that all media players should have a really good skinning engine, just in case you absolutely cant stand the way things are laid out. obviously it takes a lot for the colors and visuals to be unbearable, and that happens pretty rarely.