Saturday, November 13, 2010

Using Rhythmbox

I haven't done much with digital music on Linux, at least in recent years. I also have a Mac Mini at home, and I own an iPod - so figured my music options were already covered. But I thought I'd give it a try under Linux.

I mentioned in my Fedora 14 mini-review that I'm really enjoying Rhythmbox, the default music management application for GNOME. The other day, I decided to install the MP3 libraries for Rhythmbox. This is one of those unfortunate areas, where MP3 music is not supported "out of the box" on most Linux distributions, including Fedora. That's because MP3 is patent-encumbered, so technically Linux distributors can't include it without paying a license.

But you can add MP3 support easily enough from a number of other places. You'll have to use your own judgment and preferences here. RPM Fusion has packages available for Fedora 14. Their Configuration page has instructions to get set up with their repository, then it's a matter of installing a few packages. On the whole, it's about as "difficult" to add MP3 support on Linux as it is for a Windows user to download and install iTunes; it's easy!

Now, when I plug in my iPod, Rhythmbox comes up, showing my iPod and all my songs. I get cover art, playlists, the whole deal. I can even play music I purchased from iTunes using my Mac! Right now, I'm listening to some of my favorite tunes, played directly off my 32GB iPod Touch.

Here's a screenshot of Rhythmbox, also showing part of my desktop. I have Rhythmbox running in a smaller window than usual, so I could grab the screenshot without covering the whole desktop.

What's really nice is that Rhythmbox adds itself automatically to the top panel. Click the icon to hide Rhythmbox, but keep the music playing. Click it again to bring up the window, maybe select a different song or playlist.

So where does that leave me? Our Mac Mini is well over 5 years old now. It's hooked up to our TV, and sometimes we use the Mac to watch videos from the Internet. But to be honest, mostly it's just there to act as a "gateway" to my iPod. And here's another secret: I haven't bought much from Apple's iTunes Store in the last year. I've switched to Amazon's MP3 Music Store. By volume, the vast majority of the content on my iPod is MP3, either purchased on CD and ripped, or purchased online through Amazon's MP3 Music Store.

My wife and I have been debating whether we really need to buy another Mac Mini when this one dies. Since Rhythmbox works so well, we're now thinking about just ditching the Mac altogether, and running all of our digital music through Linux instead.


  1. (I don't remember if I said this here or not...)

    Based on my experience with an iPod tOuch on Ubuntu and Windows--The crossfading backend to rhythmbox interferes with recognizing the Touch, works fine without the crossfading. Podcasts aren't perfect--Under some circumstances you can have 2 listings for a podcast on the iPod, one showing (for example) 5 episodes, another showing 3. Tapping either entry will show all 8.

    ...and on Windows at least, the default settings of iTunes will immediately delete any music that Rhythmbox put on the tOuch. Then again, iTunes on Windows is plain awful in almost every way.

  2. About the mp3 (and other codecs) support, I have taken to using Autoten since Fedora 12: (this goes directly to the download page in the forum)
    It adds rpmfusion free and nonfree automatically, PLUS all audio and video codecs I could ever need.

    Also, I love the Amazon mp3 store in Banshee. (I've never used iTunes)

  3. Two other options: If you have windows (ick) run it under a virtualizer and on that run ituens . I've not done this, and I have no idea how it would work, but I wonder.

    Second option I've not tried and can't vouch for (I hate it when people do what I'm doing right now, but I want to get the conversation going): Itunes in Wine. Earlish versions work.

    Ironically (perhaps that is not the right term) my use of an i-Touch and an iPod dies me to Windows. I have no usable Mac hardware, but I have a barely usable PC running XP, and all I use that for is iTunes.

    Time to change!

  4. AmaroK rolls RhythmBox in every category!

  5. Dohn, yes AmaroK is a nice audio player, and it looks great. However, my preference is for Rhythmbox, so that's what I wrote about. Also, AmaroK is for KDE, and I prefer to keep all my apps as GNOME. (Yes, I know you can run KDE apps on GNOME.)

  6. If you plan on using a linux box for media, look into mpd and xbmc! I use mpd all the time to play music remotely - control what music is playing with my laptop, it outputs on the server. XBMC wraps everything up with excellent movie/music organization and works with standard microsoft remotes (~$15).


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