Amarok/Archives/AotMInterview

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AoTm
Application of the Month (featured on the dot)

Participants

  • Mark Kretschmann, nick: markey
  • Ian Monroe, nick: eean
  • Seb Ruiz, nick: sebr
  • Kenny Lemieux, nick: swaft
  • Dan Leinir Turthra Jensen, nick: leinir
  • Reigo Reinmets, nick: xatax
  • Max Howell, nick: mxcl
  • Harald Sitter, nick: apachelogger
  • Alexandre Oliveira, nick: untouchable

The questions they asked us

1. amaroK lacks a formal maintainer and is instead developed by a group. Has it always been this way?

  • Mark: In the beginning I used to be maintainer, as I had also founded the project. Then, as more people joined, we realized that all of us core developers are really sharing the job. It's like, everyone does the work that he feels like doing, whenever he has the time to do it. So we decided it's silly to have one "official" maintainer, and just dropped the title. This also reflects one important aspect of the amaroK project: We emphasize teamwork a lot. Perhaps more than other projects do.
  • Seb: I am still under the impression that the overlord of the amaroK application is the wise amaroK bot which resides in the IRC channel.
  • Swaft: I really think that amaroK is now based on teamwork like Mark said previously. I dont think the project would still in developement if it wasnt of this aspect.
  • Leinir: Discussions on how amaroK's look and feel will happen is always taken up by the team and discussed thoroughly before actually being implemented, and that way we tend to end up with something much less patched together than what might happen if we didn't talk about it beforehand and got forced, for one reason or another, to make do with inferior code later on, which we would then have to either work around or rip out and do from the bottom up again. Really, it's all down to being lazy in the right way: Doing things right the first time ;)
  • mxcl: amaroK is maintained by whoever commits the most code, and we all peer-review each other. We're not scared to question commits if we think they may compromise amaroK's integrity.

2. Which persons should be mentioned when we speak about amaroK? Are they the same people as the original developers?

  • Leinir: Really, the ones listed in the program's Authors list primarily, but the people in the Thanks To list are also important to the project (and I'm not just saying that because I'm in there ;) )
  • mxcl: Obviously the person who's committed the most bugs is the most important, as this ultimately generates the most conversation on IRC, lists and the Internet in general. So that would be me. Nobody else matters. Well, apart from markey who started it in 2002, and muesli who joined at about the same time as me in late 2003, we're still here. Some people have come and gone since, and since 1.1 we've had a large influx of new talent, and we hope they'll stick around..

3. What role do you have in the development of amaroK?

  • Ian: I've just been developing amaroK itself for about 3 months. Before then I learned my way around of the KDE API from writing a ruby script for amaroK called Uplisting. (Ruby is a great way to learn KDE without dealing with pointers and Makefiles.) Since then, I've been doing little features and fixes here and there, like adding the GUI to theme installs and showing the MySQL error messages.
  • Seb: I was quickly engaged into developing amaroK after I submitted my first patch (OSD Customization) to the mailing list. Mxcl told me to get a CVS account and commit the patch myself, which I did. I haven't let go of my account since! Currently I am responsible for Party mode, which is in development for the upcoming 1.3 release. Like all the developers, I am intimate with the codebase and happily work on bugfixes in any area.
  • Swaft: I am one of the newest, I think. I joined the fabulous team 3 months ago. My proposal was to restore the website, then I decided to stick with the team and started to be involved in some different projects by giving opinions and such. Well, now I am the webdevelopper (wiki/blog/site/mambo/ftp all of these are related to me).
  • Leinir: I hang around and talk a lot, mainly, and I tend to help out a lot with decisions on the look and feel of amaroK. I also hang around and help out with support, along with all the other people in the channel. I keep being surprised at how nice and patient people are in that channel. We all know how silly some people can get, but generally people get heard in there, and there is mostly someone around to help out.
  • Xatax: I have done various patches, mostly on Context Browser. Lately I have been working on the Wikipedia Tab which is in development for the upcoming 1.3 release.
  • mxcl: I like to keep amaroK running, even though the number of people working on it is growing quickly nowadays. So I like making the backend easy to work on. I also like pretty stuff, I implemented all the visualisation bits (although not all the visualisations). I also wrote the monstrous playlist code that I plan to make a lot better for 1.3 so other people can work on it without fear of regressing everything. I wrote a funky debug class recently, and our clever threading wrapper. My stuff is mostly incremental, we owe our best work to markey and muesli IMHO.
  • Apachelogger: I'm Senior Director of Interproject Coordination Activities. In this position, I try to improve the translations of amaroK, since they are currently sucking. I also translate the majority part of the amaroK wiki into german and try to hold them up-to-date. Between these time-consuming jobs I try to give support in the channel and various forums, and of course I do advertisement for amaroK wherever I'm able to.
  • Untouchable: I mostly fix bugs and add small functionalities to amaroK, while trying hard to keep our bug database something sane and usable, closing tons of duplicated or already fixed bugs.

4. If I have never heard about amaroK, how would you describe it in 2-3 sentences?

  • Mark: Imagine you come home from work after a long day. You're thirsty, but there's no beer left in the house. Then you discover there's still a delicious bottle in the fridge. Now if only you weren't all alone! What's that, a knock at the door. It's your girlfriend, and boy she is beautiful. And she brings more beer.. This is what using amaroK feels like.
  • Leinir: Mark's metaphor is quite possibly the best metaphor for how amaroK works as a music player. but without knowing that it is one such the person reading that metaphor as a description would make little sense ;) I'll try doing it in one sentence, with lots of commas ;) amaroK is a heavily context and database based audio player for the KDE desktop, with advanced playlist handling capabilities, which is still simple enough to use that most users will be able to handle most of the programs features without much experience.
  • Xatax: amaroK is what makes you change from using Windows to Linux!
  • mxcl: Our goals for amaroK are to make it fun, easy to use and for it really help you make the most of your music. If we fail on those counts for you we really would like you to tell us why. It's important to us that people want to use amaroK and tell their friends about it.

5. Why another media player?

  • Ian: Back a year and a half ago, I was fed up with XMMS hanging for about 10 seconds to open the 'select directory' dialog. amaroK fit my style of listening much better since it had the file browser conveniently to the left of the playlist.
  • Seb: I don't remember when, or how I stumbled across amaroK, but I knew it clicked, and there would be no other application to use. I found many problems and hang-ups with other media players available for Unix, including database management, usability and kde integration which amaroK all addressed perfectly!
  • Swaft: Before using amaroK, I was using XMMS which wasnt my "style". My friend (Paleo) told me about amaroK, and of course, I tried and loved it! I like a lot the lyric and cover fetching features. Then I found out what amaroK was able to do and I was amazed. For me, it's not "another media player" but THE media player.
  • Leinir: amaroK is basically the missing link between the WinAmp like players XMMS, Beep and so on, and the iTunes like players like JuK and Rhythmbox. Advanced playlist handling, but still simple enough to use without training. I would also, as Swaft says, argue that amaroK is not just another media player.
  • mxcl: Well our plan is to make amaroK perfect and then send it back in time to be the first ever media-player, so then people would stop asking us this question all the time... ;-p But if you want me to be serious, the rest suck, isn't it obvious? I've used most of them, including many tens that I downloaded for "ideas research" on Windows. They're are all pretty poor. The next best I've used is iTunes. iTunes and amaroK would benefit from some idea-exchange in my opinion.

6. Is amaroK easy to install? Which way is the easiest?

  • Ian: As easy as any KDE package really. Most distributions come with amaroK packages, this is the easiest way.
  • Swaft: I am running Gentoo, so it wasnt hard to emerge amaroK with the portage.
  • Leinir: To add to Ian's answer, a few distributions have even chosen amaroK as their default music player. Some of these distributions, however, are unfortunately compiled with some features turned off. Why this is so I don't know, but I personally would like to see them turning them on, so their users get the full experience.
  • Xatax: As amaroK is one of the most stable application in CVS i know, i would actualy recommend the good old cvs-up(svn-up?) && ./configure && make && make install, Gives you the latest bugfixes, features and of course the feeling of being ahead from the rest of the world.
  • mxcl: You only need kdelibs, taglib + one engine-backend (eg. xine). Packages for some distros may be harder to install than compiling from source since often distros compile in all the optional features thus making amaroK's dependency list too large. I plan to make an Autopackage before 1.3 so it should be easy as pie to install on Linux at least.

7. What is your opinion of software patents?

  • Ian: Don't like them, just from the practical standpoint that it is annoying dealing with distros like Fedora without MP3 support. Makes amaroK look bad.
  • Mark: They suck.
  • Swaft: Mark said it right.
  • Leinir: They scare me. Why do we need a new set of restrictions, whose only adition on top of existing copyright law is that the companies with less money for lawyers will lose a lawsuit based on them?
  • Xatax: I agree with Mark.
  • mxcl: I find it strange that some people have such little faith in their ideas and abilities that they think they need to secure a monopoly on their idea in order for it to be a success. People will pay for good ideas, you don't need exclusive rights. Fundamentally, making a living is incentive enough for most people. Futhering innovation is incentive enough for those who are born to invent. But on larger scales industries require larger amounts of capital to transform ideas into massmanufactured product, and the people with the right amounts of money don't take risks. So that justifies patents in pharmaceuticals, and maybe mechanical-engineering, but not software. I think the software industry has proven it doesn't need patents to foster unparalleled rates of innovation. There is no justification for software patentability; there is just greed.
  • Apachelogger: I study business economics, so I can reproduce the thoughts behind. And they aren't good, because they further monopolies, and monopolies aren't very good for national economy. Software patents? - No thank you.

8. Could a few of you tell me, what role does Open Source play in their country?

  • Ian: In the USA, things are more difficult since technology is already widespread and entrenched.
  • Leinir: In Denmark, the government last year issued a statement that open source tools should be adopted widely by their offices. I'm sorry to see this has not happened yet, but I do hope that the keyword in that sentence ends up being 'yet'. Government offices are not known for being fast.
  • mxcl: In the UK Open Source seems to be hip with the young and shunned by those above 35 or so. Thus I can't get any of the businesses I've worked for to use it, but I notice all the young computer-savvy people I talk to know or have even used Linux, and sometimes even amaroK ;-) The other day I walked into a furniture shop and they were using Mandrake. May that not be the last time I see such things!
  • Apachelogger: In Austria, the most people don't know what Open Source is. In fact they think Windows and Microsoft means the same.
  • Swaft: In Canada, opensource is not very popular yet. If you stop and ask someone in the street, they will probably answer: "What's that?" Yes, some people know about it but not that much. Paleo did a survey last week about open source, and most of respondants didnt even heard about it.
  • Untouchable: Open Source has been taken quite seriously by the Brazilian federal government. Government ministries and state-run companies are being instructed to gradually switch to free software whenever possible, and “PC Conectado”, a program which will sell cheap computers to lower-middle income Brazilians this year, is intended to use only free software. However, a great amount of the computer-savvy here doesn't know much about it, and most of the common people doesn't have a clue about what free software is.

9. What distribution of Linux do you run?

  • Ian: Gentoo. Well, currently a Gentoo LiveCD as I'm in the midst of installing Gentoo on to a new system.
  • Seb: SuSE 9.2
  • Mark: Chaotix 5.3 (but will switch to amaroK-Live soon)
  • Swaft: Gentoo 2.6.9
  • Leinir: Mandrake 10.1 Official (but will be switching to Ark Linux soon)
  • Xatax: Slackware
  • mxcl: Arch Linux, and will soon be beating some Arch into sebr
  • Apachelogger: SUSE Linux 9.3
  • Untouchable: Gentoo

10. A few words about the people behind amaroK. What are they doing in their free time? Hobbies, family?

  • Seb: I am at university, in my third year of studying Biomedical engineering and Computer engineering. Doesn't take up too much time, and spare time is spent coding, surfing or hanging out with my mates.
  • Leinir: 25 years, and currently on the last leg of an education called Multimedia Designer, after the summer holidays I will be starting at university, where I will be studying Information Management. In my spare time, well, I help with amaroK, I do a couple of other projects, one called Uberghey CMS, and a theming set called Reinhardt (colour scheme, icon set, widget style, gdm theme, splash engine, and there's a design but no code for a window manager theme).
  • mxcl: Occasionally I try out Gnome.
  • Swaft: I am most of the time at school. In my spare time, I work on amaroK's new website, play keyboard (music-wise), read some sciences stuff and work on some personnal engineering project. I like talking with friends and do activities with my girlfriend. --sebr hee hee ;)
  • Ian: Currently I do some web design and work at a textbook warehouse. I'll be continuing my Computer Science major this fall; looking forward to resuming activities with FSCK. In my non-amaroK spare time, I've been reading Harry Potter 5 in Spanish.

Possible alternative questions:

"Amarok seems to be fairly controversial usability-wise. What is your opinion concerning the controversy?"

  • Ian: The notion that amaroK's wizard was scary struck me as quite odd at first. The wizard really makes thing easier. If you've ever opened an media player like foobar2000 which doesn't have a wizard, setting up your collection is a pain. However, I think they were probably refering to the wording of some of the instructions in the wizard, which I worked on last weekend.
  • Leinir:amaroK is definitely not your normal music player, but then your normal music player has always been really difficult to use, and we're trying to bridge that gap without actually dumbing the application down like some modern players.

"I hear that you guys are all hopeless IRC junkies. Do you care to comment on this?"

  • sebr: |lart question writer
  • Ian:A defining feature of amaroK is that most of its contributors hang out in IRC. It makes things more accessible to new contributors, and gives us a constant stream of feedback from users that most companies pay big $$'s for.
  • Leinir:On top of Ian's answer, which is a very important part of amaroK's community, yes we are IRC junkies and love it that way ;) However, it's not like we don't get out, there's a reason amaroK's version 1.2 final was originally called Blood, Sweat and Beers ;)
  • Xatax: Good IRC support is what makes amaroK really usable. Also most of the regular guys on #amaroK are really fun!
  • Swaft: Personally, I dont care. Being connected 24/7 doesnt mean that you are always there. amaroK is based on teamwork and communication, how could we work together without being at the same place at the same time.. Whatever, I think you understand my point.

"Are you planning to try to get amaroK into kdemultimedia?"

  • Leinir:amaroK's release cycle is too fast for inclusion in kdemultimedia. Also, it isn't like we're not a part of the KDE project already, we're simply part of the extragear set of applications, all of which are part of the KDE project, but which have release dates elsewhere. We use the same amin folders for development, internationalisation is done by the KDE translation team and so on.
  • mxcl: There are benefits to inclusion in KDE tarballs, you tend to get installed by default a lot. But we quite like being separate to the KDE release cycle. We keep our motivation high by deciding to release frequently and as we need to. Also KDE already has two media-players in KDEMultimedia, and the process for exchanging one for amaroK is not established, and we don't want to step on anyone's toes.

"Will you guys ever settle on an icon?"

  • Leinir: Yes, the last one was removed due to legal problems, but rest assured that lots of blood, sweat and beers are going into the selection of the new icon. We want one professional enough to be put on teeshirts and to work as people's background pictures without giving them eye-cancer ;)
  • mxcl: Yes. As soon as companies nobody has ever heard of stop threatening us with expired registered trademarks.
  • Swaft: Getting a final icon is pretty important for us. An icon can make the difference between:"Hey what's that?" and "Hey you have amaroK!". It kinda like the name, when you see an icon, e.g: Firefox. You recognize it. This is also pretty important for advertisement. Getting an icon as soon as possible is one of our priority.

"we learn latest feature is hang on bad stream. how do you respond against this?"

  • mxcl: amaroK only hangs when it is keylogging your root password.

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