Is There No Good iPod Software for Linux?

What good is a blog if you can't complain and vent your frustrations to the world? I have a 3rd generation iPod that I won in a raffle way back before anyone even knew what an iPod was really. The only software that worked with an iPod on Linux in those days was gtkpod, and let me tell you, using that software was an incredible exercise in patience. I had about 5 GB of music, and it took about 5 full minutes for gtkpod to display any of my music. Then if you, say, clicked a tab to have it sort by artist name, it was another 5 minutes for it to redisplay the sorted list of music, and you could do nothing else with gtkpod until it was done with that redisplay. It was so infuriating, but for some reason I stuck with it. Once I learned what things would send it off into long periods of unresponsiveness, I carefully avoided clicking on those things and was able to get some music synced up to my iPod. If I ever did accidentally click the wrong thing and send if off into one of its redisplay cycles I would howl in agony.

Most recently I've been using Amarok to interface with my iPod on Linux. My blood pressure has been a lot lower since ditching gtkpod. It has worked pretty well, but had no support for iPod playlists, which was a bit of a bummer. I think they've fixed that now, but for some reason the current version of Amarok for my Ubuntu (1.4.7) just crashes when I try and send files over to the iPod. This bothered me enough today (I don't actually use my iPod much, to be honest) that I tried Banshee. I was impressed. It's pretty slick, and typical for Gnome vs. KDE, much simpler to use than Amarok. I plugged in my iPod and hit synchronize and it hung for a while, then started to synchronize, and then it crashed. It looks like maybe it was trying to encode some random wma files (where did those come from?) so it could copy those to the iPod. That's kind of a nice idea, Banshee, but futile. Is there any way to turn that "feature" off? Poking around in the Preferences I see that the default "Output format" for "CD Importing" is AAC. Um, that's weird. Anyway, there seems to be no option to tell it to just ignore non-mp3 files when synchronizing. There's probably a gconf setting... Maybe I'll try banshee again later.

So, desperate, I actually fired up gtkpod. My stomach started to churn as I had it import my music. It popped up a window telling me that it couldn't import some pdf files, and some text files. I thought that was fabulously helpful. Then, once it imported everything, the moment of truth came. I moused over the Artist column, averted my eyes, and clicked. My blood pressure instinctively rose and I looked back, and gtkpod was just sitting there with my songs sorted by artist. I did it again with my eyes open, and it sorted 2402 songs by genre in the blink of an eye. This was very encouraging.

I plugged in my iPod next, dismissed Rhythmbox (I know there's a gconf setting to make that stop, I just haven't bothered to find it. Can Rhythmbox even write to iPods yet?), and gtkpod couldn't find it. I had to wade through it's messy preferences dialog and tell it that the iPod wasn't in /media/ipod, but /media/BRY'S IPOD (who knows why?). After that it acted like it still wasn't working for a while, but then suddenly there was my iPod, playlists and all. The next test was to see if it would sync up with what's on my hard drive. I right-clicked on the iPod name and say the old familiar array of choices that never quit made sense to me. I tried "Sync Playlist with Dir(s)" and it told me "Nothing was changed." Finally I stumbled upon File->Update tracks from files and it started to act like it was syncing stuff up. While it was doing this I noticed that the box above the list of songs that has tabs for Artist, Album, Genre, etc. doesn't actually list those things in alphabetical order. Very nice. It gave me no indication of how long this syncing process was going to take but was displaying each song name in that status bar at the bottom for about a half second to a second each. How long is 2402 seconds? Well, it didn't take quit that long, but when it was done some new songs that I have on my hard drive but not yet on my iPod where still not on my iPod. I give up.


Santiago said…
haha, mate, thats all true, so what do you actuallu suggest??,
Andy C said…
If using an iPod is important to you, my suggestion is buy a Mac, or use iTunes in windows. If it's not that important, use Rhythmbox. Gtkpod is fantastically full featured but is so cussedly difficult to use (e.g. - if you delete a track from "Harddisk" it stays on the drive, you frequently end up manually synchronising changes across app, disk and ipod - great if you like triplication).
Bryan said…
Old post, but still applicable. Thanks for the comments. I finally put rockbox on my iPod and now I can just copy files to it like it's a normal hard drive. No special software needed.

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