August 5, 2012

KDE's Amarok Music Player 2.6 Release Imminent, Release Candidate Announced

A few days ago the Amarok team announced that the release candidate for Amarok 2.6 is available for testing. Taking a look since the version 2.5 release back in December 2011, there has been a lot of work done both in new features as well as bug-fixes galore.

New Features

A quick rundown of new features since 2.5 reveals:
  • A complete overhaul of the iPod and iPhone support
  • Transcoding for iPod-like and USB Mass Storage devices
  • The Free Music Chart service is now activated by default
  • Show all audio and video files in file browser (BR 303253)
  • Remove codec install support. It's long ago been implemented in phonon
  • Prevent lags with large Saved playlists. (BR 301700)
  • Increase minimal required ffmpeg version up to 0.7.
  • Use audio-x-generic icon for bit rate, not a generic one. (BR 302753)
  • Add Amarok.Playlist.playMediaList() script bindings for API symmetry
  • Building the spectrum analyzer applet can now be disabled with a CMake argument 
  •  Amazon store: improved album search
  • Support for transcoding when copying tracks to USB Mass Storage devices;
    per-device transcoding preference can be saved, too
  • Provide Repopulate and Turn off link in "Dynamic Mode Enabled" bagde
  • Support for setting cover images for albums on USB Mass Storage devices
  • Support for setting and unsetting cover images for iPod albums, can
    write back covers to file meta-data too, respects configuration
  • Amazon store: ability to check out an item directly without using the Amarok
    shopping cart (BR 288808)
  • Amarok now includes the Free Music Charts service by default
  • The maximum dimensions for embedded covers are now configurable (BR 279493)
  • Small configuration dialog for iPods that shows troubleshooting information
    and allows to change iPod name
  • Improved usability of iPod playlists: iPod collection automatically transfers tracks dropped to iPod playlists to iPod when it is needed
  • Tracks can now be transcoded when transferring them to iPod (BR 291722)
  • A diagnostic dialog reporting versions of Amarok, Qt, KDE and phonon libraries as well as the used phonon backend and status of plugins and scripts
  • Ability to move track position bookmarks by dragging; patch by Jasneet Bhatti. (BR 214721)
  • Amarok can now remember whether and how to transcode tracks when       transferring them to a particular collection. (BR 264681)
  • "Crop playlist" functionality implemented using drag & drop. (BR 267729, 211811)
  • Added keyboard shortcut for "Edit Track Information..." (BR 173814) Patch by Jasneet Bhatti
  • Support for embedded album covers in non-collection tracks and in USB Mass Storage collection
  • Hold the Shift key when dragging tracks to collections to move them instead of copying
  • New search filter for absolute date
  • Named UMS collections
  • Albums with same name but different album artist are now correctly separated in USB Mass Storage, iPod and various online service collections
  • Support for detecting compilations in USB Mass Storage collection
  • Support embedded covers for ogg (read only) and flac files (BR 288752)
  • Track meta-data can be edited in USB Mass Storage collection
  • Support for album artists in USB Mass Storage collection 
  • Album artist (if differs from artist), BPM, labels, last played time and bitrate are now shown in playlist track tooltip (if not already displayed in playlist)
  • Volume normalization: ReplayGain is now converted to iPod Sound Check and vice versa. (BR 142579)

There have also been too many bug fixes to list here, which is a good thing to be sure. More detail can be found here.

Call For Testing

"We're rolling a release candidate because there were a couple of intrusive code changes since 2.6 Beta 1 that were needed to fix severe Beta 1 bugs. We would be glad if many of you could test this extensively so that we can release Amarok 2.6 soon. Specifically, please test the following:
  • Correct playback and playlist advancement with both vlc and gstreamer phonon backends. Play count should be increased correctly. Note: phonon-gstreamer 4.6.1 has a known bug, 4.6.2 will contain a fix. [related commits]
  • Track statistics such as last played time, rating are never lost for tracks unless they are moved and changed simultaneously from outside of Amarok. Statistics of amarok_afttagger-tagged tracks shouldn't be lost unless the track is moved out of collection folders. Using the Organize Collection functionality shouldn't create a mess in collection anymore and should preserve track statistics. [related commits]
Please note that unless you are upgrading from 2.6 Beta 1, your Amarok database will be updated on first startup. Full (and very long) list of new features and bug-fixes since Amarok 2.5 will be published with the final release. There is a v2.5.95 tag in Amarok git repository, but we decided not to release that version at all.
Since the KDE multimedia people were so kind to give us a 4.6.1 release of the phonon-backend-gstreamer recently, it would be nice if you could also test this backend. We would like to verify if gapless playback now really works in Amarok or if there are still improvements necessary. The tarball for that backend can be found here." 

Getting It

Although as of today the specific release candidate (2.5.96) has not been packaged yet, Kubuntu 11.04, 11.10, and 12.04 users can install Amarok-git from sumski's goodies PPA and stay as current as possible. As of today, the git version of Amarok is 2.5.99, so if you're interested in testing some of the new usage cases outlined in the above call for testing, installing Amarok-git as outlined above will have you covered.