Tag Archives: music

CritiqueBrainz is in Beta!

20 May

CritiqueBrainz "logo"You might have heard of MusicBrainz, the open music database? It’s a bit of a nerdy Discogs, with more details and a better structure. It is run by the MetaBrainz non-profit organisation, and the data is of course gathered by more than 250,000 contributors, similarly to Wikipedia or OpenStreetMap. This project has been around for a while (it started in 2002), and a thing that I love about it is that it keeps on getting better with very regular updates. It also adds elements to the database scheme, which makes it potentially more precise, while getting more user friendly too by enhancing the user interface. Overall, this gives me a warm feeling of sustainability in the project. At the moment of writing, the database includes more than 840,000 artists, 1.2 million releases, 13.4 million recordings and 81,000 labels.

One thing that was missing in the project, even though users could give a five-star rating to entities, was the capacity to write actual creative release reviews – which makes sense as the database aims at gathering verifiable objective data about music, not user opinions about it. It is now possible with the launch of the CritiqueBrainz beta, as separate website that gathers reviews under a Creative Commons (CC) license. To kick-start the new MusicBrainz family member, a big import of nearly 9000 BBC reviews under CC license has been made.

One cool thing is that the reviews integrate a little Spotify player that lets you listen to the album while reading someone’s rants/praise (if (1) you have a Spotify account and (2) the release in question – or, better said in the database jargon, “release group” – has been matched with a Spotify release in the MusicBrainz database).

Even if a release group has not been reviewed yet, you can still browse the MusicBrainz database through the CritiqueBrainz website, and it looks a lot more like what the lambda user expects of a discography website – which also makes it very practical for example for finding out which cover arts are missing from the database.

The look of an artist page on CritiqueBrainz - less cryptic than its big brother.

The look of an artist page on CritiqueBrainz – less cryptic than its big brother.

One thing I have noticed is that for the moment, the reviewers are not able to give ratings to the releases. As I mentioned earlier, it is possible in MusicBrainz to rate most elements out of five stars (artists, releases, recordings, works, labels…), but the reviewers on CritiqueBrainz seem to only communicate their views through the written comments. It could be a way to promote a more elaborate explanation of the contributor’s judgement, which is fair enough I guess. But this brand new website also has the potential to attract original reviews and congregate a number of reviews already available on the Internet under a CC license, which would ultimately be a great way to add this kind of relevant data to the database itself.

Readers can however thumb up or thumb down the reviews, which will likely reveal the most interesting, convincing and well-written ones to the top after a big enough user base has joined the project.

Example of a review on CritiqueBrainz

Example of a review on CritiqueBrainz. This one, on the latest Knife album, was imported from the BBC reviews.

This website was made possible thanks to the work of two Google Summer of Code students: Maciej Czerwiński for the year 2013, and Roman Tsukanov for the year 2014. Thank you guys for that great work!

And to finish, I will just quote Ruaok’s description of the new project:

“We’re hoping to make CritiqueBrainz a user site that uses more cover-art and white space to make a site that is friendlier to browse the amazing pieces of information that MusicBrainz has collected. Unlike the data nerds at MusicBrainz, not everyone loves information overload; this site should hopefully make non-data nerds happy about MusicBrainz data.”

You can read the whole announcement on the MusicBrainz blog by following this link.

And if you want to participate in this website’s development, the code is on GitHub.

Edit: the issue about rating releases has been reported on the bug tracker already, and Roman stated that the enhancement is on the roadmap.

Why is Clementine my favourite music player?

9 Apr

Everyone complains about how many different music players are available for Linux. Some people say that developers should join forces and make the best music player ever. But choice is amazing, competition is often stimulating, and defining the best one depends on what each user is looking for.

I can safely say that I haven’t tested even a twentieth of the available full-featured music players.

In the open-source world, I have tried Banshee, Rhythmbox, Amarok, Exaile, Audacious. In a different world, I also have used Winamp and – I dare say – iTunes and Windows Media Player (eeek). But I have been using Clementine for quite a long time, and I do not feel the need to look anywhere else anymore.

Clementine started its life as an Amarok 1.4 fork, with a first release in February 2010, and at the time of writing, the player has reached version 1.2.2.

Following an extremely trendy format, here is the list of main reasons why you should give it a go and be happy forever – according to moi. It is in no way ordered, so do not worry about those numbers!

1. Fade-out

Something I have never seen anywhere else is a lovely fade-out when a song is stopped or when the player is closed. How sensible is that!

You can of course customise this the way you want:

Clementine's fade-ins and fade-outs are highly customisable.

Clementine’s fade-ins and fade-outs are highly customisable.

You can get rid of all the “fades”, or you can make Clementine fade out when you pause a song, and chose how long for. You can even cross-fade between tracks for a smoother playlist.

2. Open source

Of course, I wouldn’t even go for a closed source music player. The choice of open-source music players available doesn’t even let you justify looking anywhere else.

Clementine’s development is hosted on GitHub.

Clementine's source is available on GitHub

Clementine’s source is available on GitHub


3. Cross-platform

Open source software is not just for Linux. The Clementine project does an amazing job at making their software available to most music lovers, independently of the platform they use. Just have a look at all the download options they offer:

Download options on the Clementine website

Download options on the Clementine website

So, if you use different operating systems on different machines, you can at least play music the same way.

4. Desktop integration

At least for Ubuntu, Clementine is very nicely integrated in the environment. An indicator is visible in the top panel, and changes depending on the state of the playback. A notification bubble appears when the track changes and gives you all the information you need.

Clementine is also controllable from the sound menu, with the option to chose from your playlists straight away.

And if this isn’t enough, you can also control it from the launcher with a simple right click.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 5. The developers are cool!

I like software even more when the humans behind it are great people. Obviously, the fact that Clementine is open source makes them score quite a few points already. But I generally want to find out if I can contribute financially to my favourite projects. Here is what the website says on that particular topic:

What the website says if you want to contribute money to the project... :)

What the website says if you want to contribute money to the project… :)

I don’t know about you, but this is the kind of things that make me believe in humans.

6. Not too heavy

To tell you the truth, I am not exactly sure what is heavy and what is not, but at about 60 mb of RAM, I feel like Clementine playing a song is not too much of a weight on my system, on par with Nautilus and way under Firefox, Thunderbird and Chrome.

How does Clementine compare in memory usage?

How does Clementine compare in memory usage?

The download for an Ubuntu 13.10 64 bits system is just 7.2 mb at the time of writing.

7. Lots of music providers

List of Clementine 1.2 providers

List of Clementine 1.2 providers

Clementine bundles more than 20 sources for music, from open license music website Jamendo to your music stored in your Dropbox or your Google Drive, as well as several radio station providers and streaming giants Spotify and Grooveshark.

A few of those providers require that you own a premium account to use them, but there is enough choice to please everyone.

Nota bene: following the news of Ubuntu One closing down in June 2014, the Ubuntu One provider has already been removed from master.

8. Artist and song info

You can also click on the Artist info tab to get to know lots about whoever you are playing, see photos, discover similar artists and read about their history.

Wikipedia provides the biography by default, but if you scroll down, you will be able to chose from 9 other providers, including LastFM and Discogs.

The Song info tab, on the other hand, gives you LastFM stats and the lyrics from three different providers.

Clementine 1.2 Artist info tab. You can select a photo to have a closer look at it.

Clementine 1.2 Artist info tab. You can select a photo to have a closer look at it.

 9. Tag your collection properly

MusicBrainz is one of my favourite open data project. It is a well-built database about music, so humans can read it like and encyclopaedia, and so robots can use it.

I am of course delighted to see that Clementine uses MusicBrainz for its tagging functionalities. It is now even easier to have your collection properly tagged, as you can let Clementine automatically look through MusicBrainz for you!

MusicBrainz tagger in Clementine 1.2

MusicBrainz tagger in Clementine 1.2

10. Remote control

One of the latest additions to Clementine is its ability to be controlled from your Android phone thanks to Clementine Remote.

Clementine Remote on Google Play

Clementine Remote on Google Play

You can use your phone to browse your library, add songs to your playlist and change the volume, without having to go to your computer + stereo system.

∞. It gets better!

Of course, Clementine keeps getting developed, so it constantly gets better. One of the latest things I have notice on GitHub is the fact that we will soon be able to add our Soundcloud credentials into Clementine in order to have a look at our own tracks and subscriptions:

Soundcloud commit on GitHub

Soundcloud commit on GitHub

♥ Give it a go!

Head to the download page to try Clementine with your library, and see if it works for you.

Still not convinced? Have a look at this AlternativeTo page to find other open-source alternatives – surely you will find your favourite!

Cheers for reading!