The Marriage of Music & Open Source Technology in 2012

To listen to music, I sometimes use Iceberg  (and have previously written about it). They have their own cloud based player, so you lose control over what you listen to (although categories exist and user feedback is accepted). I assume that’s what they’re after in the end, to decide what gets airplay. Even so, they’re back to offering a nice selection of music, such as before the buyout they had a few years ago. At the very least, the cloud players are a great way to be introduced to new and old music you’ve never heard before.

In contrast to cloud technology, a new program based on Mozilla technology amazed me few years ago –over and above what was then available and is still. It was (and still is) called Songbird. It had the capability to create virtual playlists picking from servers all over the Internet, and offered simple plugins to search engines designed specifically in relation to music.

Last I checked (a year ago or so), Songbird had changed focus, is bloated by the looks of it because it still took up a lot of system resources (at least on OS X), doesn’t even support Gnu/Linux now despite being an Open (Free?) source project (although, there is now an active fork called Nightingale that supports all major platforms), and has dropped plugins (for which it initially was famous) –which offered search capability via SkreemR and Dogpile.

To be fair, SkreemR shut down, and Dogpile opted out from focusing on music –presumably in an attempt to diversify their portfolio, and legitimize themselves in the eyes of the business world. So what do you do if you’re looking to listen to (and not [illegally] download) tunes, but you want to be the one to select them? Well, If you’re jonesing for a song, YouTube seems to be the best bet these days, although they’ve (that is Google, owner of YouTube has) started to block whole countries from some content.

In all fairness, many players do support stream feeds, but this isn’ t much different than cloud players, and I’ ve never found this seamless –such as missing search capability, or lacking song-track labeling. As for VLC losing SHOUTcast, it wasn’t insignificant, and quite frankly I don’t find other Open Source projects appealing. For instance, many support Last.fm, which doesn’t work without an account.

On the search engine scenario, Google may seem to be the benefactor to those appreciative of music, but I’m not so sure. They once encouraged users to make use of their search function operators, but they presently block searches from a plugin or a keyword initiated bookmark in Firefox (at least the time of writing this article). I’ve tried several variations of the sample searches below and none seem to work.

inurl:htm -inurl:html intitle:”index of” “Last modified” mp3

inurl:htm -inurl:html intitle:”index of” mp3 “beethoven”

intitle:index.of + mp3 + “beethoven” -html -htm -txt

“index of” + intitle:mp3 + beethoven

Shmoogle apparently was an attempt at building on Google’s capabilities to search for music, but it’s now reportedly blocked. It seems that Google is only too willing to big brother (some of?) their services, or perhaps they thought Shmoogle too derivative. Still, there are alternatives that pop up every once in a while.

As for Google blocking whole counties from accessing music, there are ways around it –namely going through proxies but they, reportedly, are often slow and insecure –that is, you never know who is “listening”. They’re getting more convenient, though, offering Firefox and Chrome/Chromium add-ons. I’ve just never felt comfortable having organized crime or (renegade) governments (that don’t respect privacy rights, both of whom are often responsible for proxies) ease-dropping in on my surfing habits –no matter how mundane my choices may be. Not only do I see these as privacy and criminal issues, but there is also an economic one. Why give your surfing habits away for free? If they’re so interested and your information is so valuable, let them pay you for it!

Back to the subject of music on the Net today, what I find appalling is how some of us who aren’t living in America are being blocked, that is having to endure censorship because some record company hasn’t signed off on their music being heard in such and such measly third rate country. This limits the exposure of artists to a potentially growing fan-base –a counter-intuitive move on behalf of record companies because it obviously isn’t in the best interest of their clients, the bands they purport to represent.

I’m finding the Net –whether that be cloud players, or search engines– and locally installed players stale scenarios compared to a few years ago when technology and music were meshing in incredible ways at the fingertips of listeners sometimes as participant co-creators, rather than it being filtered and canned through stagnant, sterile corporate hands.

Just in case it doesn’t ring clear, I’m not advocating using the Net to steal music, but to sample (as in listen) to it –much like the listening modules at music stores and elsewhere that allow listening to entire songs. If you like what you find, you could support the artist through means you deem legitimate.

Maurice Cepeda

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