I just went through a software experience that quite simply defines why I want to support and participate in Open Source Software projects rather than closed and proprietary ones.
I have an iPod for those that didn’t know. I run Ubuntu Linux for my desktop, for those who didn’t know. This means that I cannot run iTunes for getting my songs onto the iPod – it is Windows only. So I have been using gtkpod for this – an Open Source application designed to allow adding songs and things to the iPod. Essentially it replaces iTunes.
Now things get a little technical, so if you’re not interested please don’t feel bad.
gtkpod can only attempt to provide the same features as iTunes. Apple doesn’t share every little detail about how to interface with an iPod, and it certainly has more development dollars and time invested in iTunes. So the feature set of gtkpod lags behind iTunes. Up until now there is one feature I’ve really missed – album art. The ability to display an album’s cover on the iPod while its songs are being played – it’s the whole point of having a colour screen in my mind.
So I looked into the details and found out that the developers of gtkpod have actually got this working, but not in the version of gtkpod and its libraries that I am running. Enter the wonders of Open Source Projects.
Developers access, store, and work on their application code in specific ways. Open Source, briefly, means that I can access the source code they have written for the application. This turned out to be the key point to getting things working the way I wanted. I downloaded the latest release of the code for the latest gtkpod and libraries. I then compiled then on my own computer, and tried it out – it wasn’t working.
I then accessed the actual repository that the developers work in and grabbed the very latest code – this is code that, essentially, could be minutes old from the developer. I then compiled this supporting library and presto! gtkpod now allows me to add album covers to songs.
Now I could have been patient and waited for the developers to release their next version, and then wait until the version is packaged and released for Ubuntu. I figure this will happen sometime in April according to Ubuntu’s schedule. But I’ve been waiting for, well, a year or so. I got tired of waiting.
There is quite simply no way I would have been able to do this with a software application that is not Open Source. Now I wish I had done this some time ago, because I have over 4000 songs that now need to have album art added, and doing it manually doesn’t really sound appealing. gtkpod provides a way of doing it automatically for newly added songs, so going forward this will be automatic. But the back catalogue just might kill me.