Posted on Leave a comment

Portable Music Players & Linux

This article briefly describes some issues with managing portable music players on Linux, particularly the Apple Ipod Shuffle and the Sandisk Clip Jam (it's replacement).

I hope to update this with a better hardware replacement at some point (more are becoming available), such as the Wiwoo.

Quod Libet

Quod Libet is absolutely zero help with managing portable music players (with a single exception, the generation of playlist.m3u files). This is a big regret since it has much of what I need in a music manager, including:

  • Low resource utilization
  • Relatively fast and stable when indexing large collections
  • Ability to edit metadata on individual and groups of files
  • Dark theme

Therefore, I have to look outside of QL in order to manage portable music players.

Playlists in Quod Libet

Based on my workflow and media organization in Quod Libet, what I generally do for a playlist is clean up a set of albums/tracks from one or more artists and one or more albums, then create a playlist out of that. This generally means the complete contents of one or more albums organized under one or more artists.

This allows me to use the Export as Playlist plugin which generates an *.m3u file with some pathing that needs to be cleaned up.

Quod Libet Configuration

Here are a few configuration settings and issues on Debian 9.12 / Mate 1.20.4

Enabled plugins

  • Equalizer
  • Export Playlist to Folder
  • Export as Playlist
  • MPRIS D-Bus Support (need to enable volume media keys on keyboard)
  • Screensaver Pause
  • Tray Icon
  • Update Tags in Files

Sandisk Clip Jam Playlist Lament

My review of the Sandisk Clip Jam is a lament to SCJ Playlists:

Since playlists are important for portable media players, they should have a well-thought-out approach. Unfortunately this is not the case. One has to monkey about with .m3u files and actually edit them by hand. Sad and a bit nuts as well.

Several issues:

The namespace is effectively 7 characters, so don't have directories with playlists that might conflict on those first 7 characters.

There are three "quick" playlists but no way to get them out of the way, so there is always "click, click, click" to get past them since they are the first three. I don't care to make playlists on the go, so please let me make these go away.

.m3u file needs to have the full path of the location, e.g., Music/Joy Division/Peel Sessions/01 Exercise One.mp3

Unlike as stated in the documentation and forums, the music files do not need to be in the same directory as the playlist file, and they can be stacked all in Music with referenced directories and subdirectories underneath.

CRLF for returns

Obviously this is a nasty and brutish way of handling playlists, and so various scripting is needed to get things working without a huge amount of ongoing time being wasted.

Also, the cheap and huge earbuds (unwearable in my medium-sized ears) are really a waste. No one really expects anything good to be bundled, so save the earth a little.

Overall the device itself is pretty decent, except for the glaring problem noted above.

How to Create and Edit Sandisk Clip Jam *.m3u Playlists

The key is to use a media player/manager to generate the *.m3u playlist, and then search/replace to change the paths in the files to match that of the Sandisk Clip Jam, which is generally Music/Artist/Album. Since my audio library has the very same structure, it is not difficult to copy entire albums and artists (with their albums) to the Sandik Clip Jam.

As noted above, the playlists need to have the same Music/Artist/Album/Track structure. However, the playlists themselves can repose in the same Music directory (both in the music library as well as on the Clip directory structure.

Note: VLC can also perform the function of generating playlists, though my choice is Quod Libet, using the Export as Playlist plugin which generates an *.m3u file.

After creating the playlists and editing them, copying wholesale the directory structure into Music root directory with relative paths, completes the operation. Updates begin in Quod Libet and then a delete/recopy is necessary (akin to Ipod/Itunes operations)

  • Note: Remember to set the line endings to CLRF (toggle button at bottom of VS Code.
  • Additional Note: There may be a need to add an additional / before the directory structure in the created playlists.

Using a Script to Create a Playlist

It is possible to create a script that will include all audio files for a given directory and subdirectories.

GTKpod for Ipod Audio Management

GTKpod is one of the last relatively decent and straightforward Ipod (only) managers. Capable of drag-and-drop audio and creating/editing playlists. Installation is available from the Gnome Software Manager and elsewhere.

Leave a Reply