Listen to Music

Everyone listens to music, now music has become part and parcel of the computer experience for many. Music is like caffeine to your soul -- imagine, you come home after a arduous day at work, alas, you boot your computer and switch on music and go for a hearty bath and the music refreshes your soul and turns you on. Many programmers have said that music is a pre-requisite for them to have complete focus on the code and suggest that it improves their concentration.

It is absolutely possible to listen to music from gNewSense, but as a fully free as freedom GNU/Linux distribution, it is important to know advantages of using free/open media formats, we at gNewSense strongly encourage anybody and everybody to switch/transfer their music collection on to an free/open media format. This wiki page aims to help you understand what a open media format is and how you can switch your music collection to an free/open format and start listening to your tunes in freedom, it also has a small section on Creative Commons Music.

Free/Open Media Formats

Free/Open Media Formats are containers/codecs which are not covered by any patents and whose specification for implementation are available for anybody on Earth to download, read, learn and hack. If you're transitioning from a proprietary system, it is most likely that your media files are in a patent encumbered format like MP3. It is strongly recommended that you consider converting your media to an free/open format, as open formats are compatible out of the box and respects the fundamental freedoms of the user.

Ogg Vorbis and Flac are two audio codecs that are free/open, it is recommended that you transcode your music to one of these formats and which one to choose directly depends upon your own audio habits. Relevant information about each of the formats, to help you choose the right one for your music, follows.

Ogg Vorbis

Ogg Vorbis is a lossy format, meaning the quality of the audio gets degraded as one uses the audio through the course of time. The size of the audio file encoded in Ogg Vorbis is drastically less and this format will best fit your need if there are space constraints and high fidelity audio is not a requisite. High fidelity audio is typically desired when the audio of concern is to be used in anyway in another work, for intance, if you're doing a cover of an artiste's track, it is always good to have the audio that is used in the cover be in a high fidelity format (like flac).

To sum it up, Ogg Vorbis is the best when the audio is largely used for listening purpose and high fidelity is not a necessity.


Flac is a loss-less format, meaning, the quality of the audio encoded in Flac will remain as is even after it is encoded/decoded a million times by its user. Flac ensures high fidelity and is one of the most popular and sought after loss-less format in the world. It has only one downside - space. Since, Flac touts to be loss-less, compression factor is not a real concern and therefore the size of the file encoded in Flac is neccessary large. If space constraint is not of real concern and high fidelity is much desired then Flac is the one for you.

Switching to a Free/Open Format

Before kicking off the process to convert audio files to a free/open format, it is recommended that you back-up your audio files lest something drastic and unexpected things should happen while you delve into converting the files. If you have all your music or some of the music that you listen in a audio CD, ripping music from the CD to a free/open format is your best bet, as there would be little or zero reduction in the quality of the audio that is ripped. If you have your music in a lossy patent encumbered format like MP3, then, it is most likely that there would be a degradation in quality of the audio when it is re-encoded into a free/open format; in this situation, if you care for the quality (fidelity) of the audio, consider encoding your music to flac, if fidelity is not an issue, you'll be fine with ogg.

CD to Flac/Ogg

There is a terse program by the name sound-juicer which can do this job of ripping music from an Audio CD to any one of the desired free/open format. To install this program, if it is not already installed, just do a :

   $ sudo apt-get update        
   $ sudo apt-get install sound-juicer

Now you're ready to rip it. Kick off the program either by going to Applications --> Sound & Video --> Audio CD Extractor or by hitting :

   $ sound-juicer       

from the Terminal.

The ripping preferences can be changed in the Preference dialog box (Edit --> Preference). Here, in the Preferences dialog box, the CD drive which would contain the audio CD can be selected; the parent directory, under which the ripped audio would be stored, can be set; the structure of the track hierarchy can be selected from a range of options; lastly, the audio format can be set. Once the Preference is set, you can start ripping your audio CDs.

The sound-juicer tries to automatically fetch the track information from, so be sure to connect to the Internet while you do your ripping. If there is no track information available in for the respective Audio CD, then you're left to your own devices to feed the information yourself.

MP3 to Flac/Ogg

MP3 is pretty much an ubiquitous format to encode music, but the fact remains that it is encumbered by patents, alas! This streak won't last forever for MP3. In the future to come, there are signs that humans will spend/depend more and more time on the World Wide Web and the Web was envisaged to be open/free space and patent encumbered things are necessarily not popular, for instance, Ogg media can be played out of the box by HTML5 compatible browsers with no requirement for plug-ins or extensions. It will be of no surprise if Ogg becomes the de-facto format audio in the future. Therefore, it is best that you get your audio out of the MP3 format & put them in a open format like flac or ogg.

Now you may say :

  All these artistes, they always put their music in MP3, it is going
  to be a pain in the neck if I have to keep converting these MP3s to
  an open format.

Yes, but you can always ask your sweet artiste to publish his/her music in an open format like Ogg. I am not joking here. There are artistes who are very responsive -- JoshWoodward responds to if you hit an email to him, BradSucks has a dedicated forum to discuss his music. If more people, like you, ask for music in a free/open medium, definitely the respective artistes are going to take notice. So push yourself and ask your sweet artiste to free his media. Change will happen.

So how do we convert MP3s to open media ? Yes, we'll need a converter called ffmpeg. It is actually a video converter, but it can also be used for our purpose.

To install ffmpeg, do :

   $ sudo apt-get update
   $ sudo apt-get install ffmpeg

Before, going into the details about the conversion, it must be noted that MP3 is a lossy format, therefore, converting from a lossy format to Ogg (which is a lossy format) might slightly or drastically reduce the quality of the audio. Therefore, if you really mind the shhsss, created by the virtue of encoding audio from a lossy format to a lossy format, you should consider encoding your audio in flac, that way you won't lose much of the fidelity.

Now on to the conversion. Let's take an example -- say CodeMonkey.mp3 has to be liberated to flac. To do this, simply hit this petty command in the command-line :

  $ ffmpeg -i CodeMonkey.mp3 CodeMonkey.flac    

This should convert the CodeMonkey.mp3 to flac and save the respective flac file in the current directory. To convert the MP3 to Ogg Vorbis, do this :

  $ ffmpeg -i CodeMonkey.mp3 CodeMonkey.ogg

In case, the above commands, don't work out for you, please let us know about it by hitting an email to the gnewsense-users mailing list.

Pumping Music from gNewSense

Playing Music

Now that you have converted all your music into a free/open format, it is now time for pumping music from gNewSense. Rhythmbox will help you do this. Rhythmox is a popular media player who's interface, to an extent, resembles Apple's stifling iTunes, but Rhythmbox exhibits more love as it is free is freedom. To kick off, Rhythmbox, either hit:

 $ rhythmbox

from the terminal or use the drop-down menu from the toolbar :

 Applications --> Sound & Video --> Rhythmbox Music Player

The first thing that has to be done once Rhythmbox is opened for the first time, is to show it, where your music collection is. In the version of Rhythmbox that comes with the present stable version (v2.3) of gNewSense, there is no option to add multiple locations to fetch your music from, therefore, it is recommended that the whole music collection be in a single place in your hard-disk as it makes it easy for you & Rhythmbox to find music with ease.

To add your Music collection to Rhythmbox, from the menu-bar, Go to:

 Edit --> Preferences 

In the Music Player Preferences dialog box, click on the Music tab. There under the Library Location option, you can set the path to your music collection. If the Watch my library for new files is checked, Rhythmbox automatically detects new music that is added to your music collection. Now, once the music collection path is set, Rhythmbox, fetches the music files and displays all your music collection. What are you waiting for ? Let the music play!

Audacious is a powerful alternative to Rhythmbox. To install it:

 $ sudo apt-get update
 $ sudo apt-get install audacious

You can run it by going to k: Applications -> Sound & Video -> Audacious.

If you use GNU Emacs and fancy the idea of listening to music straight from Emacs, go here to learn how to do it.

Automatic Lyrics Fetching

Yes, Yes, Rhythmbox can do that for you. To achieve this, a small little plugin must be enable from the Rhythmbox interface. To enable and configure this plugin, go to:

 Edit --> Plugins

In the Configure Plugins window that opens up, enable the plugin that goes by the name Song Lyrics. To tweak the plugin, hit on the Configure button that you find on the right, this opens the Lyrics Plugin Preferences window, here, the location to save the lyrics that is fetched can be set. This plugin provides a bunch of web-sites it can fetch lyrics from, you can check on the web-sites that you wish the plug-in to search and fetch lyrics from, in the Lyric Plugin Preferences window.

The lyrics for the audio that is being presently played can be read by hitting Ctrl + L or by going to:

 View --> Song Lyrics

As it is evident, the lyrics are fetched from an assortment of web-sites, so you got to be connected to the Internet in order to be able fetch the lyrics, but once the lyrics are fetched for the respective track, it gets stored on your hard-disk, so the next time you play that respective track, you don't need the Internet, as it is already available locally.

Creative Commons Music

We know the The Eagles, we know Neil Young, we know Cat Stevens, we know Simon and Garfunkel, we know Eric Clapton and most us love their music, but there is a caveat -- we cannot share their music. Music by these artistes are licensed under the traditional copy-right which restricts un-authorized copying (sharing). This especially exasperating given the power of the Internet which facilitates sharing. Infringing the law in anyway is not good, but a law which restricts something that has become natural and something which is good -- sharing, demands to be impeached.

Now, the world the seeing a number of music artistes who are making sharing of their music legal by licensing their music under a Creative Commons license. The Creative Commons license, as Lawerence Lessig himself revealed, is inspired by the GNU GPL to cater to works of art. The most restrictive of the Creative Commons license at least allow sharing of the media that is license under a Creative Commons license. Creative Commons music artistes publish their music in their web-sites, music platforms like Jamendo, Magatune, etcetra. Majority of the Creative Commons artistes give away their music for gratis and ask for voluntary donations from their listeners to support themselves. This model of making music where music artistes get funded for thier work directly from their listeners, is slowly and gradually taking off. For instance, Joshwoodward, a popular Creative Commons artiste, kicked off a fund-raiser for his up-coming album in with a goal to raise $1500, at the time of writing this, Joshwoodward has raised $2579 of funds! It is becoming evident that the need for a record company is slowly getting eroded in the age the of Internet where artistes are able to directly connect with their listeners and things like BitCoin, Flattr and other similar services are making it viable for listeners to support their artistes. Welcome to the Creative Commons Music world.

Getting Creative Commons Music

There are various avenues in the Internet where you can discover, listen, download and share Creative Commons Music.

Documentation/ListenToMusic (last edited 2013-09-05 18:45:42 by samgee2)