- Programming Language: Vala
- Engine: GStreamer
- Age: 1 year
- Pros: Minimal but nice user interface; media library
- Cons:Poor performance is a dealbreaker; slow development
Though xnoise has been in development for a little over a year now, I only recently heard about it. Given its feature level, I have to suppose that it was less-than-usable for much of its early life. It’s written in Vala, a special language oriented around GNOME’s GObject which is ultimately compiled down to C code. Ostensibly, it should be quite fast, and indeed it’s fairly lightweight—even with a full library it uses about 25MB of memory, and low CPU—but its current library handling code is cripplingly slow. Initial import of a library freezes the UI, which may or may not come back. Even reverting from a search/filter view of the library back to a full list sends the program into a coma from which it may or may not recover.
On the topic of playlists, I should point out that some programs handle foreign characters better than others. The band which I have been using for many of the screenshots so far, Änglagård, very obviously has funky characters in it. Good programs which perform natural sorting can smooth out Ä to A and order appropriate. Lesser programs kick Änglagård to the bottom, sometimes of the A‘s and sometimes of the whole playlist. Worse yet—and this is the category into which xnoise falls—it can simply not add the band to the library. No amount of cajoling will make the xnoise that I tested appreciate poor old Swedish characters. My classical music, which no music browser seems to respect, is once again ingloriously lumped into an “Unknown Artist” entry, which also rather curiously contains every
m3u playlist file in my library.
Despite the apparent attention to UI, there are also some strange design choices. xnoise, like most media players, uses a column layout for its playlist. The standard design pattern is to right-click a column header and be presented with column options (add a column, remove a column, etc); xnoise has no such feature, instead tucking additional columns away in an option dialog (and then only having two additional columns to choose from!).
Needless to say, xnoise has some “showstopper” bugs which would prevent me from using it as my main player. Bugs, of course, can be fixed, and I must admit that I otherwise enjoy xnoise’s interface. It appears to borrow heavily from Google’s design methodology, which includes condensing an entire toolbar down into several action/navigation buttons and a single preferences button1. It’s minimal in the same way that Banshee is, without succumbing to some of Banshee’s gaudier features. Though it ultimately comes down to a matter of taste, I prefer the alphabetical tree-view of my library.
xnoise has some good ideas, and shows a lot of promise, but they’ve got some major issues to fix before they can continue working on the polish it needs to rise to the top.
- e.g. the 6.x version of Chrome[↩]