Media at your fingertips

Was just pondering in the shower at the weekend (as you do) about what makes, say, MacOS X feel like a more cohesive desktop than even the latest and greatest GNOME.

One thing that came to mind was its integrated management of your media– in pretty much any Mac app where you might want to insert or edit multimedia content, you can immediately access your entire music, photo or video library in a familiar-looking window and drag it over from there.  It’s built into the file selection dialog, too:

 Mail.app media browser  PulpMotion media browser  iMovie media browser  Open File dialog

Of course, Apple only really let you manage your media library with their own software: iTunes, iPhoto, Aperture, iMovie, Final Cut etc. But it did get me wondering if there was a place for a freedesktop ‘media library’ spec, that would offer our users the same sort of quick, searchable access to their media content (be it local, remote, stored on Flickr, split across three DVDs, or any combination of the above) in any application that required it. And, of course, to do what Apple doesn’t, and allow any app to manage that content, if it needs to do so.

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13 Responses to “Media at your fingertips”

  1. David says:

    Also, Apple’s products are more cohesive because one person is calling virtually all of the shots. With GNOME and FOSS, it’s very different — everyone adds their two cents, and you end up with goddamn pennies everywhere.

  2. David says:

    I envy the ends of the former, but prefer the means of the latter :)

  3. Bastien says:

    This should actually be pretty straight forward given:
    – GTK+ allowing applications to add new shortcuts to the left
    – GTK+ adding some “default” searches for media types

    I filed a few bugs:
    http://bugzilla.gnome.org/show_bug.cgi?id=517267
    http://bugzilla.gnome.org/show_bug.cgi?id=517265

  4. Tree like shortcuts sounds like plugging a rectangular filter into the round opening in apollo 13. It would be better for GNOME to decide on common storage for Photos, Videos, Music…

  5. Maxo says:

    I agree. Just like how there are is the Tango way of doing things to make graphics cohesive across applications, other things could be defined better for Gnome apps to make everything snap together a little better.
    I think we should keep the lego-ness that gives Linux and advantage over BSD, but with well defined, and agreed upon, specifications to get a little more of that BSD-goodness going on.
    I sure hop that makes sense.

  6. Did anyone say “standardized searchable interface”? Did I say “simple”? Define a dbus object at some location and make it expose a Xesam[1] service – or even simpler; use the standard Xesam indexer to search out all media files.

    Now if only the Xesam team could stand up and roll 1.0, and I could find the time to finish up xesam-glib, all would be downill from there.

    [1]: xesam.org

  7. calum says:

    That would doubtless help a bit, but I suspect there’s a bit more to doing it well.

    While it’s nice to know it’s there, personally I don’t think I’ve ever used the feature in the OS X file dialog, because in most applications you never have to go as far as the file dialog to find your media. And in OS X it’s also possible to use saved search folders in the file manager as the entry points to your media library if you want to, but the in-app media browser has evolved as the standard way of doing this instead.

    I’m a bit too frazzled just now to think about the pros and cons of each approach though… maybe later :)

  8. troll says:

    Media libraries would be nice. Perhaps after having that spec someone would create the first ever Linux based desktop media player application!

  9. Frej Soya says:

    We have the location of the data allready from the XDG folders spec (XDG_PICTURES_DIR XDG_MUSIC_DIR…. etc). It should be possible to special case them from just this spec instead of creating “simple bookmarks” combined with bastian’s stuff above. We “just” need the intelligant browsing/viewing ;)

    Somewhat related – I tried making pictures from cheese findable in nautilus(and filepicker) – but sadly I got a WONTFIX. http://bugzilla.gnome.org/show_bug.cgi?id=509475. Not trying to flame the maintainer, it is me that has failed to explain the problem :)

  10. calum says:

    So, a few things to address here….

    First off, I think assuming the user wants to store all their pictures in XDG_PICTURES_DIR, music in XDG_MUSIC_DIR etc. is *way* too short-sighted. Apple certainly don’t do that, you can store your music and photos anywhere, scattered all over your disk if you so desire, and iTunes, iPhoto etc. will manage them just fine whilst leaving them right where you put them. Even if you move them around outside of those applications later (although that part’s just down to HFS+).

    Also, I’d like to be able to pull in my media from web services like Flickr etc., all from the same media browsing UI. The OS X UI doesn’t currently allow this AFAIK, but I’d guess it at least does its best to pull in any media you’ve stored on your .Mac account, if you have one. (Which I don’t.)

    As for using metadata searches to find and present your media files… hmm, yeah, maybe one day, but I’ve never seen it work well enough yet– it’s perfectly possible on OS X too, but metadata maintenance on a huge media library is just far too arduous a task. So right now I’d still rather organise my stuff into folders/albums/playlists manually, and use a GUI that presents me with that hierarchy when I want to find it again later.

  11. Patrys says:

    Ah, a centralised media library with an API… and a simple DAAP/UPnP sharing server using the library. One day it could be possible to actually use my PS3 to watch movies over wifi.

  12. Rehdon says:

    An image preview in the file selector would be a good start …

    Rehdon

  13. calum says:

    AIUI, the file selector provides all the hooks for doing image previews, but it’s up to individual apps to decide whether or not to use them… could be wrong though…