February 22, 2008

Media collection managers for Linux

Author: Razvan T. Coloja

There comes a time, right after you burn your 137th MP3 CD, when you start feeling the need to establish a system for finding all the songs you treasure so much. It's the same with movies, application kits, books, and music -- you need software that lets you index your media quickly and output detailed search results. Here's a selection of Linux applications you can use to ease your work.

If you're a movie junkie, try GCStar. Setup is a breeze thanks to the graphical installer. When you start the program for the first time, you are asked what kind of a collection you want to create. Default models are board games, books, movies, music, numismatic, video games, and wines. Optionally, if you already have a collection indexed in another application, you can import it in GCStar. Supported software-generated files for importing are Ant Movie Catalog (AMC), DVDProfiler (XML), GCfilms (GKF) and Alexandria.

To make a new movie catalog, type part of the title in the first text field and press "Fetch Information." GCStar will suggest about 50 movie sites from which you can choose as the source of the information. I suggest going straight for IMDB, as it is the most up-to-date movie site on the Internet. Next you are presented with a list of movie titles to pick from. By holding Ctrl-Shift and clicking on the names, you can select multiple titles to be included in your collection. GCStar fetches each movie title, genre, cover image, director name, movie length, cast, and other details from the source. You can edit the fields afterwards if you want to add text of your own.

A second tab in the GCStar main window is called Details. Here you can specify the media type the movie is burned on, the video format, and whether the title is part of a series. Also, you can tell GCStar how much you liked the movie by assigning a rank. Finally, add a location for the movie by typing the name of the CD/DVD it resides on. If you decide to lend the movie, GCStar can track the borrowers' names and the date they asked you for it.


The application has three main skins, supports about 20 languages, and can display movies in a simple or detailed list or in the more comprehensive image list mode. The latter shows the movie covers, which makes it easier to search for a particular title. A plus for GCStar is the variety of export formats it supports. You can export a movie list in HTML, LaTeX, CSV, SQL, XML, or even Tellico file formats. In all, if you're looking to index a movie collection, GCStar might be the best option.

If you want an alternative, another good application is CeeMedia. Like GCStar, CeeMedia can fetch movie information from different online servers, but this software is dedicated to movie cataloging, unlike GCStar, which can manage different types of collections.

Once installed and started, CeeMedia presents you with a main window. Click on Add and type a movie title in the first box, then select one of five available movie sites from the drop-down box on the right: All Movie Guide, AlloCine.fr, IMDB, Amazon, and Laserdiken. Press search and another window pops up that lets you choose further criteria, such as exact words match, regular expression, year range, and video type (movie, TV series, or both). CeeMedia downloads all information and presents it to you in text boxes, where you can modify it. It gets the cover, genre, director, cast, plot text, release date, and even reviews concerning the movie. The information is more complex than that offered by GCStar, and there are some extra options that come in handy. You can mark a movie as seen, rare, adult, favorite, lost, or lent out, declare its aspect ratio, say whether it has a trailer or special features attached, specify the subtitle language, and many more.

If a movie cover is not found on IMDB, you can search for it on another available site. A feature that every collection manager should have is the ability to rank movies according to your liking. CeeMedia lets you assign a rating of your own to the indexed titles.

The display mode, besides the classic list view, offers a nice shelf view mode that orders the movie thumbnails on a wooden background, just as books would lie on a real shelf. Some item animations play in the process of selecting movies -- the current item is brought forward and lent out times are displayed in a translucent box.

There are however some downsides in using CeeMedia. The index can be saved only by exiting the program. The only supported export format is CSV, and you cannot batch export the existing items. The application hasn't been updated in almost two years, and sometimes it crashes in the middle of your work, losing all the data you entered since the last time you exited.

GCStar and CeeMedia may be good-looking, but they both lack automatic indexing. If you have a DVD full of data, you might not want to add entries one by one. GWhere, WhereIsIt's counterpart in Linux, manages automatic indexing. You just make a new catalog, insert your media into the tray, choose /dev/cdrom0 as source point for the data, and press Add Disk. GWhere then creates an index of all the files on the CD or DVD in just a few seconds. It even indexes the contents of archive files. You can later add descriptions for the folders or individual files. GWhere can import and export information in CSV format.

Another similar application is Hyper's CD Catalogizer (cdcat). Based on the Qt toolkit, it lets you index not only removable media but also local and network folders. When it comes to multimedia files, cdcat displays such embedded file information as video frame rate, resolution, total video file time, and audio bit rate. You can search by criteria varying from file name to MP3 tag comment. It can import and export CSV files and works quickly as it indexes. However, development of cdcat seems to have stopped, which is too bad, as it is a wonderful application.

CD/DVD indexing in Linux is not limited to local databases. CDNavigator, for example, is a Java application that can create and maintain a MySQL, PostgreSQL, Oracle, or Sybase database, or its own local HSQL embedded database for your collection. Other cataloging applications you might be interested in include Katalog, GTKatalog, CDCollect, and Tellico.


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