Windows open source apps are music to the ears


Author: Lee Schlesinger

I maintain both a Linux and a Windows machine for my own use. I like the Windows interface, but whenever possible I avoid Microsoft’s bundled applications. When the recent installation of Windows XP Service Pack 2 forced me to accept or decline Windows Media Player 9 and its digital rights management features, I declined, and found two open source alternatives I couldn’t be happier with.

My main use of Windows Media Player had been as a jukebox to randomly play my collection of MP3 files, which takes up too much space to move in toto to my Linux laptop. It’s like having a personal radio station that plays only songs I like. Sure, WMP has a whole bunch of features I not only never used but actively disliked, but it did what I wanted it to.

But wxMusik does it better. Its interface is simple — no hokey “visualizations.” The main pane is just a simple playlist of songs. You can configure which columns appear in the display. A window at the left lets you look at statistics about what you’ve played — most skipped songs, most recently added songs, and more. In the same pane is a list of Icecast and Shoutcast streaming Internet radio stations you can play through wxMusik. Having moved recently away from Boston, I used this feature to add my favorite local weekly radio show to the player, so I can listen even though I’m 1,200 miles from the station’s broadcast tower.

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If, as you’re playing through songs you’ve downloaded, you come across a file with incorrect ID3 tags (which tell music players information about the music, such as artist name and album and song title), you can edit them through wxMusik without having to resort to yet another utility.

In addition to MP3 files, wxMusik plays Ogg, WAV, WMA, and other formats. There are advanced search capabilities for finding just the right tracks. And, as a final nice touch, you can set wxMusik to crossfade your songs into each other.

For video playback, I traded in WMP for VLC — VideoLAN’s open source player (originally named VideoLAN Client). VLC is an open source cross-platform media player that can handle just about any format you throw at it. In addition to playing music files, you can use it as your DVD or CD player, and it also handles UDP and RTP unicast and multicast streams; in fact, it can act as a server for these streams as well.

While VLC plays individual songs just fine, it lacks the wxMusik’s ability to continuously play random selections from a list of files. It can play random tracks if you give it a playlist file (.m3u), but its jukebox interface is terrible, requiring you to open multiple windows and make many mouse clicks.

Both applications run on both Windows and Linux, which makes it easy for users who have to work in both operating systems, or as migration tools for helping users get familiar with applications under Windows before they move to Linux.


  • Open Source