Media collection software in GNU/Linux

[ Monday, 21 April 2008, Tulio ]

Around three years ago, when I began my adventure with ‘the penguin’, I had been looking for an application to catalog CDs. They were either ugly, or limited in functionality, or simply couldn’t handle all disk types (e.g. DVD)… some other apps were required for installation, and/or involved many “weird” libraries (which I didn’t know what to do about). I quickly gave up my research, realizing that nothing could match software like WhereIsIt?.

While I was sitting in front of my computer, that old problem came up… this time, armed with a much broader knowledge and experience, I didn’t think of giving up. I started with the most obvious choice – searched the repository. In the repo I found mainly the old and abandoned (for nearly four years) GTKtalog, CdCat, Kat and Katalog and a program which made me stop for a moment – GWhere. After installation I saw a modest, but clear interface. I created the first archive “aaa” proceeded with cataloging and was allowed to modify nine options… some of the more interesting:

  • browse archives
  • automatic label creation
  • use advanced pattern to generate disk name

It lacks some simple options like “catalog thumbnails” or “catalog content of text files”. Cataloging took about the same time as with other programs I know (approximately 15 seconds). So I decided to look at the results. It turned out that the program does not browse archives despite my selecting this option (at least my program doesn’t). Additionally, although directories precede files on the list (both groups sorted alphabetically), whenever I came back to the parent folder the directories and files were mixed together!

Error in GWhere

Another application in the repository was DiskSearch. This one, in turn, greeted me with an even more modest window along with no settings or options. This program catalogs only filenames (and their paths) and size of each file. It could satisfy many users if it weren’t hard to find anything manually. Manual browsing of disks cataloged in this program is torture (there is, of course, a search utility, but it should be used to find location of a given file, not the contents of a particular disk). Nonetheless, cataloging with DiskSearch takes less than a second! But still if someone is searching for a good cataloging application, I would recommend the above mentioned GWhere.

Disk Search - main window and preview of a cataloged disk

I didn’t find any more apps in the Ubuntu repository, which is why I tried to find and download some manually. The first I found was Indexator.NET, but I couldn’t compile it because a bug occurred: External Program Failed: /usr/lib/mono/2.0/gmcs.exe (return code was 1). Another program I found on the web was CDCollect, but just like Indexator.NET, it required mono. CDCollect was the first one to impress me because it:

  • catalogs thumbnails found on the disk
  • recognizes and reads archives (didn’t get fooled when I changed .zip to
    .aaa – recognized content just fine)
  • each disk can be assigned an icon (and a name, of course)
  • cataloged every kind of removable memory (just specify a mount point in
    Edit > Preferences)
  • several search options

On the other hand CDCollect, like other programs, didn’t have many configuration options.

An image has been cataloged

Another product to check out was a program created by a Polish programmer — jKatalog (probably an abbreviation of “Java Katalog”, since it’s written in Java) is a multi-platform cataloging program. But the application doesn’t offer much apart from the coolest look so far. It doesn’t collect detailed data about each file or browse archives and search mechanism is poor; the search result gives only the path, not even a double click will open the file. And there are no configuration options. The only advantages are:

  • Clear, intuitive interface; looks nice
  • Creating thumbnails and information about the resolution of a photo
  • Multi-platform

jKatalog - browsing cataloged disks

I still haven’t found a decent listing program, so I decided to further my quest and found CdFly; I downloaded the source codes from the official website. Compilation required libqt4-dev. Everything went nice and easy with “qmake-qt4″ and “make” commands. The program (./cdfly) was ready to run. It’s the first program that requires as a parameter the path of a device, not a mount point (I had to type dev/hda instead of /media/cdrom0 – mount point for my CD drive). CdFly, in contrast, included some basic configuration options, e.g. setting sizes of the thumbnails and number of thumbnails that can be obtained from a single disk (0 – infinity) or which catalog (if any) is to be loaded on startup. But this program is also unable to open archives or obtain detailed data about files, and thumbnails are the only interesting feature.

And that’s a summation of cataloging CDs under Linux using native apps. No program was sophisticated enough to create a larger and more precise collection of disks – not even one had options such as: calculating checksums, exploring less known archives, creating detailed databases about files, copying contents of smaller text files, advanced search options (and/or/less than/greater than/older than/newer than…) and many more.

Nevertheless, most (every?) cataloging program for Windows can be launched with Wine without trouble. I still use the emulated WhereIsIt. For proponents of native software I recommend jKatalog (question of patriotism) and CdCollect.

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