Review: Mesk Audio Player 0.2.1

[ Tuesday, 26 September 2006, michuk ]


There are numerous audio players designed especially for GNOME. Single GnomeFiles repository lists over 60 of them. However, the problem lays in quality rather than quantity. Recently I’ve been looking for an audio player that would resemble the famous Windows player called Foobar 2000. I have found a lot of clones, and just a few original applications. Mesk audio player was among the latter.

Mesk in action
Pic.1 Mesk in action

Author: Hadret
Translation: Borys Musielak

By clones I mean programs that try to look like and behave like other popular apps. Here is a short list:

Where should I place Mesk on this list? Well it could be listed as a Foobar clone, actually. But there’s a little more to it and I’ll try to show it in this little review.

Installation

In my first attempt, I tried to get the latest sources of Mesk through SVN. Unfortunately, while writing this report I could not connect to their repository ‘mackaye.nicfit.net’ (update: it’s up and running now). I downloaded the stable 0.2.1 version (code-named Meat Puppets) instead. I copied the file to a location where I usually store program sources (so that I can easily uninstall them) and then unpacked it with:

tar xzf mesk-0.2.1.tgz

Just after that I switched to the newly-created directory and read the README file just to see what I should do next:

cd mesk-0.2.1
less README

These are the programs required to run Mesk (dependencies):

* Python 2.4
* eyeD3 0.6.10
* pygtk 2.8
* gst-python 0.8
* librsvg (for SVG image support)

Thus, I entered the following command in the terminal:

sudo apt-get install python2.4 python2.4-dev python2.4-eyed3 \\
python-gtk2 python-gtk2-dev librsvg2-2 librsvg2-dev python-gst0.10

Warning: this is Ubuntu-specific (probably applies to Debian and derivatives as well), provided that you have GNOME installed together with the required multimedia codecs. If you use another GNU/Linux distro or some kind of BSD, you need to find out how to install the additional software by yourself.

OK, the rest is rather standard:

./configure
make
sudo make install

And that’s all. The installation is over.

Update: now Mesk 0.2.1 can be installed in Dapper with a simple click thanks to the GetDeb project, so you can forget about the compilation part :P

User experience

The simplest way to run the program is to enter its name in the terminal:

mesk

This way you will also see all kinds of error messages (remember that Mesk is still in development).

If you prefer to have the desktop or menu launchers for Mesk, you can try creating your own package. A good ideas would be to change the last command from sudo make install to sudo checkinstall – which creates a simple package and installs it in your system (or use the package prepared by GetDeb, mentioned above).

First run
Pic. 2 First run

I personally hate popping windows that provide hints, tips and god-knows-what-else for the just-started app. This is why the first thing I did was unchecking the “Show tip next time Mesk starts” option.

Program options
Pic. 3 Program options

As you can see in the Preferences menu, Mesk currently has only two plug-ins:

  • gajimstatus – changes the XMPP status in Gajim instant messenger (the one I use, actually ;-P) with currently playing track,
  • audioscrobbler – integrates Mesk with Audioscrobbler, which enables users to share their music preferences in the popular Web 2.0 service – Last.fm.

integration with Audioscrobbler
Pic. 4 Integration with Audioscrobbler

In the View menu we can set Mesk to look even more compact, as you can see on the following screenshot.

Compact view
Pic. 5 Compact view

The option to have more than one playlist is a nice feature. I like the way Mesk presents those playlist and the possibility to rename them if necessary. Overall, I find the user interface of Mesk quite appealing.

Mesk user interface - editing playlists
Pic. 6 Mesk user interface – editing playlists

Just like most of other audio players, Mesk allows us to queue the songs on the playlists. This means that the song added to a playlist is not immediately played, but rather waits for its turn ;-)

Adding songs to the queue [I]
Pic. 7 Adding songs to the queue [I]

Adding songs to the queue [II]
Pic. 8 Adding songs to the queue [II]

Moving songs from one playlist to another is also possible and quite easy to do thanks handy contextual menus.

Moving songs between playlists [I]
Pic. 9 Moving songs between playlists [I]

Moving songs between playlists [II]
Pic. 10 Moving songs between playlists [II]

The tracks can be also moved within one list and relocated as many times as you want :)

Setting the song on the list
Pic. 11 – Setting the song on the list

So, that was my short screenshot tour of Mesk. Now you are probably wondering, why is that Mesk is not the most popular audio player for GNOME, yet. The next section tries to answer this question.

What is Mesk missing?

The thing that Mesk lacks and which actually stopped me from leaving Quod Libet, in favor of Mesk is the inavailability of notification area (tray) integration. There are also a few other handy options that Mesk doesn’t have. There is no integration with external players (like iPod or iRiver). If you want to use Mesk, you need to find another app to communicate with your iPod. The user interface (despite quite nice) needs some polishing, as well. But, after all we need to remember this is still a development edition.

Summary

Mesk left a good impression on me, especially thanks to its smart way of presenting playlists and the generally appealing interface. It was also the program which most resembled Foobar, my favorite Windows media player. I just hope that Mesk development will continue to be as fast as it is currently and that the minor problems like the lack of tray integration and some other popular options will be implemented/improved in the following releases. Then, I may give it another shot.

Links

About the Author

Borys Musielak

PolishLinux.org creator and editor in chief. Professionally -- J2EE consultant in London City. Personally -- free software enthusiast and lobbyist.

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