01 January 2013

Software Choices

I switched to Xubuntu a few days ago, and I've been trying a few changes in some of the other software that I use, too.

Audio Player

After using rhythmbox for a couple of years, I really tried to like gmusicbrowser, but I just couldn't. Even with the rhythmbox skin, I just didn't like the way the browser worked. I like to click on an artist and see the albums, and then click on an album and see the songs. gmusicbrowser didn't seem to do that (or I couldn't make it do that, anyway).

So I looked at the Best Audio Player page of the recent readers' choice awards from Linux Journal to see what other people are using.

I tried VLC, but it seems like more of a file player. I didn't see a way to import and browse my music library. I may not have given it enough of a chance, but I was disappointed with it.

I rejected Amarok, because I'm not running KDE. I looked at installing banshee, but I was turned off by the long list of mono-related dependencies.

So I gave up and went back to rhythmbox. To my pleasant surprise, the list of dependencies didn't look too long (no longer than banshee's, anyway), so I decided to stick with what I know.

CD Ripper

I got a couple of CDs as gifts last week, and I wanted to rip and encode them, so I tried ripperX (which I'd used previously). For ripperX to work correctly, you need cdparanoia (to rip the CD to WAV files) and lame (to encode the WAV files to MP3 files). I'd installed cdparanoia, but had overlooked lame. When I tried ripping a CD with ripperX, it dutifully created MP3 files without a word of complaint. But then the audio player refused to import them. It took me a while to figure out that lame was missing, and it's disappointing that ripperX couldn't give me an error message about it. Even after installing lame, ripperX wasn't adding the ID3 tags: the CDDB lookup worked, but the generated MP3 files had no ID3 tags. That's important, because audio players use the ID3 tags to organize the music files.

Next I tried asunder (which I'd also used previously), and it worked on the first try, ID3 tags and all.

BTW, easytag is good at fixing problems with ID3 tags (and so is id3).

Personal Financial Manager

I've used grisbi for years, but I've never much liked it. I looked at GnuCash a year ago. I even exported a QIF file from grisbi and imported into GnuCash. But despite the excellent documentation from GnuCash, I was overwhelmed by the transition, so I stuck with grisbi for another year.

A couple of the gripes I had with grisbi (I was running v0.5.9 in Ubuntu 10.04) were minor, but annoying. The transaction dates are formatted for Europeans, and I just couldn't get used to that (in fairness, it looks like that has changed in the meantime). And I never had much success with the reporting feature. I typically ended up exporting the data in CSV format and then getting what I needed from a spreadsheet.

A more significant problem involved what is for me a common practice. When I go grocery shopping, I typically buy groceries and beer or wine and get cash back at the register. The credit union sees that all as one transaction, but I like to track groceries, booze, and cash separately. In grisbi I'd have to make three separate transactions and then remember to put them together when reconciling with the bank statement.

So this year I started a little earlier and read through the sections of the GnuCash documentation in time to make the transition at the new year. GnuCash has "split transactions" which should address my gripe about what to do with my grocery bill. I'll still have to do arithmetic to figure out how much is booze and how much is other stuff, but it may make it easier to reconcile when the end-of-month statement arrives. Dates look the way they "ought to," and the documentation makes the reports look easy and helpful. This one is a pretty big experiment, so we'll see how it goes.

Other Stuff

I think I'll try LibreOffice this time, rather than OpenOffice. I don't use either enough to feel strongly one way or the other, but it seems like I've read that LibreOffice may be getting more active development. *shrug*

In the past I've used XEphem for my virtual stargazing, but I've recently discovered Stellarium. I like Stellarium, and you don't have to build it, so I'll give it a try.

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