Saturday, October 09, 2010

Odd rhythmbox behavior

For years I've stuck with XMMS to play music, even when it was removed from Ubuntu's repositories due to outdated libraries. It was familiar--basically Winamp for Linux, seemed to use lower resources than its direct replacement (Audacious) and had the ability to directly delete files from within XMMS. It has some bugs--the biggest being that it displays a version of id3 tags that it can not edit, even when the version it CAN edit is present.

I started to use Rhythmbox when it gained support for my iPod tOuch--first to merely transfer files over, but then I started a project to properly tag, sort and de-duplicate my music files. Rhythmbox has search and bulk tag editing capabilities that made this much easier, and once I used it more, the new features outweighed the familiarity of XMMS.

Unfortunately Rhythmbox on my computer quit recognizing my iPod, although Wife's computer and my netbook still worked. I also discovered that a significant number of songs would play silently for the regular length of the song. These songs played fine in other programs. Under some circumstances, trying to play these songs in Rhythmbox would start another song going that could not be stopped without quitting Rhythmbox--trying to switch to a different song would leave both of them playing at once. I didn't try these songs on other computers.

Most mp3's are recorded at 44khz, the same as CD. When I looked for common features of the silent songs, they were all recorded at some other sample rate, mostly 22khz. Re-recording one of these at 44khz allowed it to be played, but that is fairly time consuming with my fairly old computer.

It turns out that both the playback and iPod problems have a common cause. Rhythmbox has a preference "use crossfading backend"--this should smoothly blend the next song, but winds up fading the beginning of songs too much. When I turned off crossfading, Rhythmbox was able to play the songs it couldn't, and it found my iPod again.

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