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Tomahawk Is The Future Of Music Players: Exclusive Interview

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Tomahawk is a new music player which initially had an impression of yet another music player around the block. But the more I read more about it the more I got interested in it. Tomahawk brings a new concept of managing your music. Tomahawk seems to be the first Free Software player which is looking at the future, taking into consideration how we listen to music and not just that we click on a ‘play’ file on our hard-drive.

I think populist distros like Ubuntu *must* use Tomahawk which may also complement Ubuntu’s goal of monetizing through services like Ubuntu One. Tomahawk not only brings a fresh approch to music, but also connect users across platforms. I approached Christian Muehlhaeuser aka Muesli of Tomahawk to understand the concept better. Here is an exclusive interview with Christian Muehlhaeuser.

Swapnil Bhartiya: Please tell our readers more about yourself, when were you born, where do you live, where do you work and what projects are you working on?
Muesli:
My name is Christian Muehlhaeuser, due to my slightly complicated last name also often referred to as ‘muesli’, a German programmer born sometime in 1980. I consider myself a pragmatic open-source advocate and developer, who loves Linux, Qt & KDE, but also can’t resist the itch to touch an iPad or buy a MacBook Air. I’m currently in the lucky position of being sponsored to hack on various open-source projects, which I have done regularly for almost ten years now. I used to be one of the Amarok lead developers (version 0.x through 1.4) before I joined Last.fm six years ago. I never lost interest in KDE and continue contributing and fixing little bugs in the project.

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Swapnil Bhartiya: What is Tomahawk? What’s behind the name and the icon/logo?
Muesli:
I’m afraid there’s not much of an exciting story behind the name. I always liked the sound of it and we went with a logo that’s matching the theme. That’s about it, really.

Swapnil Bhartiya: Free Software world has some nice media players, what USP does Tomahawk have? Who are you targeting with Tomahawk?
Muesli:
I think it’s important to note, in addition to the same basic media management problems that music players worked to solve 10 years ago, there are a great number of new problems that the legacy players have failed to try and solve.

Our digital music collections grew beyond our wildest imaginations, and we now have access to decades of music at the click of a button (or the touch of a finger). We have managed to (somewhat) improve the discover-ability of long-lost gems in our collections. We came up with nicer user interfaces to browse them and learned to deal with the vast amount of data that we have collected over time – from a technical point of view. But it is now becoming more and more painful, than ever, to build your own playlists, easily import curated content from others, or to start up your music player and just let it go play some music you enjoy in the background. I find myself going through my collection, browsing it for a good 30 minutes, before I’ve finally finished building a play-list that fits my current mood.

I often realize that the tracks I’d really like to hear right now aren’t even in my collection… they are on my media server at home and I’m on the go with my notebook. Sometime I would discover a band and new tracks, but they are currently only available on Youtube. You might have a Napster or Spotify subscription, but would find their interfaces so alienating. These are some scenarios where you just wish that access to all of your content were integrated into your regular music player interface where all your other beloved tracks are. You wish you wouldn’t have to worry about where the content was. You wish there was an interface from which you can access all you music with greater ease

This is exactly the problem that we try to solve with Tomahawk. You can connect it to not only your media server, but also to the collections of all your friends that are running Tomahawk (via Jabber or Twitter currently). You can even connect to subscription service catalogs like Spotify.

It helps you create clever playlists, pulling in all the available knowledge of services like Last.fm or EchoNest… and then it goes even one step further and automatically resolves all the playlists and stations, automatically – trying to find the tracks wherever they might be available – on your current computer, on the network, the internet or a subscription service.

Swapnil Bhartiya: What is your personal opinion on Mono and .Net considering Microsoft’s continuous attack on Linux and Free Software (latest being a lawsuit on Nook maker)? How safe is it for developers to build applications on C#, a proprietary language controlled by a company which is not friendly to FOSS and to further the adoption of their [.Net] platform?
Muesli:
I should point out that I actually really like C# as a programming language and the concept behind .net. It’s pretty obvious though, that I’m not a huge fan of neither Microsoft’s nor Apple’s politics. For the very same reason I’d never start writing my own iOS application, I don’t use C#, .net or Mono for anything but some good old programming-fun. Having said that, there are some really active and interesting C# FOSS projects out there.

Swapnil Bhartiya: What kind of team is working on Tomahawk?
Muesli:
We are a self-forming team of music/tech nerds, scattered all over the world, that found each other through luck, mutual contacts and music hackdays. At the moment there are about six or seven people actively working on the project, dedicating as much of their time to it as possible.

We’re an open-source project, though, and any and everybody is welcome to join us. You know how to find us 😉

Swapnil Bhartiya: Currently, the builds are available only for openSuse. The site does say builds for Ubuntu and other distros will soon be out, any PPAs available?
Muesli:
Obviously we don’t stop at openSuse packages. It just took a little longer than expected since we had to first prepare packages for our third-party dependencies, like CLucene. The existing Ubuntu packages for those dependencies were sadly just too old for our young, bleeding-edge project. We now offer builds for openSuse, Ubuntu, Fedora, ArchLinux as well as Windows- and OS X installers. Hopefully we can include a few more packagers in the Tomahawk project to cover the remaining (popular) distributions, as soon as possible.

Swapnil Bhartiya: How do you see Tomahawk creating a niche among the free software user-base. More importantly, which platform are you targeting? Windows/Mac or Linux?
Muesli:
Due to the nature of Tomahawk’s extensive networking-, sharing- and interoperability-approach we’re not focusing on one specific platform. We really aim to support each platform as good as we can.

Most of our developers are running Linux on their desktops and OS X on their notebooks, but the most downloaded version of Tomahawk is actually our Windows build. We focus on the users, rather than their choice of platform. By being cross-platform from day one, we can ensure that we are wherever our users want us to be.

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