February 5, 2007

The offspring of XMMS

Filed under: Blog — krkhan @ 12:31 am

XMMS is the music player that started it all for *nix users. If you’ve ever used it, chances are that you’re disappointed at the lack of activity and support that the project has exhibited for the past couple of years. It uses an obsolete GTK+ interface and consequentially, lacks active development of plugins. Not surprisingly, newer applications were born which aimed to dent XMMS’ dominance as the music player of choice for *nix desktops. In this article, I take a look at these applications one by one. Giddie-up!

Beep Media Player

BMP was an early fork of the XMMS project which mainly focused on using the new GTK+ 2 toolkit. XMMS plugins were sometimes compatible with BMP, but it has excellent plugin support of its own. The media player resembled XMMS in almost every aspect of appearance, mainly because it was possible to use the XMMS and WinAmp themes with it. The project was a nice choice for XMMS fans until October 22nd, 2005, when it was announced with the version that BMP is going to meet the same fate as XMMS i.e. it will no longer be actively developed. Instead, the BMP developers focused their energies on a new-generation audio player, which brings us to …


Technically, BMPx didn’t fork much of BMP code. The developers instead rewrote most of the code base from scratch, and the application used a Xine backend for audio playback. With the release of version 0.14.0, BMPx chose GStreamer as the audio playing backend, which meant that the package requirements were considerably increased. The application itself became more of a ‘digital music library management’ system than just a plain audio player. It had more features which enabled it to behave like a juke box. The result was that BMPx no longer belonged to the league of ‘little audio players’. While many people found the change to be positive, I longed for the good old nifty players which didn’t occupy my whole desktop just because I wanted to listen to some music. Fortunately, there were other people too who shared my view, and we were presented with …


Audacious was (ironically) forked from the original BMP due to ‘purely technical reasons’ (and because of its developers sharing the opinion that I’ve mentioned above). It is still very actively developed (1.3.0-aplha3 was released on 25th January) and it’s as close to the original XMMS as anyone probably could’ve hoped. It has excellent plugin and format support, and can be minimized just to a little title bar like XMMS. The only thing in Audacious which I didn’t like was the absence of a make uninstall in its tarballs. So if you’re installing Audacious from source code, beware of the fact that you’ll have to manually delete files if you want to remove it from your system in future. Other than that, Audacious is truly XMMS-reborn, and is the current personal favorite of mine for music playing.


XMMS2 was another application designed to replace XMMS for audio playback functionalities. Like BMPx, the code was rewritten from scratch, and, also like BMPx, XMMS2 started focusing library management of music files. Various GUIs were developed for XMMS2 because its nature was more likely of a ‘back-end’ than a playback software. However, I personally found none of them to be efficiently working as of last year (I don’t know about their current state, as I stopped following the project after that). There was one feature though in which no other audio player rivaled XMMS2 and that was command-line playback. Organizing libraries and playing them back at command-line was a unique thing to do, which was only possible because of XMMS2’s design as a back-end.


If you’re an XMMS fan in every aspect of the player, Audacious is your best bet. If you want digital music library management features too, BMPx will be a better choice, and if you want library management features and powerful command-line playback, there’s no alternative but XMMS2.

Happy listening!

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