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Linux Syncs Great With Droids
Just Plug it In
July 21, 2010
Interest levels in syncing music collections have notched up a bit of late with the introduction of a plethora of new Android-based super phones. That is, unless you happen to be one of those owners with a large quantity of digital music encumbered by digital rights management (DRM) better known as copy protection. In that case, you might want to do some research into converting said digital files into a more portable format. Meanwhile, for the rest, with media ready to load up on a new cool phone, we'll take a look at Linux options.
The good news is that Linux has supported the multitude of "dumb" MP3 players since they first started showing up on the market. These devices simply look like an attached USB disk when you plug them in. Android phones use this approach of making their internal storage accessible to your desktop or laptop. Option two for many owners is to remove the internal micro-SD card and sync your files directly by using a SD card reader. While this isn't a bad option, it often involves removing batteries or at least the battery cover, which is not the simplest task in some cases.
Basic Ubuntu Sync
Ubuntu 10.4 ships with the Rhythmbox media player and totally supports disk-based syncing. It also includes the features you would expect in a modern media player including CD ripping, playlists, podcast downloading and support for Internet radio. Rhythmbox will play virtually any audio format as it's based on the popular GStreamer media framework. It will even transfer music from an iPod, although you'll still have the DRM issue should those tunes carry that stigma.
For keeping your photos backed up there's F-Spot, although the default tool for Ubuntu 10.10 will be changing to Shotwell. Fedora 13 has Shotwell as its default photo management tool now. Both programs offer the same basic tools for getting your photos off your phone and onto your computer. Shotwell seems to have a slight advantage with pushing your photos out to services like Facebook, Flickr, and Picasa Web albums.
Like a Banshee
Banshee is one of the more recent players to find its way into the default player position on Linux distributions like openSUSE and MeeGo. Banshee is written in C# on top of the mono library and tied at the hip to the GNOME desktop. While there may be some in the FOSS community wanting to dismiss Banshee because of its ties to Microsoft, there is at least an equal, if not larger, community of supporters.
Banshee supports Android phones "out of the box"--simply plug your phone to your laptop or desktop and it just works. When you click on the "Import Media" on the Media tab, you will be presented with a drop-down list of options which in our case included "HTC Android Phone." Clicking on that entry imported all the music on the phone and copied it into the Music folder of our home directory.
You'll find the full range of tools like cover art downloading and connectivity with services such as last.fm as standard equipment with Banshee. Banshee uses an extension architecture for additional functionality. Options that ship with the current version include a tool for connecting to the e-Music service, Internet archive and YouTube. There's also a tool for organizing your audio books if you need it. If you're a GNOME desktop user, you have to take a look at Banshee. It's definitely worth your consideration.