Amarok wins again...

So apparently, all you have to do to horribly break amarok, is embed one of these little guys in a file name "�". If you can't see it, don't worry, it's some weird unicode character, byte value 0xc281 (UTF-8) better described here. Granted, it's a weird character to have in a filename, but hey, that's what robustness is all about. So, what does amarok do, when it encounters such a character?

Does it:
(a) Fail gracefully
(b) Fail silently and continue as if nothing happened
(c) Corrupt your database
(d) Wedge your CPU
(e) Spam you with error messages, and then hang
(f) All of the above (except a)

If you answered  (f), you're right!!

So once again, I have managed to reset all of my song ratings and preference data.  "Again?"  I hear you cry.  Well, when I upgraded from Amarok 1.4 to the "New and Improved*" Amarok 2.0 (*The developers admit, that while the UI was new and shiny, there are several major features that were present in 1.4, that were not yet written in Amarok 2.0.  They weren't really ready for a release), it decided to store all of its configuration data in a new location ~/.kde3 instead of ~/.kde4.  (Note: This may be Gentoo's fault.)  So I lost my metatag database.  "But," I hear you cry again, "there was an import tool!"  Ah yes, but unfortunately, it was hidden deep inside the configuration menu, so I didn't find it until the week after I deleted my old database (after leaving it around for months).

Now, I use amarok, because quite honestly I couldn't find a better music player for linux (and I looked really hard).  The feature that finally sold me on it was the ability to filter my playlist based on search terms.  At least, that used to work... Somewhere in the process of upgrading from 2.0 to 2.3.0 it stopped working.  Maybe it's time for me to look around again....  I would've kept my old version, but, Gentoo made it increasingly difficult to retain kde3, and I finally had to give it up.

Let me see if I can summarize some of it's wonderful features for you, and compare how it's improved.  (Granted, I'm probably being harsher than usual, seeing as I'm in a bad mood, because it just trashed my database!)

  • Playlist Filtering!
    • Amarok 1.4: It worked!
    • Amarok 2.0: It worked! (although a search is accompanied by no less than a minute of the program stalling and using 100% of a CPU....I think it's sorting things?)
    • Amarok 2.3: It still stalls, but the playlist no longer filters.  (at least on my Gentoo setup)
  • Song Queueing:  Queue songs at the beginning of your random play list!
    • Amarok 1.4: It worked!
    • Amarok 2.x: If you're listening to a song, and you queue some more, it goes back and repeats whatever you were listening to before you queued anything... (I am assured that this is fixed in the development sources, but 2 gentoo releases later I have yet to see any results.  Maybe Gentoo is behind...)
  • Queue Management!
    • Amarok 1.4: You had a nice window that displayed your queue.  My favorite menu option was "Toggle Queued Status."  If you selected things where some were already in your queue, and some weren't, you could "Toggle Queued Status" on them.  No "Enqueue All" no "Dequeue All," just "Toggle Queued Status" ...
    • Amarok 2.x: The window has not yet been added.
  • Fast Startup!
    • Amarok 1.4: About a minute, CPU bound, on my 3.0 Ghz Phenom II
    • Amarok 2.0: Still a minute!
    • Amarok 2.3: Only a few seconds!  ( I have to admit there was a definite improvement).  It will still hang on major operations though (like, adding or removing single tracks from the play list... I think it's sorting things?)
    • This isn't really a fair comparison, apparently you're not supposed to use "large playlists" because they have "problems."  I like to load my entire collection into my playlist so I can filter it, and pick random songs.  They have this nifty little "dynamic playlist" that will randomly pick songs for you, but then there's no way to search your collection.  I'm told it's very fast for small playlists...
  • XML Playlists!
    • Apparently, someone decided it'd be cool to dump your playlist information in XML format.  Which sounds great, except it stores your current playlist this way too.  Which sounds great, except it's loading and storing this from disk every time it modifies something.  Which sounds great, until you realize how big XML is.  And it saves backup copies.  So every time I modify my playlist, it dumps a 5MB text file to the disk.  I think marshalling and unmarshalling this might be the source of my 30-60 second pause when I add a track to my playlist.  Or maybe it's sorting things.... (It's hard to tell.  Updating a single track's metadata gets the same pause...) Then it rotates the 10 backup copies of the playlist in case I ever wanna "undo."  I kid you not, though Amarok 2.x seems to have removed the backup copies... or maybe it just moved them somewhere weird.  I had to special case this in my backup script, because amarok 1.4 was generating over 200 MB of updated files every time I ran rsync.
  • Magnatune Integration!
    • I'm gonna be honest, I have no idea what this is, (some kinda online store?), but they pay people to make it work.  So I'm told it works very well.
  • Collection Management!
    • Amarok 1.4:They had some support for this in a side bar.
    • Amarok 2.x: Yeah, not so much.
  • Delete files from the disk!
    • I actually use this all the time.  I downloaded most of ocremix at one point, and have been going through and deleting stuff as it comes up and sucks.
    • Amarok 1.4: It worked!
    • Amarok 2.0: It worked!
    • Amarok 2.3: You can no longer access this from your play list.  You have to go find the track in their excuse of a Content Manager called "Media Sources", sorted by Genre.
  • Weighted, Randomized Playlists!
    • Amarok 1.4: It worked!  And was easy to find.
    • Amarok 2.0: They decided that having a menu option was too confusing.  Instead, it's hidden under a button at the bottom of the screen that took me 2 weeks to find (and I'm not the only one).  I've just been trained to ignore their random buttons.
  • Customized Sorting Ability!
    • Amarok 1.4:  Their sort operation was stable (preserves existing order), so you can fake this yourself by clicking on the columns you want in the reverse order.  Again, I got pauses of a minute to do any of this.
    • Amarok 2.x: They added this, but didn't make it savable (unlike everything else in the UI).  So it's an improvement, but if I switch to sort by ratings for a minute, I have to rebuild my 8-layer sorting preference after.  Still pauses for about a minute.
  • Cover support!
    • Amarok 1.4: If you had a cover available, it would display it.  There was also a the ability to import covers from amazon and let you pick the right one.
    • Amarok 2.x: If you don't have a cover, it displays this ugly blank CD icon.  You can import covers from amazon, but only for everything at once.  And you don't get to pick.
  • On Screen Display!
    • Amarok 1.4: Cool blue, rounded box.  I think it had transparency support (but maybe I'm dreaming of imaginary better days).
    • Amarok 2.x: Ugly Gray Rectangle (TM)  No apparent transparency support.  You have the ability to "Use Custom Colors!" (ie, text only)
  • Customizable Layout!
    • Amarok 1.4: The layout was pretty static.
    • Amarok 2.x:  Everything moves.  It took me several hours over 3 weeks to figure out how to duplicate the setup they had in Amarok 1.4.  It's still not perfect.  Several nested layers deep you can control font sizes on the display... by guessing  the field width?  Random songs have an indented album name, no idea why.  (Like, you see "Final Fantasy 8 OST" going down the column, and then suddenly it's all "    Final Fantasy 8 OST").  Also, I somehow managed to turn "Open Script Console at Startup" on (no apparent menu option), and couldn't turn it off for months.  (Apparently it saves the "you had it open" but not the "you closed it.")  I finally nuked my configuration directory and it went away.  Back to customizing the UI.
  • Automatically Find Content on your Disk!
    • Amarok 1.4:  They had two buttons for "Update Collection" and "Rescan Collection". I still have no idea what the difference is.
    • Amarok 2.x: Now they just have "Update."  However, there is no way to remove anything from your collection.  So I had to move some of my songs outside my music folder, so that they would never play again (like my "Learning French" CDs).

Welcome to the Music Player of the Future!   I could keep going, but my rage is fading.  I really can't find a better player for Linux though... so I guess I gotta cut them some slack.  This is free software after all, most of them are volunteers (give or take the magnatune guys).

In the true spirit of Open Source, I actually tried to get in and fix some of this myself.  Repeatedly (after getting particularly annoyed about something or another).  But there was so much weird QT interaction that I couldn't figure anything out.  I spent several hours trying to figure out how (or if) the weighted random tracks feature worked, only to conclude that if the button did anything at all, it was doing the randomization in QT itself (or some arcane callback hidden somewhere).

Oh well, back to re-rating everything by hand....


man gcc

To whom it may concern:

gcc -O3 does NOT enable -funroll-loops, and has not done so since at least version 2.95.3 (released March 16, 2001). I don't know if it used to back in the olden days (like last millennium), but it doesn't now.

gcc 2.95.3:
Optimize yet more. `-O3' turns on all optimizations specified by `-O2' and also turns on the `inline-functions' option.

gcc 3.04
Optimize yet more. `-O3' turns on all optimizations specified by `-O2' and also turns on the `-finline-functions' and `-frename-registers' options.

gcc 3.1.1
Optimize yet more. -O3 turns on all optimizations specified by -O2 and also turns on the -finline-functions and -frename-registers options.

gcc 3.2.3
Optimize yet more. -O3 turns on all optimizations specified by -O2 and also turns on the -finline-functions and -frename-registers options.

gcc 3.3.6
Optimize yet more. -O3 turns on all optimizations specified by -O2 and also turns on the -finline-functions and -frename-registers options.

gcc 3.4.6
Optimize yet more. -O3 turns on all optimizations specified by -O2 and also turns on the -finline-functions, -fweb, -frename-registers and -funswitch-loops options.

gcc 4.0.4
Optimize yet more. -O3 turns on all optimizations specified by -O2 and also turns on the -finline-functions, -funswitch-loops and -fgcse-after-reload options.

gcc 4.1.2
Optimize yet more. -O3 turns on all optimizations specified by -O2 and also turns on the -finline-functions, -funswitch-loops and -fgcse-after-reload options.

gcc 4.4.3
Optimize yet more. -O3 turns on all optimizations specified by -O2 and also turns on the -finline-functions, -funswitch-loops, -fpredictive-commoning, -fgcse-after-reload and -ftree-vectorize options.

gcc 4.5.0
Optimize yet more. -O3 turns on all optimizations specified by -O2 and also turns on the -finline-functions, -funswitch-loops, -fpredictive-commoning, -fgcse-after-reload and -ftree-vectorize options.

This has been a public service announcement regarding gcc.
Thank you for your time. You may return to your regularly scheduled blogging.


More optimizations...

As half a followup to my last post, I just tried to recompile all of the C/C++ code I've written on my system (and a few small projects I didn't) with -O3 -ftree-vectorizer-verbose=2 to see what it could actually vectorize.

The results were rather dismal. It optimized one loop that looked like this:

for(int x=0;x<mySize;x++) {
    t[x] = myItems[x];

And a bunch that were constant initialization like this:

for(int x=0;x<mySize;x++) {
    t[x] = 0;

There were also a couple more in my BitArray that had errors, but looked like I might be able to rewrite them to be vectorizable. Granted, you spend a lot of time in loops, so a few optimizations go a long way, but overall it looks like it has a hard time working with most code.