The year of Linux on the desktop never came, and never will. Don’t believe me? Just look at the state of proprietary software on Linux.
It’s bad. From Adobe Flash, to Skype and video games, Linux continues to get the short end of the software stick. Much like what’s happening with Microsoft’s Universal Windows Platform, applications are either being abandoned, or not getting updates in a timely fashion. One of the biggest offenders in this is Spotify.
Why Is Spotify On Linux So Bad?
While the Windows, Mac, Android and iOS versions of Spotify benefit from the attention and efforts of Spotify’s legion of software developers, Linux gets no such love. In fact, you could say that it been virtually abandoned.
According to a recent piece for Digital Trends by MakeUseOf alumni Justin Pot, Spotify continues to release a port of the shared codebase, and indeed continues to track bug reports with the Linux version. But there’s nobody working on Linux features and issues. That’s a serious problem.
Firstly, as anyone who has used it recently can confirm, the app is rife with performance and stability issues. It’s not unheard of for the app to just crash mid-song. You could also be forgiven for speculating whether there is a security vulnerability or two knocking about. Nobody is working to fix these.
But what’s perhaps worse is that Spotify has ditched any attempt at basic integration with even the most common distributions. Linux-specific features, like the Spotify tray icon, are long gone. Essentially, what it’s become is a direct port of the Windows version, with no attention paid to coherence and synergy.
So, what’s left for these jilted users? Should they continue using the desktop Linux version of Spotify, or is there a better option for them?
Alternatives To Spotify for Linux
Despite the protestations of its die-hard fans, Linux remains a niche operating system. That’s not me ripping on it, or ‘bias’. It’s just a fact. On the desktop, its userbase registers below 5%. Consequently, not many streaming services have bothered to release their ports of their desktop clients.
Take Tidal, for example. While it has a desktop client for OS X and Windows, Linux users are told to make do with their web client.
The same is also true for Gallic music titan Deezer, who are one of the largest streaming services in Continental Europe. While Windows and Mac users are first-class citizens, Linux users aren’t.
Despite that, there are alternatives. Just not that many of them.
Google Play Music
Google Play Music is available for Android and iOS, as well as through the browser. Personally speaking, I use the Android app while out-and-about. While it could certainly use a bit of polish, Google Play Music is a perfectly acceptable streaming service.
So, what has this got to do with Linux? Well, interestingly, a New Zealand college student has created a third-party client for Google Play music, available for Mac, Linux, and Windows. We wrote about this a couple of months ago.
This works by piggybacking off the existing Google Play Music website, but has a handful of customizations that make it a compelling choice over the standard browser experience – from media keys, to customizable color schemes. It’s well worth consideration.
Pandora (via Pithos)
Hands up who is still mourning Last.fm? Sure, it’s still around, but as a shell of its former glory.
For those with short memories, Last.fm used to offer a streaming radio service. It’d work out what music you liked, and would play you tracks it reckoned you’d enjoy. Sadly this turned out to be too expensive for the embattled company, and it stopped offering it back in 2014.
But the dream still lives on. Pandora offers a similar streaming and recommendations service in the U.S., New Zealand, and Australia. Like Spotify, the core of Pandora’s offering is a web application, which is supplemented by downloadable apps for OS X and Windows. If you’re a Linux user, you can also get a fully-featured desktop experience, thanks to Pithos. This includes notifications, media key support, and tray integration.
So, what does that leave us with?
I wasn’t kidding when I said there aren’t that many streaming services for Linux.
In the past, I’ve written about Nuvola: a kind of ‘catch-all’ streaming application which supports 14 different streaming services, including Spotify and Amazon Prime Music. But I’ve always been reticent to recommend it, due to the fact that it’s just not that polished, and because it uses a truly brain-dead way of installing itself.
There’s also the browser. Most streaming services, like Tidal, Amazon Prime Music, and Spotify, have a web interface. Since these use HTML5, rather than proprietary frameworks like Flash (which you would probably be best avoiding), you can use them on Linux.
If you want to use your media keys, you can use the Key Socket Media Keys plugin for Chrome. This supports Pandora, YouTube, Spotify, Deezer, and more.
Streaming On Linux Sucks
This is a total segue, but at the moment I’m reviewing the Mars by CrazyBaby. It’s a quirky Bluetooth speaker that actually levitates. For convenience, I’ve paired an old Android phone to it, which has Spotify installed.
If you have an old smartphone knocking about, you might just be as well using that, and connecting it to a speaker system, either through an AUX-in or Bluetooth. You could even use your TV and a Chromecast. While it’s a bit more expensive, and certainly more roundabout, you might find it less frustrating than dealing with long-neglected Linux. .
Do you use any streaming services on Linux? Tell me about it in the comments below.
Image Credit: Emperor penguin by royaltystockphoto.com via Shutterstock