30 days with Ubuntu Linux, day 3: Where's my iTunes?

I need a means of syncing my iPhone and iPad, but there is no native Linux version of iTunes.

OK, so Ubuntu Linux is all installed and ready to go. Now what?

Much of the feedback that I received from yesterday's post focused on my choice to go with the Wubi install option. Ubuntu purists seem to feel that I am not giving the OS a fair chance if I don't run it natively rather than on top of Windows.

I understand the sentiment, and I understand that there is a performance hit that comes with running under Wubi as opposed to completely standalone. I will make you a deal, though-I won't let any perceived performance issues affect my opinion of Ubuntu. If anything else comes up that I complain about that you feel is a result of my decision to use the Wubi installation, feel free to let me know.

I have also received a fair amount of feedback from readers challenging my assertion that this month might not be as immersive as 30 Days With Google Docs was because I am only trying to compare the OS itself, and after a month with Google Docs I am anxious to get back to using Microsoft Office. Fair enough. Some have recommended using CrossOver to run Office from within Ubuntu-so I will take a look at that, but overall I will do my best to literally switch platforms and immerse myself in Ubuntu Linux. If there comes a point where it gets in the way of my productivity, though-all bets are off. I have to pay the bills, so getting work done is priority one.

Just FYI -- this post was written split between the two. I used Libre Writer to do most of it, while I worked in Ubuntu and captured screenshots. It seems like a capable enough word processor at first glance. We can dig into that more another day. But, I don't yet have a solution in place in Ubuntu that lets me connect with the PCWorld VPN, so I had to switch back to Windows to finish and post this. We'll try and tackle the VPN issue someday soon and we'll see how that goes.

So, let's say for the sake of argument that I'm going to spend 24/7 in Ubuntu during the 30 Days project. I have to consider very important things like "how will I keep my iPhone and iPad synced up?" I don't think I've ever made it any sort of secret that I abhor iTunes, and I consider it an abomination as far as Apple is concerned. The interface sucks. The software freezes regularly. But, it's a necessary evil that comes with the territory for using iOS devices.

When I boot into Ubuntu it does automatically detect my iPhone. It pops up message boxes letting me know that I have attached a device containing photos and music, and asking which application to open the content with. I just close the boxes, and there my iPhone sits on the Ubuntu desktop among the other removable storage drives. But, that doesn't help me sync it, so I still need iTunes.

I went to my trusty friend Google to search for an answer. On the one hand, there seems to be an abundant supply of help and how-to articles for Linux in general, and Ubuntu specifically. Unfortunately, much of that help is dated and it is hard -- especially for a Linux novice -- to tell that the information is no longer valid, which just adds extra effort and frustration to the process.

Case in point: Google directed me to a how-to article from eHow.com. That article starts off with steps about opening the Terminal command line interface in Ubuntu and using some archaic "sudo blah-blah-blah" command to download a program called WINE that lets you run Windows software from within Ubuntu. I tried to follow the instructions, but I was rejected. I assume it is because the instructions were version-specific, and since the version is no longer correct the instructions are useless. But, I could be wrong.

I did another search just for installing WINE in Ubuntu and found some simpler instructions for adding a download repository to the Ubuntu Software Center. Then, I just clicked a link and WINE downloaded and installed. Much simpler.

With WINE installed, I jumped back to the eHow.com instructions and resumed the quest for iTunes. I went to the link provided in the eHow.com instructions to download version 7.2 of iTunes -- the most current version of iTunes that will work with Ubuntu according to the instructions. I installed it in WINE, but I got some error message at the end of the installation, and iTunes wouldn't run. It gave me an error about missing files.

Throwing caution to the wind, I just opened Firefox and went to iTunes.com and downloaded the current version. I installed it in WINE, and it worked...mostly. Kind of.

Each time I start iTunes, I get some error message about something missing from the Registry, but after I click OK iTunes opens up as it should. iTunes pulled in my music files from the designated folder and seems to work at face value. However, when I play a song it works fine for about two minutes and then just stops. No more music. Nothing. I have to shut down iTunes and restart it so I can listen to two minutes of music again.

Then, there is the issue of iTunes not detecting my iPhone. So, I still can't sync, and if I can't sync the iPhone and iPad, I don't need iTunes at all because I could just use the Banshee music player utility that came by default with Ubuntu. I'll bet it can even play a whole song. Maybe even an album or two.

And, here we are. Despite Apple's claims that the iPad is the harbinger of the "post-PC" era, it still requires a PC (as does the iPhone) to sync and update. But, apparently, in the world of Apple, Linux does not qualify as a "PC". So, even if I dedicate myself to living in Ubuntu for the next 30 days, I would still need to boot back into Windows periodically to sync my iOS devices.

I hate iTunes, but this experience has given me new appreciation for working with iTunes in Windows. See, here's the thing -- in Windows I just install the software, and then it works (except for the part where I frequently have to use the Task Manager to forcibly shut it down when it freezes up).

I am open to suggestion Linux gurus. One thing I have determined about Linux is that there always seems to be a way. Given enough duct tape, chewing gum, and perspiration, there is a way to make it work. I guess my question, though, would be "why?" Why should we expect someone who just wants to use a computer to jump through hoops and bend over backwards just to make a simple program work when a much simpler alternative exists?

Read the last "30 Days" Series: 30 Days with Google Docs

Day 2: Wow -- That Was Really Easy

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More about: Apple, Google, Linux, Microsoft, Ubuntu
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Comments

Raul Saavedra

1

And the fact that the Mac OS is actually a Unix operating system, and is also the basis for iOS, makes it the more ridiculous and absurd that there is no official iTunes version for Linux.

mfillpot

2

rhythmbox is capable of reading and writing to ipods, but not contacting the itunes music store. Your issue with itunes being unstable is because you were running it through an emulator which is a best effort work around to run non-native applications, that does not always work right.

Your issue in this article should not be with the OS, but with apple for not making an application to support it on a chosen platform. If the manuals for your ipad and ipods did not say that they work on Linux then do not fault the platform that was forgotten by the device manufacturers.

stephane

3

I could not agree more with mfillpot. The fact that you find no native implementation of iTunes under Linux (be it ubuntu or any other flavor) can only be blamed on Apple.

There are indeed a few things which at first you might think are missing because you are so used to finding them pre-installed, such as MS Office, iTunes, Photoshop, etc...In people's mind, these are "naturals" they associate with the idea of what a computer is, as much as any computer comes with MS Windows pre-installed on it.

Then again, the absence of these tools is the result of the software companies choosing to discard Linux implementations, so to blame it on Linux is a bit unfair.

And once you learn to use the alternatives (I mean, really use them for a while till you get to know them as well as you do the other applications) you might even find yourself liking them better.

I speak as a former Windows user who made the switch to Linux 2 years ago and never had to look back ever since.

Note: I am of course not trying to convince you, judging by the tone of your article, your opinion is made already. I am targeting the brave people who, having read your article, will still be willing to read the comments. Yes, you down here, you my fellow Windows/Mac user. All I'm saying is give Linux a chance ;-)

JMR

4

Isn't Wine a default app in the Synaptic Package Manager? Knowing the very basics about the OS before complaining may help...my 2 cents

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