I started playing with ipod support in Rhythmbox a while back. I mocked up a little bit of the GUI, but then I made the mistake of looking at the libraries that interfaced with the ipod. There have been some efforts at getting ipod support under Linux, most notably gtkpod. There are a handful of various efforts at making GUI to interface with the ipod, but I found very little effort going into making a stand-alone library to access it.
Following the Open Source tradition, I decided to write my own library to interface with the ipod. I did this with sound reasoning. First, the existing projects that I did find all seemed to be trying to do their own thing (nothing wrong with that), each implementing their own version to accomplish a similar task. While there’s nothing necessarily wrong with that, it feels more `right` to me to create a more generic, independant shared library to interface with the ipod (and specifically, iTunesDB, which is the heart and soul of the ipod). With a shared library, I can integrate ipod support into any number of applications (xmms, Rhythmbox, gnome-vfs, etc) without having to worry about rewriting the same code over and over again, which gtkpod and others seem to be doing.
I talked to a few developers involved in other ipod-related efforts and met some resistance to my idea. Again, the efforts I witnessed seemed to focus on building application-specific support. On that vein, I took a look at my own motivations compared with that of other developers that I know and I came across some interesting bits of information.
I place myself somewhere between core hacker and geek. I’m more than happy to hack away at code but I don’t find as much satisfaction in something that only I can use. I guess I prefer to look at things from an end-user perspective. They don’t care how complicated it is to write code or what effort went into it. They just want it to work. At least I’m not alone in this.
I know where I stand, but what about the community at large? Jorge pointed me to this study on the motivation and effort in Open Source software projects, conducted with a pool of 684 developers across 287 sourceforge.net-hosted projects. They concluded with some interesting results.
44.9% write code because it’s intellectually stimulating.
41.8% write code to improve their skills
33.8% write code because it is needed for work-related projects
29.7% write code for non-work-related projects
11.3% write code to spite closed-source projects
11.0% write code to enhance their reputation in the Open Source community
I can relate to these motivations but I can’t help feeling that something is missing. I don’t expect the code I write to save the world but I would like it to contribute to making Linux more usable to the end user. If I sync my ipod with Linux, it should work the same no matter what frontend I use. I should even be able to sync between whatever application I use in Linux and iTunes on Windows or OSX. It shouldn’t matter what application I use on which platform. It should just work.
So that’s my goal with libipod in a nutshell, as lofty as it may be. It should provide a seamless interface between any application using it and iTunesDB and allow the ipod to work with iTunes or any other compatible software.