Unexpected Picard Setups

This article is showcasing some of the more unusual ways MusicBrainz Picard can be run. Some are useful, some are more technically interesting solutions.

The description in MusicBrainz Picard’s README file says:

MusicBrainz Picard is a cross-platform (Linux, macOS, Windows) audio tagging application.

So yes, Linux, macOS and Windows are our officially supported platforms and the main targets for running Picard. If you are using Picard you likely do this on a laptop or desktop computer running one of these three operating systems. We already offer plenty of options to install and run Picard, including our official downloads for Windows and macOS, Picard in the Microsoft Store for Windows 10 and 11 and the popular Linux packages Flatpak and Snap.

But as Picard is free software you can get it running essentially anywhere were Python and PyQt5 are available. Let’s start this year with showcasing some of the more unusual ways Picard can be run. Some are useful, some are more technically interesting solutions.

Please keep in mind that most of these are not officially supported and experience with these setups is limited. You should consult the official documentation of the systems involved. There might also be bugs and not everything will work. But if you have any questions please feel free to ask in the forums, I’ll try to do my best to help and point you in the correct direction.

Picard on your Chromebook

If you own a Google Chromebook you can run Picard on it using the Linux environment. This is actually fully usable, and gives you access to tag all the music files you have on your Chromebook. I had previously already written about this in this forum post.

Picard running on a Chromebook

To get Picard on your Chromebook:

sudo apt update
sudo apt install picard
  • Picard can be started by either typing picard in the Linux terminal or just starting the “MusicBrainz Picard” app that shows up in the app launcher.

To access files you can copy them to the “Linux files” folder using the ChromeOS file manager. You can also share additional folders with Linux in the Files app (in the folder’s context menu). Inside Picard the shared folder is then available under /mnt/chromeos/MyFiles. This even works for files on your Google Drive, just that these will be shown under /mnt/chromeos/GoogleDrive and access to these files will be significantly slower.

Picard for Linux running on Windows 11

Since Windows 10 it is possible to run regular Linux applications on Windows using WSL (Windows Subsystem for Linux). Originally this was limited to terminal applications. But if you are running Windows 11 with the latest version of WSL 2 you can also start graphical Linux applications. And of course this includes Picard:

Picard on Windows 11 using WSL 2

Just to be clear: This is MusicBrainz Picard compiled for Ubuntu Linux running on Windows 11. Hence it looks slightly alien, but otherwise it is for the most part fully functional. File access works differently, as the file systems for your main Windows system and the Linux install are separated. You can either access the files on your Windows drive C: from inside Picard via /mnt/c/ (the same works for any other drive letter), or you can use Explorer to copy files to the Linux file system (which allows for faster access by Picard). What does currently not work is drag and drop of files into the Picard window.

Why would you use this and not the native Picard for Windows? I honestly don’t know, but it is geeky and technically interesting. And it is possible. For me that is enough of a reason to tinker with it 😉

If you want to try it yourself you first need to install or upgrade to the latest version of WSL 2 on Windows 11 or a recent build of Windows 10. Please see the Microsoft’s documentation Run Linux GUI apps on the Windows Subsystem for Linux for full details.

Once installed you have multiple options on how to install Picard, depending on the Linux distribution being installed with WSL. The default is Ubuntu, on which you can install Picard with

sudo apt update
sudo apt install picard

Picard can be started either from the Ubuntu Bash shell by running picard or even from the Windows start menu.

Run Picard on your server or NAS using docker

This is probably the most exotic way of running Picard in this list. The docker-picard project is providing docker images for Picard, which you can use to run Picard directly on a server or even NAS. Picard’s user interface can then be accessed with a web browser or a VNC client. You can even use the web lookup inside this Picard instance, as the docker image comes with a built-in Chromium browser. You need to see it yourself to really grasp it, so here is a short video:

Using Docker Picard with Firefox web browser

This video shows Picard running inside a Docker container using the Firefox web browser. Apart from the geek factor this is also useful in some scenarios. People are using it to be able to tag their files directly on their network storage without the need of accessing and transferring the files over the network.

If you want to try it yourself there are instructions on the GitHub repository for docker-picard. You will need to have Docker installed and ideally you have some basic knowledge about running Docker containers.

Picard on Haiku

It is not one of the fully officially supported platforms, but Picard runs fine on Haiku. Haiku is a free software attempt to create a BeOS compatible operating system. From all the smaller alternative operating systems it’s probably the one that offers the best and most complete desktop experience, even though it is still considered beta.

Picard is available for installation directly from HaikuDepot, Haiku’s official software repository. For a ported software I think it is very well integrated, providing optimized icons, full integration into opening music files from Tracker, Haiku’s file manager, and generally behaving mostly like a native Haiku application. There is even a “Haiku BFS Attributes” attributes plugin, which adds support for reading and writing tags to file system attributes in BFS, the file system used by Haiku.

Picard on the Haiku desktop

Especially if you enjoyed the uncomplicated desktop computing from the 90s, but want to use a modern operating system nonetheless, I highly recommend you to try Haiku. The new Haiku R1 Beta 4 has just been released a few days ago.

Picard on Raspberry Pi

This one is a bit different than the above, as it is basically just a boring regular install of Picard. But it is on a small Raspberry Pi, which is a low-spec single board computer with an ARM processor. Maybe you decide to keep your music collection on a Pi and want to tag your files directly on the device.

Picard running on a Raspberry Pi 2

If you are running your Pi with Raspbian an older version of Picard is available for installation directly from the Debian package repository. On the above setup I instead installed the latest version of Picard using the official Snapcraft package. The Snapcraft package is available both for 32 and 64 bit ARM processors. The screenshot was taken on a Raspberry Pi 2 running Raspbian. It’s running Ok, but this older model does not make such a great desktop system. If you have a newer Raspberry Pi 4, though, it should be pretty usable.

Picard on a 2008 Asus Eee PC 901

Again basically just a standard install, but I wanted to highlight this example of using old hardware. This is Picard running on a small Asus Eee PC 901 from 2008 running Debian Bullseye with Xfce as the desktop environment. It’s rather slow and the screen is pretty small, but overall it is surprisingly usable nonetheless.

A 2008 Asus Eee PC 901 running Picard

With the current Picard 2.8.5 the options dialog does not fit on screen, but we will get this dialog optimized for smaller screens with Picard 2.9.

I actually used this very machine to do some Picard development while traveling back in 2008 / 2009, hence it has some special place in my computer collection. For me this is a great example of how free software can be used to extend the life of old hardware. Long abandoned by the manufacturer you would have a hard time running any modern proprietary operating system on it. But here it is, running the latest, actively maintained Debian GNU/Linux and still being usable for light web browsing and other simple tasks.

Anything else?

Have you had Picard running in a rather unusual setup? Let us know in the community forums.

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