Several weeks ago, my computer began experiencing some weird crashes. These were somehow related to media, as they consistently occurred within a few minutes of starting up a player: first Rhythmbox, then Banshee and Gtkpod, and finally Clementine. I tried diagnosing the problem by figuring out what processes were running, by checking the logs to see what the computer was doing last, and so forth. No luck. I'm a do-it-yourself kind of troubleshooter - I like to solve problems myself, but in this case I gave up and took the question to the Ubuntu Forums.
An almost-random question by a helpful troubleshooter was the key: "Media is on two hard drives?" My MP3 collection sits on two physical drives: the second was originally meant to be a temporary solution to a space shortage, and it is symlinked to my music library on the main drive. A quick attempt to browse it in Nautilus hung the system. There was the problem: a failing drive occasionally causing the system to hang. The problem only manifested itself when starting a media player, because no other applications would need access to that drive.
So now I need a new hard drive. This sucks. But it's better than needing a new computer, or having to reinstall the operating system, which is annoying.
The moral of the story is: Do patronize your friendly neighbourhood forums.
Now, I can finally get on with my long-overdue evaluation of the various media players - which do not crash at random - for Linux, and why I need to use multiple tools each for few jobs, rather than one bumper-to-bumper solution.