Linked by Kroc Camen on Thu 4th Dec 2008 18:20 UTC
Editorial Songbird is a new open-source music player that has this week landed at 1.0. Songbird is described as a "web player"- a music player for this modern, connected era. It blends the web-rendering core of Firefox (Gecko), with the media capabilities of GStreamer- a cross-platform, open-source media playback engine.
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Dig it
by MechaShiva on Thu 4th Dec 2008 18:51 UTC
MechaShiva
Member since:
2005-07-06

I've been using Songbird on and off throughout most of it's dev cycle and I have to say, they've done a really nice job. With the .7 series, it became my default media player on Windows.

For me, there's really one thing a media player needs to do before I even consider the other things it can do: navigate my existing music collection without choking or lagging. I have an exceptionally large music collection and it drives me nuts when the interface lags when I try to scroll through the artists or songs or whatever. With the 1.0 RCs and final, they seem to have done a pretty good job keeping the interface responsive as it scrolls through some rather long lists. After that, all the other fancy addons and services they link to are just gravy.

So, congrats to the Songbird devs for a job well done and congrats to the users who now have a pretty kick ass and cross platform media manager.

Edited 2008-12-04 18:53 UTC

Reply Score: 5

iTunes for Linux
by REM2000 on Thu 4th Dec 2008 18:55 UTC
REM2000
Member since:
2006-07-25

I have tested Songbird on windows, however to me, it just seems like a project to bring iTunes to Linux, although there is nothing wrong with that.

The UI is well crafted and will hopefully inspire other projects to think more about design.

Reply Score: 2

RE: iTunes for Linux
by WorknMan on Thu 4th Dec 2008 19:37 UTC in reply to "iTunes for Linux"
WorknMan Member since:
2005-11-13

I have tested Songbird on windows, however to me, it just seems like a project to bring iTunes to Linux, although there is nothing wrong with that.


Perhaps, cuz it's going to be pretty useless as an iTunes replacement on Windows/OSX until/unless it can support iPods and iPhones, along with the iTunes Music Store (or a suitable replacement).

Don't get me wrong... I hate iTunes with a passion, but it seems to work rather well for the average Joe with an iPod.

Reply Score: 1

RE[2]: iTunes for Linux
by Finalzone on Thu 4th Dec 2008 19:47 UTC in reply to "RE: iTunes for Linux"
Finalzone Member since:
2005-07-06

Support via Addons. Don't forget SongBird is the Firefox of Media Player.

Reply Score: 2

RE[3]: iTunes for Linux
by WorknMan on Thu 4th Dec 2008 21:38 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: iTunes for Linux"
WorknMan Member since:
2005-11-13

Ahhh, that should probably add that as a footnote or something ;)

Reply Score: 3

RE: iTunes for Linux
by abraxas on Thu 4th Dec 2008 19:53 UTC in reply to "iTunes for Linux"
abraxas Member since:
2005-07-07

I have tested Songbird on windows, however to me, it just seems like a project to bring iTunes to Linux, although there is nothing wrong with that.

The UI is well crafted and will hopefully inspire other projects to think more about design.



Check out Banshee. It is iTunes-like but better in my opinion.

Reply Score: 2

RE[2]: iTunes for Linux
by Ethyriel on Fri 5th Dec 2008 06:46 UTC in reply to "RE: iTunes for Linux"
Ethyriel Member since:
2005-07-07

Check out MPD with Sonata, it's actually usable.

Reply Score: 1

RE[3]: iTunes for Linux
by abraxas on Fri 5th Dec 2008 17:39 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: iTunes for Linux"
abraxas Member since:
2005-07-07

Are you inferring that Banshee isn't usable? For me it is the best media player available bar none. Sonata kind of looks like a rip off of Muine which Banshee can now emulate with Muinshee.

Reply Score: 2

RE[4]: iTunes for Linux
by Ethyriel on Fri 5th Dec 2008 17:53 UTC in reply to "RE[3]: iTunes for Linux"
Ethyriel Member since:
2005-07-07

Yes, that's exactly what I'm saying. Banshee has an ill thought out interface that attempts to do far too much in a single, untabbed window, and too much overall (video? statistics? blech!) Amarok, iTunes, Rhythmbox... I've never understood how anyone can stand these huge windows dedicated to such a simple task as playing music.

Sonata shares a passing resemblance with Muine, but the functionality is far different because Muine forces you to open new windows for a lot of basic tasks which Sonata does not.

Reply Score: 1

RE[5]: iTunes for Linux
by abraxas on Fri 5th Dec 2008 18:29 UTC in reply to "RE[4]: iTunes for Linux"
abraxas Member since:
2005-07-07

Yes, that's exactly what I'm saying. Banshee has an ill thought out interface that attempts to do far too much in a single, untabbed window, and too much overall (video? statistics? blech!) Amarok, iTunes, Rhythmbox... I've never understood how anyone can stand these huge windows dedicated to such a simple task as playing music.


I guess it's just taste then. I think tabs in a music player is unecessary. Banshee is also completely customizable so you only need to show the statistics that you want to show and you can disable the browser too. With the search feature of Banshee you don't really need the browser. Without the browser banshee is perfectly usable in a small window. There is a mini-mode too if you want a really tiny window. It's not really an issue for me though because I use virtual desktops.

Reply Score: 2

Comment by Moochman
by Moochman on Thu 4th Dec 2008 19:11 UTC
Moochman
Member since:
2005-07-06

I too saw some of the same bugs on the Mac, and hope these get fixed in the next release. Also, video would be really nice. In an alternate utopian universe, I envision the Songbird and Miro projects uniting and forming the ultimate browser/player for all kinds of free internet media. ;)

Quite honestly, I could care less about CD-ripping capability. However, in order for this to be unqualifiably recommendable to my friends (as Firefox is), it should have this.

Songbird definitely has a larger potential than any other media player I have ever seen, because it's got an infinitely extensible UI. With its convenient and ever-expanding tie-ins to web services, it's especially well-positioned for the user-created-content revolution. I sincerely believe that one day, as Firefox has done to IE, Songbird could eke out a significant niche as a popular #2 after iTunes.

Reply Score: 2

Comment by leos
by leos on Thu 4th Dec 2008 20:02 UTC
leos
Member since:
2005-09-21

"The Mac download expands into a 117 MB"

I pretty much lost interest after that. For me, a music player should be something to play music in the background and use minimal resources doing so. I don't need some behemoth running in the background all the time, integrating every single online source of information into the app itself on the off-chance that I might want to look that stuff up.

By all means, allow me to get to the wikipedia/lyrics/pictures page for an artist/song, but why people think embedding this info into a music player is a good idea is beyond me. Those things exist on the web, and the correct tool for viewing them is a web browser. Instead of embedding a browser engine in your app, launch the browser with the correct link so I can view it properly and maintain the separation of responsibilities between apps.

Reply Score: 7

RE: Comment by leos
by Kroc on Thu 4th Dec 2008 21:23 UTC in reply to "Comment by leos"
Kroc Member since:
2005-11-10

You need to understand how Mac apps work. Everything is in the one file. It's not like Windows where one app has parts in Program Files, DLLs in System 32, and then stuff in the Registry, and in other cases yet more in Common Files...

If you had continued reading - you would have noticed that the very next line says that iTunes is 129 MB.

Remember that this size includes all the translations -- something you don't get with many Windows apps, if at all -- as well as all of the open source libraries (like GStreamer) that have to be bundled because Songbird is not a native OS X app, using the native APIs.

I think you're doing yourself a disfavour by taking the file size into account, especially given that either a) you don't use a Mac AND/OR b) you never compared the file size to any of the other apps on the Mac.

Reply Score: 1

RE[2]: Comment by leos
by andrewg on Thu 4th Dec 2008 21:33 UTC in reply to "RE: Comment by leos"
andrewg Member since:
2005-07-06

You need to understand how Mac apps work. Everything is in the one file. It's not like Windows where one app has parts in Program Files, DLLs in System 32, and then stuff in the Registry, and in other cases yet more in Common Files...


Everything is not in one file! It may look like a file to you but it is a directory, a special one, but a directory none the less.

Reply Score: 2

RE[3]: Comment by leos
by Kroc on Thu 4th Dec 2008 21:50 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Comment by leos"
Kroc Member since:
2005-11-10

Semantics. It's still all within one location. Saying "it's a directory" doesn't invalidate my point one iota. (How many iotas are there in a point?)

Reply Score: 4

RE[2]: Comment by leos
by sbergman27 on Thu 4th Dec 2008 21:45 UTC in reply to "RE: Comment by leos"
sbergman27 Member since:
2005-07-24

Remember that this size includes all the translations -- something you don't get with many Windows apps, if at all

And which, with the exception of a maximum of one translation, are completely worthless and a waste of time and space.

Linux users used to have to sit through endless rounds watching:

blah_blah_enGB
blah_blah_enUS
blah_blah_sp
blah blah_de
blah_blah_tw
blah_blah_se
...

scroll by endlessly on installations and updates. Thank the deities that be that Linux distros finally got a clue.

Mac apps really do this?

Reply Score: 2

RE[3]: Comment by leos
by Kroc on Thu 4th Dec 2008 21:51 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Comment by leos"
Kroc Member since:
2005-11-10

Did you know that people who don't speak English outnumber people who do?

Reply Score: 1

RE[4]: Comment by leos
by sbergman27 on Thu 4th Dec 2008 21:57 UTC in reply to "RE[3]: Comment by leos"
sbergman27 Member since:
2005-07-24

Did you know that people who don't speak English outnumber people who do?

Of course I am well aware of that. (Do you not remember my calls for more people to learn Esperanto a few months ago?) And so are Linux distros. You select a language, or languages during installation, and that is all that you get. Why should someone who speaks Russian be loaded up with simplified Chinese translations and font packages?

P.S. Contratulations. But don't let your new editorship go to your head. ;-)

Edited 2008-12-04 22:01 UTC

Reply Score: 4

RE[5]: Comment by leos
by Kroc on Thu 4th Dec 2008 22:05 UTC in reply to "RE[4]: Comment by leos"
Kroc Member since:
2005-11-10

I'll always be the troll I was ;) I can assure you that nothing will change about how opinionated I am! I hope that people will be aware by now that I show my love through brutal honesty, sarcasm and sharp wit ;)

Reply Score: 1

RE[5]: Comment by leos
by Thom_Holwerda on Thu 4th Dec 2008 22:10 UTC in reply to "RE[4]: Comment by leos"
Thom_Holwerda Member since:
2005-06-29

You select a language, or languages during installation, and that is all that you get. Why should someone who speaks Russian be loaded up with simplified Chinese translations and font packages?


This has been the freakiest week in the history of evar for me. I've had all sorts of when-hell-freezes-over moments, but this one tops them.

Dude, I totally agree with sbergman27.

I just want to select "English (UK)" during installation, and be done with it (computing in my native language is silly and awkward). On my Mac, lots of space is wasted on supporting languages I don't use, and the only way to reclaim this space is through 3rd party tools that often break some applications or even the operating system as a whole.

I hope Apple realises this one of these days. Heck, I don't think the MAc even HAS English (UK). It just has the US variant.

Edited 2008-12-04 22:11 UTC

Reply Score: 1

RE[6]: Comment by leos
by Kroc on Thu 4th Dec 2008 22:14 UTC in reply to "RE[5]: Comment by leos"
Kroc Member since:
2005-11-10

Isn’t this something being somehow addressed in Snow Leopard? All the apps have significantly reduced file sizes. Something about centralising the help documentation and translations -- I can’t remember for sure.

Certainly how it is now is crude and clunky, but we musn’t be obtuse just because most only speak only one language and have only one culture.

(I only speak two languages: English, and Bad English)

Reply Score: 1

RE[7]: Comment by leos
by Thom_Holwerda on Thu 4th Dec 2008 22:18 UTC in reply to "RE[6]: Comment by leos"
Thom_Holwerda Member since:
2005-06-29

It's not about how many languages one speaks (I do a few), but about control. I don't need anything else than UI in English, and spelling control in UK and NL - that's it. The rest is just wasted space. And it can amount to hundreds of megabytes on a Mac.

A simple control panel applet where you can remove unused languages would suffice. Doesn't even need to be at install time.

That is not to say others do it any better. Try getting spelling control installed on Windows or Office - other than your default one. Is it even possible?

Reply Score: 1

RE[6]: Comment by leos
by sbergman27 on Thu 4th Dec 2008 22:53 UTC in reply to "RE[5]: Comment by leos"
sbergman27 Member since:
2005-07-24

I've had all sorts of when-hell-freezes-over moments, but this one tops them. Dude, I totally agree with sbergman27.

Is it really that unusual for us to agree? I find that I sometimes agree with you and sometimes disagree with you. Perhaps I'm more likely to post about it when I disagree.

At any rate, in this case I can't help but feel that we are only agreeing on an item in the category "duh". You know, in there with "the flu sucks" and "Britney Spears is annoying". ;-)

Reply Score: 2

RE[3]: Comment by leos
by RawMustard on Fri 5th Dec 2008 00:43 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Comment by leos"
RawMustard Member since:
2005-10-10

aptitude install localepurge

pretty simple really.

Reply Score: 2

RE[4]: Comment by leos
by bornagainenguin on Fri 5th Dec 2008 02:18 UTC in reply to "RE[3]: Comment by leos"
bornagainenguin Member since:
2005-08-07

RawMustard posted...

aptitude install localepurge

pretty simple really.


Great! Now can I do the same thing as that (remove all the unnecessary language files) in OSX?

{crickets chirp}

Oh and without having to pay a premium to rescue all this wasted hard disk space?

{silence}

Yeah I thought so...although I'll be happy to be proven wrong if anyone knows of a utility that does this for free or built in to the Operating system itself.

--bornagainpenguin (preparing the recipe for crow pie but not expecting to need it)

Reply Score: 3

RE[5]: Comment by leos
by chrisoverzero on Fri 5th Dec 2008 03:18 UTC in reply to "RE[4]: Comment by leos"
chrisoverzero Member since:
2008-12-05
RE[6]: Comment by leos
by bornagainenguin on Fri 5th Dec 2008 04:25 UTC in reply to "RE[5]: Comment by leos"
bornagainenguin Member since:
2005-08-07

chrisoverzero indicated...



Can't talk right now, busy eating crow...

--bornagainpenguin

PS: Thanks for proving me wrong; this is one instance I was hoping I was incorrect!

Reply Score: 2

RE[2]: Comment by leos
by solarcontrol on Sat 6th Dec 2008 13:11 UTC in reply to "RE: Comment by leos"
solarcontrol Member since:
2008-11-17

All of that aside, his complaint made no sense.
File size has nothing to do with resource usage (other than storage memory).
For example, any recoding app will use lots of resources but doesn't necessarily take up much space on the hard drive,

Reply Score: 1

RE: Comment by leos
by Jason Bourne on Fri 5th Dec 2008 18:01 UTC in reply to "Comment by leos"
Jason Bourne Member since:
2007-06-02

"The Mac download expands into a 117 MB"

Mac applications generally carry all the static libraries in one single file. There is a different philosophy of setup in Mac: There's no setup of anything. Just drag and run. I don't think it's the best philosophy when it comes down for shared libraries and take advantage of what's already in memory. But Mac does have a resource fork (meaning that it should be much more than 117 totally static).

Reply Score: 1

RE[2]: Comment by leos
by sbergman27 on Fri 5th Dec 2008 18:21 UTC in reply to "RE: Comment by leos"
sbergman27 Member since:
2005-07-24

I don't think it's the best philosophy when it comes down for shared libraries and take advantage of what's already in memory.

It's even worse for security update management.

Reply Score: 2

RE[2]: Comment by leos
by Chicken Blood on Fri 5th Dec 2008 18:35 UTC in reply to "RE: Comment by leos"
Chicken Blood Member since:
2005-12-21

"The Mac download expands into a 117 MB"

Mac applications generally carry all the static libraries in one single file. There is a different philosophy of setup in Mac: There's no setup of anything. Just drag and run. I don't think it's the best philosophy when it comes down for shared libraries and take advantage of what's already in memory. But Mac does have a resource fork (meaning that it should be much more than 117 totally static).


That's not true. Mac apps generally have dynamic libraries/frameworks, which can be embedded in the application bundle or located in a shared location such as ~/Library/Frameworks or /Library/Frameworks.

Drag-install apps usually use the embedded method, but apps that use installers are free to locate frameworks in either of the shared locations.

Reply Score: 2

MusicBrainz?
by membrain on Thu 4th Dec 2008 20:15 UTC
membrain
Member since:
2008-06-19

When-oh-when will finally a media player (other than our own that is, check out http://mpx.backtrace.info </shameless plug>) support MusicBrainz? Having a unique ID per album, artist and track, and artist sort names is just so much better.

mashTape is nice but I've been working on a similar plugin for our player, based on WebKit, for about a year now too, without knowing that mashTape existed. Kudos for that, it was time that someone (else) did this.

Buut.. MusicBrainz... braiiiiiiiiiiinzzzz.. please! I want my VA (and other multi-artist) albums have individual artists, but be sorted under Various Artists, not scattered all across the library navigation!

Reply Score: 0

Worth keeping an eye on.
by Howie S on Thu 4th Dec 2008 20:20 UTC
Howie S
Member since:
2005-07-14

I tested songbird back in the 0.7x series. What appealed to me wasn't so much that it did what other open source media players did, but that it did so *elegantly*. The interface is just so much more polished IMO than condenders like Amarok and even Banshee. As well, it's Firefox-like system of add-ons is simply amazing, and sets it apart from the rest. There were a few flaws - like not being able to change the chrome's default font size - which I imagine will be addressed in time.

More to the point, the Songbird team seems actively interested in getting user feedback. One time I launched Songbird, and it asked me if I wanted to participate in a short survey. I happily did, and even filled out the comments section at the end with a few of my suggestions. The fact they've built user feedback right into the application they're trying to improve shows great insight into how community-driven software projects should be run. Bravo.

My one point of concern is their backend: SQLite. Amarok has moved away from SQLite, in favor of Mysql(e). Like MechaShiva I also have a large digital music collection. I don't see the appeal in moving to an inferior indexing database. If perhaps, like Amarok 1.x, Songbird would at least give the *option* of using an external Mysql database, I could be persuaded to try it once more.

I am also a bit suspect on the stability of XUL-based applications, but maybe that's something I just need to get over.

Reply Score: 1

never really got it
by FunkyELF on Thu 4th Dec 2008 20:22 UTC
FunkyELF
Member since:
2006-07-26

I never really got iTunes at all or any really big media player. I used WinAMP on Windows for a long time. When they came out with WinAMP 3 I stopped, then when they came out with WinAMP 5 (2+3), I used it with the WinAMP 2 skin and turned all that media library stuff off.

On Linux I used to use XMMS, then once distro's started calling it insecure and stopped supporting it I switched over to Audacious. I dunno, something about a minimal player with play, pause, stop, next, previous, and a simple playlist editor with load and save support is all I could ever want.

Audacious is all I need with my keyboard / mouse and XBMC is all I need with my xbox controller at my TV. Same stuff, simple browser, start, stop, play, next, previous, and a loadable, savable, easy to use playlist editor.

Reply Score: 6

RE: never really got it
by StephenBeDoper on Thu 4th Dec 2008 21:13 UTC in reply to "never really got it"
StephenBeDoper Member since:
2005-07-06

I think it's largely a matter of taste / preference. FWIW, I'm in the same boat as you are - I'd much rather use small, best-of-breed applications that focus on a specific task. Most of my music is stored on a BeOS machine, using Tracker / BFS attributes for indexing/cataloguing, SoundPlay for playback, ArmyKnife for tagging, and the RipEnc script for ripping and encoding.

Although I can certainly see why someone would prefer an end-to-end solution that handles all of those tasks.

Reply Score: 2

RE[2]: never really got it
by Kroc on Thu 4th Dec 2008 21:49 UTC in reply to "RE: never really got it"
Kroc Member since:
2005-11-10

Using the FS xattrs for managing [natively] music (and photos) is the dream I've always wanted in an OS. I would greatly be interested in a detailed write-up / break-down of that system you've got there. That sort of thing I find fascinating.

Reply Score: 2

RE[3]: never really got it
by StephenBeDoper on Thu 4th Dec 2008 22:41 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: never really got it"
StephenBeDoper Member since:
2005-07-06

My setup is in a bit of shambles at the moment, thanks to a hard drive crash last year. But I've been thinking about rebuilding it (most of the files were mirrored on other drives, thankfully) and documenting the process as a how-to guide.

The biggest limitation is that the BeOS filemanager (Tracker) has no way to natively read ID3 tags from files (as Win Explorer and, I believe, Finder do) - so separate apps need to be used to convert the tags to filesystem attributes. Though SoundPlay will do it automatically when a file is first played, and there are apps that can batch-convert the tags from multiple files.

Without going on and on, I find the biggest advantage is that it's extremely simple to customize the way files are displayed / listed. I normally use really verbose filenames (Track Num - Artist - Album - Title.mp3), but then set the filemanager to show only the track number & song title - and sort by track number. Attributes can also be set for the folders containing each individual album - so you can do stuff like sort the ablums for an individual artist by year, without having to put it in the folder name.

Reply Score: 2

RE[4]: never really got it
by Howie S on Fri 5th Dec 2008 00:23 UTC in reply to "RE[3]: never really got it"
Howie S Member since:
2005-07-14

I'm intrigued by your novel approach. I used BeOS a bit in the late nineties. It's attribute-extensible filesystem was certainly one of it's great strengths. It was like having the power of a relational database built right in.

> Without going on and on, I find the biggest advantage is that it's extremely simple to customize the way files are displayed / listed.

I can see how you felt BeOS was the right tool for the job.

IMO, any old program can play media files. The real holy grail is helping me find novel and interesting ways of grouping songs together. That way I can find what mood I'm in, and select the type of music to match, and then just sit back and listen while the program does the rest. Most programmers don't seem to get that while 'genre', 'artist' and 'album' are good ways of grouping songs together, by themselves they don't always make for very diverse, interesting, or pleasing playlists.

Reply Score: 2

RE[5]: never really got it
by StephenBeDoper on Sun 7th Dec 2008 02:40 UTC in reply to "RE[4]: never really got it"
StephenBeDoper Member since:
2005-07-06

I'm intrigued by your novel approach.


Thanks - although I can't take much credit. IIRC, there was an article in BeTips back in the R4.5 days that described how to create BFS attributes corresponding to ID3 tags.

I used BeOS a bit in the late nineties. It's attribute-extensible filesystem was certainly one of it's great strengths. It was like having the power of a relational database built right in.


Absolutely. For a while, the BeTips site was powered by a set of scripts that used text files with BFS attributes as a database. When I started with SQL, it already seemed familiar after having used command line & formula queries in BeOS.

IMO, any old program can play media files. The real holy grail is helping me find novel and interesting ways of grouping songs together. That way I can find what mood I'm in, and select the type of music to match, and then just sit back and listen while the program does the rest. Most programmers don't seem to get that while 'genre', 'artist' and 'album' are good ways of grouping songs together, by themselves they don't always make for very diverse, interesting, or pleasing playlists.


I know what you mean - I've never really found any way to do that other than creating playlists manually.

Reply Score: 2

Don't forget the web integration!
by red_devel on Thu 4th Dec 2008 20:31 UTC
red_devel
Member since:
2006-03-30

Though you mentioned it in the beginning of the review, you never tried out or reviewed any of Songbird's abilities to navigate webpages with music embeded, and pull the music out for quick playback. It also allows you to download these songs and add them to your library. I suppose you ignored these cause you were comparing it to iTunes, but you're "Missing Features" at the end makes it seem like Songbird is simply an iTunes clone that doesn't do everything iTunes does. Would you say that those features are "Missing" from iTunes?

Those features, when used in conjunction with a site like Skreemr, are really sick and are really what sets Songbird apart. I think part of their mentality has been, why re-invent the wheel on something that every platform can already do easily with another app? Instead they focused on developing the stuff that is new and unique, but you completely ignored those things in your review!

Don't get me wrong, I do agree with you that they should get CD Playback working, and maybe eventually include CDDB Querying and ripping ability. I'm just saying don't throw Songbird out without giving those other features a try, they're great, and thats why I've been following and using Songbird for a while now!

Reply Score: 2

Kroc Member since:
2005-11-10

Thank you, I think this is a very valid criticism.

In trying to slim down the review I left out a screenshot of this very feature. Indeed it does blend websites and player together in a much more natural and easy way.

I avoided going into it in detail because I was disappointing that despite this feature, there was no podcasting built in.

If anything, I'm one of the worse people to review something like Songbird. I don't use many web services until long after everybody else has discovered the privacy concerns. I don't use Last.fm, I've never in my life heard of Skreemr until I used Songbird - (and personally would have avoided links to such a site based entirely on the terrible name).

I am much more conservative about what I let the web do for me, than I do for it.

That said, I wanted to do this review because everything I had read so far from other sites regarding the Songbird release kind of felt empty and too much like a lengthy announcement than any critique. Ars Technica, who I had hoped would give it a thorough addressing failed to grill the software beyond acknowledging its existence and reading the spec sheet. Any complaints they had were forgiven in the wake of being indifferent about the whole thing.

Open source should not be given a free-ride - journalism / critique wise - just because it doesn’t have the same funding or whatever. Software is software and it either serves its users or it does not. It is down to spirit. I would have even harsher criticisms if I were reviewing Windows Media Player 11 - Songbird got off *very* lightly from me ;)


edit: wide -> wise

Edited 2008-12-04 21:58 UTC

Reply Score: 1

One word my friends...
by capricorn_tm on Fri 5th Dec 2008 07:06 UTC
capricorn_tm
Member since:
2005-12-31

"Light".

I'm using it from my Linux box and did not even istall the Deb ( I used the base Tar.gz that is on the site).

Even uncompiled and just pasted in that barbaric way on my system it kicks the crap out of Amarok the hands behind the back.

I have to state that I never loved Amarok very much, I always found it unbearably heavy for what he did ( honestly, do you really need THAT infrastructure to play some Mp3s?), but Songbird is another planet.

I'm in love with the concept of this program, a couple of plugins later I had Magnatune and Shoutcast running and was happily tagging my music collection.

"Happily" is another important word, because this program is FUN.

Mediaplayer, browser, heck, if I wanted it to do it I could even become my IRC program ( chatzilla plugin already available).

Sure it is rough ( as in "interface needs some serious love") and buggy ( at certain moments menus just disappears and you need to restart the app), but it is quick to recover and friendly as few programs can be.

Firefox made me rediscover the web, Songbird is bringing me back my music and I LOVE each second of it ;)

Reply Score: 3

This review seems a little biased
by OddFox on Fri 5th Dec 2008 09:25 UTC
OddFox
Member since:
2005-10-05

This review seems a little biased towards expecting a full iTunes replacement on a 1.0 release, especially when you get to page 4 and read this:

"To call this product 1.0 is like throwing in the towel, accepting that it's just not possible to beat iTunes, or even Windows Media Player, or even support basic features - like playing a CD, that's been possible for around 16 years."

Ugh, Songbird never set out to replace iTunes or anything else, it uses a very flexible technology base that gives it the freedom to develop into so much more, eventually surpassing current media players in various fields. Personally, as a jukebox app it seems like it's come a long way, and the fact that it doesn't play CDs is something I'm perfectly fine with, considering CDs don't neatly fit into the whole paradigm of playing your personal locally-stored library of music. And these basic features are things that can easily be added on if someone really wanted to. I think the fact there isn't an add-on for this functionality kind of supports the idea that not many people want it.

On page three, all the bugs he mentions very well may be easily reproducible, but only on OS X, they are Mac-specific. The reviewer couldn't be bothered to load up Boot Camp or VMWare Fusion or Parallels Desktop to give the Windows version a spin to see if it suffered the same problems? Come on, some metrics put OS X market share even further behind Linux market share (Though I would say OS X is probably ahead slightly on desktops). I point this out because this is obviously someone who is deeply entrenched not only in Apple technology but in Apple ideology. Look, a jukebox app doesn't have to support everything Apple under the sun to be a successful and useful jukebox app, it has to do what it advertises, and that's play media. In this case, the reviewer either can't read the front page for Songbird or the Songbird developers responded incredibly quickly to this article because it notes prominently that it is a music player. They aren't hiding anything.

Let's go along the cons here:

No direct podcast support, can be "emulated" through subscribing to a website or RSS feed XML - Granted, but wouldn't this require built-in video playback support, not just streaming via the web interface?
No CD support - Addressed earlier in my post.
Vague privacy - Granted, they should probably develop a privacy policy to assuage fears.
Long road ahead to feature parity with iTunes - This is so conceited, by my measure it is already far surpassing iTunes in features, most importantly playback of every format I can think of. Everything else can be added via extensions, so ultimately this program has far more potential than iTunes could even dream of. This kind of arrogance is typical of people who use iTunes for a far more specific subset of needs (My iPod!) than the average user who just wants to play their collection.

Now the sins:

I encountered many bugs, big and small, just in my normal usage - Addressed earlier, these bugs are not reproducible without using your specific platform, and I hope you submitted some bug reports.
No video support, no UX to acknowledge that - The front page says "The Open Music Player". When did music player translate to audio/video?!
Second class citizen on OS X. Lacking theme polish. Poor non-standard behaviour - Look, OS X gets less attention not because of any snubbing but because of a lack of resources. If you want it to be better on OS X, provide constructive feedback through the proper channels.

All in all I think this review could do with a little more depth and a little more thoughtfulness. It praises Songbird's innovation while at the same time bemoaning its feature set because it lacks specific technological tie-ins that he has gotten so attached to. This is a jukebox application, it is not an iTunes killer, though in time I have no doubt addons will arise that will make iTunes less necessary for those techs that Songbird currently lacks. This review is so incredibly short-sighted to ignore that Firefox became arguably the greatest web browser period not because of it's base package but because of the cornucopia of extensions to make it behave how you want it to behave, not how some developer decided it should.

Really, every single compliment given to Songbird seems to be completely backhanded, and it's insulting to say its chances of success on Linux is much greater than on Windows or Mac OS X because quite frankly it has the greatest challenge on Linux, and that's beating amaroK and the likes of mpd.

Reply Score: 3

Kroc Member since:
2005-11-10

iTunes already exists, and most people are using it. I compared it to iTunes, even unfairly, because that's exactly what it is up against when people download Songbird to use it.

There is no magical amnesia effect that means when you install Songbird, suddenly I no longer have any need at all for the features I was using in iTunes.

Being a 1.0 is not an excuse - when people are going to download Songbird and try it out, many having already used iTunes and Windows Media Player -- and yes, many may find that Songbird is a very good player because they never used CDs anyway &c.

If you expect fairness, because you expect me to address Songbird from the perspective of a user who has never used any other media player before, then you should write a rebuttal article. Correct me.

As it stands, Songbird is an innovate project, that doesn't do what I'm currently doing with other software.

As for OS X. It's my primary platform. It takes care and attention to detail to make a decent Mac app, and that is a good sign of quality in any new app to see that attention given. I should have added that Firefox didn't get the right sort of attention until 3.0.

If I can use a product for the first time, and spot 10-15 glaring bugs within a few hours use, there's something wrong the development process, or simply not enough eyes viewing the product during beta. (Apparently none, given I could uncover bugs within seconds).

It doesn't matter if I'm using Windows or OS X - if I'm finding bugs that quickly then I highly doubt that the product will be flawless and bug free on another platform.

As I've made clear - I'm not being kind to Songbird just because it's new, or because it's some darling of open source. It's playing in the real world, and the real world means iTunes; like it or lump it.

It's a good project, that will yield results in two to three years, but I'm not going to write a floral and superficial review like that I've seen elsewhere.


edit: PS. modded you up, all valid criticisms.

Edited 2008-12-05 10:51 UTC

Reply Score: 2

OddFox Member since:
2005-10-05

Get a sense of perspective Kroc, you act like iTunes wasn't woefully inadequate in its 1.0 days when compared to how it is now. Here's a little bit of history for you: http://www.tuaw.com/2006/09/14/itunes-from-0-0-to-7-0/

I blasted you for being unfair to Songbird by expecting it to be a drop-in replacement for iTunes at its first 1.0 release, when iTunes has taken what, almost 8 years to get to the point it's at today. You make it seem like a 1.0 release is the only chance that an application has to flesh out what it really truly is, and you ignore that your little darling program was, in all honesty, a piece of junk when it first hit the scene, compared to what people had been using.

MacOSX and Linux users (Of which I am both a part of) are notoriously unforgiving of a program that is not completely spick-and-span, conforming entirely to whatever UI guidelines and setup they may have. We also tend to forget that development of a software project is ultimately community/user-driven through feedback to the people who have the ability to add/tweak things. "It takes care and attention to detail to make a decent Mac app, and that is a good sign of quality in any new app to see that attention given." Please, it takes care and attention to detail to make a decent app on any platform, and you are being nothing but unreasonable in expecting perfection, as you say it flawless and bug-free. Guess what, very few programs are flawless and bug-free, and they tend to be incredibly small and for a very specific purpose. Your beloved iTunes is in no way flawless and bug-free, just a few months back it was causing Blue Screen errors on Vista: http://gizmodo.com/5047721/itunes-8-causing-huge-problems-bsod-for-...

Wow, I guess that must mean Apple is some sort of amateur outfit who couldn't be bothered to test on every platform they release for as thoroughly as we would like them to test. Stop expecting the world and then some from this small group of open source developers with infinitely less resources than corporations like Apple and Microsoft. The point is that bugs happen, we provide feedback and they get squashed. It's not like Songbird formatted your data partition or something monumental, it lost focus or had shortcomings on your niche system (Yes, OSX is a NICHE market). Logic dictates one should focus a review on what the application says it sets out to do, and you do it in an unbiased manner. Basically what you provided here in this article is a review of Songbird for OSX as if OSX was a primary development target, which is ludicrous when you yourself are aware that Firefox even up until 3.0 was not entirely up to snuff visually for a lot of OSX users.

Kinda boils down to you expecting far more from this music player than it said it had. One look at the features page mentions absolutely nothing about anything you complain about being missing, with the exception of them stating video support and cd ripping are coming down the tube. And you use the fact that they have "Coming Soon" features at the bottom of the feature page as some sort of How Dare They, like they're trying to hide something by merely putting it where it makes sense. Their website isn't some DVD where Coming Attractions makes sense to put at the beginning, their website is there to convey information in the order which it should be conveyed. Here's what we have, here's what we are close to having, and here's what we want to have.

Reply Score: 1

Kroc Member since:
2005-11-10

Okay, I'll just get into my time machine and hop back to 2001 and review Songbird 1.0 there.

Just playing music, Songbird was buggy and unpolished compared to iTunes. Now, I can choose to either live with those problems because my ideals lie with open music formats, or the web features, or I can continue to use the tool that already works for me.

If Songbird can provide a smooth playback experience in future versions, It'll get a much more glowing review from me.

I have many criticisms of iTunes. It was good at 4.9 when they added Podcasting. The problem with iTunes is that you get what you're lumped with and any flaws and bloat can't be fixed by a wider community.

Kinda boils down to you expecting far more from this music player than it said it had


I expected it to play music, and didn't do that all that smoothly.

I expected it to not import my videos, or somehow alert me clearly that video was not supported, but it didn't - instead giving a subpar experience that could have easily been cleaned up by simply not including video files in the library.

I didn't expect it to have an online store. I didn't even mention that in the article.

*When* Songbird is a better player, I'll give it better reception. But right now, I gave it a task to do and it didn't do too well. Potential, resources, community or not - I can't go recommend Songbird to my grandma based on the principle that it's a small project written by a small group of people and it doesn't work very well at the moment -- but it will later.

*When* 2.0, 3.0 &c. is a good player, I'll recommend it then.

We, the technical community understand audio formats, and are willing to contribute and put up with shortcomings -- the public are not. If Songbird doesn't work right, they go back to Windows Media Player or iTunes because Songbird "didn't seem to work".

addendum: Firefox 0.93 did everything better than IE for me.

Edited 2008-12-05 11:33 UTC

Reply Score: 1

OddFox Member since:
2005-10-05

I'm just going to address your post paragraph by paragraph.

You miss the point entirely with your snide remark, my point was that iTunes development has taken course over a period of nearly 8 years, and you are expecting a fresh 1.0 release of this relatively new music player to stack up to its feature set. Do not pretend that you were reviewing it purely on the basis of "Hmmm, seems to play back the audio, we're done here!"

I'm curious, what music formats did you have problems with in Songbird? It supports far more than your preferred iTunes. This is relevant because of this: "With the QuickTime Playback and Window Media Playback add-ons installed, Songbird can play all the popular music formats including MPEG Audio (mpga), MPEG Layer 3 (mp3), MPEG4 family including FairPlay (m4a, m4v, mp4, m4p, m4b), Ogg Vorbis, Speex, AAC, WMA, WMADRM, FLAC, and less important: LPCM, ADPCM, AMR. If you're a developer, teach Songbird how to play your favorite format!" source: http://getsatisfaction.com/songbird/topics/what_digital_music_forma... Again, which format are you having difficulty playing back? If your gripe is with the program itself having shortcomings, there is absolutely no reason whatsoever for you to even mention ideals lying with open formats, the point is irrelevant to the discussion because those are not the only ones Songbird supports.

Granted.

Criticisms of iTunes are not relevant to this discussion, the only reason I bring up how far along iTunes has come since 1.0 is to illustrate the point to you that development takes time and energy and community interest.

You did not expect it to play music, you expected it to do things that it never said it was meant to do, most notably video playback.

I have no idea how your Songbird both imported a video file and then proceeded to actually display it in your library listing. For one, there are no tags that I'm aware of to attach to a video file to display Artist, Album, Title. How did you find the video file in your playlist? I tried importing a folder full of avi/mpg videos and Songbird quietly did nothing because Import Media was never meant to process video files. You're not that hung up on their usage of the word "Media" instead of "Music" are you?

I don't remember ever mentioning anything about a store, and I personally couldn't care less for an integrated store in a jukebox app, though I guess some people might find that to be a nice feature if they purchase music so regularly.

You are being intellectually dishonest by proclaiming Songbird is not ready for widespread usage because it didn't work perfectly for you on your Mac. I'll say it again, you are a niche market, there are many more people than you who are using a platform where Songbird has gotten more TLC. You know how you can make it better on your platform? By becoming involved. But if you'd rather keep using iTunes, that's fine too, just don't expect the world when developers only have so much time and so many systems to test on.

I find it amazing you continue to fly the flag of "Songbird is not functioning correctly!" when the fact of the matter is, for well over 90% of the potential market it has, it is functioning just fine. Stop pretending your Mac problems are indicative of the software on the whole.

Reply Score: 2

UltraZelda64 Member since:
2006-12-05

Being a 1.0 is not an excuse - when people are going to download Songbird and try it out, many having already used iTunes and Windows Media Player -- and yes, many may find that Songbird is a very good player because they never used CDs anyway &c.

Um... you're comparing a relatively new 1.0 piece of software, to a much older and mature 8.0 piece of software. Do you really not see a problem there? The higher version (especially with such a difference in number) is obviously going to be more feature-rich and most well-tested version in most cases. It even has the added bonus of being pre-installed on every Mac, so surely they've hammered any major (and most minor) bugs.

I would be a bit curious (and not in a good way... skeptical would probably be a better word) if a new 1.0 product was every bit as fully-featured as iTunes. I would expect to see lots of major bugs, possibly instability, a weak GUI, and a poorly-designed program overall. Think Microsoft, or all the other crap that corporations like to shove in our face at a high price... over, and over, and over. [Unfortunately, not even open source is innocent of this.]

And why the hell do so many people think that and audio player should for whatever reason also be able to play video files? That's one thing that really pissed me off about Winamp (plus many, many more things after that happened).

Reply Score: 2

zio_tom78
Member since:
2008-04-10

My background: I am an old Linux user (since 1995!) which has recently switched to Mac OS X. In the last five years I have ripped a large number of CDs from my collection. I keep them in a dedicated partition on my hard drive (6500 OGG files). I carefully designed the directory layout and avoided spaces in file names in order to ease backups. Each directory contains a "cover.jpg" file with the image of the CD cover. I used to run Exaile, which was more than happy to work with this configuration.

When a few weeks ago I copied my music to my new MacBook and fired iTunes, I discovered two problems: (1) it does not play OGG files, unless you download the decoder from Internet (which I promptly did), and (2) it forces you to "import" the files, i.e. to move them into newly created directories, with file names chosen by iTunes itself. The latter urged me to seek for alternatives.

I tried to install Amarok, but was scared by the fact that it depends on a lot of KDE libraries and there is no automated install process yet. So I decided to try Songbird. The two iTunes problems do not apply with Songbird: (1) it can read my OGG files without any additional plugin, and (2) it happly reads my files where they are without the need to copy and rename them. So I decided to stay with Songbird.

However, there are a few issues: (1) the Macbook multimedia keys are ignored (this is a known bug), (2) creating playlists is not as easy and quick as it is in Amarok and Exaile, (3) there is apparently no way to see the OSD rectangle which announces the new track to be played, and (4) it apparently ignores the "cover.jpg" file I put in each directory. If I manually import it, Songbird copies the cover into the OGG files, which is something I dislike and find quite annoying!

My conclusion is that Songbird is not the optimal solution to listen my music yet, but I will be using it waiting for an easy-to-install Amarok DMG file!

Reply Score: 1

phoenix Member since:
2005-07-11

When a few weeks ago I copied my music to my new MacBook and fired iTunes, I discovered two problems: (1) it does not play OGG files, unless you download the decoder from Internet (which I promptly did), and (2) it forces you to "import" the files, i.e. to move them into newly created directories, with file names chosen by iTunes itself. The latter urged me to seek for alternatives.


This is something that I don't understand about a bunch of different "media managers". I don't want to create a new directory tree that is my collection. I already have that. And I especially don't want the different users on my home system to have their own separate directory trees with copies of the same music files in them. That's why we have a central file server at home.

I just want a media manager that will look at a directory tree, import the metadata about the files in there, and let me create a library based on those files. BUT DON'T MOVE/COPY THE FILES!! Why is that so hard for media manager developers to figure out?

I tried to install Amarok, but was scared by the fact that it depends on a lot of KDE libraries and there is no automated install process yet. So I decided to try Songbird. The two iTunes problems do not apply with Songbird: (1) it can read my OGG files without any additional plugin, and (2) it happly reads my files where they are without the need to copy and rename them. So I decided to stay with Songbird.


Amarok's a decent media player ... but it's a horrible media manager. The "collection" is nothing more than a directory browser. You can't even edit any metadata (id tags, filename, etc) from within it.

If Songbird gets ports to FreeBSD as a native app, I may look at it. I'm running out of alternatives (GTK, and especially GNOME, apps are not alternatives.) ;)

Reply Score: 2

ichi Member since:
2007-03-06

Amarok's a decent media player ... but it's a horrible media manager. The "collection" is nothing more than a directory browser. You can't even edit any metadata (id tags, filename, etc) from within it.


Right click->Edit information for X tracks?

Maybe it could have been implented so you could edit that inside the very collection tree, but I don't see how that could have been done without adding clutter to the interface.
More so when, as it is right now, edit information doesn't just mean id tags but also lyrics and labels.

Reply Score: 2

phoenix Member since:
2005-07-11

Right click->Edit information for X tracks?

Maybe it could have been implented so you could edit that inside the very collection tree, but I don't see how that could have been done without adding clutter to the interface.


What really irks me about the interface is that the playlist is the centre of everything, instead of the collection. A playlist is a temporary thing, it changes constantly, and is only ever looked at while creating it or changing tracks. Why is that the centrepiece of the app?

If they swapped the "Collection" tree with the playlist, making the collection the centre of everything, then it would be simple to make the list editable. Just like any other file listing in Konq/Dolphin. No clutter required.

Then, the playlist is just a little thing off to the side, where it belongs.

Reply Score: 2

MamiyaOtaru Member since:
2005-11-11

and (2) it forces you to "import" the files, i.e. to move them into newly created directories, with file names chosen by iTunes itself. The latter urged me to seek for alternatives.

Ran into the same thing with an external HD loaded with mp3s attached to a Mac. But I seem to remember I was able to tell it not to move the files and just index them where they were.

Of course, it bothered me that was the default, but it makes sense with what they are doing. You deal with music with your music app, not the filemanager. Photos with your photo app, not the filemanager. And of course there's spotlight if you actually do need to find a file for some strange reason.

Apparently directory trees are too hard to understand (see the many recent filemanagers that do away with it), and seeing the average computer user flail around when I ask them where something is installed, Apple might be on to something. Let the music manager handle the music, but leave the option for us to organize it ourselves into directories and whatever. And like I said, I'm pretty sure that option is there.

Reply Score: 2

darknexus Member since:
2008-07-15

The option is in iTunes preferences under advanced, and is called "Copy files to iTunes Music folder when adding to library" Interestingly enough, the defaults for this option are different between Windows and Mac--Mac's default is to have this option enabled, while on Windows it's the opposite. You can also disable the automatic organizing of your music files--again, Mac's default is enabled while the opposite holds true for Windows. Perhaps they could have made these options a bit more obvious, but they are there and aren't hidden. Personally, I leave this on, but that's because I'm a very disorganized person when it comes to files, I tend to throw music randomly into whatever folder I'm downloading to and think that I'll deal with it later... everyone can guess the rest I'm sure, I never end up dealing with it. So iTunes, in my case, is a life saver for sure.
That being said, iTunes isn't exactly the best player for ogg files. You can download the QT plugin and enable it, and they play fine, but a lot of the metadata doesn't seem to work, but I could just be doing something wrong. Usually for oggs I end up using VLC, and you might want to consider that if you don't want a music manager but just want a player for your audio and video files. Plus, it plays just about everything out there with the exception, obviously, of any protected content.

Reply Score: 2

When did iTunes support FLAC?
by Denver Gingerich on Fri 5th Dec 2008 15:32 UTC
Denver Gingerich
Member since:
2008-12-05

You mentioned that iTunes once supported FLAC: "Between users hurt by Apple removing FLAC from iTunes, and supporters of open formats like OGG" (p. 2). When did they start supporting it? When did they end FLAC support? Have they supported other royalty-free codecs in the past (like Vorbis)? Some URLs for reference would be helpful. I've been unable to find any concrete information on this myself.

Reply Score: 1

RE: When did iTunes support FLAC?
by Kroc on Fri 5th Dec 2008 22:30 UTC in reply to "When did iTunes support FLAC?"
Kroc Member since:
2005-11-10

I had an iPod 3G in 2003, and I'm sure that it supported FLAC. Suport was later removed from iTunes in favour of the Apple Lossless Codec (iTunes 4.5 / Qt 6.5)

It's basically so long ago, I can't find any mention of it. I wish I'd kept my original iPod box. Anybody else able to confirm or deny this?

Reply Score: 1

Reactionary
by brainsik on Sun 7th Dec 2008 01:37 UTC
brainsik
Member since:
2008-01-18

Unfortunately, I found this review far more reactionary than informative. A good iTunes / Songbird comparison would have been a great article.

This part bothered me the most:

Hmm, checked by default. Personally, I'd close and remove the app right now. I find that kind of behaviour massively disrespectful. Real were pulling this stunt years ago and I still don't trust any software that asks for an email address, optional or not.

The reason Real got in trouble is because they were sending a GUID with the metrics. In other words, their metrics were not anonymous. These metrics are and as such, have nothing to do with Real or those privacy issues. Continuing with a random opinion about generally not trusting software that has a way for you to put in an email address certainly wasn't helpful.

Privacy issues can be complicated and important. Misinformed side-comments like these create more confusion instead of clarity.

Edited 2008-12-07 01:42 UTC

Reply Score: 1

Nice job so far
by kvarbanov on Mon 8th Dec 2008 09:25 UTC
kvarbanov
Member since:
2008-06-16

Despite the issues that I'll describe later, Songbird's developers have done really nice job, especially the default Mac-like interface look-and-feel. Pros - many features in one windows - lyrics, band info, upcoming events, tickets, etc. Good. The mini player - beautiful feature. Add-ons - good, very nice, although most of them are very useless.
Cons - terrible performance on Linux, on a pretty powerful machine with OpenSuSE 11.0, KDE 3.5.9. Installation needs improvement, printing debug info in the terminal isn't useful for me ;) it's eating a lot of resources - almost 30-40 % of the CPU, I don't care about the RAM, as I have 3 GB. Startup time - very slow. Switching windows and opening some menus and preferences - really slow. Moving the main window around - very slow. Overall performance - very bad. Amarok beats it here, with lot.
Usability - this is what I can't bear - I want to queue a file - I can't just click on it, and enqueue it. I have to create playlist. Mmmm, no thanks. I want to get rid of all windows or some of them - I can't. I just don't want this info or empty field standing there. I can't customize shortcuts - biggest downside. I can't control songs with shortcuts outside of the window - reference - amarok can do "Win+B" for the next song, Win+C to pause it, while you're browsing in Firefox, can low down the volume, so that you can hear yourself thinking, etc.
Needs improvements, good job though. I will stay with amarok for the next releases, or at least until those features aren't included. I don't want to change my habits.

Reply Score: 1