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Open-source music library app
February 8, 2006 10:37 AM   Subscribe

Anybody tried Songbird? A preview release of the "iTunes-killer" launched today. Interview with development team leader on Boing Boing. Works great ... but I see no iPod support.
posted by mrgrimm (74 comments total)

 
What part of preview realease did you miss? They probably just don't want to get sued until they reach version 1.0.
posted by tiamat at 10:39 AM on February 8, 2006


slow and clunky.

i'll stick with winamp.
posted by jimmy at 10:40 AM on February 8, 2006


What is "iPod support?" You take the mp3 files you've downloaded and you drag them to your iPod. Windows already supports this.
posted by rxrfrx at 10:40 AM on February 8, 2006


I always thought Winamp was the iTunes killer. This looks interesting though.

Ah, jimmy beat me to it.
posted by muckster at 10:41 AM on February 8, 2006


tried it, uninstalled it
posted by mr.marx at 10:43 AM on February 8, 2006


By iPod support, do you mean the ability to play the crippled files you paid for on iTunes? Sorry, sucker.
posted by 2sheets at 10:43 AM on February 8, 2006


No, I meant syncing. I don't have one, so it works for me.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:45 AM on February 8, 2006


I use QCD for playing one-off files, MediaMonkey for playlist making or library crap, DeepBurner for burning, and, yes, Windows for syncing. I'm curious if this can take over. Certainly not yet, however ...
posted by mrgrimm at 10:48 AM on February 8, 2006


too many connections.

Off to a smashing start. Thanks, but no thanks.
posted by rollbiz at 10:48 AM on February 8, 2006


The project homepage has been down since this hit digg early on, so why even bother with that url? Why even bother with this post? SnoozeFilter
posted by prostyle at 10:51 AM on February 8, 2006


oh, and not to hijack, but i should have linked "see no iPod support" and probably should have said "understand" rather than "see."
posted by mrgrimm at 10:52 AM on February 8, 2006


If you want a free Windows/Linux program that will automatically sync playlists and their associated audio files with your iPod, you can use EphPod
posted by rxrfrx at 10:52 AM on February 8, 2006


Its an extremely premature beta. Numerous buttons do nothing when clicked. The program crashes frequently.

Come back to this in six months -- its still garbage at this point.
posted by solipse at 10:55 AM on February 8, 2006


I don't mean to diss the developers, but there's simply no purpose to this product. There are a very large number of capable Windows audio players that cover essentially every niche of what you would want to be able to do. They should save their energies.
posted by selfnoise at 10:55 AM on February 8, 2006


selfnoise, I thought the point was to (eventually) aggregate music-purchasing from multiple sources into one program, so you wouldn't have to install Yahoo!'s music-buying thing, and Apple's music-buying thing, and Rhapsody's music-buying thing just to buy 3 songs.
posted by rxrfrx at 11:00 AM on February 8, 2006


Yeah, but are you seriously going to buy music from multiple DRM-crippling sources? That sounds kind of insane to me.
posted by selfnoise at 11:02 AM on February 8, 2006


i'd rather just steal music.
posted by monofonik at 11:02 AM on February 8, 2006


Again, Winamp with ml_iPod will play, burn, rip, synch, create smart playlists, display gorgeous visualizations, the whole bit, and there are tons of plugins. What else would anybody need?
posted by muckster at 11:05 AM on February 8, 2006


There are download mirrors in the boingboing article.

It looks like it mainly focuses on aggregating DRM-free music stores like eMusic, bleep, and Beatport.
posted by zsazsa at 11:06 AM on February 8, 2006


Hmm. I've only ever bought one EP online (Mountain Goats Diladaud EP), and I don't plan on buying any more, but for me, an open-source, all-in-one library app/rss subscriber/internet radio player is not to be dismissed. Yet.

I don't mean to diss the developers, but there's simply no purpose to this product. There are a very large number of capable Windows audio players that cover essentially every niche of what you would want to be able to do.

I certainly welcome suggestions, however. Especially one with a FIFO playlist (which this doesn't). So far, MediaMonkey is far superior, IMO.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:07 AM on February 8, 2006


iTunes is really nice. It's not hard at all to understand why someone would want to build an open clone; that's how plenty of open-source projects get started.
posted by Mars Saxman at 11:16 AM on February 8, 2006


but are you seriously going to buy music from multiple DRM-crippling sources? That sounds kind of insane to me.

Well, it's tough to say because you can't do this at the moment. If you could, I probably would do this.

Once in a while I'm trying to track down a small band or a very old song and it's not on iTunes, I have to look elsewhere and if I want it badly enough, I would buy it elsewhere if there was an easy way to search.

The funny part is this would lead to more sales across all three (or more) services if people could do this, but every music store wants to corner their own market so they're not big on interop.

I look forward to seeing the mac client, though rhapsody and yahoo music only work on a PC.
posted by mathowie at 11:16 AM on February 8, 2006


I hope this project matures, as it already has the two features that stop me from switching to iTunes completely:

1) Watch folders. This monitors folders for any new content. iTunes seems to think it's your entire OS, and refuses to believe that you may add content via any other means.

2) "Location" column in the library browser. Sure, it's off by default, but turning this on shows the physical location of the file. This makes it a lot easier to sort through mp3's with no/incorrect metadata.
posted by dvdgee at 11:24 AM on February 8, 2006


One big problem: buying from multiple stores that include ITMS will make it impossible to use a portable player reliably, since there is no player that plays protected AAC and protected WMA. And even using only one or the other, your selection is severely limited.

The real answer to this issue is to have a universal protected format that can be sold interchangeably by every store at the price the market will support. Unfortunately, this seems to be precisely the event every player in the business is trying to avoid.

I guess I should shut up, though, since I don't buy DRMed music at all.
posted by selfnoise at 11:26 AM on February 8, 2006


I share dvdgee's issues with itunes, plus one seemingly simple yet totally deal-breaking problem. itunes doesn't allow you to select your audio output device. On my machine, which has multiple sound output devices, this makes it completely unusable.
posted by selfnoise at 11:29 AM on February 8, 2006


as long as winamp synchs with the ipod, I'm sticking with Winamp.
posted by jonson at 11:31 AM on February 8, 2006


Looks just like iTunes. No thanks.
posted by The Jesse Helms at 11:31 AM on February 8, 2006


1) Watch folders. This monitors folders for any new content. iTunes seems to think it's your entire OS, and refuses to believe that you may add content via any other means.

This would be a pretty simple app to code and I'd be astonished if there's not a freebie out there somewhere. The iTunes API exposes LibraryPlaylist which returns the main playlist (your library). That object exposes AddFiles which will add everything in a folder.

There's room for sophistication there (not calling if there's no new files, monitoring the directory for activity and not invoking iTunes unless necessary) but when I add new radio recordings I just do "add folder" even though 99% of the files are already there; iTunes figures it out okay. An app that just fires once an hour via the scheduler and does this call against configured directories would do the trick for you.

Not that I don't agree it should already be in iTunes....
posted by phearlez at 11:36 AM on February 8, 2006


I was listening to the TWiT podcast last week and they talked briefly about the critical Winamp bug that was recently fixed. The funny thing was that as they were discussing it, it seemed like nobody uses Winamp anymore, it being somewhat antiquated at this point.

I can see where Songbird is useful though, nowadays most people don't need merely an mp3 player, they need a database program that'll sort and organize the tens to hundreds of gigs of mp3s (and oggs and flacs and what have you) on their hard drive. I think we've gotten past the point where it's practical to organize music by hand using folder names to augment metadata.
posted by bobo123 at 11:37 AM on February 8, 2006


I thought foobar was the new winamp.
posted by The Jesse Helms at 11:42 AM on February 8, 2006


"I think we've gotten past the point where it's practical to organize music by hand using folder names to augment metadata."

This is a reasonable point of view, but I've found that at least 40% of the people I talk to online use folders as their primary sorting method. Crazy, but true.

Winamp is a pretty nice program overall, and I would disagree with the contention that it's outdated, though the Library doesn't always handle tags in the best way.

I really like Musikcube, but it's not ready for prime time yet. Farther along than Songbird, but still not there.
posted by selfnoise at 11:42 AM on February 8, 2006


I've never had any occasion to use anything but Winamp... no other program even comes close to the speed and versatility. This looks like iTunes, which I don't like, so while I won't use it, I encourage the killing.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 11:52 AM on February 8, 2006


This is not about a new desktop jukebox/player/media manager. This is about de-monopolizing online media stores -- providing an open interface to content owners to list their stuff, price their stuff, etc., all searchable from one unified interface -- as well as opening up the application category to independent development/extension. This seems like it could be a VERY GOOD THING.

To put it another way, I think this is less about the (current) featureset of the application itself than it is about a different way to approach the question -- an open, extensible way that allows for greater consumer choice as well as vendor access.
posted by TonyRobots at 11:52 AM on February 8, 2006


Crashed a lot for me, didn't really see the point even when it did run. Not worth the time to download. I'll stick to winamp thanks!

I have to question the crap that BoingBoing links to lately. Whenever it's a piece of software, it's usually just total crap.
posted by inthe80s at 11:53 AM on February 8, 2006


Anyone tried wxMusik?

Agreed that Songbird is not ready for flight. I haven't had any stability issues, but here are a few things that don't work.

* Sorting library by any category
* Pausing Internet radio
* Syncing my digital-music player
* Subscribing to podcasts
* "Smart" playlists

I'll be sticking with MediaMonkey for now. It really is quite good, though it, like iTunes, has little things that drive me crazy. (At least it has a on-the-fly playlist. That's what I've never understood about iTunes)
posted by mrgrimm at 11:56 AM on February 8, 2006


Mrgrimm - wxMusik and Musikcube are related... I think Musikcube is an offshoot. It's pretty damn good at certain things, so I'd imagine wxMusik might be as well. It has basically no internet radio support, though, which is rough.

Does MediaMonkey have a last.fm plugin? It didn't seem to earlier, which is why I never really tried it.
posted by selfnoise at 12:01 PM on February 8, 2006


bah! no mac version!
posted by slhack3r at 12:02 PM on February 8, 2006


For Selfnoise: "How come no one told me that iTunes now lets you select multiple outputs? This is a phenomenal development! I can play the same music in my room and in the living room via the AirPort Express. In the midst of all the MiniStore hullabaloo, this is a seriously underhyped 6.0.2 feature."

Is that the funcionality that you are looking for?
posted by Heminator at 12:06 PM on February 8, 2006


Hemi - I think that's only good for Airport Express, but I'll check. I want the ability to output sound to a different sound device (or sound card) than Windows has as the default. Last I checked, Itunes was basically the only Windows music player that couldn't do this.
posted by selfnoise at 12:09 PM on February 8, 2006


The real answer to this issue is to have a universal protected format

No, the real answer to this issue is to give up on the idea of protection, which can never work.
posted by Mars Saxman at 12:15 PM on February 8, 2006


Well, yeah. But people seem to be willing to buy DRMed files. I'll buy CDs until they make it illegal, but looking at itunes and (to a lesser extent) the other online services... the demand is there.
posted by selfnoise at 12:16 PM on February 8, 2006


You're all ahead of me. I can't even get the website to load and i have tried several times today.

One big problem: buying from multiple stores that include ITMS will make it impossible to use a portable player reliably, since there is no player that plays protected AAC and protected WMA. And even using only one or the other, your selection is severely limited.

There are lots of players that play WMA and playforsure files. Apple is the problem with a hardware lockin format.

Just out of curiosity..what do folk think are the big missing features from all media players? Just off the top of my head I want automatic tag fixing like Musicbrainz, built in dupe checking by both file and metadata, automatic mp3blog downloading (not podcasting) and playlist building, playlist sharing (maybe lastfm based - listen to what I am listening too) etc..
posted by srboisvert at 12:46 PM on February 8, 2006


got it, installed it, watched it crash within 30 seconds, walked away.
posted by jazon at 12:50 PM on February 8, 2006


iTunes for life.
posted by kbanas at 1:00 PM on February 8, 2006


iTunes for life.

Are you mocking Mac users or just an example of one? I can't tell.
posted by srboisvert at 1:07 PM on February 8, 2006


Just out of curiosity..what do folk think are the big missing features from all media players?

I'd like a media player that would index and play files contained inside a rar or zip archive, sorta like how cdisplay works with comics. Also, with the growth of hour long podcasts it would be nice if mp3s could have "chapters" you could skip to within them like DVDs. I keep seeing stuff like that in id3v2 proposals but I'd still like to see it implemented more.

Also, the program crashed on me within 30 seconds the first time I used, second time it lasted a couple minutes, third time about ten minutes. I won't be using it much but I'll be keeping an eye on the development. Very beta.
posted by bobo123 at 1:09 PM on February 8, 2006


srboisvert:

My primary machine is a PC, actually. I just love iTunes. It does everything I want it to do, how I want it to do it. There are still some glitches to be worked out with the new video integration, but all the same, I think it's a great, great program.

I used to use WinAmp, along with filenames/directory hierarchy to organize all my music.

Then, at some point, I just became a convert to the whole idea of metadata stuffed into a database kind of setup, and iTunes fit the bill and I never looked back.

There was surprising little iTunes love going on in this thread, so I thought I would just put in my two cents.
posted by kbanas at 1:13 PM on February 8, 2006


Is there a music program that allows for easy "tagging" of files similar to social metadata sites? Obviously you can do this inside ID3 but I've not seen an app with a really good system for this, or one that wasn't a sort of hack.
posted by selfnoise at 1:13 PM on February 8, 2006


selfnoise: Doesn't the iTunes sound output get routed through the Quicktime plugin on Windows? I remember having to go into the Quicktime Control Panel and having to select an output device once in an attempt to improve sound quality.
posted by maledictory at 1:14 PM on February 8, 2006


This looks like iTunes

the reason it looks like itunes is because... surprise surprise, itunes looks likes winamp3's media library! and this is developed and produced by former winamp devs.


1) Watch folders. This monitors folders for any new content.

Winamp already does this.
posted by lotsofno at 1:20 PM on February 8, 2006


iTunes fit the bill and I never looked back

Just don't say "iTunes for life" because that would mean you have stopped looking forward. I've tried lots of players (I really didn't like iTunes) but I have settled on using a combination WMP because it is already there and the toolbar integration gets it out of the way and media monkey but I am still not satisfied with either of them (mostly because media monkey isn't free).

Is there a music program that allows for easy "tagging" of files similar to social metadata sites? Obviously you can do this inside ID3 but I've not seen an app with a really good system for this, or one that wasn't a sort of hack.

I like this idea too but for the sake of sanity I don't want it in the files - just in user's separate metadata library. The last thing I want is spam in my music files and on my mp3 player.

1) Watch folders. This monitors folders for any new content.

Winamp already does this.


ditto for wmp.
posted by srboisvert at 1:26 PM on February 8, 2006


pardon me, but:

1) I do believe that TonyRobots has the firmest grasp on the importance of the songbird app. The rest of you are just engaging in partisan squabbling... :)

2) I still sort my music by folders (artist(s)/album/disc#1,2,etc.) ...does that make me a defective? :) Or am I the kind of lamer that Jack Black's character in High Fidelity would have mocked for "merely" alphabetizing his record collection?

3) iTunes just ain't that friendly unless you view your music collection as nothing more than a heap of songs to be teased apart and re-sorted every-which-way-but-loose® AND it's crap at dealing with files that aren't properly tagged. Well, pardon me if I ripped them years ago when the media software wasn't as sophisticated as it is today, Apple!

3a) I still think, and perhaps this is my age speaking, that the "album" is still entirely relevant, and important way of looking at music. I'm a mixed-disc/ mixed-tape fiend from way-back (I suppose now I'll have to learn to be a "playlister" or some-such) and the "compatible collection of moods" that an album or mix represents is key -- and iTunes doesn't cope so well with my "poorly-tagged" mixed discs that I've ripped and imported...

4) srboisvert: what hardware lockin format are you talking about? I've never purchased a (*cough* overpriced *cough*) song from ITMS, so perhaps these are the files you're talking about (AAC DRM'd)? I've successfully used JetAudio (my prefered media player for a number of reasons - high among them is "toolbar mode" on winXP) to play AAC files...can you elaborate?
posted by I, Credulous at 1:35 PM on February 8, 2006


I'm very interested, but I'll wait before trying it. Sounds like it's more alpha than beta at this point, and they should have used a request list or something to expand. They've probably permanently lost potential customers forever, just by the few reports above.

I use iTunes but it has things that drive me crazy -- as noted, there are other ways to handle your MP3s and iTunes should be more friendly to that.

I think the tremendous response to this announcement demonstrates that there's still a crying need out there for improved music player/manager software, even though iTunes is "perfect" for so many.
posted by dhartung at 1:39 PM on February 8, 2006


Credulous - ITMS files are AAC with a wrapper of DRM called Fairplay. They only play on itunes or Apple Ipods.

I agree with you about albums. That said, tagging helps you find albums very quickly, at least in Winamp. Just tag 'em, you'll feel better.

I totally understand and appreciate the point that Tony made. I just don't agree on the demand for such a solution, and I don't care to buy music online. Only time will tell whether there's an audience for this, though.
posted by selfnoise at 1:43 PM on February 8, 2006


selfnoise: from the point of view of the post, and it's subject matter, this IS a thread about open-source music-sourcing aggregation software, but most of the discussion has "de-railed" onto talk about specific media players.

That's my first point. I, of course, then weighed-in with my partisan point of view about iTunes, coz that was fun. :)

I haven't used winamp in a few years: how well does it recurse a disk file structure to "infer" the album information when tags aren't present?
JetAudio uses that, at least in part, as the basis of it's album definition. And I like that.

On re-think, I realize that the AAC files I was listening to were probably ripped by a friend and passed on to me that way, not initially purchased from ITMS...

peace,
posted by I, Credulous at 1:57 PM on February 8, 2006


oh, and thanks for the clarification, selfnoise
posted by I, Credulous at 1:57 PM on February 8, 2006


@lotsofno: winamp is my primary client :) i look at itunes a lot, and when i'm procrastinating, i mess around with it, and i'd LIKE for it to be my primary client because i like the interface, but it's just too tag-fascistic.

another thing that irks me about itunes.. when browing the library, you can click on *almost* any field and edit it, but not track number. i have a lot of ripped albums that don't have the track number metadata, and it's a pain to add it, having to click 'get info' for each file, when you can adjust nearly everything else inline.
posted by dvdgee at 2:00 PM on February 8, 2006


dvdgee: You can do get info on one and then use apple-N/alt-N to go straight to the next file's info.
posted by aaronetc at 2:10 PM on February 8, 2006


I just got home and tried this. Doesn't quite work, but then it's an alpha.

The music store tie-in, though, just seems like a collection of bookmarks that open in an internal browser. Why wouldn't you just use Firefox?
posted by selfnoise at 2:40 PM on February 8, 2006


I just got it. It has one of my ponies which is to automaticaly build a playlist from a mp3blog . The extensibility will make this a very interesting application to watch and possibly contribute to.
posted by srboisvert at 2:56 PM on February 8, 2006


I think the big problem withSongbird is that the kind of people who will put up with the open-source/beta-forever kind of software are exactly the same people who won't go near DRM'd music.
posted by leftoverboy at 3:27 PM on February 8, 2006


I am assuming from the boingboing interview that this player supports plugins. If this is correct, songbird could end up having a number of black-plugins that could strip a bought song of its DRM and convert it to a more universal format (192kbs mp3 maybe) upon download. I know that if things like that emerged I would buy a lot more music and would definitely use a service like this.
posted by aburd at 3:57 PM on February 8, 2006


Sounds like people who hate on iTunes have very little to no metadata in their ID3 tags.

Get with the times!

MusicBrainz can help you!
posted by blasdelf at 4:26 PM on February 8, 2006


AFAIK, iTunes just delegates playback to Quicktime. Therefore, a Songbird extension that pipes the file to an installed version of Quicktime should allow the application to play back protected AAC files.

You might need to do something irritating like use iTunes to authenticate your machine as a FairPlay device though.

In any event, I used to buy a lot of music from the iTMS. It's convenient and has the best selection out there. However, I haven't bought a thing since Apple borked JHymn. If I can't send audio to my Streamium, it's no good to me.
posted by xthlc at 5:00 PM on February 8, 2006


aburd, yes, I think that's key. I do, on occasion, buy songs from iTMS, but only because I know I can strip the DRM.
posted by TonyRobots at 5:03 PM on February 8, 2006


yah, itunes killer with a geocities host
posted by Satapher at 9:04 PM on February 8, 2006


black plugins


just found my next bands' name.
posted by cell divide at 9:46 PM on February 8, 2006


Is it actually open source or is it just open? I see no source code anywhere.
posted by srboisvert at 6:37 AM on February 9, 2006


I hope this does take off and, in particular, supports ATRAC for my Sony MP3 player on Linux. So far, I have to use the crappy Sony client to load/unload MP3s on my player and it would be really nice to get a native client that supports ATRAC without needing a reboot.
posted by axon at 7:41 AM on February 9, 2006


Axon - Unfortunately, I think someone would have to reverse-engineer Sony's proprietary music-transfer tech to do that. Which is quite unlikely.
posted by selfnoise at 8:24 AM on February 9, 2006


The only reason I use iTunes (Windows) is for playcount, ratings and Smart Playlists. I also use Anapod Explorer quite a bit for its ability to manage the music as it sits on the iPod, but its Morphlists don't look at as many tags. I tried WinAmp but just didn't like it. If I could find a manager that does ALL that iTunes does (don't care about the music store, never buy stuff from there) but wasn't so much a resource hog (and keeps all the iTunes metadata I have now), I'll look at it.
posted by lhauser at 9:10 AM on February 9, 2006


I just heard that an old friend who was (also) once at nullsoft is working on this project. Go Mig! You can see Mig's excellent AVS visualization scripts in the sample pack included with Winamp when you install AVS. (Well, I'm not sure if they're in v.5 but they're in the other older-yet-newer install packs, for sure)

Regardless, it sounds like Songbird needs a bit of room to grow and mature and all that.

I still use Winamp, unless I'm wanting to build playlists from my entire library, quickly and accurately. Then I use iTunes, but just for the search/org features that are a bit snappier than WMP.
posted by loquacious at 6:25 PM on February 9, 2006


I tried this. I frankly didn't even get as far as the library organization or whatever else it does. The fact that it's also a Web browser with an integrated MP3 player just makes the process of listening to music on the Web seamless. Very enjoyable, that part of the program. I spent hours playing with that. iTunes should add something like it, except, of course, even better.
posted by kindall at 8:08 PM on February 9, 2006


Is it actually open source or is it just open? I see no source code anywhere. - srboisvert

Source code should be available here.
posted by Overzealous at 5:38 AM on February 10, 2006


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