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Thursday, October 19, 2006

Singing the Songbird 0.2

songbirdFirst of all, what is Songbird, and why should you care? The following quote by one Ross Karchner at Ross Notes should be a pretty good answer...

"It’s like taking iTunes, ripping out the music store, and replacing it with the rest of the internet."

And that's not much of an exaggeration. Even better, this "beat iTunes over the head with a hammer" app is completely free, and completely cross-platform (courtesy of being built on the Mozilla/XULRunner Platform). It will even theoretically be able to talk to your iPod (and other portable devices). More information regarding Version 0.2 can be found at the release notice page.

Here are a few important things to note, along with some initial impressions:

  • This is a development release. It is not a production release. Don't expect it to be a viable and worthy iTunes-crusher yet. It is buggy, prone to crashing, and has some quirks. Note the version number. It is still a long ways away from 1.0. Don't expect 1.0 performance from a 0.2 product. If you're a Mozilla Sunbird user, you're intimately familiar with this.
  • Songbird is currently a resource-gobbler. While building a music library, it consumed all available CPU resources. Initial memory usage was pretty chunky (~20 megs), continued to grow, and seemed to top out somewhere around 60ish megs. There are likely a few reasons for this...see both the above and below points.
  • The program runs on XULRunner. Yes, it is a platform that has evolved from Mozilla's Gecko rendering-engine thing. Yes, it has a solid history of webpage-rendering awesomeness (*points at Firefox*). No, XULRunner is not ready for prime-time. A good friend of mine is developing a small GTD app in XUL, and attests to this. The above notes on performance can probably be attributed as much to the current version of XULRunner as it can to Songbird's code. Firefox 3 will be running on XULRunner, so expect to see some major improvements here in the near future.
  • Considering what I've noted so far, Songbird is AMAZING. Yes, it barfs here and there, but the app is mature enough at this point to get a decent look at what these guys are going for. There's some good stuff happening here.
  • One word: "EXTENSIONS". This really could become the Firefox of music players. Need I say more?
There really is a LOT of potential in Songbird. It by no means replaces my Foobar/Amarok/Rythmbox and Democrazy Player yet, but it is definitely an worth keep a close eye on. If you're feeling adventurous, check it out. If not, you can still watch the screencast:


  • The Songbird RC3 is out, also the french-candian translation is at 99% afaik.

    Songbird is really impressive, may lacks a bit of plug-ins but it's usable for basic usage.


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:46 AM  

  • BTW, tell me if something's wrong with the translation, i'll correct it.


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:48 AM  

  • modeste-
    The version that was just released is the 0.2 "final". This is newer than the RC3 you seem to have used. From the Songbird folks:

    "Note: We strongly encourage you to completely uninstall all previous versions of Songbird before installing Songbird 0.2, by following these instructions. There are known bugs in Songbird 0.2 RC3 that will not be fixed by simply updating."

    By Blogger theMatt, at 2:02 PM  

  • why does songbird flatulate so much

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:07 AM  

  • I think Songbird tries to come up with an interesting solution to the issue of all the music hosted on the web, and I think thats innovative in itself.

    I just didn't think there was much though put into the UI, since its mostly a clone of iTunes. I'm not saying that iTunes is a bad piece of software, it works great for what its supposed to do, I just don't like it that much personally.

    On the other hand, amarok (which is a KDE project) is something that I really liked. It really feels that the team behind it are doing it for the love of music rather than filling in a void in the market which is what I feel about iTunes.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:20 PM  

  • I like using it, but I also like being able to minimize and seeing the song title on my task bar like Winamp does. That alone makes me neglect it for Winamp. It may help for sorting my music, but it doesn't do much for saving window space or making an innovative branch from other music players. And yeah, the memory consumption is driving me crazy, especially when I have Photoshop, a few browser windows, AIM, and happy computer checks running at the same time.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:45 PM  

  • yep, it's bloated. it's sad because it looks like a fairly promising piece of software.

    i'm never completely satisfied with the media players i've tried.
    foobar2k - too minimal upon install and too hard to customize, very steep learning curve. get past that and it can be one of the best.
    winamp - among the best imo, but still bloated and slow on big music libraries.
    itunes - bloated, needs to be more customizable, and missing some crucial features (replay-gain, gapless playback - wait, does 7.0 do gapless now?)
    WMP - i've never really liked the interface, needs to be more customizable.
    musikcube + songbird - both very early in development and both look promising. musikcube's developing too slowly though. songbird is very buggy with metadata it seems and is bloated.

    i really want to try amarok for linux. it sounds promising, but it doesn't sound like it'll be available for windows for a long time.

    By Anonymous Somewhere over the rainbow, at 4:55 PM  

  • Guys... like I said in the original post... it's only at version 0.2!

    With a product at this stage of development, it's dumb to even think about nitpicking. Don't like the UI? Not only is it skinnable, but the default UI will most definitely change in future releases. Also, just because the basic layout is similar to iTunes doesn't mean they haven't put thought into it. The iTunes UI works well, like you said, and is familiar to a lot of people. But with the skinning... well, look at Firefox.

    "Bloated"? Again, this is an early development release. "Bloated" happens with a piece of production software that is unnecessarily massive. Development builds tend to be slow. It just happens.

    I have no idea what's up with the bird-farts.

    By Blogger theMatt, at 5:53 PM  

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