Banshee by default – outlook looks hazy

So. Banshee as a default media player for Karmic, replacing Rhythmbox. You’ve read the analysis on the Internest, you’ve read ill-informed tripe from pretend-journalists, and you’re running in fear of a switch to a “worse” player. Well, it’s time to lay down a little dose of reality for all you naysayers.

Firstly, Ubuntu’s feature freeze is at the end of August – giving about 6 weeks for Banshee to gain “default” status before that train leaves the station and Rhythmbox sticks around for another cycle. And there are real-world issues that NEED to be resolved within those six weeks for it to happen. This isn’t conjecture, it’s the result of chats with the Desktop team – I think we both still agree on the points we agreed on in Barcelona, and that means picking the “right” player, regardless of what it is, when the time comes to choose.

  1. Release schedule. Karmic won’t ship with a beta (1.5.x) Banshee release, and it certainly won’t ship with 1.4.3 – so the Desktop team require assurances that 1.6.0 be released before FinalFreeze (end of October) in order to make the switch NOW in preparation. This is entirely upstream’s lookout, so on this point, the ball’s in their court entirely – I’m not trying to apply pressure, I’m simply stating the state of play as-is.
  2. Documentation. Banshee needs offline (GNOME Help System or similar) documentation, which Rhythmbox already has. Right now, all it has is a link to the (dead) Banshee wiki. I understand Canonical folks were looking at this – if you want to help with this one, try talking to jcastro on GIMPnet #banshee.
  3. Music Store. I agreed with Seb at UDS that we should include support for a music store (Rhythmbox supports two), and picked Magnatune at random as it happens to work for me in Rhythmbox. This was likely a mistake – Magnatune have no coherent or usable API, and it makes it VERY hard to turn their store into a useful integrated feature. However, there is the beginning of some work on this – if you want to help add a music store to Banshee, then either speak to Max Battcher to cooperate on Magnatune support, or look into making a Jamendo/other-store plugin (should be much easier to support as Jamendo have a real API) based on Gabriel Burt’s Amazon branch. Support for Amazon itself should sadly be considered dead in the water, due to an abusive change from Amazon to prevent Free Software integration.
  4. Accessibility. This is an important topic for Ubuntu to be accessible to everyone. Banshee makes use of five custom-made widgets, which all require support for Atk, the Gtk+ accessibility toolkit. However, there are sadly a number of nasty bugs in Atk# which have thrown a spanner in the works, and by the sound of it those bugs cannot be fixed any time soon (as they break the Atk# API). You should try speaking to the Gtk# maintainer Mike Kestner if you want to help at the back-end, or hacker extraordinaire Gabriel Burt for tips on where to help at the Banshee end. The specific bugs for the a11y issues are BNC476836 and BGO533030. It should be considered reasonable (even if it makes packagers like me cry) for Banshee to bundle a private copy of Atk# from SVN, rather than using the current stable release – F-Spot does this already for GIO#

There are also some specific issues which you can help with – at the very least by testing existing patches – which may not be blockers, but are functional regressions versus Rhythmbox.

  1. Gapless playback. This is being spearheaded by Christopher James Halse Rogers, our fearless GNOME-Do packager in Ubuntu/Debian. This is being handled in upstream bug BGO440952 – why not lend a hand? Sadly, Rhythmbox’s support for gapless cannot be recycled, as Rhythmbox uses its own custom gapless engine (rather than using GStreamer’s built-in support). RAOF’s patch is ALMOST there, but still goes to hell in a couple of circumstances (or did last I tested it), so why not try it out?
  2. Folder watching. Currently, Banshee isn’t aware when you add/remove tracks to/from the folder which you told it your music is in, requiring a library rescan. There’s an open bug on this one too, at BGO385965, primarily being worked on by Christian Martellini (with help from others like Gabriel). Why not try it out, or lend a hand?

More generally, there’s a page on the Ubuntu Wiki listing other odds and sods, which you can use as a point of reference. So. Want to help make Banshee awesome enough to greet newcomers to Ubuntu? Take a look at the list above, and pick something which you feel you can contribute towards. Want to keep Rhythmbox in charge? Take a peek at their wiki. In either case, let’s make sure Ubuntu remains awesome for new and existing users alike! All you need is a little C# knowledge to work on patching, or know how to use “patch” and “make” to test things – you can even use Boo, a Python-like scripting language, to do stuff if you like. Oh, and a few suggestions for airy fairy pie-in-the-sky changes to be made to Mono on Ubuntu as a whole, to make the whole thing much nicer for the distro folks looking to deal with bugs. Support ARM in mono-debugger! Support retracing (apport-style) in mono-debugger! Support mdb files in pkg-create-dbgsym! I’m sure there are plenty more things that could help here – try asking in #ubuntu-devel on Freenode for suggestions of how you could help the folks there, or #mono on GIMPnet for how to help the folks there.

If Banshee doesn’t make the cut this cycle, I have no doubt that it’ll be ready for another punt next time around – and that whomever ends up attending the next UDS can make the case that it’s a great idea to move, given how many issues and bugs were resolved and how it’s grown far more awesome in a short space of time – and, at the same time, fending off stiff competition from post-GSoC Rhythmbox. Remember, kids, competition drives innovation!

59 Responses to “Banshee by default – outlook looks hazy”

  1. Well, I won’t go on about issues with MONKEYS (or Monos as they call them in Spain), but Canonical choices just did convince me. After having accompanied the big ship since Warty times, now it’s time for switching back to DEBIAN! (hoping for more commitment on ideas soon). Goodbye, may the freedom be with you.

    [reply]

    Ed Ropple Reply:

    “The freedom.” How lame. How about “the best application”?

    [reply]

    Kunstaal Reply:

    @Ed Ropple,

    Well, hopefully there is people who put more value and priorities on freedom rather than on functionality, even if it disregards or ignores any kind of ethical commitments. So, may the freedom be with you. One day…

    [reply]

    directhex Reply:

    @Kunstaal, I know this might come as a shock, but you know Banshee’s and its dependencies have been 100% Free Software since day 1, right?

    [reply]

    Kunstaal Reply:

    @directhex,

    Sure, I know. I like Banshee too and I used it some time ago (although it was almost useless in my old PC with 256 RAM) but still not sure that M$ won’t try to pull any strings someday… they are that ugly sometimes and the community should take preventions, not just hope they won’t. And I hope they do not catch my ballz in it. Nor anyone’s.

    [reply]

    directhex Reply:

    @Kunstaal, If you think they’ll aim for Banshee before, say, OpenOffice.org (or even the kernel), then I’d love to hear your reasoning – why would they aim for such an inconsequential component of the Linux Desktop ecosphere, if they were trying to kill it, rather than one of the major targets?

    [reply]

    pbpg Reply:

    @directhex, Since when openoffice.org is written in C#/mono?

    [reply]

    directhex Reply:

    @pbpg, OpenOffice.org is written from the ground-up to use an implementation of a patented Microsoft technology (COM+) called UNO. So is Mozilla, really (XPCOM). If Microsoft were in the mood, they could assert their COM+ patents – not to mention the use of patented Doc and OOXML in OOo.

    [reply]

    oiaohm Reply:

    Do you history please. UNO is older the COM. It is found first in StarOffice from the 1980~ way before MS even though up the idea of COM. So COM patents could be completely invalid due to prior art of staroffice.

    The author of the UNO design is not even known. 2000 copyright on OpenOffice source files covering UNO is the Sun release date.

    [reply]

    directhex Reply:

    @oiaohm, Yeah, we all know how important prior art is to the USPTO

    [reply]

    Ed Ropple Reply:

    @Kunstaal, clearly they don’t have any value to you as Mono has been open source (even fitting RMS’s silly little Free Software smell-tests) all down the line.

    So why act holier-than-thou to me about things you don’t yourself actually buy into?

    [reply]

    directhex Reply:

    @Ed Ropple, RMS knows nothing about Freedom – the GFDL is a good sign of that. Use the DFSG as a *real* test of freedom.

    [reply]

    Ed Ropple Reply:

    @directhex, I frankly don’t care enough about the whole pissing contest to pay attention to who is the standard-bearer of freedoms-we-like. ;-)

    [reply]

    Myke Reply:

    I second Ed’s comment

    [reply]

    Alan Reply:

    @Kunstaall, The best thing about freedom is that it means you’re free to choose whatever you want. You can hold whatever opinion you want, whether it’s based in fact or fiction, sexist, racist, idealistic, whatever.

    Enjoy debian, I used to use it myself once.

    [reply]

    pbpg Reply:

    @Kunstaall, too bad for you but Debian is starting to fell in the mono trap. You have to look towards Fedora (they are starting to remove mono stuff).

    [reply]

  2. Why do you have to push that Mono crapware down everyones throat?

    Why don’t you ask the users on the forums or have a poll? (I guess you probably fear the outcome.)

    [reply]

    directhex Reply:

    @Wurst, You DO know that distributions have default applications, right? Part of a distribution’s role is to pick the best default apps.

    And if you were actually capable of reading, you’d see that I advocate keeping Rhythmbox as long as it’s the best app.

    [reply]

    James B Reply:

    @directhex, Another part of a distribution’s role is to look after the end users; by including mono, the distribution is opening the users to the patent threats associated with mono. On that score alone, i’d advocate (with you) Rhythmbox and may be put time into that to make that the best application for the job.

    [reply]

    directhex Reply:

    @James B, Ubuntu’s shipped Mono apps by default for 3 years. That’s the status quo. Plus there’s the statement from Ubuntu’s technical board (the highest level in the bureaucracy) specifically saying they don’t see any real threats in Mono and won’t hold the implementation language against apps.

    [reply]

    Ed Ropple Reply:

    @James B, bzzt, wrong. MCP covers the Mono distribution in Ubuntu juuuuust as well as any other.

    Plus, as Jo mentioned, nobody with any authority seems to have any problem with it.

    [reply]

    James B Reply:

    @Ed Ropple, As far as I can see and read, unless I’m missing something, the MCP only covers part of mono, not all, and according to the MS statement there are also conditions attached.
    Ubuntu’s texhnical board are intitled to their opinion, doesn’t mean its right or I should agree with it.
    Have a read here:
    http://crankyoldnutcase.blogspot.com/2009/07/microsoft-community-promise-mono.html
    and make your own mind up.
    Please don’t get me wrong, I’m not here to argue, just to inform, and if I’m wrong , then I’ll hold my hands up and say so.
    Back to the main topic, I still prefer Rhythmbox to Banshee anyway, it is faster on my machine.

    [reply]

    John B Reply:

    @James B,

    The Microsoft CP covers all of the ECMA portions of Mono. The parts not covered (like ASP.NET and Windows.Forms) are not used by Banshee. I’ve read conflicting reports on ADO.NET usage, but it seems silly to think that Banshee’s usage of SQLite couldn’t be trivially changed to not use the ADO.NET interfaces if it does.

    Effectively, the MCP /does/ cover the entirety of Mono as used by the desktop Mono applications.

    [reply]

    Alan Reply:

    @Wurst, I hold the opinion [0] that C applications are buggy and are likely to contain security holes which can compromise my system. So, with that in mind I say:

    Why do you have to push that C crapware down everyones throat? Why don’t you ask the users on the forums or have a poll? (I guess you probably fear the outcome.)

    I’m sure if every user was informed that managed languages are impervious to one of the biggest causes of security holes they’d all be clamoring for their applications to be written in those langauges.

    [0] I don’t really, but my point still remains.

    [reply]

  3. At GCDS Aaron wasn’t comfortable to commit to a schedule for 1.6 or 2.0 other than “sometime” and then “sometime after that”. :-/ But hey, we’ve waited this long, what’s another 6 months.

    [reply]

  4. I guess we can wait another 6 months :), specially the offline documentation I think its highly important.

    btw, you need to write C# to contribute to Banshee.

    [reply]

  5. Currently, the main feature that I liked in banshee and which is not present in rhythmbox is the video playback. If that gets implemented then I am for rhythmbox bein the default for at least another cycle. :-)

    [reply]

  6. Looking forward to this! Banshee is one of the first applications I install on any distro – it simply blows the competition out of the water.

    Having it installed by default will rock.

    [reply]

  7. actually, boo is a statically typed programming language like C#, it just looks like python because it uses python-like syntax and it uses type inference heavily.

    [reply]

  8. Will banshee be capable of playing a m3u playlist from an external source such as ampache? This is one of the major reasons I do not use rhythmbox. VLC, winamp, and hell even (god I can”t believe I’m saying this) WMP supports it.

    [reply]

    directhex Reply:

    @cjsmo, Can’t you add it as an Internet Radio station?

    [reply]

  9. Rhythmbox is still 10 times faster to start on my machine.

    [reply]

    Alan Reply:

    @LaHaine, Is that an scientific 10x faster or a “i think it’s faster, so i’ll just say that it’s 10x faster”? If it’s a scientific 10x faster, i’m sure the devs would love to hear about the issue.

    [reply]

  10. [...] Surprise. Surprise. Surprise. [...]

  11. With rhythmbox I can start playing music immediately, banshee takes over 2 minutes on startup before the GUI becomes repsonsive, from [Info 08:06:25.973] Running Banshee 1.5.0 to [Info 08:08:42.862] nereid Client Started.

    [reply]

    directhex Reply:

    @LaHaine, 2 minutes is a SEVERE problem – you should file a bug upstream

    [reply]

  12. Is there any possibility for Exaile?

    I still prefer Rhythmbox to Banshee mainly because of watching folders and creates a folder with the podcast name (Exaile doesn’t do this either), and a few other minor things. Rhythmbox development is stagnant, and in this year of 2009 it has got to be better.

    When the decision time comes, the best application needs to be selected.

    [reply]

    directhex Reply:

    @Zac, It would need massive improvement between now and then – and need to gain features such as library migration, and not lose out on any of the features Rhythmbox has and Banshee nearly has. Performance is also very poor compared to Banshee (and obviously Rhythmbox), in terms of RAM used.

    But you could contribute towards the project to help improve it! Then make your case at the next UDS as to why Exaile is better than Rhythmbox and Banshee, and see where it takes you

    [reply]

  13. Enough already. The best application is Amarok. But no, that uses Qt doesn’t it?
    And that’s a GPL toolkit!

    I’m sick of the babbling and infighting about Gnome and what it uses and what it doesn’t. KDE from now on.

    Congratulations.

    [reply]

  14. Hopefully by the time of Karmic +1 Songbird will be a credible candidate too.

    Competition is good. No Mono is even better :-)

    [reply]

    directhex Reply:

    @The Open Sourcerer, Songbird is the most bloated option by a sterling mile – and also has an “alien” GUI (i.e. it uses its own XUL-based interface, not GTK). However, some people really like it – so if it can lose a few (well, many) pounds, gain features like library migration from Rhythmbox, and definitely has no issues with things like a11y, then a case could be made for it at UDS

    [reply]

  15. [...] dunque la lista di mancanze di Banshee, alcuni di questi punti di deficienza possono essere risolti entro ottobre, per altri forse si [...]

  16. [...] has meanwhile realised that Banshee may not make it into the next version of Ubuntu after all. He finds that regretful and [...]

  17. Banshee rocks! And I believe that in the future Banshee will be far better than Rhythmbox…
    One of them is just written in the the best language for Gtk apps ;-)

    [reply]

    Wayne Reply:

    @Martin,

    Martin, just curious. Do you actually do any programming?

    [reply]

  18. Well, there’s two issues:

    1) Best Application
    2) Mono

    Banshee fails on both counts, and should not be included in Karmic.

    [reply]

  19. “If you think they’ll aim for Banshee before, say, OpenOffice.org (or even the kernel), then I’d love to hear your reasoning – why would they aim for such an inconsequential component of the Linux Desktop ecosphere, if they were trying to kill it, rather than one of the major targets?”…

    This is the most ludicrous statement on this page. If MS hasn’t gone for OpenOffice or the kernel if because they have NOTHING! If indeed they would have it they would have gone long before the started spreading their FUD because they could have killed not only the Linux Desktop but the server market altogether! “Linux runs 60 % of the servers, MS 40 %” – Ballmer (Sept 2008).

    Since they have nothing to go after Linux as they have gone against TomTom they just patiently dividing the Community and seeding their poison Mono with the hep of Novell. Time will come when its integrated in such a way with the deskotp that it will be harder if not impossible to extricate. Remember De Icaza wants GNOME fully written in NET. They they will pull their fungs and claws and go after any distribution that uses it! Since Novell went to bed with Microsoft will be the ONLY legal Linux. After that MS will buy Novell and start selling Microsoft Novell to the happiness of Miguel, since they can NOT produce anything comparable to GNU/Linux.

    Freedom matters is the USER who has to be in control not a convicted monopolist whose profits are all that matters! MC;P doesn’t mean anything. It doesn’t legally bind Microsoft. If they would really want C# and NET to be FREE let them release them under GPL v3. Would that happen? NOOO! So it’s better to strictly stick with pure FLOSS. If it ain’t GPLv3 it ain’t FREE! I’m not a lawyer but what matters to the Community and GNU/Linux user is the Software Freedom Law Center opinion regarding the M”Communty” “Promise” and I do not thing they will say it safe!

    “Promises, promises… why should I believe”…

    [reply]

    directhex Reply:

    @Ed,

    If it ain’t GPLv3 it ain’t FREE!

    Which license does the kernel your OS uses use, pray tell?

    [reply]

    hb Reply:

    @Ed, so you’re not a lawyer, but you know for sure that the CP is not legally binding? How come? Because of your interpretation of the word “promise”?

    It’s hard to take such people seriously.

    [reply]

  20. Banshee sucks a lot. Fact. I don’t care if is a mono app or a java app. It sucks.
    There are better music players for example exaile. Which is faster AND better.
    Like I said… I don’t have anything agaisnt mono or mono apps, but banshee sucks and don’t deserve to be a default app. Period.

    1. Exaile
    2. Amarok
    3. Sonata
    4. Banshee
    5. Rhytmbox

    [reply]

  21. Banshee has better help documentation than Rhythmbox. When you hover your mouse over something you don’t know, a message pops up near your mouse explaining what it’s for. This is lighter than a classic documentation and quicker and easier to access. In Rhythmbox you have to go to Help -> Contents and try to guess which section to look into; and half of the time it’s not even stated there because the documentation is rarely updated for the latest release.

    [reply]

  22. [...] http://www2.apebox.org/wordpress/rants/153/ [...]

  23. [...] is currently strong momentum to have Banshee replace Rhythmbox as the default player in Ubuntu, but this couldn’t happen until at least 10.04.  Out of [...]

  24. Why not consider listen player? Are there also technical difficulties?

    [reply]

    directhex Reply:

    @legion1978, nobody’s made a case for it, simple as that. Although if memory serves, the Python-based players such as Listen and Exaile are even worse in terms of RAM consumption as compared to Rhythmbox.

    I don’t know about other details like library importing, as I haven’t really looked at it.

    [reply]

  25. mpd for for your colection, great frontends like ncmpc (ncurses) and sonata (pygtk) and some more duzens.If just trying a tune MPlayer will suffice.
    I don’t care about the mono wars, mono is free software/open source like every app I use, i don’t use it because all the mono apps i know and tried are resource hogs.
    Banshee is pretty and slow and crashed a lot on me (ver 1.2), Rhytmbox is nice and stable but a bit slow, Exaile seems fine although not have fiddle with it much, last time i tried Amarok i was on kde 3.2???I’m getting old, i can remember a stable kde release.And a rock solid SuSE Linux 9.1.
    Well, mpd can give you control over your music, it’s gapless, it doesn’t stutter when changing to virtual consoles, it’ doesn’t squeeze neither your RAM nor your CPU, bla bla bla.I like to save ram and cpu for firefox, she eats a lot, the damned fox.

    [reply]

  26. [...] Shields reports the outlook is hazy for Banshee in Karmic by [...]

  27. [...] Shields reports the outlook is hazy for Banshee in Karmic by [...]

  28. [...] Shields reports the outlook is hazy for Banshee in Karmic by [...]

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