Songbird solves my multi-multimedia player dilemma

Between home and work, I have vari­ous Win­dows, Linux and Macin­tosh com­puters. I cent­ral­ize my media on a Net­work Attached Stor­age (NAS) device, access­ible by all. As you can ima­gine, I use dif­fer­ent media play­ers on all.

My biggest hurdle has been con­sist­ency in user exper­i­ence. I’ve had to run iTunes on the Mac, Win­amp, FooBar2000 or VLC on my XP/Vista boxes, and VLC on the Linux machines.

But today, I dis­covered Song­bird, a Moz­illa based media browser, with ver­sions for all my box­en (Mac, Linux and PC).

The exper­i­ence is quite sim­il­ar to Win­amp. Simply point song­bird at your music dir­ect­ory and let it build a cata­logue.

Bonus fea­ture, Song­bird also talks to my iPods per­fectly. Trans­fer music, build playlists…everything works.

From the developers:

We’re work­ing on cre­at­ing a non-pro­pri­et­ary, cross plat­form, extens­ible tool that will help enable new ways to play­back, man­age, and dis­cov­er music.

Song­bird is cur­rently just out of beta; cur­rent ver­sion is 1.0. But it’s a pretty slick piece of work for being so new. I’m already a fan of the Fire­Fox-like AddOn fea­tures — Liv­eTweeter (a Twit­ter plu­gin), Shout­Cast Radio (stream­ing audio), and a whole host of visu­al cus­tom­iz­a­tion addons.

If you’re look­ing for a nice, clean, Open Source media play­er, give Song­bird a try.

*** UPDATE*** [Dec.25.08]
One major annoy­ance for many Song­bird users is the lack of a Watched Folder. Simply put, this lets you point Song­bird at a par­tic­u­lar media folder and import any changes into the Song­bird lib­rary auto­ma­gic­ally. Developers are aware of this, and appear to be con­sid­er­ing adding this func­tion­al­ity in future. I cer­tainly hope so, as now it’s a cum­ber­sum pro­cess to remem­ber to update my Song­bird lib­rary on every com­puter.

*** UPDATE*** [Mar.13.09] Song­bird 1.1.1 has been released. Among the updates you’ll find the much-awaited Watched Folder.

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6 Replies to “Songbird solves my multi-multimedia player dilemma”

  1. I just down­loaded and tried Song­bird. The quick install impressed me, as did its import of my iTunes lib­rary and the add-ons that offer sup­port for iPods and pro­tec­ted AAC files pur­chased from the iTunes store (I’m too lazy to rip the DRM off some. :D)

    The extens­ib­il­ity of Song­bird is per­haps its most attract­ive fea­ture in com­par­is­on to iTunes, all things con­sidered. Extens­ib­il­ity is an excel­lent facil­it­at­or of gen­er­at­ive applic­a­tions; it’s why I was so excited by the release of Google Android, even though I’ll prob­ably nev­er get to own a phone that uses it.

    In addi­tion to the extens­ib­il­ity, Songbird’s inline brows­ing is cool. It makes installing add-ons a breeze, and I sup­pose it’s great for find­ing tracks and music. There’s even a ver­sion of Grease­mon­key for Song­bird!

    I sup­pose I should men­tion that I use iTunes as my default media play­er right now; I don’t use oth­er media play­ers enough to com­pare them to Song­bird. One deal-break­er for Song­bird for me, unfor­tu­nately, is its lack of robust pod­cast sup­port. Cur­rently, the only way I can view pod­casts sep­ar­ately is through the genre fil­ter in the Lib­rary. That’s fine, except that I like to set my lib­rary to shuffle–when I’m play­ing ran­dom tracks, I don’t want a pod­cast to start play­ing! Judging from the feed­back for­ums, Mozilla’s already aware of this con­cern from oth­er users, so hope­fully a near-future ver­sion will improve this. Until then, I think I’ll stick to iTunes as my default play­er.

    Still, Song­bird shows a lot of prom­ise. After all, Fire­fox has come a long way since its ini­tial 1.0 release. I have every con­fid­ence that Song­bird will make sim­il­ar leaps and bounds in its improve­ment, and I can’t wait to see what innov­at­ive add-ons the developer com­munity cre­ates.

  2. Hey Ben, thanks for the excel­lent obser­va­tions!

    I didn’t really think about it, but in the last day or so that I’ve been using Song­bird I too have come to real­ize that it’s the exten­sions and the yet-to-be-developed exten­sions that will really let this bird fly 🙂 Your point about how far Fire­fox has come is well taken. And I’m going to have to try that Grease­mon­key script 🙂

    One addon I’m wait­ing for is one that allows web-based remote con­trol, so I could use a small eeePC as a net­worked media centre-like com­puter 🙂

    I’ve not worked with pod­casts enough (though that may change shortly) to have exper­i­enced that prob­lem, but I could see it arising and gen­er­at­ing a bit of frus­tra­tion.

    But yeah, I can’t wait to see how Song­bird devel­ops.

  3. Brad, I’ve just star­ted digit­ize all my CDs but now I’ve run out of drive space. Plus, my wife got an iPod for Christ­mas, so she’s star­ted digit­iz­ing her CDs onto her com­puter. What inex­pens­ive product would you recom­mend that would let us put all our music on one drive to access with our indi­vidu­al installs of iTunes or Song­bird?

  4. Hey Johnn, thanks for the great ques­tion!

    A couple of solu­tions pop to mind:

    1) Take a look at the extern­al USB Hard Drives. They mount via USB2 and look just like a drive. Memory Express has a wide selec­tion.

    I’d envi­sion you’d dump all your music to this one drive and then just plug it into the com­puter that needs tunes. The one draw­back is that only one of you can use the drive at a time.

    2) Set up wire­less home media serv­er. If you’ve got old com­pon­ents lying around, you could cobble one togeth­er (that’s what I did). Run an open source OS like Ubuntu and you’ve got a great media serv­er that both of you can use at the same time.

    Here’s an art­icle that describes a pro­cess sim­il­ar to what I did:

    I hope that helps!

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