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. http://zi.ma/d1f1e6

    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: http://zi.ma/a51b6a

    I hope that helps!

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