A couple of ideas for contributing to Banshee

Jono’s blog post about Banshee Kickin’ it has some interesting comments that I’d like to address, specifically regarding the new track editor and Internet Radio in the recently released Banshee 1.4.

The Track Editor

The new track editor is fully extensible. This means you can add your own pages to the dialog and get full first class editing support. All of the current pages are implemented in the exact same way you would need to write an extension page.

What I would like to see are a few pages contributed at least initially by the community:

  • Creative Commons metadata/license support
    A lot of work on this in the past had been done in the past, but never to a quality or completeness I was comfortable with for including in core. This support could either be an extension page to the editor, or an extension that interacts with existing pages/fields, like the copyright field.

    Additionally, the extension could make a track column and query field available, so you could easily search for and view Creative Commons music. This was a pain to do in legacy Banshee, but it’s a few lines of code in 1.x.

  • Music Brainz
    A page that allows for figuring out missing metadata, and also submitting track information back to MusicBrainz. Maybe it could also generate PUIDs. We have a complete C# implementation of the MusicBrainz web API (no native library needed) thanks to Scott Peterson, and it’s used in other areas in Banshee. This really should not be that complicated to do.

I wrote a quick example today on how to extend the track editor. The example implements a History Page which allows you to change the play count, skip count, and last played date to arbitrary values. More could be done here, and in fact I’d like to make this a core page anyway.

Banshee History Extension to the Track Editor

  • Download the example
  • Extract, change directories, and make run
  • Play with the code!
  • You need Banshee 1.4 and Mono 1.9 or better (I opted to use C# 3.0 in the example)

Internet Radio

We made a decision early on in the 1.x series to provide very strong Last.FM support. We’re fairly resource constrained, so this meant making traditional Internet Radio something of a second class citizen. In fact, I made a choice to not ship any default radio stations because really I should not be the one picking stations, and so many of them fall offline in the life cycle of a distribution iteration that supporting this is silly.

However, I made sure all the underlying pieces for good Internet Radio support were in place. We have a station editor, stream metadata is reflected in the UI so when playing a stream you can see “track changes” which in turn can trigger cover art, and the RadioTrackInfo object even handles fetching and parsing of remote station playlsits. We support M3U, PLS, ASX, and XSPF formats, and possibly some others I am forgetting.

The Radio source that ships by default is a bit bare in terms of UI, but this was intentional. You can add new stations and manage them, but we really need something like StreamTuner or Shoutcast, like Jono says, that builds on the Internet Radio core features. Implementing new sources is fairly straightforward. You can even extend the existing Radio source to build on it.

Implementing this would be a great standalone extension that I would love to ultimately roll back into core, maybe for 1.6 if an enthusiastic contributor steps up to the plate.

So what are you waiting for?

Join the community of enthusiastic Banshee contributors and write something great today. We have a large and functional API, lots of features to build on, and everything is designed around extensibility.

Such a large API can be daunting to learn, yes, but Banshee is also organized very well. We also have API documentation for Monodoc, and probably the best way to learn about Banshee’s internals is to just read the source to the extensions we ship in core. All the great features in Banshee are just extensions!

Lastly, don’t hesitate to stop by on the IRC channel asking for help!

Banshee 1.4 hits the streets, packed with Awesome

The Banshee logo

After three months of hard work on feature additions, a slew of bug fixes, stability and performance improvements, and a small tangent on porting to Mac OS X, we have released Banshee 1.4 — the new stable series!

HTC G1/Android Support Out-of-the-box

Banshee Device Overview

Got a G1? Get a Banshee! Banshee is the first media player to offer a customized experience for the Android/G1 phone.

G1 Purchased Music Source

  • Synchronize or manually manage your media collection on your G1 phone
  • Cover art is fully supported on the G1
  • Import music you purchased through the Amazon MP3 store on the G1 in one quick pass

Additionally, if you try to delete music you purchased on the Amazon MP3 store without actually being in the special “Purchased Music” source, Banshee will not comply. This prevents accidental deletion of music you may not yet have backed up to your desktop computer. To remove purchased music from the device, do so from the “Purchased Music” source.

With the G1 + Banshee, an experience similar to what iPhone users enjoy is available.

Amazon MP3 Store + G1 + Banshee

A final note on the G1 support: because the Android platform is open source, I was able to easily figure out optimal ways of implementing Android/G1 support. For instance, I was unsure what the maximum cover art size should be on the device, so I just read the source. It was a nice for once to not have to reverse engineer or guess!

Banshee on Mac OS X

I wrote a bit about this already, but 1.4 ushers in a new era for Banshee! From now on, Banshee will always be officially released and maintained for Mac OS X, 10.4 and newer currently.

Banshee 1.4 on Mac OS X 10.5

Because this is the first release of Banshee on Mac OS X, we are calling it a beta quality technology preview. This means that there are some known stability issues, and certainly some missing features, but it’s good enough that we really encourage people to start trying it and filing bugs.

Some of the missing features for OS X (also known as “places where we are eagerly looking for new contributors”):

  • Hardware Backend
    Without a backend implementing interfaces in the Banshee.Hardware namespace, the OS X release does not feature any device support (no audio CDs, no digital audio players, no CD burning). For ambitious developers familiar with hardware APIs in OS X, following the HAL backend for Linux/FreeBSD is a great place to start!

  • Embedded Video
    Currently the Quartz video backend in GStreamer does not implement GstXOverlay. Work needs to be done to make this happen (even though obviously Quartz is not X11), or specific embedding can be done in Banshee itself. I’d prefer to see native GstXOverlay support however.

  • Screensaver/Power Management Inhibit
    In GNOME, this is implemented to prevent the system from sleeping or starting the screensaver when Banshee is in full screen mode (i.e. playing a movie).

  • Support for the Front Row/Apple TV remote
    This would just be a fun thing to write. Someone step up!

Finally, I have to give Eoin Hennessy a huge thanks for his work here again. Also to thank are the Songbird guys who have invested in making GStreamer usable on the Mac. We are looking forward to contributing in this space and working with Songbird, now that we are off the ground. What they have accomplished here is no small feat, not to be overlooked!

New API for customized mass storage device support

Implementing G1 support was done through the newly extensible mass storage device extension. That’s right, extensions extending extensions. With this new API, it is now possible to add “polished” support for certain classes of mass storage media players, like the G1 or BlackBerry devices.

For instance, here’s how the G1 is implemented:

Since this is just another Mono.Addin extension, new device support like this can be added outside of Banshee itself. I should note that this augments the portable_audio_player HAL specification. It’s to be used when more than the generic mass storage functionality is desired for a device.

The Release Notes Speak

For a more in-depth overview of what Banshee 1.4 has to offer, please read the release notes. Here’s a quick overview on what they cover:

  • Media player devices now support playlists (iPod, MTP/PlaysForSure included)
  • You can now have your device automatically sync with your library, or continue to manage it manually
  • I’ve implemented a brand new track editor that is fully extensible. It’s very easy to add new pages!
  • Shiny new UI for now playing makes for a more entertaining “background” or “party” mode
  • There’s now a tool that can rescan your library, adding new items or removing stale ones
  • File names/paths can now be automatically updated when metadata changes
  • Lots of minor UI improvements and polish
  • Stability and performance improvements

Try it already!

Banshee 1.4 is hands-down the best Banshee ever! Period! Packages should be available soon for your favorite Linux distribution, if they are not already (openSUSE and Ubuntu packages are at least ready now). And of course we have a shiny new Mac OS X .dmg!


Update: Ryan wrote a great article about 1.4 over at Ars Technica. The comments are interesting. Is there anyone out there who has tried running Banshee on OpenSolaris? It works on FreeBSD…

This post powered by the “Similar to Eric Clapton” Last.FM radio station in Banshee 1.4.

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