Banshee 1.5.3 and the return of OS X support

The Banshee logo

The Banshee community is proud to announce the availability of Banshee 1.5.3! With a slew of new features and bug fixes, and a fully refreshed Mac OS X build, this is another solid release on the road to 1.6 (due out on March 31st).

Gabriel highlights a number of new features and improvements on his release announcement blog:

  • A new sync device from playlist option
  • Audiobooks library extension
  • Library-folder watcher extension
  • eMusic importer/downloader extension
  • GIO file backend supporting non-local files

Additionally, 75 bugs were fixed since the last release. Read the 1.5.3 release notes to learn about additional new features and improvements.

Mac OS X Release

What’s particularly exciting to me is the return of the OS X releases. I have completely overhauled our OS X build, and we no longer take a framework dependency on Mono or GTK – these dependencies are bundled as part of the binary distribution of Banshee on OS X.

If you have OS X 10.5 or newer (Intel only), you can simply download and run Banshee – nothing else needs to be installed.

Banshee 1.5.3 on Mac OS X 10.6

This gives us greater flexibility to refine and polish Banshee for OS X. For instance, I started working on a new GTK theme that uses the flexible Murrine engine. Currently the Mono framework installation uses Clearlooks.

There’s still a lot to do on the OS X build, so if you’re interested in hacking on the platform backend, it’s now easier than ever to do so:

  • Install XCode
  • Clone Banshee from GNOME git
  • Run ./bootstrap-bundle at the top of the checkout

This process will magically build everything that Banshee requires, and from there hacking on Banshee is just like it is on Linux. I recommend using MonoDevelop of course to get real work done though.

Enjoy!

Update: There was a lame bug preventing startup of Banshee 1.5.3 on OS X. This has been fixed and the DMG image has been respun. If you had problems running the release, download the updated image. My bad ya’ll!

Banshee Grid View

Spread out over a number of hours over the last few weeks I’ve been working on making our high-performance list view in Banshee also handle grid-style layouts.

That is, all the benefits of our polished list widget with a new look and feel! I’m making the widget more clever and abstracted about layout and rendering so it can be more inviting to users. In fact, you can even live-toggle between layout modes (e.g list and grid) without losing any state.

This effort provides a more visually immersing and space-conscious view for your collection of albums. This big step forward is the groundwork for presenting other media collections in a friendlier way — video thumbnails, movie box covers, audio books, photos…

Screenshot of Banshee's new grid layout for albums
The new grid layout mode for the album browser.

There are still a few quirks to work out regarding interaction (different maths for keyboard navigation), and some more polish to add on the rendering side of things, but I am very close to merging this work to master in git.

The code is being developed in the grid branch in git for those who would like to try it out. Poke me on IRC if you find problems, but I probably am already well aware — again, it’s not merged to master because it’s not RC worthy yet — but it’s ready for some broader testing!

Thoughts? Suggestions? Complaints? Hopes and dreams? I’m super excited about finally having this land, and it’s been an enjoyable hack to implement.

Exciting updates on the road to Banshee 2.0

At the Gran Canaria Desktop Summit last week I demoed my new work-in-progress Netbook-focused interface to Banshee called Cubano.

Cubano: Experimental new Banshee Interface

Cubano is designed with the Netbook in mind, but is certainly not limited to such a device. I prefer this clean and simple interface to the more traditional Banshee interface already, even on my desktop. Cubano is more about experiencing your music than managing it.

I am aiming to introduce visual metadata (photos, colors) and simple whitespace as UI elements to separate and emphasize content instead of the hard lines from traditional toolkit widgets.

However, even with a minimal interface you don’t lose any of the power to which you may be accustomed from the traditional Banshee interface.

Cubano: Experimental new Banshee Interface

I must stress that not all of the UI concepts here are solidified or indeed implemented. A few quick things to note about what will change in the very near future:

  • The painful source combo box will go away, don’t worry! It was just a widget that already existed in Banshee that I was able to easily reuse to connect the dots.
  • We’re working on a grid view for artists and albums.
  • I don’t care for the header either — it will receive much attention in due time.

Feel free to checkout Cubano’s source code, but you’ll also need clutter, clutter-gtk, and clutter-sharp from Clutter git master, and Banshee from GNOME git master. Bleeding edge!

Lastly, let me further stress that Cubano does not replace Banshee as we know it today. It only augments it. Cubano simply provides a different user experience on top of the existing Banshee platform.

Platform you say?

Trendy, I know. Banshee is in its third generation now. It’s been designed to be completely extensible, and major components are abstracted and organized in reusable ways.

As such we’ve fostered the development of many Mono/.NET libraries, most of which are not specific to Banshee and can easily be reused in other projects.

We essentially glue everything together with Mono.Addins, and build user interfaces on top of it all. What this means is the traditional user interface we’re used to in Banshee is an astonishingly small 875 lines of C# code.

Therefore, it’s conceivable, and even quite easy to think of Banshee as not just an application, but a platform for building new applications and user experiences. Ergo, Cubano.

A quick overview of the Banshee platform building blocks

For those interested in some of the wider details of the design and utility behind Banshee as platform, I recently had lovely a discussion on the topic with Scott Hanselman — Senior Program Manager in the Developer Division at Microsoft — for his podcast, Hanselminutes.

F-Spot

A major take-away from this platform discussion at GCDS last week is talk of re-basing the core of F-Spot — the wonderful photo management application — on top of Banshee itself.

The goal is simply to allow F-Spot to benefit from Banshee’s mature and maintained core, which provides many of the underpinning necessities in F-Spot, and allow the F-Spot developers to focus on the more interesting task of organizing and manipulating Photos.

While nothing is set in stone, I have a simple proposal:

  1. Re-base F-Spot’s non-UI core on Banshee’s non-UI core.
  2. Implement basic photo importing, tagging, and viewing as a Banshee extension (an optional feature). This would mean showing photos in Banshee like we do for videos.
  3. With Banshee/Cubano supporting basic photo management, grow the F-Spot user interface and experience to be more like that of professional tools such as Adobe Lightroom — an experience missing today on the Linux desktop.

GCDS Slides

The talk I gave at GCDS covered the above and a bit more. The slides are available here, but may be a bit terse if you weren’t in the audience. I’m not sure if my talk was recorded or not.

Nevertheless, for your perusal:

Slides from GCDS 2009 talk

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!

Enjoy!

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.

Digg It!

Cross Platform thoughts through the lense of Banshee

Banshee running on OS X 10.5
Banshee 1.3.2 on Mac OS X 10.5

A huge amount of thanks goes to Eoin Hennessy for all of his efforts to bring Banshee to the Mac. Eoin singlehandedly fixed cross platform bugs in our core, worked out some kinks in the build, and implemented a Mac OS X platform backend to provide tight integration with the OS (i.e. the menu bar).

So how do I get it?

On Friday we will release Banshee 1.3.3, the last preview/developer release before we officially bless 1.4 as the new stable series in a couple of weeks.

As Miguel mentioned, we will be releasing for the Mac from here on. That means that along side our source code tarballs, RPMs for openSUSE, and packages published through other distributions, we will have a .dmg available to download.

If you are courageous, you can try to build Banshee on OS X today. However, our trunk does not yet run. Eoin has done all of his work in github, and while this branch runs, it’s slightly outdated, and does not use the new build environment I wrote this weekend.

Eoin is in the process of extracting patches that we will merge this week into trunk. These patches include the fixes to core, and the OS X integration.

Banshee running on OS X 10.5
More bling, before I ramble on about technical things and get teary-eyed and nostalgic

How does this cross platform stuff work?

Banshee is designed in a very modular way. We have a fairly small core, which is completely platform agnostic. It uses only ECMA/OSP .NET APIs and APIs of libraries which are themselves cross platform and open source (Mono.Addins, NDesk.DBus, Cairo, GTK, etc).

Additionally, all real features are designed as extensions: the Play Queue, video playback, the notification area, Last.FM, and so on. This means that we can easily pick and choose features by adding or removing assemblies from a package.

Finally, anything requiring a platform specific implementation is abstracted into an agnostic factory/interface, and implementations are loaded as extensions.

Cross platform frameworks give you the 90%, but it’s really the 10% that matters

It’s virtually impossible to write a cross platform application that does not suck if you just stick to what a single framework provides. By this I mean if we used only features in .NET or if a Java application used only features in the Java framework, the user experience would feel isolated and sandboxed.

  • In GNOME this means using GConf to store settings and working with DBus services like GNOME Settings Daemon. We interact with the screensaver, we support multimedia keys, integrate with Brasero for CD burning, and so on.

  • In the general UNIX world (Linux and BSD/OS X), we have a POSIX IO backend that performs much better than the System.IO .NET backend.

  • In Linux we have the HAL hardware backend (which I like to think of as HALAL, but don’t read too far into that).

  • On OS X we integrate with the dock and the system menu bar.

Okay, but what about Windows?

Ah, right. Windows. There’s one tiny little drawback to making a media player written in C# cross platform. Namely, we require GStreamer on all three platforms, and in turn we have a small library, libbanshee, written in C. Of course this pain is more than eased by the incredible power and functionality that GStreamer offers.

The truth is, I know next to nothing about Windows, and I find it incredibly frustrating to work in that environment. I am getting close however to getting a build of libbanshee on Windows. With this piece in place, we’ll be able to release on WIndows.

Currently the goal is that we’ll always distribute libbanshee as a binary on Windows, but the rest of Banshee can be built using “F5” in Visual Studio. This will be very interesting as it opens up Banshee to a whole new world of contributors.

Google Chrome has seen an incredible amount of contribution from external contributors simply because the source can be downloaded, opened with Visual Studio, and compiled. Users can tweak some code, and immediately see the results. This is where we want to be – Linux, Mac, and Windows.

The End Result

What is important with all of this cross platform work is simple: infiltrate the proprietary platforms, attract users and developers to free software, and grow the open source ecosystem. Ultimately, we’d like to think this will help Linux adoption. Applications are the key, not the platforms.

Banshee on Mac OS X is symbolic to me. It marks a period in our project where we step out of the realm of our comfortable and lovable GNOME community and into different communities, creating and bridging through the shared goal of open and free software. Users unite!

Finally, I’d again like to thank Eoin for his great efforts with our code, Imendio for their great work on GTK for OS X, the Mono team for the solid 2.0 release, and the GStreamer community for the best multimedia framework an application developer could ask for.

A few updates from the farm

Banshee Collection Indexer API

  • While Scott is working on all sorts of awesome, Gabriel and I are hard at work in mostly bug-fix mode to prepare for Banshee 1.4, to be released on November 10th.

    Tomorrow we will release Banshee 1.3.2, the third release in the development series leading up to 1.4.

  • Currently I am finishing up the new collection indexer API that allows other applications to index or monitor the Banshee library over DBus. Alex Launi is patiently acting as a guinea pig – implementing support in GNOME Do!

  • Check out the new Banshee Calendar that we’ll try to keep up to date and relevant, with new release information being added hopefully well in advance of actually making releases.

  • Mono 2.0 has finally been released – and the web site got a huge, long over due face lift!

  • And of course this weekend is the Boston GNOME summit! See you there!

Useful tidbit for MonoDevelop users

If you are developing a project in MonoDevelop and your solutions/projects are in the old MonoDevelop 1.0 format (mds/mdp files), you’ll probably want to convert them at some point to the new VisualStudio 2005/2008 formats that will be the default format in upcoming versions of MonoDevelop (2.0).

They are well supported in at least MonoDevelop trunk right now, and switching your MonoDevelop 1.0 project layout to VisualStudio’s layout means you can more easily develop on both Linux and Windows. This is a good thing for us working on Banshee (hint, hint).

MonoDevelop makes the conversion part fairly straight forward. Select your top level solution, right click it, and then Tools->Export. Select either VisualStudio 2005 or 2008. We’re sticking with 2005 for now in Banshee since we only care about C# 2.0 at the moment. Choose an export directory, it’ll be temporary.

Unfortunately, it gets a little hairy here, and I wish MonoDevelop had some sort of “convert in place” option (hint, hint, MD team). Open a terminal, change to the directory MonoDevelop exported the project hierarchy to, and run this:

PRJ_DIR=$HOME/svn/banshee; for x in $(find . -iregex '.*cs?proj$' \ 
    -o -name '*.sln'); do cp $x $PRJ_DIR/$(dirname $x); done;

Set PRJ_DIR to the directory of your project containing the project or solution file you originally exported.

This will ensure the new VisualStudio project/solution files are overlayed properly. Now you’ll have to add them to your version control and remove the old mdp/mds files.

$ find . -iregex .*.cs?proj$ -o -iregex .*.sln$ | xargs svn add
$ find . -iregex .*.mds$ -o -iregex .*.mdp$ | xargs svn delete

Hurray for having both runtime and build time environments cross platform! We’re looking forward to having contributors from both camps in the near future. More on this to come!

Update: Lluis points out that MD can in fact convert in place if you set the output directory to be the original directory. This seems too obvious :-).