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 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.