Monday, March 12, 2007

Songbird 0.2.5 - Cool, but Not Yet Ready for Prime Time

Maybe I'm trying to get something out of it that it's not intended to do, but I thought I'd download the latest release of Songbird and give it a whirl. It took me a grand total of five minutes to determine that it's not yet ready for prime time.

The first thing I discovered is that there's no .deb version of it out (at least not that a brief search turned up). Hopefully, that'll get rectified as the app matures some. I found installation instructions for Ubuntu though, which is nice to see, although as it turned out, I didn't need them. Songbird is extremely easy to test out. Just download the latest version, extract it to a directory, and run the Songbird executable from your terminal or file browser. You don't need to compile it, and you don't need to install it.

The first thing Songbird does is to (presumably) prompt you for the directory that has your music library in it. I say "presumably" because the way it asks is to pop up an "Open" dialog. There's no explanation as to what you're supposed to be doing. I don't have any music stored on this computer, so I just hit cancel.

Songbird is intended as a Music player and MP3 Blog browser. You can subscribe to blogs and automatically get new MP3 content. I'm not too big on downloading music and maintaining an audio library. I've got an iPod that I never use (especially since it's a Gen 2 with a dead battery). When I do listen to music, I tend to hook into a stream on Rhythmbox and listen to whatever the stream owner pushes down the pipe. Songbird makes it possible to do this, and even includes a link to the Shoutcast directory. But this feature alone isn't reason enough for me to switch from Rhythmbox, which is much lighter weight.

What I was most interested in testing out was the Video functionality that the screencast talked about. Based on the screencast, I had the impression that I could subscribe to video feeds and get all the latest content, similar to the way DemocracyTV works. When I started trying to make this happen, I ran into some issues. First of all, I use an excellent site, to find new episodes of my favorite shows to download. I've had trouble getting Democracy to subscribe to more than one search-based RSS feed, so I thought I'd let Songbird take a stab at it. Problem. The browser functionality in Songbird is weak. I couldn't browse past the front page without manually entering the URL of the page I wanted to look at. Frustrated with this, I decided to browse in my standard Firefox browser, perform the search I wanted a feed of, and then copy the feed URL into Songbird. Problem. Songbird can't handle RSS yet. I then pasted the URL of the search results page. Songbird couldn't find any media to download. This is presumably because all of the links on the results page are to other URL's, not to actual content. The only direct links to the content are in the RSS feed. I don't know if Songbird can download Torrents. There's no mention of it on the website, so I can only assume it can't. Perhaps there is an add-on that will include that functionality, but the add-ons section of the site appears down right now.

All in all, Songbird sings a sweet song for music downloaders. But with the semi-functional browser, lack of RSS feed support, and lack of Torrent support, I can only recommend waiting for a future version to make the song even sweeter.

Have you tried Songbird? Leave a comment and let me know about your experience.

1 comment:

mig said...


We handle should RSS just fine, thanks?

Want to post your issues as a bug in our bugzilla?