Banshee and Android Rock Together . . . Or Why Ubuntu Should Drop Rhythmbox

To a Linux user like myself, an iPod is more or less a fancy paperweight; since Apple does not provide a version of iTunes for Linux.  Yes, it sorta works in Wine and does work well in a VirtualBox… but, really, why bother?  Even if there was an iTunes client for Linux, I probably wouldn’t want to use it when there are already sleeker, faster and more complete media players for Linux available like Banshee, Songbird and Amarok.  This doesn’t mean I don’t get a little jealous about the iPod/iTunes experience, though.

Android users often ask if there is an iTunes like app for synching their music to their Android phone.  The answer is yes – unlike the iPod, Android is an open platform and users can use any number of applications to sync their music collection to their phone, including simply dragging and dropping your music folder onto the android device.  Drag and drop works well enough, but if you want to sync podcasts, playlists and album art to the device automatically, you need something a bit more sophisticated.  Banshee does all of this for you and more.  When you plug in your Android device (for Nexus One support pictured below you need the most recent package from the Banshee PPA), Banshee automatically shows you the music and videos on the device.  If you have purchased music from the AmazonMP3 store on the phone, Banshee recognizes it and gives you the option to import it to the music collection on your computer.  It then gives the option to sync your music collection to the phone.  It will also automatically, sync your newly downloaded podcasts, artwork and playlists with the phone.  Add or delete a file in Banshee, and it is added/removed from your Android device the next time your sync as well (you can instead choose to manually manage which songs or playlists go to the device).  Downloaded a new podcast, or listened to an old one?  That change is reflected on your Android phone the next time you sync as well.

By the way, got an old iPod lying around?  Try putting Rockbox on it, Banshee detects and syncs Rockbox devices flawlessly.

When you consider that Banshee also plays and manages your video collection, looks elegant, has a ton of useful plugins, including amazing Last.FM support, and has full-time support from Novell; you’d think it would be a no brainer for Ubuntu to switch from Rhythmbox to Banshee.  Appparantly Ubuntu is hung up on the few things Rhythmbox has that Banshee doesn’t like crossfading and a magnatune music store (despite the fact that Banshee now has EMusic support and demand for magnatune is small compared to stores like EMusic and AmazonMP3).  And, of course, there is the anti-mono contingent.  Whatever the reason, it’s sad that Ubuntu is holding on to Rhythmbox and that the great Android support to be had with Banshee won’t be default.


In the comments below, it was pointed out that gtkpod can sync newer iPods.  That is good news.  When I had an iPod Touch a year or so ago, the only way to sync it on Linux was the jailbreak it and use ssh to get into the device…

OMG!Ubuntu posted a nice summary of new features coming in Banshee 1.5.3 to be released tomorrow:

31 thoughts on “Banshee and Android Rock Together . . . Or Why Ubuntu Should Drop Rhythmbox

  1. I love banshee too and i think its a very decent music player for linux. But beside the mono issue (which doesnt apply because ubuntu already ships f-spot which is mono) one of the main reason for still holding on to rhythmbix is stability. I have used banshee since when it was in v0.6 development stage and even though things have improved, its still very buggy and very memory intensive. most times it has memory leakage problems. which is a far cry for the rock solid stability you get with rhythmbox. going forward though and with the fast pace of development of banshee i see ubuntu adopting it in future.

  2. I Agree with Brandon regarding mono apps. Mono is bad. Rythmbox is a great player, they should have kept that player over the garbage mono alternatives. Water under the bridge for me though, i moved to Arch/Linux with KDE. Amarok is a worthy music player.

  3. Banshee is great, but it shouldn’t be set as default until they fix memory leak problem (official bug report, or play something for lot of hours and soon banshee will take more than 1Gb of ram, and it doesn’t stop there).

  4. The first thing that Ubuntu needs to do is to switch to KDE as the default window manager rather than Gnome! They (and all Linux distros) need to drop any music player that has any sort of iTunes-like interface!! iTunes sucks, and anything that looks remotely like it should be avoided like the plague!!!

  5. Banshee doesn’t support SMB shares and Rhythmbox does (although there have been issues with gvfs, but mounting the SMB share in fstab rectifies this). This is essential for anyone who has their music on a NAS or server. Without this there is no way I’m switching to banshee… plus I’m not a fan of mono, after all real men write in C ;0)

    Magnatune is awesome too, as is Jamendo. Banshee dev’s should consider adding in these features.

    Plus it’s not hard to get your Android device to sync with Rhythmbox ( ).

  6. To be honest, all of the players are as bad as each other, all jealously guarding their music library backends, all with their own separate plugin systems and ways to get art. If there wasn’t libgpod each music player would have it’s own ipod software.

    Less bemoaning what distros do and more sharing of technical advances through infrastructural systems.

  7. I’m a happy rhythmbox user and a happy banshee user, I think both apps have their strengths and weeknesses, for me rhythmbox is better at handling huge complex (read messy) media libraries, and (in my opinion) its search and library visualization are superior.
    For smaller more ordered collections banshee works great. My usecase is that at home with the complete collection I use rhythmbox and use both the jamendo and magnatune plugins. When I’m out and about with notebook or netbook I use banshee because the more compact visualization suits me better.

    As for the mono, since the license was cleared and the code base is being separated, and microsoft pledged its non agression thing to third parties, it is in my view a non issue.

    Just my 0.02$


  8. “To a Linux user like myself, an iPod is more or less a fancy paperweight; since Apple does not provide a version of iTunes for Linux.”

    That used to be true until some time ago – and still is to some extent – but it is possible to be happy with you iPod Touch/iPhone with Linux thanks to iFuse and GTKPod. iFuse is a FUSE module that makes possible to mount the iPod as any other filesystem on Linux. Although its been under heavy development, it has been stable and working as intended for me for a few releases already.

    And then there is GTKPod. There was a time where pretty much every media player in Linux was able to sync with an iPod seamlessly – provided that it was possible to mount it using a SSH-based hack and a jailbroke iPod – using libgpod but most fell behind with the multiple changes that Apple made in the schema and GTKPod seems to be the only one still keeping up with those changes.

    The latest version works fine as long as you don’t upgrade the iPod firmware to its latest version as the developers behing libgpod have not managed to crack it yet. But if you keep that in mind, one can easily work with his/her iPod Touch/iPhone using both iFuse and GTKPod in Linux without having to jailbreak it.

    Another nice addition to this combo is Handbrake. Handbrake is a transcoder tool with both a GUI (GTK) and a CLI version that also happens to be very popular on Mac OS X that is capable of encoding H264/AAC video files perfectly compatible with Apple products. It has a series of presets which makes it a joy to use. I’ve been using Handbrake to rip DVDs and transcode my anime and TV shows collection to watch on the iPod and it has yet to let me down.

    I’ve found this combo to be a much better alternative than what Apple provides to work with my iPod Touch and couldn’t be happier!

  9. Ubuntu should stick to OSS crossplatform solutions for major applications like this. That way they leverage a larger user / developer base for plugins and give real world users (i.e. those that have to work in multiple platforms) real options to stick to. Standardizing on Firefox, Openoffice, VLC and even Gimp (yes Gimp has significant Windows and Mac following) has be been huge boons for Linux with lots of extensions to improve feature set. If Banshee can make other platforms first class solutions then it’s good option another might be to focus on fixing the few SongBird limitations, which also has a rich set of plugins. Note, same goes for Evolution, they should ditch for Thunderbird/Lightening.

  10. I expected a few comments about Mono, but not a majority… Very quickly – I personally take the same stance as Ubuntu on Mono: that we should not waste time worrying about and avoiding great open-source software because of legal issues that likely will never evolve into an actual problem as Matt said above. I also view the hatred of anything and everything related to Novell and Microsoft by some to be disturbing; such black/white logic always makes me uncomfortable.

    @liye: Ubuntu already comes with the dependencies needed for Tomboy and f-spot; so, adding Banshee does not add new dependencies.

    @SK: Banshee does in fact have Mac and Windows builds. Improving these is a big push of the 1.5 series I believe. It is not as well known as something like songbird however. Your point is well taken. I think that should be thrown into the mix (along with feature-fullness, stability, compatibility) when choosing a default.

    @DeadManFish: Thanks for the update on gtkpod. When I had an iPod Touch awhile back there was no way to sync it with Linux short of jailbreaking it and using ssh. (Perhaps this is what you mean when you say fuse filesystem). Anyway, good to know that progress is being made!

    @BrianK: In fact, I did partially write this to stroke my ego! I submitted a few patches that made android support better – though 99% of work was done by Gabriel Burt. This article had a simple premise – when open-source projects support each other it is awesome. The Banshee+Android experience is awesome and Ubuntu should consider the benefits of that (particularly because Android is set to take off) when choosing a default media player.

    Edit: Fix formatting

  11. Rhythmbox is a gnome app so it integrates with gnome, same with f-stop and evolution (not really an ubuntu pick). They just really don’t want all the extra dependencies that you get from something like amarok

    The reason I stick with rhythmbox is it fits better on my netbook screen, and auto scans my music folder so if I download or delete a song to my music folder it automatically shows up in rhythmbox (never saw auto update in banshee or amarok and it not in itunes)
    As for my ipod it works great with rhythmbox, I just drag and drop

  12. Its disturbing to me when people try to trivialize the concerns about Mono as simply hate of MS and Novell.

    I think its quite simple to see the problem here. If MS actually wanted a cross platform platform they would simply release various versions of the CLR just as Sun releases the JVM. Instead they “help” a third party attempt to build a cross platform version that from all reports doesn’t run just any .Net code out of the box. So I believe the Mono concern is merited. Mind you the concern is not that Mono apps are being produced but that they are becoming the core apps of some distributions. If MS were to pull the legal card you could find big chunks ripped out of Linux desktops overnight.

    Its rather stupid to voluntarily put yourself in that position. And it seems almost planned that there is this push for Mono apps to be core apps. There also seems to be this incredible push to try and make Mono apps the best thing out there. I’ve worked with C# and theres nothing that spectacular to make app dev head and shoulders above any of the other platform choices. So I kinda question just how these “amazing” apps keep popping up.

  13. @Phil Fair enough. You have some very good points. But, I remain unconvinced that this is an issue we should all be worrying about and spending so much time on. If MS decides to play dirty, Banshee (and other Mono apps) will be removed from default and from the repos; if, things are as benign as they appear, we are going to be just fine using Banshee. For now, I think we should simply choose the best app available for the job. I believe that, in this case, it is Banshee. I do not believe there is any conspiracy about why Banshee is an “awesome” app. It is not designed to be a trojan horse; it is awesome because it is designed to be awesome. It is awesome because there are people working on it full time (or nearly full time) with the support of a large company. If we questioned all development sponsored by corporations, there would be very little left to use in Linux. 😉

    I don’t intend to continue discussing Mono here, as this is admittedly out of my league. Someone more knowledgeable will rip my argument apart, and I will not do justice to Ubuntu’s stance on the issue. My blog is about what app is actually better (regardless of language) and gives a better experience – particularly based on device support.

  14. @Ilye – it is best to know what you are talking about before you start spouting. If you never install anything with dependencies then you will never install ANY software – even the kernel has dependencies. libc-bin might be about the only thing that doesn’t. And if dependencies are OK, what’s wrong with mono? As others have pointed out, it is already installed by default – if you don’t know that, you shouldn’t be commenting here.

  15. Love Banshee. What I love most is that I installed a DAAP server on my home network and I don’t ever need to “sync” anything. Still looking for that DAAP android app . . . . Any suggestions?

  16. wonderful submit, very informative. I’m wondering why the other specialists of this sector do not understand this. You must continue your writing. I am sure, you have a huge readers’ base already!

  17. @Bling2Ming Probably the wrong forum for this, but I installed the android daap client and it connected to my server and listed the songs, but was unable to play any of them. When I click a song, it just says, “An error has occurred playing the song, please try again.”

  18. @mike your right about this being the wrong place and I don’t think I can help you, however I’ve heard of people having problems with the daap app if the file format is wma. Some phones struggle to play streamed wma files even if they play them fine from local storage. I have mp3 and m4a files on a Buffalo Linkstation NAS and have not had an issue. You could raise an issue or bug on the apps googlecode page or post on Chris Micelli’s blog, he tends to reply to questions asked there.

    On a side note, I found out today that the app does now scrobble and has since August this year the check box is just well hidden, it’s under Menu > Preferences which is only available on the Servers screen.

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