Eden Roc

I know what you’re thinking: “Did he fire six shots, or only five?” Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement, I’ve kinda lost track myself.

It seems that Ubuntu 11.04 will switch from Rhythmbox to Banshee as default music player¹. Checking on gobby.ubuntu.com I wasn’t able to find any reference to reasons for this chaneg, but just a simple “default music player -> banshee would be the preferred option for this cycle” and a list of issues that could be blocker.

So, let me put the following directly on Planet Ubuntu, hoping to add more elements

#1 Could please someone explain me the reason for this (and no, “Banshee is better” is not a reason, it’s a cheer)?

#2 Did you considered – at least – the following issues in Banshee ?

  1. port to GTK+3 — Rhythmbox team is going to start the port to GTK+ 3. Banshee is a Mono/GTK# application. When GTK#3 will be available? When Banshee port to GTK#2 GTK#3 will occur? Isn’t better wait this transition?
  2. time slider — Banshee time slider is… well, sorry, but the only world I can say is “ridiculous”, by design. Come on, ask users. We want the widest time sliders you can provide in order to seek exacly. Take a look at Totem, Rhythmbox itself, VLC, Windows Media Player. Even iTunes has a fixed time slider 3 times wider.
  3. keyboard shortcuts – another “ridiculous” feature: single key shortcuts (i.e. press N to go next song, P for previous, Space to play). May I say this is one of the worst infringement of common UI design? This prevents you to use list widgets in a proper way, for istance. If you want a single key press to perform media action, buy a media keyboard 😛

So, sorry to disappoint you, sorry if this post will start a Rhythmbox vs Banshee Holy War, but my true feeling is currently Rhyhmbox is more consistent with the whole GNOME/Ubuntu desktop as _default_ music player application. I’m not saying is better tout court, just is better as default application.

Coherence matters. This should be your karma 🙂

PS next Holy War: Evolution vs Thunderbird… stay tuned!

[1] as well as default application to access Ubuntu One Music Store, of course.

50 thoughts on “Eden Roc”

  1. While i really disliked banshee when i tried it a few months ago, I did find that it handled cover art and iPod syncing better than Rhythmbox.

    (I still plan to replace banshee with rhythmbox in future upgrades however)

  2. Will other default apps (Firefox, Openoffice.org/LibreOffice, …) be ported to GTK3 on time? And if GTK2 has to be shipped anyways – why should the timely GTK3 port (or lack thereof) of Banshee be of any special interest to Ubuntu’s default install?

    1. Maybe I was brief about this point. The issue is not the mix of GTK2 and GTK3 (however, please note that Firefox and *Office aren’t native GTK+ apps).

      Simply I feel really odd from a “release team” point of view to deliberately introduce an anchor to past, when all other stuff is moving to future. Or even two anchors. Banshee is a GTK# application, you have to wait new bindindings and hope they will use gobject-introspection. So, ’cause Banshee is not the current default music player, the “when will be gtk3 ready” issue matters, IMHO.

      Maybe Banshee works better, but I hope Ubuntu is not a patchwork of applications 🙂

      1. > (however, please note that Firefox and *Office aren’t native GTK+ apps).


        > deliberately introduce an anchor to past, when all other
        > stuff is moving to future

        My understanding of GNOME’s plans for the future (those of GNOME’s very own release team), is to make sure bindings are first-class citizens. That their stand in the platform gets improved, not diminished. But maybe I had a wrong understanding.

        1. So I don’t include them in my own list of applications that should switch to GTK+ 3 ASAP, or use all new exciting features provided by GTK+ 3 (GtkApplications, GSettings…). Simply, they provide a GTK+ “skin”. Moreover they are yet default application 🙂

          And yes, you are right, GNOME release team will enjoy to have bindings as first class citizen: gtkmm, pygtk and vala will be ready, unfortunately the current status for GtkSharp is unknown, apart “Currently, trunk still targets Gtk+ 2.14, but we will switch to version 3 as soon as it is usable.” (from http://www.mono-project.com/GtkSharpPlan and, yes, current GTK+ is 2.22)

  3. Let me start by saying that I love Banshee and that I use Rhythmbox instead of Banshee.

    I like the overall feeling of Banshee. I think Rhythmbox is terrible in regards of screen real estate. Having the time slider in another row is ridiculous. It’s a terrible waste of precious space. I understand that’s a feature, not a bug, but I would really like the ability tho configure it.

    Regarding keyboard shortcuts, single key shortcuts are easier to use and don’t strain your fingers. Simple as that.

    As I said before, I really like Banshee, but I use Rhythmbox. I guess this decision was based mostly on hipness and coolness, whatever that means.

  4. 1. port to GTK+3 – irrelevant since AFAIK they will have to ship both GTK2 and GTK3

    2. time slider – already fixed in git. It now has a handle that can be used to set the desired length.

    3. keyboard shortcuts – shortcuts are awesome. Why would I use the list widget search when I can use the far more powerful search field? Anyway I think that the list widget problem was fixed in the latest release of Banshee so you can use that.

    Vibrant, active and very friendly upstream that cares about their application and are eager to fix all the little issues in time for Ubuntu 11.04 probably had something to do with Ubuntu choosing Banshee over RB. This was cooking since at least 9.10.

    1. 1. see my previous reply

      2. are you serious?!?!?!?

      3. unfortunately search entry and single key shortcuts introduce a lack of coherence. Let’s assume you are visually impaired and you want to play songs by Iron Maiden. A GNOME HIG compiant application should allow you to focus the artist list, type I R O N to select first occurence. press down arrow to move from “Iron and Wine” to “Iron Maiden”, and finally press Ctrl+Space to start playing. Also, you can type I R O N SPACE M, then press Ctrl+Space.
      Can you do the same in Banshee? If I’m right, the search entry will eat the focus when you start typing in artist list, so it will include any other occurrence of “iron” word. And while in search entry you can’t use Space to start playing…

      4. “Vibrant, active and very friendly upstream [snip]” this seems more a commercial than a reason 😀 Maybe RB developers don’t care about their application? 😀

      1. 1. GTK# 3 will use gobject-introspection for the bindings. There is a link in gobby.ubuntu.com about that.

        2. Yes. I can’t seem to find the blog post but I’m positive I saw it. It is still FAR better in it’s current short form then the monstrosity that RB uses.

        3. If this is such a problem then Ubuntu will most likely fix it.

        4. That’s the only reason you need in most cases.

        All of your reasons to not switch appear pretty small. I’m sure that Ubuntu considered them and found them fixable in the next 6 months.

  5. I am another Banshee user. I went through a slew of music players a while back because all of them had terrible performance for large libraries of songs. I remember Rhythmbox was a particular offender, and that the Banshee devs had put visible effort into not making their DB loading proportional to the songs in the list.

    Though when things get really tough I use MPD. 🙂

    1. One thing my version of Banshee does terribly with large libraries is the search responsiveness – the whole UI actually *blocks* as I type a character while it probably goes into a blocking sqlite call.

      Should be relatively easy to fix by making it async, but annoys the hell out of me with my 30000 songs.

  6. It’s clear to me that Canonical doesn’t want my money. No way I’ll keep Mono installed just for the music store. Mono purging is the first thing after an install.

        1. Why is Nxadm a troll or moron for saying that Mono will be purged immediately after install? How can Mono not be a patent threat when a quick google shows information that mono contains Microsoft IP covered by Microsoft patents which is *not* covered by the MCP? Doesn’t it make sense then that mono and apps based on mono are to be avoided (or purged) like the plague. Imo Nxadm is smart that he removes a potential lawsuit from his box. Your lack of seeing the bigger picture or mono for what it really is? Pot meet kettle.

          1. >Doesn’t it make sense then that mono and apps based on mono are to be avoided (or purged) like the plague.

            No. The majority of hate toward Mono is from ignorant people who think it’s hip to hate Microsoft while they ignore other examples of Microsoft tech in FOSS.

            You do know there was an actual lawsuit (indirectly) against the kernel? I bet you didn’t avoid the Linux kernel or purge it after that. Or how about AJAX web tech? I bet you have no problem using web sites that use that technology even if it was invented by Microsoft.

            There are plenty of examples out there that came from Microsoft and that live in various pieces of FOSS tech yet nobody has a problem with them.

          2. A quick Google search shows only a lot of allegations by other trolls or morons…

            A quick Google search instead shows the same trolls or morons writing things like “why use mono, if you want a VM use java who’s free and not encumbered”… nice, in light of the recent IP suits against a certain third-party java implementation launched by Oracle…

  7. The biggest problem with Banshee is the lack of last.fm support for non-paying subscribers. Rhythmbox can play the streams, Banshee can’t, and for this reason is currently useless for me.

    1. To be fair, this is a restriction which Last.fm enforces. The reason Rhythmbox allows you to listen is because it uses the old API, and Last.fm could stop supporting the old API at any moment really. When they do Rhythmbox will be in the exact same situation.

  8. i rather like banshee, the last.fm and ipod integration is great, the movie compatibility is a bit flaky though needs a bit more work, as a music player goes its pretty good

  9. Certainly some people like banshee’s features more (the banshee is better crowd) but it seems the main reason is the more active development and most importantly more flexible base – while Rhythmbox is largely a “finished” product Banshee is built to more easily allow different interfaces etc.
    More specifically:
    Banshee already has a Netbook friendly interface – this seems very very important given the Unity move. Banshee also has a very interesting prototype interface (Cubano)

    Banshee has a video browser – fits in with Ubuntu philosophy of moving away from always going through a file browser to see your stuff. Ditto with the planned photo browser -> Banshee could become Unity’s Unified Media Centre.

    Note that even though video and photo are more “future” features, it makes sense to get on with fixing the more basic issues with Banshee in this cycle and then improving those other aspects.
    Which brings the next point: most of the problems with Banshee are fixable bugs, while the inability of Rhythmbox to do the aformentioned things are more related to the way its been built (i.e. focused on being a good music player, but ONLY a music player).

    1. Photo browser? Too much for me 😀

      OK, serious, A “simple” media center could be really appreciated (simple == something that could provide some fancy UI at fullsceen and let you browse and play your music, videos and maybe photos, something like Moovida 1.x), but I prefer separated apps for music, videos and photos and a common “library”.

  10. I’m a Banshee user, and agree with Canonical’s decision. The thing is, I did the switch such a long time ago that I forget what my biggest gripes were with Rhythmbox (and Exaile, Quod Libet, etc),

    However, I do agree with your 3rd complaint, above, about keyboard shortcuts. I have even open a bug report about it, but nobody at Banshee seems to care. They see the shortcuts as a “feature” not a “bug”. But ignoring the HIG this way really *is* a “bug”.

    For example, when I’m having a party and a friend wants to add a song to the playlist I always have to run over to the computer and do it myself — lest the friend press the “n” key (when searching for “neutral milk hotel”) and skip the currently-playing song. Argh. Bad design decision.

  11. Although I am a Banshee fan myself(my default since 9.04) I think your points are very convincing.

    At the very least, the developers owe the community an explanation for the change. Open dialogue would be better.

    1. Did you participate in the remote session that was streamed to anyone who wanted to participate? We’ve had a banshee/rhythmbox discussion at UDS for going on 3 years now.

      Sure the notes probably won’t be as detailed as the actual conversation but given the amount of remote participants we had at the session it certainly was open.

      (The session was videoed but hasn’t been processed/published yet).

  12. I prefer Rhythmbox, because Banshee has too much of a kitchen sync approach. I like my applications to be small and focused on their task (so no photos nor videos in my music player) but at the same time I like them to cooperate strongly with other apps.

    For instance, I don’t understand why we still don’t have a OSX Spotlight like equivalent that gives me search results (docs, music, video, etc) in one click + typing one letter. With tracker this should be possible, right? Same for having a “media” app that’s just a thin and pretty frontend to all the “media” apps. Or a phone syncing app that pulls in and syncs all media/contacts/whatever from all apps.

    Having Banshee try to do it all seems like a bad idea to me.

  13. I use Amarok. 🙂 and I use Rhythmbox only for Ubuntu music store. I’m not planning to use any Mono based tech. Please understand, it is only my opinion. :()

  14. I am one of the four Banshee maintainers.

    The time slider is now adjustable width, since September 5th[0] (eg it is in Banshee 1.8).

    Totem uses single key shortcuts too, though if you have the playlist TreeView focused it does deactivate them in favor of type-ahead-find. The HIG says “provide efficient keyboard access to all application features.” [1] I probably am just missing it, but where does the HIG say don’t use single-key shortcuts? In fact, the HIG also says “do not use Alt+key combinations for shortcut keys, as these may conflict with window manager or menu access keys” [2], which Rhythmbox does (previous/next are alt+left/right).

    I’m confident Banshee will transition to Gtk# 3 before Ubuntu stops shipping GTK+ 2.

    What don’t you like about “Simplify” mode?

    [0] http://git.gnome.org/browse/banshee/commit/?id=c2288fbb66667b8f66ce0d5ab83fc5f72865f5a0
    [1] http://library.gnome.org/devel/hig-book/stable/input-keyboard.html.en
    [2] http://library.gnome.org/devel/hig-book/stable/input-keyboard.html.en#shortcuts

    1. Small correction: the adjustable time slider is not available in Banshee 1.8.0, it was only committed to git master after the release.
      It will be available in the upcoming 1.9.0 development release.

      Gabriel was obviously confused, and is probably only using Banshee from git master 😉

    2. The problem with single-key shortcuts is that:
      1) it breaks type-ahead find
      2) it breaks with similar shortcuts in other applications

      Although you can kind of get around (1) by using search (that is, searching doesn’t solve the same problem, but is close enough), this is still a huge issue when guests are using Banshee. To quote my party scenario from above:

      “when I’m having a party and a friend wants to add a song to the playlist I always have to run over to the computer and do it myself — lest the friend press the “n” key (when searching for “neutral milk hotel”) and skip the currently-playing song.”

      Now, regarding (2) you may say “well, just learn how to use Banshee. Yes, there is a learning curve, but it’s well worth it”. The problem is that there *shouldn’t* be a learning curve. A well-designed media player UI is the one that people somehow “just knows” how to use (i.e. intuitively). So, yes, the “Alt-arrowkey” example that you mention may break the HIG, but it’s a de-facto standard across media players, web browsers, and so on. Even Nautilus uses it! This makes it easily discoverable, and lets users ride on their existing knowledge of other apps.

      You may or may not remember the DOS days, when different apps had different shortcut keys. Then some people got together and standardized things, setting Alt-F to activate the “File” menu and Shift-Ins to mean “Paste”, and so on, and we were all better for it. So don’t let Banshee make the same mistake of the 80s.

      Now, I’m a banshee user and will likely not switch away any time soon — despite all of these problems. But these are real issues in which, sadly, Banshee devs don’t seem to be interested.

      At the very least it would be good to allow *all* shortcuts to be user-changeable, so users like myself could just change them as we see fit. And then maybe Ubuntu can choose to ship with different shortcuts in Banshee, if Canonical so pleases.

      PS: I don’t mean to sound overly critical. As I said, I use Banshee myself, and I’m glad Ubuntu is switching to it. If I’m taking my time to write this long-ish comment it’s because I care 🙂 So congrats to you and all Banshee devs for making such a great media player that people care so much about!

  15. It’s not that Banshee that I personally dislike, it’s the ‘behemoth’ Mono explicitly. Would you trade few extra features for Mono installation? Doubtful * period *

  16. I am and will be a devote Rhythmbox user but I must admit that Banshee GUI seems to get better with every release. As a user, I don’t see in RB GUI the improvements I’d like and that I have to search for in plugins (way of displaying album’s covers, lytrics…).

  17. @ zekopeko November 6, 2010 at 6:29 pm:

    It has nothing to do with hate. Go to techrights.org and read their mono articles. It says there is code in mono that is not covered by Microsoft’s MCP. Clear now? Why would any business want to use mono if they know upfront that they will be using software which is not covered by Microsoft’s MCP thus for which they do not have a license? If there’s no problem then why does Red Hat exclude mono from RHEL? Why does Novell need a deal with Microsoft? Couldn’t they just distribute mono without it? I guess not…
    It seems you are the hater here hating those that present reasons for not using mono.

    Funny you should mention SCO’s lawsuit. Go search groklaw.net and you will find articles about financial and other links between Microsoft and SCO’s lawsuit. And SCO got nowhere with their lawsuits. Your suggestion that a lawsuit against Linux somehow makes it ok to use mono is creative to say the least if not disingenuous.

    I welcome free, patent unencumbered code even if it comes from Microsoft and obviously I do not have a problem with that. However I do have a problem with code that is reported to be patent encumbered no matter how hard you try to come up with silly responses and attack those that point this out. I googled your name and you seem to be quite busy defending mono and attacking people who don’t like mono or say that mono is not unencumbered.

    Good luck with that. The cat is already out of the bag and once Novell or what’s left of it is chopped into pieces and sold to the highest bidding pack of hyena’s it will soon be clear if mono is a patent trap or not. Any smart business has long ago decided to stay away from mono. I will think “told you so” when reading about the lawsuits against those that believed Novell/De Icaza and drones like you.

  18. You make an argument about Banshee’s search slider being small. Fair enough…however…one as simple as significant reason why i use Banshee more often than Rhythmbox though i have both setup and configured equivalently, is that the Banshee UI is better. Let me argue that:

    The time slider:
    Yes, Banshee’s search slider is tiny and Rhythmbox’s is much more usable…IF you want to use it. Which is how often exactly? Seriously, people have music collections of thousands of songs and the much more frequent operation is ‘skip song’ rather than ‘go to this particular point in the current tune.
    As such, the search slider in Rhythmbox is not a UI feature but a UI problem. It uses up inappropriately much space for the frequency in which people use it. Or at least i use it.
    Think about it: who needs to be able to precisely find a spot in a song using a search slider? People who make music themselves and want to listen to/extract a particular piece of a particular song. Those people, but, use different applications for that purpose, like Audacity, Ardour, Sweep or whatever.
    Joe random uses the search slider only on pretty rare occasions. And if he does so, does he really need that precision? Compare my time slider use in Totem…i use it to roughly go to a position in the video. To then find the precise start of whatever sequence i’m looking for i usually use ‘shift-left’ and ‘shift-right’. It is not only more convenient, but in a paradox way more ‘discoverable’/predictable than the search slider, as i know it jumps forth and back a certain amount of frames. The time slider handle in itself and it’s response to handling it with the mouse is in itself unprecise and somewhat unpredictable.
    If i use my time slider in Banshee it is because a song starts playing and the beginning bores me, i wanna get to the gist, quickly…no precision needed, a rough 15 to 25% will do.
    Or i have a new song in my library and want to see what it sounds like, quickly. Again, rough skipping through the song.
    Or lastly, i’m compiling a playlist or CD for a friend and need to get an overall feel of how the song develops mood-wise through it’s progress. And again…precision doesn’t matter, it just wann skip through in 4 or five steps.

    It may have been a good idea at the time that admittedly was based on a somewhat valid reasoning…but i think it’s time to abandon it or compromise it.

    I personally dislike any application that has more than one horizontal toolbar. Toolbars are a UI desease, if you ask me. Now look at Rhythmbox. There’s a toolbar on top that has about 5 to 10 icons. The rest is 30px high wasted screen real estate.

    Next is the time slider, which i might use 5% of the time, resulting in it being another 30px high wasted screen real estate 95% of the time.

    And then most of my window, above the so much more imporant track list, is another toolbar, offering a search box with some ominous search restriction buttons for ‘artist’, ‘album’ etc. . First of all, the buttons are totally superfluous…the operation of switching the restriction is more interaction overhead than simply typing a few more letters into the search box to narrow my search.
    Secondly, the search box itself doesn’t need an extra toolbar…it can go to the right of the main toolbar. (Banshee does this wrong, too.)

    And lastly, Banshee did a really smart move by offering to switch your artist/album browser into a vertical (or widescreen) mode. In Rhythmbox i have them constantly off (you don’t really need them, anyways), because they take up another bit of vertical screen real estate.

    So you’ve got about 100px wasted vertical screen real estate in Rhythmbox just for toolbars, whereas the main interaction element is the track list (and the search box). In those 100px you could display about 8 more songs.

    Most laptops (and even desktop screens) these days are widescreen. With the stupid HD norm, that’s now even 16:9 instead of 16:10. Vertical real estate becomes more and more precious. That’s what Rhythmbox needs to cater for…and it does a horrible job at it.

    I’d suggest the following:
    1) Move the search box into the upper right corner. Get rid of those silly filter buttons. If you want, use a search widget like the one in Browsers where you can switch the filter via a dropdown to the left of the box. But i bet you, no-one’s gonna use it. (Another example: my FF search box has Google and Wikipedia search plugins…yet even if i want to find something at Wikipedia, i never swtich the plugin, but rather type what i want to find and add ‘wikipedia’ at the end of it. Simply because it’s a lot more straight forward and even though i have an additional page load it feels way quicker and more convenient than toggling the search plugin.)

    2) Move the search slider to the main toolbar. OR move it to the right side of the status bar – like those zoom-sliders some applications have.
    If you wanna be really adventurous, make it vertical.

    3) Offer a vertical mode for the Album/Artist browsers.

    4) To go to extremes: get rid of the line displaying the currently playing song, album, artist, as well. It already shows in the window title AND by means of the playlist always jumping and highlighting the current song…extend the window title display if you want. Additionally, offer an extended tooltip (custom on-hover popup) over the play button displaying all that info together with the album art, just like in the notification on the notification icon.

    5) Get rid of the browser toggle button in the toolbar. Most people will either always have it on or always have it off. Toggling via the ‘view’ menu is good enough.

    6) Integrate ‘repeat’ and ‘shuffle’ buttons with the play button (another great concept in Rhythmbox).

    7) Make the volume slider a directly accessible slider to the right of the status bar. I don’t know why GTK+ invented this silly volume control thing and made it a standard. For some things it’s good, but in a lot of cases, particularly when listening to music, volume adjustment is an immediate operation. Songs play at different volume, if something get’s too loud, i want to lower the volume NOW! RIGHT NOW! Two seconds ago, actually, before it hurt my ears! And now i have to fiddle through a cycle of target-click-retarget-click instead of a single target-click operation.

    I’d love to use Rhythmbox, i like a lot of things about it, particularly that it’s not based on Mono and i don’t feel like i waste half my memory on having music playing while i’m working. But i can’t blame any release manager to decide to switch to Banshee, because it’s got (a) way more features and (b) way better UI.

    I hope this isn’t taken as ‘holy war’…i’m rather trying to give some input to reconsider particularly one of your main arguments.

  19. Just another idea for the time slider…might be worth considering turning the GTK list view into a tree view (if it isn’t already) and providing a custom renderer that shows the time slider right on the currently playing song entry (as in switch the renderer for the playing song to show the slider underneath, spanning the whole width of the list). Dunno if the cellrenderer api allows for that, though and it has to be done in a way that avoids accidential hitting of the slider when doubleclicking a new entry etc. .

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