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Songbird Flies Today 412

fr1kk writes to tell us that with the recent advent of a preview version for the new open source response to iTunes, Songbird, BoingBoing has taken a few minutes to interview team lead Rob Lord. While this program may be a great alternative to the DRM ridden iTunes and Windows Media Player platforms it is still only a Windows release. The good news is that by being open source that will (hopefully) not last very long. The Songbird site appears to be swamped right now, but there are several different mirrors available to download the client.
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Songbird Flies Today

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  • by Caspian ( 99221 ) on Wednesday February 08, 2006 @01:27PM (#14670623)
    Source code.

    (Disclaimer: I'm pro-open-source. But, seriously, how many "music fans" (of the sorts who presently tote about iPods) would even know what source code is, much less give a crap about it? They Just Want It To Work(TM), man.
  • I predict... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 08, 2006 @01:27PM (#14670626)
    ...the same overwhelming success as Ogg. And for the same reasons.
  • Here's the thing (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Spytap ( 143526 ) on Wednesday February 08, 2006 @01:28PM (#14670640)
    Unless it syncs with my iPod, I really don't have much use for it. Honestly, that's where my music listening is done, not in my office at my computer...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 08, 2006 @01:31PM (#14670665)
    Only on slashdot can iTunes be equalled to Windows Media Player...

    Get your facts straight: files encoded from your own CDs do NOT have any DRM in them. Only tunes bought from the built-in on-line music store have DRM.

    iTunes is a player/ripped/jukebox/music store program. You DO NOT NEED to buy DRM tunes online, you do not even need an internet connection (although it comes in handy for the CDDB feature when ripping your own CDs).

  • Open Source Music (Score:2, Insightful)

    by inKubus ( 199753 ) on Wednesday February 08, 2006 @01:32PM (#14670681) Homepage Journal
    It's too bad more MUSIC isn't open source, where someone writes pieces of a tune and then releases to the public domain so others can enhance and build upon the original project...

    Back in the early days of the internet, .MOD files and the whole Fasttracker scene was at it's peak. With a .MOD file, when you distribute your music you distribute all of the samples used to make the music and the charts itself. Anyone out on the internet could then edit or improve your music. A lot of the music I wrote early on was based on the works of others.

    The amazing thing about iTunes is it's ability to make .99 per song, not really the search capabilities. Most of the time, I can't find the song I want on iTunes, unless it's some pop bullsh*t. How songbird intends to do the same (for the artists who list on there)--rather than turn into the next (insert Napster, Gnutella, etc here)--remains to be seen..

  • DRM Ridden? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TheBigMacMan ( 938594 ) on Wednesday February 08, 2006 @01:35PM (#14670717)
    As far as I know, and I may be wrong here, iTunes will play standard mp3's. At least mine does. So what would the "...a great alternative to the DRM ridden iTunes..." gain you? I would rather have a player that can play drm'd songs, if I were forced to play a few, and still be able to play standard mp3's.
  • DRM Ridden? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by binaryDigit ( 557647 ) on Wednesday February 08, 2006 @01:36PM (#14670733)
    While this program may be a great alternative to the DRM ridden iTunes and Windows Media Player platforms

    So what, are they going to offer the same content without DRM? Think not. How does DRM play in here? If iTMS has DRM it's because the copyright holder has agreed to allow iTMS to distribute content based on the DRM. Being OS isn't going to help this new system out in that regard. Now they may cater to those who are searching for content that is not DRM'ed, but that's content.
  • by tpgp ( 48001 ) on Wednesday February 08, 2006 @01:37PM (#14670739) Homepage
    Yes, 'cuz that's what teenaged music fans want...

    Source code.

    Well - thats pretty much answered in the article:
    The opportunity to innovate is stymied by architecture.... ....Justin Frankel created a collaborative jamming service, and you can't do that inside any commercial media player now. You'll be able to do those kinds of things inside Songbird.
    How many people write extensions for firefox? Not many, but how many people enjoy said extensions?

    The source being available mightent directly benefit most people who use an open source program, but they sure as hell benefit from others having access to the source....
  • by joetheappleguy ( 865543 ) on Wednesday February 08, 2006 @01:40PM (#14670765) Homepage
    ...Nice troll.

    Last I checked my .mp3's and CD rips are still DRM free in both iTunes or WMP.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 08, 2006 @01:42PM (#14670785)
    How exactly is iTunes "DRM ridden"? Here's my take on iTunes: it's free, it's got a decent feature set, and it's easy to use. Other than if you need to run it on an unsupported OS, what's the problem? The only DRM is for songs purchased from the iTunes Music Store, and even that DRM is pretty non-invasive. If you don't want Apple's DRM (queue whining about not being able to play iTMS music on non-iPod MP3 players), just get your music elsewhere. Rip it from CD into numerous formats with pretty solid codecs. Buy standard MP3s from some place like allofmp3.com. Download it (legally, of course) from the 'net.

    Honestly, if the software "just works", doesn't force DRM on you, and has the features you need, why spend the time making a product that just attempts to do the same thing? Are there compelling new features in SongBird that iTunes doesn't provide? The way I see it, iTunes is a very nice, free digital audio player that also has the ability to sync with an iPod and use iTMS if you want to take advantage of those things. If you don't want to use iTMS music or an iPod, then just don't use those features.

    That being said, hopefully SongBird will have some great innovations that'll push other software makers ahead as well... I'm just not sure there's any more to it than "we don't have DRM and you can see our sourcecode - yay!" and if the developers stick with that mindset it'll never go anywhere.
  • Re:DRM Ridden? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tsa ( 15680 ) on Wednesday February 08, 2006 @01:43PM (#14670790) Homepage
    Good point. I was also a bit put off by the term "DRM ridden". I find the DRM that iTunes uses is not very restricting, and fair.
  • by dr_canak ( 593415 ) on Wednesday February 08, 2006 @01:45PM (#14670814)
    I'm late to the game of personal MP3 players and what can and can't be played on any given device. The Songbird site is down, but i did read the article. So my main question is:

    Can I use this new app to purchase music from any site that supports purchases (i.e. Apple, Napster, Rhapsody, Amazon, etc...), get a plain old MP3 file, which I can then play/burn onto any device I choose?

    I had some experience with Rhapsody a few months back, but it seemed to be in some proprietary format, and I could only use their software to play/transfer/burn the file to my media. Will Songbird get around all of that?

    thx in advance,


  • by The NPS ( 899303 ) on Wednesday February 08, 2006 @01:58PM (#14670923)
    "It's too bad more MUSIC isn't open source, where someone writes pieces of a tune and then releases to the public domain so others can enhance and build upon the original project..."

    Definitely -- I wish I had musical ability, because I'd give it away free to everyone.

  • by Overly Critical Guy ( 663429 ) on Wednesday February 08, 2006 @02:01PM (#14670956)
    I see nothing wrong with iTunes. I take issue with the submission's "DRM ridden" phrase. iTunes is not "ridden" with DRM; you don't even have to buy any music from iTunes and have a completely DRM-free experience. iTunes functions just fine as the best music management software without you having to use anything with DRM. I used iTunes for a whole year that way. I imagine most people use it that way, actually.

    However, if you do buy from iTunes, Apple provides the most lax DRM in the market. I have never, ever come across any limitation. I can burn as many CDs as I want, share the music with multiple computers, and copy them anywhere at will. When someone rattles on about iTunes DRM, it's clear to me they don't really use iTunes at all. If they did, they'd know the DRM is so invisible that most users don't even know it's there. I always forget it is.

    So you read about the software and then realize, this thing is designed to connect to multiple online stores, so it will be just as DRM ridden as anything else! Looking at the screenshots, I suddenly recognize this as the iTunes clone that Mac fans were ripping on last year. The interface is a 100% brain-dead clone of the iTunes interface, widget for widget. They couldn't even come up with their own idea. This makes OSS look bad. I can certainly guarantee this software will never take off in this state, and making goofy claims that "FairPlay is the 8-track of our generation" (huh?) doesn't help any. The developer is very arrogant and claims shopping in one central location like the iTunes Music Store is some backwards idea, when in reality, we've already DONE the multiple stores thing for years, and people have gravitated to one central source (the majority choosing iTunes). It's been the natural progression of the market. That seamless vertical experience is needed to connect it all together. Steve Jobs has stated that relying on 3rd party support in the consumer hardware space doesn't work, and so far, he's been proven correct.

    I have no experience with Windows Media Player's offerings, so I can't comment on its DRM. But I find most of the DRM commentary on Slashdot to be alarmist and inapplicable to the real world, and stuff like this just makes OSS look like kooky copycat artists fighting some unseen force that most users aren't even coming into contact with in their daily experiences.

    The developers should probably expect a response from Apple's lawyers shortly. The iTunes interface is patented, and this is just blatant! Get an original idea, guys.
  • by Overly Critical Guy ( 663429 ) on Wednesday February 08, 2006 @02:04PM (#14670997)
    Because the iTunes team doesn't want to sift through a bunch of feedback emails that say "Where's the Ogg support?" or "Why doesn't my random, esoteric GTK app magically work with some random archaic feature of iTunes?" or "RMS SAYS U R EVIL BECUZ U DONT RELEASE UR SOURCE CODES AS GEE PEE ELL."
  • by Maxim Kovalenko ( 764126 ) on Wednesday February 08, 2006 @02:17PM (#14671136) Homepage
    An open source media player that organizes music and looks like Itunes is all well and good.... But how does it sound? Is the EQ any good? You can organize music with most players out there...whether it sounds good is a bit more important than whether it can use services that don't even exist yet.
  • by gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Wednesday February 08, 2006 @02:19PM (#14671158) Homepage
    I see nothing wrong with iTunes. I take issue with the submission's "DRM ridden" phrase. iTunes is not "ridden" with DRM; you don't even have to buy any music from iTunes and have a completely DRM-free experience.

    Thank you for pointing this out, because I was just about to.

    My music is all MP3's ripped on FreeBSD using lame, mounted over a samba share, and managed by iTunes. iTunes then gets used to play from the computer, rip CDs, or populate my iPod shuffle.

    DRM doesn't even factor in to the equation.

    The iTunes software is nicely designed, works well, has a lot of features, and came free with my iPod. Why would I start looking for a v0.1 FOSS replacement for it?
  • Re:DRM Ridden? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Overly Critical Guy ( 663429 ) on Wednesday February 08, 2006 @02:26PM (#14671246)
    Okay, let me try to step through this crazy story.

    1.) The guy had an iPod and an Apple laptop. The laptop had his music, which he synced to his iPod.

    2.) He decided to buy a Sony Vaio, but he didn't copy any of his music from the Apple laptop to his Vaio. Even iTunes reminds you to make safe backups.

    3.) You don't say whether he sold his Apple laptop or not, so presumably he did, which means he got rid of his own music collection.

    4.) The iPod wasn't readable in Windows, which was your friend's fault. When you first get an iPod, you're given the option of formatting it for Windows/Mac or just for Mac. Your friend obviously formatted it for Mac, which puts the HFS+ filesystem on it which is unreadable by Windows.

    5.) You decided to reformat the whole thing instead of finding a freeware third-party app that would read the HFS+ iPod (there are plenty out there).

    6.) You're surprised that formatting the iPod would eliminate the music on it. Yeah, formatting tends to have that effect.

    Your friend lost from the very beginning. Strike one was GETTING RID OF THE COMPUTER THAT HAD HIS MUSIC ON IT. He didn't make any backups (as iTunes tells you to when you buy music), and he didn't copy his music over. He just magically expected the music to be transferrable to a brand new computer? You have to have music in iTunes to transfer it to the iPod--it's a one-way transfer. He should have copied his music from computer to computer. What a dumbass.

    However, you can transfer the other way using freeware apps if you're using a FAT32-formatted iPod, as most are. Yet, your friend formatted for Mac. If he's going to buy a Windows computer and expect to communicate with his iPod, he needed to format it for Windows. Again, his fault. He should have formatted the iPod for Windows and resynced before he got rid of his Apple laptop.

    Finally, you formatted his iPod and then got mad that the music was gone? What did you think, formatting it would keep the music on it? Formatting erases files.

    What a ridiculously dumb story.
  • by twem2 ( 598638 ) on Wednesday February 08, 2006 @02:50PM (#14671497) Journal
    The point of this seems to me to be that it will let you buy from more than one store, it does not force bought music to have DRM. In other words it offers choice and freedom. iTunes restricts you.
    It is designed to be extensible. Hopefully there will be an iTunes plugin in the future, it also offers people a chance to use music differently.

    It is only release 0.1. I'm sure iPod etc syncing is in the works.

    Perhaps it will flop, but at least people tried.
  • by crovira ( 10242 ) on Wednesday February 08, 2006 @02:54PM (#14671530) Homepage
    If SongBird could replicate the iTMS experience of looking for cinema, music, video and podcast as media from anywhere on the 'net that would encode their music as an XML enclosure in addition to the actual media file, DRMed or not, it could be a front-end and generate business for ANY store.

    Just by replicating the MP3 tags, you would be able to set up a store. Of course processing of payments would be something your store would actually have to do.

    This means any indy artists with CD burners, label printers and PayPal accounts just got themselves a way in as powerful as the 'majors' with their DRMed content and their current lock on the market.

    As for the 'major' labels, it means that they can charge as much as they want for their music, which is a major sticking point with Apple.

    Hopefully it will be a humbling experience when they suddenly have competition on a equal footing from the very artists that they dismiss as 'non commercial' (meaning that they can't generate enough of a revenue stream from to support their continuing mismanagement.)

    But it won't be more that a commercial outlet until the customers/consumers can contract for the content they want.

    The 'pull-side' of the market place is currently ignored and grossly underserved by a 'push-side' economy; despite staging protests against the distribution channels which cancel the contracts for the content consumers/viewers/listeners want because they figure that they can maximize profit with some other content.

    As long as the 'push-side' can push aside the considerations of the 'pull-side' we're never going to get what we want.

    Business, not artistic, considerations will always interfere and bring us whatever crap they hope we'll fall for.

    Don't like a Brittany Spears?

    Your alternatives are whatever else somebody produced, through the SAME system that produced a Brittany Spears, instead of what YOU need/want to hear.

    Don't like the latest bal, uh, block-buster?

    Your alternatives are whatever else somebody produced, through the SAME system that produced the latest drek, instead of what YOU need/want to see.

    Don't like the latest Danielle Steele?

    Your alternatives are whatever else somebody produced, through the SAME system that produced the latest Danielle Steele, instead of what YOU need/want to read about.

    THAT is when the revolution will happen.
  • by Tim Browse ( 9263 ) on Wednesday February 08, 2006 @03:05PM (#14671636)
    Everyone knows Ogg is technically superior

    Very far from the truth. Most people have never even heard of Ogg.

    And to prove my point in an instructive way, I assume you actually meant that "Everyone knows that Vorbis is technically superior" (which is also not true, of course).

    Otherwise your statement is akin to "everyone knows that QuickTime is technically superior".

  • by crovira ( 10242 ) on Wednesday February 08, 2006 @03:05PM (#14671640) Homepage
    I have permission from a performer, in writing, to put some of his music on my htp:///msb.libsyn.com podcast media site but the album I just bought/downloaded from the ITMS doesn't let me convert it from a protected AAC to an MP3.

    Guess what podcasting needs? Right.

    I'm going to have to use someone else or he's going to have to send me the original files as an MP3 (Thank Heavens nobody records to tape anymore.)
  • by vertinox ( 846076 ) on Wednesday February 08, 2006 @03:08PM (#14671667)
    It's still bullshit that he had to pay twice for the same songs, but in an Apple world, that's how things work.

    The point of DRM is to make legitimate customer pay twice for songs. Not to prevent piracy.
  • by DreadSpoon ( 653424 ) on Wednesday February 08, 2006 @03:39PM (#14671927) Journal
    I have a nice speaker system setup with my Linux box. There's no way to play any of my $250 worth of iTMS-purchased songs on that machine. None. All of the files bought from iTMS are DRM-locked and can only be played on machines which are authorized through iTMS.

    Unfortunately, there is no software for Linux which is capable of doing that. DVD Jon had released FairPlay and some other tools which could unlock those files, but Apple broke those utilities with the release of iTunes 6. You have to log into iTMS with a computer to generate a key for the computer. The tools can no longer log into iTMS, and so they cannot generate a key for my Linux box.

    I can't copy the files off my Mac to my Linux box, I can't copy the files from my iPod to my Linux box, I can't copy the files to any machine that can't run iTunes, including any other portable music players made by companies other than Apple.

    Sure, the several thousands songs I ripped from CDs to MP3s are fine and I can move those around, but at my current rate I would soon surpass the number of MP3s I have with the number of DRM-encumbered MP4s I have. (I don't plan on purchasing so much as one more song from iTMS until there is a way to transfer them to my other computers and devices.)

    iTunes is fantastic if all you want to do is rip CDs onto your Mac or sync songs to an iPod. My iPod is breaking down (and is well out of warranty) and any replacement I buy will definitely not be an iPod, and my only Mac is an old iBook with horrendous sound ouput quality compared to the sound system on my Linux desktop. I've had to resort to burning my MP4s to CD (a lot of CDs), re-ripping them into Vorbis on the Linux box (losing some sound quality due to encoding the music twice), and then manually retagging all of the songs since the meta-data is lost when burned to CD. Whatever convenience I gained by using iTMS has now been lost.

    iTunes *IS* DRM encumbered. Well, more accurately, iTMS is. [b]And that's what Songbird is competing with - the music store, not the music manager.[/b]
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 08, 2006 @03:44PM (#14671961)
    Yeah! And that's why, if he had kept a backup, he wouldn't have been able to use it again and would have had to buy a second copy! And that's why, when I buy a CD at the store, they replace it for free (or at-physical-cost) when I break it so I don't have to buy it again!

    Christ, do you even think before you post?
  • Re:More on Lord (Score:2, Insightful)

    by WhoDey ( 629879 ) on Wednesday February 08, 2006 @05:21PM (#14672809) Homepage
    I really don't trust anyone who uses the word "uberleet" on his professional resume [roblord.org].

    Then again, he uses lots of thesaurus words like prevenient, paradigmatic, and seminal.
  • by mapmaker ( 140036 ) on Wednesday February 08, 2006 @05:31PM (#14672893)
    The iTunes software is nicely designed, works well, has a lot of features, and came free with my iPod. Why would I start looking for a v0.1 FOSS replacement for it?

    Ever try using iTunes to move songs from your iPod to a computer?

  • by engagebot ( 941678 ) on Wednesday February 08, 2006 @05:49PM (#14673032)
    If you think everyone's going overboard about the DRM, I think you've missed some points.

    First of all, how often do you either:
    A) get a new computer or
    B) format your drive and re-install windows.

    You are unaffected by iTunes DRM only if your answer is:
    1. "never" or
    2. longer than ((number of years left in your life)/(number of times you can authorize tracks))

    And no, if i PURCHASE tracks, i don't want to have to burn my own cd's and re-import them. Thats ridiculous. You're buying music that at one point or another, you won't be able to play. Granted, physical media doesn't last indefinitely, but guess what? I can currently play CDs i bought 10 years ago. I'll check back with you in 2016, and we'll see how much of that DRM'd music you paid for still works.
  • Re:there is a need (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 08, 2006 @05:50PM (#14673036)
    Look, nobody has anything to prove to you. The fact is that enough people don't like the way iTunes works that there is reason enough to write something new.
  • by neves ( 324086 ) on Wednesday February 08, 2006 @06:07PM (#14673164) Homepage
    Why would I start looking for a v0.1 FOSS replacement for it?

    Because it doesn't work in linux? So you wouldn't have to buy a windows box just to use it.

    Ooops! Songbird also just work in windows:-(

  • by default luser ( 529332 ) on Wednesday February 08, 2006 @07:24PM (#14673720) Journal
    It's on top in your mind, but let's look at the truth. Even against mp3, Ogg is not impressive. Between lame -v5 and Vorbis -q 4.25, the lame files came out significantly smaller on all but a handful of cases...in fact, it averaged significantly larger filesizes than all other codecs tested.

    So, significantly larger files, and in raw numbers it does slightly better, but statisically it ties with all other codecs worth mentioning. That's hardly a codec that's "on top".

    THIS IS WHY Vorbis has already lost. Other vendors stepped up to produce the next-generation of codecs well before Vorbis became polished, and they made them very much free (as in beer). Most people don't care that Vorbis is also free (as in speech).

    Me, I just stick with mp3, works everywhere, and Lame just keeps getting better. Who knew mp3 had this much room for growth? It's running strong with the next-gen codecs at similar bitrates!

Vitamin C deficiency is apauling.