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Songbird Source Released 114

Rinisari writes "The source for Songbird, a music-oriented XULRunner application, is now available via Subversion. Rob Lord, CEO of Pioneers of the Inevitable, released the source for the not-yet-0.2 version of the music player, which integrates a music library and the facility to purchase and download music from a variety of vendors. If you haven't heard of it, read the features list and try it out. Slashdot previously mentioned Songbird when it was released as a preview in February."
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Songbird Source Released

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  • This will delay the release or accelerate it? I would think that releasing the code is their way of "washing their hands of it." I could be totally off by that assumption, though. Perhaps they just want some outside development help. JP
    • Or maybe their business model depends on something other than selling licenses to use software, Like promoting live performances, or they are doing this to promote consulting for custom XUL apps.
  • by AKAImBatman ( 238306 ) * <{akaimbatman} {at} {}> on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @02:23PM (#15614540) Homepage Journal
    SongBird just goes to show what XUL can really do. Most people shun it with a, "Coding serious applications in JavaScript? Yeah, right." But with the XPCOM Standard Library as a foundation, the XUL platform is really a great way to build applications. (There's a really cool application here [] that shows off XUL's abilities.)

    XULRunner is still a problem, though. It's not clear to most programmers that XUL applications can function just as well standing alone as in a browser. Songbird is a great start, but does anyone know if there's a list of existing XULRunner applications? If such a list existed, it would be a lot easier to show people what XUL can do just by pointing them to a single URL.
    • "Songbird" not "SongBird" please. =)

      Chirp, chirp!
      • I see it's named after Mozilla's traditional naming conventions, with only the first noun capitalized, from Firefox FAQ []:

        How do I spell Firefox? How do I abbreviate it?

        Firefox is spelled F-i-r-e-f-o-x - only the first letter capitalized (i.e. not FireFox, not Foxfire, FoxFire or whatever else a number of folk seem to think it to be called.) The preferred abbreviation is "Fx" or "fx".

        I suppose Songbird's abbreviation is Sb? (As in Thunderbird's Tb)

    • Songbird is a great start, but does anyone know if there's a list of existing XULRunner applications?
      AFAIK, there is ChatZilla [] and Songbird. In addition, there are plans to port Nvu and SeaMonkey to XULRunner. Let's hope the list gets longer as time goes.
    • Well for starters, Firefox, Seamonkey and Thunderbird will be able to run on top of XULRunner soon. That'll be especially nice for us Linux folks who prefer shared libraries over having multiple copies of the same duplicated libraries installed on our systems.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @03:58PM (#15615389)
      Most people shun it with a, "Coding serious applications in JavaScript? Yeah, right."

      And for good reason! XUL is a terrible, terrible, terrible, terrible, terrible system.

      Crap, now I have to back that up with reasons, don't I? And the fact that I hate JavaScript really doesn't count, does it?

      You can think of XUL as being almost exactly like VB, except without any nice GUI tools for building UIs. Almost all the things people hate about VB also apply to XUL.

      But anyway, that's rather vague. How about some specific reasons?

      First off, XUL is rendered using the same rendering engine as Firefox uses for rendering webpages. Yes, when you're looking at Firefox, everything you see is rendered by Gecko. That includes the menu, the toolbars, the tabs, and the webpage itself. This mixing of UI and webpages is just asking for security holes. The webpage is embedded in what is practically an IFRAME within the XUL document. There have already been a number of security exploits caused by webpages elevating their privileges into the "chrome" security level. If ActiveX has taught us anything, there will likely be more.

      This relates directly to the next problem: because the entire interface is implemented using Gecko, the widgets aren't native. They feel out of place. Gecko does an amazing job of making the widgets look almost-right, but they're still not native and they still don't look quite right, even on Windows (most work spent on this) and GTK (second most work). And forget about Mac OS X, it's not even close!

      But the real problem with not using native widgets is that XUL doesn't get the benefit of a platform's accessibility features. Yes, they have some hacks that attempt to stitch XUL widgets back to a platform's native accessibility system, but this means that they're chasing whatever new features are added. Right click on a native text field on my Windows system, I get the full set of Unicode editing features for dealing with BIDI text. Right click on a Firefox text field, and it's not there.

      And, finally, JavaScript. You knew it was coming. But I'm not going to go after the language, I'm going to complain about the JavaScript interpretor that Mozilla uses. Most of the widgets are implemented by using JavaScript glue to access native code using XPConnect. Some widgets are implemented almost entirely in JavaScript - this is why the progress meter under Windows looks completely wrong. The concept of having native code do the heavy lifting and using a scripting language to glue everything together is a very good idea.

      But that turns out to be a problem. If you want to write a cross-platform XUL application, you can only use JavaScript since that's what XULRunner provides. (Keep in mind, if you want to run on every platform XULRunner runs on, it's JavaScript or else.) Otherwise you'll have to compile for every platform, and you can only rely on the core XPCOM objects to be available. JavaScript is an interpretted language. And it's slllllllow. And - here's the most important part - in Mozilla, it's strictly single-threaded.

      Now, combine that up above with JavaScript being used to implement some widgets. Plus, the thread used to run chrome JavaScript is the UI thread - the thread that receives messages from the windowing system. This means that if an application is using JavaScript to do heavy lifting, the application will literally freeze while it can no longer accept messages. The windows will stop redrawing. Clicks will be ignored. Nothing will happen until the JavaScript finishes and the UI thread can start handling messages again.

      Trying to write XUL applications that don't do things that are already implemented as part of the core XUL system is mostly a waste of time. XUL works best if you can write native code for the heavy lifting and use JavaScript soley for the UI. Unfortunately, that makes your application non-portable - something XUL is supposed to help solve.
      • by AKAImBatman ( 238306 ) * <{akaimbatman} {at} {}> on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @04:13PM (#15615520) Homepage Journal
        What an impassioned rant! With all the energy and time you put into it, I really feel sorry that's it's so incredibly wrong. :(

        because the entire interface is implemented using Gecko, the widgets aren't native.

        As it so happens, the widgets are native. Mozilla exposes the underlying implementation. Which is why buttons look like Windows, Mac, or GTK+ buttons. The caveat to this is that you can create XUL buttons/components that are entirely virtual. These components are generally used to produce skins like that used in Firefox. But most XUL applications actually rely on the native components instead. Which is why the Amazon browser I linked to looks like a native Windows app.

        JavaScript is an interpretted language. And it's slllllllow.

        It's also just glue. All the heavy lifting is done by the XPCOM components, which are FAAAAAASSSST.

        This means that if an application is using JavaScript to do heavy lifting, the application will literally freeze while it can no longer accept messages. The windows will stop redrawing. Clicks will be ignored. Nothing will happen until the JavaScript finishes and the UI thread can start handling messages again.

        Putting aside for a moment that this is an issue in all GUI programming, Mozilla does support multithreading. It just doesn't do it at the Javascript level. Threads are pushed down to the XPCom level instead, where they do the most good. (e.g. The XmlHttpRequest object can run synchronously or asynchronously.) If you really must multithread your JavaScript app, then cooperative multithreading is easy to do. Timed call-backs allow you to regain control whenever you need it, or in spurts if you'll be processing for a long period of time.
      • Many of your criticisms are quite valid, but you're going a bit too far with your criticisms.

        Specifically, yes, XUL does make an application not native, and things like Mozilla GTK support is chasing a moving target. But not every application needs to be fully, 100% native. Firefox's Windows support is more than enough, Firefox's GTK support is very, very nice, but could be a bit better. And yes, the Mac support is atrocious. But Safari owns, so no one cares. The point being, the nativeness problem is not a
      • Slow? Man, you gotta upgrade! Get a real processor, we run just fine, loading up about 6k XML objects(fully parsed into Objs) is only a second on broadband.

        Oh, yeah, and because I haven't got around to make an exception for the XML, our XML docs come over as JSON encoded, which is then parsed into a javascript string, which is then parsed into an XML object. =(..

        We don't use any XPCOM on our app yet, haven't had the need. Simple client/server but you gotta have those stats. And in XML for external export.
    • Most people shun it with a, "Coding serious applications in JavaScript? Yeah, right."

      Personally, I'm shunning it since I only have 512MB RAM and a 500MHz processor... Since switching from firefox + thunderbird to epiphany (gecko inside a GTK shell) + sylhpeed I've not had to go and make a cup of tea while I waited for either to come out of swap space, and when fully in RAM they're noticably faster. I'm currently trying opera instead of epiphany, which has given me another huge cut in memory use and boost

    • (There's a really cool application here [] that shows off XUL's abilities.)
      So XUL is like AJAX, except it doesn't work on other browsers?
      • So XUL is like AJAX, except it doesn't work on other browsers?

        XUL is like DHTML, except that it's a complete GUI toolkit and works on other browsers. The app I linked to is an AJAX app. (Which has nothing to do with DHTML, other than the fact that they're usually coupled.)
        • Other browsers, like Mozilla Suite? AFAIK, Google Notebook works only on Firefox and maybe also Mozilla. Google Browser Sync works only on FF 1.5. So in reality there are hardly any useful cross-browser XUL apps, let alone cross version. Not because nobody makes them, but it's impossible most of the time (e.g. Safari et al simply don't support XUL at all.) So much for the performance hit.
          • Supplementary note:

            "Google Notebook is only available for Firefox and Internet Explorer at this time. You can download Firefox here. You can also continue on to your notebooks."

            So does XUL offer anything that is cross browser and better than Ajax?
          • Other browsers, like Mozilla Suite?

            Whoops, that was a typo. It should have read, "XUL is like DHTML, except that it's a complete GUI toolkit and doesn't work on other browsers."
  • would be cool if... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by professorhojo ( 686761 ) * on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @02:25PM (#15614557)
    It would be cool if you could send instant messages to the people whose libraries you can browse. Internet cafes would be forever changed.
  • awesome! (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @02:28PM (#15614588)
    we can finally play music on our pcs!
  • What's that quote? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Lord Ender ( 156273 ) on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @02:30PM (#15614614) Homepage
    A caged source can't sing?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @02:30PM (#15614618)
    I am going to use this as a soapbox to vent about songbird. Before anyone jumps on me about songbird being in super super early stages of development.... I know. But I tried sb last time there was an article about how awesome it was. In theory it is a great application. Cool concept. In practice I found it barely functional. When visiting a webpage with links to audio content my machine would virtually freeze while songbird was parsing the content (for about 10-20 seconds). On top of that it didn't make much of a effort to give readable names to the files it would list. So I was left guessing what stationA3958afjdzak.pls was vs stationdkfkdjfd34242.pls.

    Like I said I know its new and I look forward to it maturing some. But this isn't one of those alphas where the devs are just super dragging their feet till release (*cough gmail) This this really is ALPHA!

    Trashhalo []
  • by xsst4 ( 985367 ) on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @02:36PM (#15614668)
    if you guy's are having any bugs or anything just file them at and if you guy's have any questions or just want to idle be sure to connect your clients to and join us in #songbird. Thanks have a good one! --Inc
  • What's the big deal? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Brix Braxton ( 676594 ) on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @02:40PM (#15614703) Homepage
    A browser within a media player - I thought Winamp did that (and it was annoying to me) years ago. Musicmatch does it and WMP does it to - so what's new about any of this? I guess if you were a maker of Kiosks, this would be interesting but for the average user - any of the free existing software is just fine.
    • Check this screencast: [] and try to do that in Winamp, MusicMatch, WMP, etc. =)

      best, r0b
    • so what's new about any of this?

      This one uses XUL.

    • by aymanh ( 892834 ) on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @02:55PM (#15614846) Journal
      Erm, I think you are missing the point, Songbird is a stand-alone music player, some of its key features that give it special interest here are:
      • Written in XUL [] and JavaScript.
      • Runs on top of Mozilla's XULRunner [] platform.
      • Cross-platform, can run on Linux, Windows, and Mac OS X (among the others).
      It can be seen as a proof of concept on how general purpose multi-platform applications can be developed on top of XULRunner. Songbird also lets you visit online music stores and organize your music library, which makes it an Open Source alternative to iTunes.

      Enough to deserve /.'s interest I guess.
    • by Stealth Dave ( 189726 ) on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @03:10PM (#15614949) Homepage
      so what's new about any of this?

      This one goes to eleven
    • by j1mc ( 912703 ) on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @03:20PM (#15615039) Homepage
      While I wouldn't get too excited about being able to just search the web through a browser within a media-player, I think that there's more to Songbird than just that.

      On the Linux front, Songbird will give us a media player with an attractive front end, all of the standard rip-organize-burn capabilities, plus the ability to purchase music from online music stores. Not to knock the current Linux offerings (I'm currently an Amarok user), but the UI's aren't as attractive as Songbird's UI (yes, XMMS is slick-looking, but those buttons are so small . . . ), and AFAIK, the ability to buy music from online music stores through a Linux app is slim to none.

      As for iTunes and Windows Media Player, they each lock you into their own music stores (the iTunes Music Store and the MTV-powered Urge, respectively). Songbird is going to allow you to purchase music from a wider array of online music stores from the outset, and online music stores will be able to write plugins to make them searchable from within Songbird. From the website . . . "Web page authors will be able to publish playlists and transfer MP3s into Songbird to build digital music stores like eMusic, music subscription services like Yahoo! Music Unlimited, virtual jamming services like Ninjam, playlist sharing services like WebJay and more."

      And, of course, neither iTunes nor WMP plays natively under Linux. All in all, a strong cross-platform app like this just makes Linux that much more viable for everyday desktop users.

  • songbird? (Score:4, Funny)

    by Lachryma ( 949694 ) on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @02:40PM (#15614705)
    Oh right, the music player with the farting bird logo.
  • by RustNeverSleeps ( 846857 ) on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @02:48PM (#15614783)
    Too bad it reports that all songs are 1:22 seconds long and won't play them in OS X.
  • Why XUL? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by kahei ( 466208 ) on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @02:50PM (#15614797) Homepage

    Is XUL a good application platform? If so, why?

    It doesn't seem to have much to reccommend it at first glance -- a language that lacks features and performance (javascript) a runtime that's bulky (mozilla), and worst of all a real case of Java-itis -- XML files and source files that endlessly have to be kept in sync and bundled together, no self-documentation and no metadata.

    I ask because I tried porting a semi-complicated IE plugin to XUL and had to give up -- admittedly, I had to give up because of limitations in the HTML renderer, but long before then I had learned to dread the process of hooking into Mozilla at all. And that's saying something, considering that the original IE plugin was entirely made of hand-written COM, written against IE's none-too-predictable interfaces.

    So, why XUL? I appreciate that you _could_ write an application in it, but what's the unique selling point that justifies all the work?

    • Cross. Platform. Support.

      With ActiveX/IE, you only provide Windows support. (Now, hear me out here before you dismiss that statement as Windows-Only isn't being a problem...)

      With that, your application will only be runnable there. With XUL, and some work, your app will run on the following:

      MacOS X (x86 AND PPC)

      and of course...


      There's a bunch of others, but they're subsets of the above in most cases. If you think Windows is the thing, you'd
      be rather mistaken since approximately 10-20% of the
      • Re:Why XUL? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by kahei ( 466208 ) on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @03:18PM (#15615026) Homepage

        To be honest, your reply comes across as 'don't use XUL'. Being cross-platform (to platforms that have Mozilla available and installed) is hardly a big unique selling point that justifies a whole new way of doing things. As you point out:

        To be sure, you don't need to do XUL- you can do the application in Qt, GTK+, Fltk, and a few others and get
        the same results with less effort unless you need some HTML rendering support
        ...and even if I do need HTML rendering support, I can embed a browser or launch a browser or use an HTML control, or use Java or (on a good day with the wind blowing S by SE) Mono or Ruby+[binding].

        So, why use XUL...

        • It reuses existing technologies instead of re-creating new ones. Javascript is very quick, depending on what you're doing. We're loading about 8k XML Object's in Javascript and it's only as slow as your bandwidth.

          It uses CSS for style(look&feel), so your web guy can do it, or you can if you're familiar with it.

          It has translation support built in if you wish to use it, nothing requires you to use it but using it is automatic, nothing to enable, no 3rd party libraries to include.

          XUL itself(the XML UI file
    • What do you mean by Java-itis?
      • Many Java application development frameworks (especially those that were developed prior to Java 1.5) required you to explicitly declare a lot of information about your application in XML. Java Server Faces (JSF) can be pretty bad about this, as can numerous other Java-based frameworks that do "dependency injection" like Spring.

        You quickly find that you have almost as many lines of code in XML than you do in Java, (or sometimes even MORE XML than Java) and that keeping your Java and your XML in sync become
        • I see, but the XML files in XUL declare the UI, there's not much to declare about the application itself(especially in XulRunner). If you need to change the UI, you change the XML. If you need to change how something works, you change either the javascript or the XPCOM(if you're using it). If you need to change the look&feel of the app, pass the CSS back to the web guy, or make the changes yourself. There's little to keep in sync, unless you're making a visible change to the UI.
    • Re:Why XUL? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by bcmm ( 768152 )

      Is XUL a good application platform? If so, why?

      There are other cross-platform systems, but none which integrate as well with the system's look. The browser component is nicely integrated. It's very easy to use HTML + CSS to render interface components.

      It doesn't seem to have much to reccommend it at first glance -- a language that lacks features and performance (javascript) a runtime that's bulky (mozilla), and worst of all a real case of Java-itis -- XML files and source files that endlessly have to b

      • It isn't written in Java. Javascript isn't even anything to do with Java.
        He never said that Javascript == Java. That isn't what he meant by Java-itis. What he meant is better explained by this post [].
    • The best point is, "all the work" is reduced vs. many other languages. Nothing is a fit-all, but if you want simple UI layouts, a simple client/server app(network connectivity already done), plugin capability + management, i18n, then yeah, about 90% of that work is already finished.

      But it doesn't work for everything, but it works for a lot more than you would think. I've only done app dev, not really any firefox plugins with it though. And I've barely touched XPCOM, haven't had to(yet).
  • all ofmp3 (Score:1, Flamebait)

    by minus_273 ( 174041 )
    what? no all of mp3?
    • I haven't tried it yet, but if it doesn't, why don't you file a feature request at their bugzilla []? If there is enough demand, and given that the project is in active development, I think it will be implemented in later versions.
  • by thatguywhoiam ( 524290 ) on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @03:03PM (#15614894)
    Surely Songbird doesn't support DRM-wrapped content? (Not that this is their fault at all, even remotely).

    (also, nitpick: did they have to make it look like iTunes so much? sheesh. As if these users need a superfriendly, superbasic user interface. XULRunner is innovative, but the app design, not so much.)

    • The DRM question (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Kadin2048 ( 468275 )
      Yeah I was kinda wondering about how they're going to manage the whole DRM business.

      It sounds like it will support DRM-ed music stores (they mention Yahoo's subscription service, I think); how they're going to accomplish this I'm not sure of. I can only assume that each service will have its own binary blob for parsing and playing back its own files, and then the interface will pass commands to these blobs?

      Still seems like it would be easy to get around: if the DRM parts are compartmentalized, how hard woul
  • ...if it doesn't support a proxy server?

    At least, version 0.1 didn't, and it certainly wasn't copying my IE or FF settings properly, if at all.

    Let's hope they fix it this time round.
  • by dbc001 ( 541033 ) on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @03:18PM (#15615025)
    While we're talking about media players, can somebody recommend a lightweight, open source media player for me? I'd really like to find one that has nice visualizations, FLAC support, support for streaming radio, and a decent id3 tag editor.

    I'm still using winamp 2.72 because I've never found anything that compares (although Snackamp [] is pretty slick for dealing with my 20,000 song mp3 collection).
  • This so obviously not ready for release. here's my entire songbird experience: Double clicked the icon selected language songbird downloaded "some extension" songbird displays "Songbird example extension 0.1 is not compatible with songbird" songbird quits ...that's stupid
  • The title is a tad misleading - you've been able to view the "source" since it's first release... after all, it's written in javascript and XML.

    Now if they open sourced the project, that would be something!

  • Actually just came across an old installation of this today, what a coincidence.

    Wasn't overly impressed with it, iTunes and its simplicity has left me pretty jaded. Songbird is almost a direct rip off of iTunes. I prefer originals to copy cats.

    My biggest question is, why does every music player have to have online music store tie ins? I mean, whatever happend to a simple music player that played music. Now I must be affliated with some music store which robs me of system and network resources in the bac
  • linux (Score:2, Offtopic)

    by caudron ( 466327 )
    When will a linux version be released? Is this something the original developers intend to do or should the community step up to port it now that we have the source?

    Just curious.

    Tom Caudron []
  • by Jords ( 826313 )
    While i like their interface, I'm still a mpd fan... a feature or derived project for mpd support, including adding music to mpd from the music stores online/ CD's . Now that would be neat.
  • A number of my coworkers have iTunes, so we have limited sharing. Does Songbird allow sharing? If so, can I make playlists including their songs? Can it show their album art? Could it connect to someone else's iTunes or vice-versa?

    One thing I couldn't figure out how to do in iTunes (granted, I didn't try very hard) was to order a (non-smart) playlist in any order, not just sorting by one of the column headers. Does Songbird allow this?
    • You really really must not have tried very hard. Re-ordering songs in a playlist in iTunes consists of dragging a song to where you want it on the playlist.
      • I just tried it again, and the songs just go back into the order they were.

        D'oh! The key is you have to have the very first column selected as the sort column. I was a little boggled that iTunes didn't allow me to order things to my preference.
  • All I have on my machine here is Winamp, Musicmatch, Sonique, ITunes, the POS Win media player, and probably some festering bits of RealPlayer that I haven't completely rooted out. I really need another player.

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