Banshee 1.4 now on my desktop

Banshee music player

Banshee has always had a dedicated group of fans. In the discussions about Intrepid Ibex there were a lot of people proposing to replace Rhythmbox with Banshee. I had a quick look at Banshee at that time and wasn’t that impressed with what I saw.
Maybe I was too much used to Rhythmbox, or maybe my bad impression was caused by the Hardy Heron just including the 0.13.2 version of this musicplayer maintained by Novell. Anyway, I kept using Rhythmbox.

However, yesterday I read Banshee Kickin’ It on the planet and the screenshots made me curious. Since the Intrepid Ibex ships version 1.2 I searched for a PPA at Launchpad — long live PPAs! — and found the PPA for the Banshee Team.

Installing

In order to get the latest version of Banshee, use this PPA:

deb http://ppa.launchpad.net/banshee-team/ubuntu intrepid main

You can add it manually by pasting it in /etc/apt/sources.list, or do it with the graphical interface:
Go to System->Administration->Software Sources;
Go to the Third Party Sources tab and add the line using the Add button;
Close the program and press the Reload button in the confirmation dialog.

Now you’re ready to install the latest version of banshee. Use the Add/Remove program or Synaptic or press this link: install banshee.

Use

As soon as you launch the program you’ll notice the sidebar on the left, which contains more items than the one in Rhythmbox.

An empty Banshee window after it's been installed.

As you can see, it has — next to the Music Library — a Video Library, Podcast support, integration with internet radio and Last.FM and a PLaylist Generator, which is taken care of by Mirage, which is still under active development.

Settings

Under Edit->Preferences you’ll find the settings, just like you do in other Linux programs. It never really made sense to me that the other two big OSes place it somewhere else.

The default directory for the music library is the one determined by xdg-user-dir specification.
Some functions that I find very nice and can’t find in Rhythmbox are the ReplayGain option, which tries to equal the volume of your songs to make sure you don’t get surprised when Banshee plays a song that was recored with a high volume level and the option that should automatically update the folder strucutre and file names according to the File System Organization options provided below the checkbox. Unfortunately it doesn’t seem to work.

You can also let external media automatically be copied to your library, which I enabled, and manage the extensions. Their settings are managed via the Extra menu and/or in the extensions’ tab, which took a while for me to find out.

Music library

At first I wondered why it didn’t start to automatically import my music collection, which already was in the music directory. I couldn’t find the option to automatically add new songs, like Rhythmbox has. After searching for a while I found the scan option in Extra->Rescan Music Library. It completely goes through your music library and automatically downloads the cover art. The playlist generator Mirage also starts to scan the music, which takes a while and consumes quite some CPU time. I still haven’t finished it, since it’s interrupted when you switch user or shut down and has to be done all over again afterwards.

You can drag songs, albums and artists to the play queue to add them. Multiple albums and/or artists can be selected at the same time to filter the songs you’re browsing. At the right, above the songlist there is a small search box that you can use to search your collection.

A nice addition is that the program shows a list of recommended artists at the bottom of the program when browsing your music. You have to have the Last.FM extension configured in order to use this.

Last.FM

There are two ways to give your Last.FM credentials: use the Extra menu or press the button in the warning message at the bottom of the program when you go to the Last.FM tab. Both times you’ll get a pop-up asking you for your username and password. When you press OK it automatically checks if they are valid, so you don’t have to check the statistics to be sure that it does work, like you have to do with Rhythmbox.

You can easily add stations by pressing with the right mousebutton on the Last.FM tab in the sidebar. Every type and more are supported.

Podcasts

To add a po

Add a podcast in Banshee

dcast station, press the Subscribe to Podcast button on the right top in the Podcast section or use the context menu of its item in the sidebar. A small pop-up window will appear and the link that’s currently on your clipboard will automatically be pasted in the text box. By default only the latest podcasts will be downloaded.

On the place where you can find the album list in the Music Library, you’ll find the podcast station list. Downloaded podcasts are marked with a small blue dot in front of their entry.

MP3/4-player synchronization

Banshee makes it very easy to synchronize your MP3/4-player. If you want to it can automatically make sure that it has the same songs and videos as you have in the library on the computer and even sync podcasts. Be careful with that, it really copies all music to your player, even if it won’t fit, resulting in an error.

That error seems to have killed my Samsung T10, after the synchronization process — which I started to see what would happen — had halted because there was no space left, I deleted all songs to manually determine what songs I wanted to place on it. However, it seemed like the deletion gave the final blow and the MTP connection got lost. I didn’t find this that strange since MTP isn’t that stable on Linux, so I disconnected the device and plugged it back in. However, it now froze on the startup screen! Reset didn’t help and now I’ve got a bricked MP3-player.

If anyone knows how to solve this, please leave a message.

You can configure the behaviour of Banshee by selecting the main entry of the MP3-player in the sidebar. An overview page will show up with some information about the device and a few checkboxes. The content gets sorted by it’s kind. Please keep in mind that you can’t copy e.g. music directly to the device’s Music Library. You’ll have to drag the files to the device icon.

Make Banshee the standard music player

If you like Banshee and want to make it your main music player, you should set it to default in your system preferences. You can do this by going to System->Preferences->Preferred Applications and change the default music player to Banshee on the multimedia tab. Now the multimedia keys on your keyboard will automatically start Banshee and the music-applet also uses it by default.

Conclusion

I really like Banshee and feel it’s better than Rhythmbox. Although Rhythmbox isn’t bad, it just doesn’t have as many functions and doesn’t look and feel as good as Banshee. The progress bar at the left bottom of the program is one of those small things that makes a program look better and smoother. I find it also easier to configure and more extensive.

If the dicussion of what music player should be default is started again, I’d vote for Banshee.

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4 Comments

  1. How does it compare to Amarok?
    I haven’t found anything that does the job as well as amarok, but I’d love a native Gnome app that could.

  2. I can’t tell you that, I’ve never really used AmaroK. I did a quick search with Google’s Linux search tool, but all results were at least from 2007 and Banshee was a lot less advanced back then.

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