After Hours

Listen to music with open source Banshee

Vincent Danen reviews the Banshee media player for Linux, which has the capability of playing shared iTunes music, and it can be used to create "smart" playlists.

Perhaps one of the most popular media players for Linux currently is Amarok, a KDE-based music player. While Amarok is certainly good, for GNOME users who prefer something that looks more native, Banshee is a great alternative. Banshee is a media player that plays music, videos, podcasts, and streaming radio. It even has the capability of playing shared iTunes music, although only for shared libraries from an iTunes 6 or earlier client.

The interface for Banshee is reminiscent of iTunes itself and can even synchronize music to earlier iPod devices (although not the iPod Touch or iPhone) and some other portable media players. It can import audio CDs, converting them to the Ogg Vorbis or FLAC (Free Lossless Audio Codec) formats. Other formats are also supported; because Banshee uses Gstreamer to handle audio formats, ensure you have the appropriate Gstreamer plugin/codec installed to handle other music formats (such as mp3, wma, etc.).

Like iTunes, Banshee also supports the concept of "smart playlists." These are auto-generated playlists that are defined by a set of rules. The criteria for these playlists can be quite specific: you can set criteria based on play count, album, artist, song duration, genre, skip count, and so forth.

Banshee also supports making use of multimedia keys available on laptops and multimedia keyboards. This worked flawlessly and without any required configuration on my HP laptop.

All in all, Banshee is a very comprehensive media player. Considering the number of formats of music it can support, and the number of sources (local files, videos, Internet radio, etc.), it is a plenty capable media player.

Some sources cite the ability to share music from Banshee to other DAAP-capable clients, such as iTunes, Amarok, or RhythmBox, but I was unable to get Banshee to share anything with the packages provided with the upcoming Mandriva 2009.0. It is possible that a plugin wasn't built for Mandriva, so this capability may actually exist, but according to the Banshee Web site this should be a built-in feature. Perhaps it will return in a future version. Despite this limitation, Banshee makes a great music player.

Have you tried Banshee? How do you think it compares to other players?

About

Vincent Danen works on the Red Hat Security Response Team and lives in Canada. He has been writing about and developing on Linux for over 10 years and is a veteran Mac user.

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