The transfer to Songbird is upon me

Sorry Mister Jobs,  iTunes, as revolutionary as it was when it was introduced, is enough of a DRM-infested annoyance that I am saying sayonara and following Uncle Fester to the new fields of Songbird.

What is Songbird? Think of what Thunderbird did for email clients, or Firefox for browsers, and Songbird is doing the same for media. It’s iTunes, but without the holier than thou Mac b.s. that iTunes nyah-nyahs in your face. It’s an open source music and media platform, and I for one am sick and tired of proprietary and closed when it comes to stuff I pay for. Songbird is open and extensible and runs on Linux. Which is good enough for me for now.

There. I have ranted. Now, as I set up my new ThinkPad X200 and “deauthorize” the iTunes library on my old machine and move it, once and for all, away from Apple’s clutches (and its update-insistence that I download Safari), it feels good to see my iPod appear in Songbird. My stuff is still with me.

Author: David Churbuck

Cape Codder with an itch to write

17 thoughts on “The transfer to Songbird is upon me”

  1. I shall follow. I tested Songbird a couple of months ago (just when they switched the UI to resemble that of iTunes) and that got me out of the beta. Time to give it a second chance.

    What convinced me of uninstalling iTunes to begin with was: a. it neglected to recognize an iPod after 3 fresh installs (WinAmp got it right from scratch) and b. that it is full of “feature not available in your country” crap. We -3rd world country inhabitants- know we’re second class, but don’t like to be reminded about it constantly.

    Another songbird treat: I get to use the same audio program under Linux and Windows.

  2. Precisely — I could start a list of iTunes annoyances, but right off the bat is the b.s. about authorized PCs. I turn in a PC without de-authorizing the iTunes account and I am s.o.l.

    Second, library management is totally counterintuitive. iPod synch sucks. I have playlists with double songs, can’t back my library up to an external drive easily. Manual management. Just a royal pain in the ass.

    Songbird integrates with, has nice plug in support.

  3. If I may make another suggestion for the media loving masses, if you haven’t already, go and download the freely available K-Lite codec pack. It solves lots of issues with being unable to play the myriad of goofy audio/video formats out there on the web.

  4. Do you actually speak English David?

    “Sorry Mister Jobs, iTunes, are revolutionary as it was…”

    Is not a sentence that makes sense.

    Neither does your thinking on the actual subject matter in hand. You hate iTunes. Good for you. You hate DRM. That is fine. I will mention that if you don’t buy anything from the iTunes music store then you don’t actually have any DRM to deal with.

    But shall we actually address your smarmy sentences with a bit of real world knowledge that you can think about… Without iTunes then the world would be a far worse place. The DRM that you are so scathing about broke the Microsoft monopoly.

    Microsoft wanted to continue to collect micro-payments off you for the rest of your life for you to have access to the music you know and love. They set up various methods of content protection with names such as “plays for sure” (which is exactly what it doesn’t do these days now the authorization servers are being taken down. But unfortunately that was not to be because of the roaring success of iTunes.

    So go off and play with songbird – you and your 3 mates and your uncle fester. But bare in mind that under the original Microsoft plan you’d have not been able to at all.

    1. I fixed the sentence Mister Grammarian and Apple Fanboi. Thank you.

      You’re entitled to your belief that Apple broke the evil clutches of Microsoft — actually, Microsoft had no position to speak of in online music until it’s ill advised Zune and foray to The Social. But why you bring Microsoft into your retort is beyond me as nowhere do I hold them up as a shining example of a music strategy done correctly. Songbird, on the other hand, after a week of usage, is performing better than iTunes, is not nagging me with upgrade calls that include browsers, Codecs and networking services that I don’t need nor appreciate.

      Mister Jobs needs to use his power and influence to make good on the premise in this statement from 2007.

  5. if you or any of the other folks reading this have broken down at some point or another and actually bought DRM’d music off iTunes, i would suggest looking into a piece of software called EasyTunes.

    i’ve…heard that it frees it to play under the player – Songbird or otherwise – of your choice.

  6. His power and influence are nothing when the old guard (record companies) demanded DRM on all their material. EMI actually offered the higher quality DRM free tracks but few others have attempted save when they are attempting to give people like AMAZON a lift up by allowing them to sell DRM free tracks but NOT Apple.

    There is a game being played here and you are looking at but one part. I am glad that you are free of the terrible crimes Apple have committed upon you. I wasn’t referring to a Microsoft store at all (other than those that attempted to build such a thing using Microsoft’s DRM technology.

    But what I was actually saying was that in Microsoft’s world they wanted to implement DRM throughout your data files. You don’t have to hold them up as a shining example of anything. What I was pointing out was that under their plans you would have had to ask permission to access those file whenever you wanted (OK it might have only been one access to a “compliant server” when you first played the track or once a month – but WHATEVER).

    Enjoy Songbird. Enjoy ranting. But remember to look at the whole picture and not just at the bit that fits your world view. DRM has nothing to do with Apple and was put in place purely to fit in with the record company plans.

  7. And @ Steven.

    It is pretty simple to rip iTunes DRM content. Just write it to an Audio disk and re-rip. Done. (you don’t have to write to a physical disk you can do it with a disk image). As I say Apple’s DRM is the least onerous out there. Of course if your idea is that all DRM is bad then that ain’t gonna change your world view.

  8. Mr Rattyuk,

    I fail to see the point you’re trying to make. Apple saved people form the evil music industry? Give me a break. If anything saved “the people” from “the evil music industry” it was p2p (illegal as it is).

    Mr. Jobs made a magnificent Business move by providing both the players and the music (picture it as Ford selling both the cars and the gas). Chapeau for that. He saved apple, changed the legal way of buying music. But Altruism? I doubt it. He did it for business, and it is ok, after all we’re all here to make money.

    If Apple gives up on some of the obnoxious practices (doing stuff the microsoft way, if you like) it might stay on top of the game. But if they keep sacrificing user-satisfaction iTunes will reach a tipping point where pain-in-the-ass surpasses convenience and people will stop using it.

    If your argument had come from a business perspective you’d have a much more solid base to make your point.

  9. Golly. Proof positive of the Dvorak rule that if you want to start a stir, then criticize something Apple does.
    sheesh — I’m just saying I don’t like iTunes, don’t like the store, made a switch, am happy I did and Ratty comes out of the woodwork decrying Microsoft as the true DRM evildoer, the ignorance of the music industry (agreed).

    Dudes, we haven’t even talked about Choruss yet. Check out Fester’s post. This is interesting stuff.

  10. Fester’s post is eye-opening as usual.

    David, please let the kids bash in your blog. There ain’t like arguing over the internet (you DO remember that old saying that arguing over the internet is like special Olympics, right?)

  11. hmmm.
    “If anything saved “the people” from “the evil music industry” it was p2p (illegal as it is).”

    Nope Estoban. P2p was around LONG before Apple entered the scene. I do think that Apple saved everyone from a very draconian DRM system that the content providers and a terribly “helpful” Microsoft wanted to impose on us all.

    The fact is that Apple would drop DRM in an instant save for the fact that the content providers are actually stopping them. If they weren’t stopping them would you like to explain why they are happy providing Amazon with DRM free tracks – but actually refusing to do the same to Apple. The irony of the situation is lost on them but actually what the delay is actually doing is causing more people to get tied into Apple’s DRM. How’s that for irony and the content suppliers STILL don’t see it!


    I actually said that I am happy for you and your mates to choose Songbird. I just thought that you should see the other side for what it is and that however evil you may feel Apple to be there are some things it has done which are far more positive than you may at short sight realize.

    Finally @ Estoban (again)

    Do I really sound like a “kid” to you? If someone makes a blog post that is so fanboi I felt that it required some tempering at least with a realistic response showing some of the positives. One would assume that you guys are using PC’s if you are being hassled by iTunes “and its update-insistence that I download Safari” as you aren’t going to be able to run iTunes if you are on Linux. But you seem to have the “freetard” attitude to computing and insist on slagging off stuff because it doesn’t fit in with the way you think or want your computers to run.

    All I am saying is that there is a lot of ways of viewing things that don’t actually fit in with your world view of how things are as posted in your original blog.

  12. Ratty — the point I was trying to make, and apparently not very well, is summed up by this old Lifehacker post:

    “iTunes has a (deservedly) bad reputation for taking total control of your music and videos, including where they live on your computer. It wasn’t always easy to move your library in past versions of the software, but happily iTunes 7 makes relocating an existing media library pretty painless – that is, with a little know-how.”

    And no, Apple does its level best to make library management as hard a process as it possibly can.

    That’s my beef. The fricking software sucks and makes file management a total goat rodeo. I don’t want to steal music from the starving artists. They deserve their royalties — I just want the software I play it in to behave the way I want it to.

  13. it still amazes me that apple sells DRM music at a mere 128 kbps when among others sell DRM-free 192~256+ kbps music for the same price or less.   apple can stick to their DRM guns but there’s no logical reason they should rip people off on sound quality other than to save mr. jobs his precious bandwidth.   i fail to see how anyone can be a fan of low-quality, proprietary music files.

  14. RattyUK,

    I like to believe we live in a world where just because Microsoft is bad it doesn’t make Apple good. Yes, Microsoft’s DRM was a POS. And other schemes have proved worse if only by virtue of their death and the subsequent stranding of those consumers who purchased under those systems (Wal Mart, Yahoo, etc). Obviously, turning off the DRM server, regardless of the company, is a travesty.

    Now I’ve defended Apple before ( and have been an Apple owner since the Apple II. What Scully almost killed, Jobs resurrected and I’m grateful to him for it.

    But no one will claim Apple’s system is perfect. Criticism where criticism is due. Some of the criticism may pit consumer desire against smart corporate practice — the business case that you state. One could use that argument in discussing why Apple absolutely refuses to license Fair Play out to anyone else. With absolute control of the ecosystem, Apple can most effectively make a profit. Sucks for consumers but profits come first.

    Other criticisms, however, do not seem to have as strong a business case. David’s criticism of the 5 machine limit, for example. Churbuck did not note — but I IMed him to inform him — that a user can de-authorize ALL machines and then re-authorize up to five again. That seems reasonable. Except you can only do that ONCE a year.

    It is an arbitrary and annoying limitation. As is the limit of 5. Sure, a limit must be in place but there are plenty of households these days with more than 5 computers. It’s valid criticism that isn’t refuted with, “well, Microsoft is worse.” That may be but it does invalidate the original criticism especially if a newer product exists without the artificial and arbitrary limitation.

    I’ve lauded Apple for its role in the music industry — which I work in — but it is clear to see how the product is playing out. In most cases, eventually a the dominant company begins to ignore trends, ignore consumer desire, and relinquishes the leadership role. Very few companies or products can dominant “forever” (e.g. 50 years).

    While iTunes was a breakthrough system and the iPod remains the de facto standard for all to measure against, it is clear that there are substantial consumer complaints and concerns that Apple is ignoring.

    Songbird may be the first of many products that attempt to dethrone iTunes. The parallel between Firefox and IE is more than apt considering the open-source and origins of Songbird.

    “So go off and play with songbird – you and your 3 mates and your uncle fester. But bare in mind that under the original Microsoft plan you’d have not been able to at all.”

    The above does not make sense. Leaving iTunes for what he believes to be a product that better fits his needs does not involve Microsoft at all. Microsoft does not need to be in mind at all.

    I sold my BMW for an Audi does not have anything to do with Ford. My dissatisfaction with BMW doesn’t reflect on the BMW versus Ford decision. BMW may still be better than Ford but I still believe Audi is better than BMW.

    There ARE a lot of ways of viewing it. Your need to point out how Apple saved the world from Microsoft’s ineptness is a straw-man argument at best. It is history. We can note it, learn from it, and move on. The future holds something different. What that is none of us can be certain except that choice will play a much larger role.

    I think we can all agree that consumer choice is good and if consumers choose to install Songbird, then that is good as well.

  15. None of your points really stand up.

    1. It is possible to use DRM free music in iTunes, just like it is in Songbird.
    2. AAC is an industry standard format, and is NOT an Apple proprietary format. (Yes Apple’s FairPlay DRM is proprietary, so is Microsoft’s, Adobe’s, and Real’s.)
    3. Not only as you acknowledge in your replies, can you put the iTunes library anywhere you want, but you can tell iTunes to not copy files in to the iTunes Library folders, and to merely link to where they are already located.
    4. Apple stopped ramming Safari down Windows users throats some time ago and it is now completely optional.
    5. You don’t pay for iTunes, the software is completely free, even if you don’t buy an iPod or an iTunes Store track.
    6. If you don’t use the iTunes Store, then you don’t have to keep upgrading the iTunes software.

    Note: As I don’t buy tracks from the iTunes Store, I have not authorised my computer but I can still play and sync all my music (ripped from CDs) via iTunes.

    Also as a reminder, you can add music from both the eMusic and Amazon stores to iTunes.

    Me thinks you doth protest too much.

  16. I’m sitting in front of a roaring fireplace with a glass of wine, laughing my ass off at this thread. That said I’m going to try Songbird because with 40,000 music sonf files, iTunes sucks (and I am a dedicated Mac guy, btw). Yeah,I hate the drm, too. Finally, Linux has was brought up here. Is it a viable option for a nongeek like myself?

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