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Songs of Freedom

Songbird gets ready for its solo. Songbird, a new cross-platform media-playing application, always promised Linux and the Songbird team has now delivered. What makes Songbird different is that it provides one of the best-looking modern desktop applications for Linux. Furthermore, Songbird plays your music files, organizes your songs into playlists and connects to music stores, all from within one really-good looking application.

Multimedia support has always been one of the weaker areas of Linux, although you can find plenty of other Linux music players including XMMS, Rhythmbox, and Amarok. But, the Songbird team boasts a lot of industry support, including former members of the Yahoo Music Engine, Nullsoft (of Winamp fame), and Muse.Net teams.

Songbird plays files encoded in MP3, AAC, OGG, FLAC, and WMA formats. Songbird, though, cannot play files that have copy protection.

The Songbird team stands against music piracy, but also supports the DigitalConsumer organization and its Bill of Rights. The Songbird team also tells T-Shirts and places its logo in more locations than you can count on their Web site.

You can skin Songbird, or add another look to the user interface. On Windows, the Winamp application really popularized this fun technique to make your music player your own. In addition, since Songbird is built on top of a Web browser platform, you can use Songbird to browse Web pages. Even better, Songbird can detect links to music files on Web pages, which essentially turns Web pages into music playlists.

Songbird follows a recent trend towards creating applications on top of the Mozilla programming platform. Like Firefox and Thunderbird, Songbird uses the Mozilla programming libraries and XULRunner engine to create a new Mozilla-based application. The real advantage to this is that since Mozilla applications like the Firefox Web browser and Thunderbird e-mail program run on many operating systems, the Mozilla programming platform has already taken care of most of the yucky issues faced when supporting multiple operating systems.

The underlying technology, called XULRunner, allows you to deploy Mozilla-based applications on Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux. You can find out more about using the Mozilla programming platform here at Toolkit_API and here, with a broad overview here.

In addition to Songbird, another more recent player in the cross-platform music arena is ajaxTunes, a Web-based music application. With ajaxTunes, you get a small-size music player that runs well on most platforms. Despite the name, which implies JavaScript, ajaxTunes is based on Macromedia Flash. When you click on an ajaxTunes link in a browser a small music player window pops up, allowing you to control the music.

As a music player, ajaxTunes is intended to stream music from a server to your desktop. To get ajaxTunes to play local files, you need to create a custom URL in a Web page. You can also customize a playlist, using playlists formatted in the emerging standard XSPF.

Part of an interconnected set of companies such as Ajax 13 and the MP3 Tunes music store and online music service, the ajaxTunes player forms the basis of the Oboe music locker, the main offering from Since the Oboe music player is based on the same technology as ajaxTunes, this can be confusing. For the most part, the Oboe music player exists to play music stored in lockers on The ajaxTunes music player was designed to extend this idea to play music stored on any server.

And, you can even download a version of the Oboe music player for the small Linux-based Nokia 770 Internet Tablet.

These applications help to usher in a Web-based era where you can run applications from Linux, Mac OS X, Windows, or most any operating system. — Eric Foster-Johnson

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