Tuesday, April 20, 2010

When a songbird's out, "atunes" in.

Songbird is an opensource project focused on building a cross-platform audio station. Linux was at the heart of the project, but as you may know, the company behind the project recently decided to drop its support. There was an OFFICIAL ANNOUNCEMENT, which had a significant apology sound to it. I understand why they would feel sorry, for the Linux community has not only embraced their application, but also taken a significant role in its development and improvement.

Ultimately, it seems the company has decided to take the easy way out, betting on the (supposedly) winning horses: Windows and Mac. In my humble opinion, they have made the wrong move here. Not only will they not get the same support from those communities, but they will face a much more fierce competition. After all, how feasible is it for an iTunes clone to beat iTunes under its own terms? Why would Windows and Mac users switch to Songbird, when it has the same or less features and is ridiculously slow? (The Linux version is OK, but on Windows, performance is terrible). In short, I think the financial reasons that have surely been the driver behind this decision may not be as safe a bet as they might have thought.

In all fairness, I have to say that Songbird still provides Linux support, albeit unofficially. On top of that, further Linux development is still possible if the community gets involved. All in all, the future of the project looks rather dark at this point. The good news is that there are several very good audio players available for Linux.


One of those players is aTunes, another iTunes clone, in this case developed under Java. The current version, 2.0, was just released a few days ago and looks and works great.

The default aTunes interface sports a nice balance between looks and functionality

aTunes' Java nature sure does not add lightning fast responsiveness, but it is not that bad either. Opening the application takes roughly as long as any other audio station I have tried (Amarok, Songbird, iTunes, etc.). Other operations, such as loading the music library, lyrics or album covers, are actually pretty quick, certainly quicker than they were in Songbird.

I personally liked the many skins available from scratch. Many look & feel combinations are just a few clicks away. Interestingly enough, there is one which offers very good integration with the current GNOME theme in use, which is nice considering the application is Java based.


Unfortunately, aTunes is one of those applications that is not available from the Ubuntu repositories. The project is serious though, and the download from its official site very much safe. We Ubuntu users can download and install through a conveniently packaged .DEB file.

The official aTunes website makes downloading very easy.

Downloading the package is just two clicks away. As with many other opensource projects, aTunes installation files reside under sourceforge.net.

Download from the .DEB package link, as highlighted here.

Once the package is fully downloaded, you can either install from the GUI by double clicking on it, or with this simple terminal command:

dpkg -i atunes_2.0.0.deb*

* Note that the command above must be executed as root.


We Linux users have a good variety of audio players to choose from. Even if Songbird was effectively no longer one of those options, there are many other good ones, which continue improving release after release. aTunes is one of them, so give it a try and see how you like it.



  1. who said Linux was at the heart of the project?... Open Source was at the heart and still is, that doesn't mean Linux.

  2. There is a songbird fork for linux in the making: http://getnightingale.org/

  3. I'm really excited about the new features in aTunes, it is (for me) far better than Songbird, much responsive and the system tray controls are great, I must say, I used both and chose aTunes. I wonder why it is not in the repository yet!

  4. Thanks for the comments!

    @phobos: I was just trying to express the importance of the Linux community in this project. The official statement says:

    "While our Linux users are some of the most passionate, do some killer development, and always provide tremendous input as to whether we’re on the right path or not..."

    I think it is quite clear the Linux community was of immense relevancy, that's all.