Subsonic: Now Able to Stream Movies and Videos

I previously wrote an article introducing you to Subsonic, the open-source, cross-platform software that can be used to stream your personal music library anywhere across the internet. In the time since that article, few changes have occurred to Subsonic.  But recently, a feature was added that really puts Subsonic at the top of my list of favorite software – the ability to stream not only your music collection, but your movie, music video, and personal video collection.

Setting up Video Streaming in Subsonic

To start streaming your videos with Subsonic, ensure that you have the most recent version installed.  A version of at least Subsonic 4.3 is needed to enable video streaming.

Once you have installed or updated Subsonic, login and navigate to the Settings page and select the Music Folders section.

If you already have Subsonic installed, you will already have a music folder added. For example, I currently have a share named Music with the file path /media/PattersonHD/Music.

To enable Subsonic to stream my video library I simply have to add another share here. My newly added share is named Movies with the file path /media/PattersonHD/Movies.

Do this for each subsequent share or stream source you wish to add to Subsonic and click Save at the bottom of the page.

Streaming your Videos

Once you have added the video sources, navigate back to the Home page in Subsonic. You should notice a new drop-down on the left index of your Subsonic web page named All Folders. Under All Folders, all of your shares are listed together alphabetically. Select just the share you wish to stream to separate the sources.

Select the video and streaming will begin in the right side of Subsonic.

Final Thoughts

Subsonic is able to stream large video files due to them being transcoded (converted on-the-fly) before being streamed. It should be noted that transcoding can be a very  system-intensive process. Along with this, streaming large amounts of data may cause network slowness and affect the quality of the streams.

Do you use Subsonic to stream your music and movies?  Let us know by commenting below!

Songbird Media Player: Still Available For Linux

Back in April, the developers of the open-source application Songbird announced that they would be dropping official support for the Linux version of the media player. This was a huge shock to the open-source community. When version 1.7 of Songbird was released, only Windows and Mac versions were available for download.

To my surprise, Sondbird for Linux is still available for download with unofficial support.  This has been made possible by extra work from developers and the software community.

Downloading Songbird for Linux

To download the Linux version of Songbird navigate to the Songbird Developer’s Wiki.  On the Contributed Builds page, select either the 32-bit or 64-bit version and download the tarball.

Once downloaded, extract the files and copy the Songbird folder to anywhere you wish.  I usually put software into /opt but you generally need root access to do that.

To start Songbird you can double-click the file named songbird or execute “sh /path/to/Songbird/songbird” from the terminal.

The main software dependency required by Songbird is gstreamer.  If you’re running Songbird on a mainstream Linux distribution like Fedora or Ubuntu, you shouldn’t have any problems running Songbird as gstreamer should already be installed.

If you have any questions be sure to comment below.

Songbird: The Firefox of Media Players

Songbird, built by former Winamp, Netscape, and Firefox designers and developers, is fast on it’s way to becoming a large competitor in the media player category.  The free and open source Songbird has been in development since early 2006.

Recently released by the Songbird team is version 1.4.2 of the Songbird media player.  Although Songbird is not widely known, mainstream features are being added with each release.  Still in its infancy, Songbird already has many features to offer to users.

Download and Install

Before you get started, it will be necessary to download and install Songbird.  Songbird is available for Windows, Linux, and OS X.  Visit the Songbird website and download the correct version for your system.

After Songbird has been installed the setup assistant will launch to help you configure Songbird.

songbird-install1

You will want to point Songbird to the location of your music files on your computer.  Checking the “Watch this directory for changes” checkbox will ensure that Songbird is notified if any files are changed within the specified directory and will update the library to reflect the changes.

songbird-install2

Songbird has the ability to install add-ons just like the Firefox web browser.  Add-ons allow users to add to the functionality and customize Songbird to their own liking.  The process for installing add-ons in Songbird is similar to installing add-ons in Firefox.

songbird-install3

When finished with the setup assistant, you will be brought to the welcome screen.

songbird-main

Layout

Once you have finish the initial setup of Songbird, you will be brought to the program’s main window.  Songbird is launched by default with a list view of your music library, as shown below.

songbird-listv

List view is a very clumsy layout for Songbird.  Depending on the size of your music library, it may be difficult to easily browse through it.  Thankfully Songbird includes another layout, Filter Pane View.  With the Filter Pane View, your music library is broken down by Genere, Artist, and Album, making it extremely easy to navigate through your library.  The Filter Pane View is shown below.

songbird-panev

To switch between the layouts, click the appropriate button next to the Songbird search box as shown.

songbird-layout

Feathers

Songbird includes a feature call Feathers.  Also known as skins, Feathers give you the ability to chose a different color scheme for Songbird.  To find other Feathers for Songbird, click View > Feathers > Get More Feathers… and a new tab will open within Songbird showing other Feathers available for download.

songbird-feathers

Add-ons

Add-ons are a great way to add more features and functionality to any software.  Recently, the number of add-ons available for Songbird has significantly increased.  To view or install add-ons, navigate to Tools > Add-ons… and the window shown below will appear.  Clicking the Get Extensions button will open a tab within Songbird that will allow you to browse the available add-ons.

songbird-addons

Some of my favorite add-ons for Songbird include:

  • Last.fm – Publish your playback history to Last.fm and listen to Last.fm Radio through Songbird.
  • mashTape – Adds a bottom pane that displays information about the current artist from many different sources.
  • LyricMaster – Shows lyrics to the currently playing song in the right side pane.
  • CD RIP Support – Required add-on to allow Songbird to rip CDs. (Note: CD ripping is currently only available in Windows.)
  • SHOUTcast Radio – Displays the directory of SHOUTcast Internet radio streams

Portable Device Support

An important feature in Songbird is it’s portable device support.  Since early in it’s development, Songbird has supported syncing to popular devices such as Apple’s iPods and Creative Zen portable devices.  Take a look at the following pages to see if you portable device is supported.

Other Features

Since early in it’s release, Songbird has supported importing an iTunes library.  If switching to Songbird as your primary media player, this can be an important step as you will be able to save your current library and playlists.

songbird-itunes

Just added in Songbird 1.4.2 is CD ripping support.  Available formats to save ripped CDs include Ogg, FLAC, and WMA.  Saving to MP3 is not supported.  Only the Windows version of Songbird supports CD ripping.  The CD ripping add-on is required.

songbird-cdrip

Added in Songbird version 1.2 is an equalizer.  This great addition allows for users to have more control over sound output.  To open the equalizer navigate to Controls > Equalizer… and the window shown will open.

songbird-eq

Although the main view of Songbird is feature filled, it is quite large and can sometimes be in the way.  Songbird has an added Mini Player that will shrink down the program to the most basic functions, shown below.  The Songbird Mini Player is a great way to have Songbird in the foreground so it can be seen, but small enough to be out of sight and easily moved. To access the Mini Player, navigate to View > Mini Player.

songbird-mini

Final Thoughts

I’ve been using Songbird as my primary media player since version 0.7 and in that time I’ve seen many improvement in the media player.  The latest release is significantally faster and resource friendly.  I have been seeing around half of the memory usage with Version 1.4.2 than with any previous version.

If you’re looking to try a new, featured filled media player and support open source software at the same time, then I suggest that you give Songbird a try.

Google Wants to Help Make Your Website Faster with Page Speed

google_logoFirefox only:  Google has just released Page Speed, a website performance tool for Firefox/Firebug that is similar to the previously covered Yahoo YSlow add-on.  Google has made it clear that speed is one of their highest priorities for modern-day internet, and Page Speed is their attempt at getting web developers personally involved in the process.

Page Speed is an open source tool that that allows web developers to evaluate the performance of their web pages and receive suggestions on how to improve them.  Page Speed runs several tests on a website’s server configuration and front-end code, providing web developers with a score for each page and suggestions for improving performance.

Google’s hopes are that if individual web developers improve their site’s performance, users will be more engaged, bandwidth will be reduced, and the internet as a whole will be improved.  Google has outlined a list of web performance best practices, which details techniques such as caching, minimizing page size, and optimizing browser rendering.

Installing Page Speed

  1. Install Firebug (required to run Page Speed).
  2. Install Page Speed.
  3. Restart Firefox.

Testing A Page’s Performance

  1. Go to Tools > Firebug > Open Firebug.
    pagespeed_openfirebug
  2. In the Firebug Window, click the Page Speed Tab.
    pagespeed_button
  3. Navigate to the website you want to test.  Wait until the page has fully loaded before proceeding.
  4. Click Analyze Performance.
    pagespeed_analyzebutton

After a page has been analyzed, you will be given a detailed list of performance best practices and the page’s individual score for each category (sorted by importance).  Clicking any of these rules will provide you with suggestions for improving that specific area.

pagespeed_summary

While Page Speed is not as robust as YSlow in this initial release, it makes up for that with performance standards designed by the company that makes some of the web’s most efficient sites.

For more information about Page Speed and web performance best practices, check out Google’s guide.  Page Speed is a free add-on for Firefox.  [Google Page Speed]