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What’s up with Banshee? A quick interview with B. Lorentz!

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Tell us a few things about you and your role in Banshee development.

I’m a french guy living in Luxembourg, and during my free time, I hack on Banshee and other Mono related stuff. I’m one of the Banshee maintainers, which means I get to make the hard decisions. But I try not to get in the way too much, and to help our contributors as much as I can, so that they can get stuff done.

You were present on two big conferences last month beginning with Gnome and Mono Festival of Love 2012 in Boston USA. The agenda included “Banshee porting to Gnome3”. Could you analyze this a little bit and tell us how it went?

The “GNOME & Mono Festival of Love 2012”, despise its rather grandiose title, was just a hackfest, not a proper conference. We were a dozen people, from both the GNOME and Mono communities, and spent 6 days in a room, discussing stuff, writing code and helping each other. As for the port of Banshee to GNOME 3, most of the work has already been done over 6 months ago, and is available in the “gtk3” branch in our git repository. During the hackfest, I took another look at it, and I quickly stumbled upon a pretty bad bug: the artist, album and track lists were all blank, not visible at all. This turns out to be a regression in GTK+ itself, introduced in version 3.4 [1]. It’s a step back, but I hope that bug will be fixed quickly.

I then turned my efforts to the C# bindings for GTK 3, doing various clean-ups and improvements. Overall, this hackfest was quite productive. Amongst others, lots of progress were made on separating the Tomboy backend in library, and creating an OSX application using that library and MonoMac for the UI. Andreia did a lot of work on a new system to generate C# bindings using the information provided by GObject introspection, which should make it easier to have bindings for lots of libraries. At the end of the day, she was able to produce complete C# bindings for WebKitGTK using this method, and demonstrated it in a sample browser application.

Andreia produces complete C# bindings for WebKitGTK!

Another interesting thing that seems to be a problem on open source projects in general and Gnome desktop environment in particular, was the lack of a full maintainer for GTK#. What decisions and/or conclusions took place in Boston about it?

I think all open source projects suffer from a lack of manpower, except maybe the Linux kernel. So GNOME in general, and GTK# in particular, are no exceptions. In the past, the GTK# maintainer was able to hack on it during his work day, but this is not the case anymore, and he’s been busy doing other things. Xamarin, the startup co-founded by Miguel de Icaza, is focusing on improving their products, like any good startup should do. They’ve put in a lot of work to improve GTK+ on OSX, but porting to GTK+ 3.x is not one of their priority, rightfully so. So the work on GTK# is done by various community members, and we hope to have a 2.99.0 beta release soon. It will be targeted mostly at Linux application developers, to make it easier for them to start porting their app, and test get some more testing on the bindings.

We also need to look at the situation on Windows and OSX. If anyone wants to help out, now is a great time ! Especially if you like writing documentation, it’d be great to have a nice guide for porting C# apps from GTK 2 to GTK3. Your work would benefit a lot of developers, and, indirectly, a huge number of users.

You then traveled in Spain to attend GUADEC 2012. Anything Banshee related there?

There was no Banshee talk at GUADEC, mostly because I was too lazy to propose one. ;)
Udesh, one of our Google Summer of Code student, presented his project in a lightning talk. He’s working on bringing voice control features to Banshee. I did have several discussions about GTK#, several people were interested in knowing more about the status of the bindings, and about the porting effort of Banshee to GTK 3.

Can you tell us what were the most important things discussed/done on this GUADEC?

There were a lot of great talks, on a variety of topics. Of course, the general direction of the GNOME project is always a big subject, this year centered around the idea of “GNOME OS”. I didn’t attend the day-long workshop on “GNOME OS”, but I heard it was positive and productive.

I really loved that all the keynotes triggered interesting discussions, and sparked new ideas:

  • Jacob Appelbaum, from the Tor project, talked about integrating privacy and anonymity in the desktop
  • Adam Dingle & Jim Nelson, from Yorba, discussed the challenges and opportunities in crowdfunding GNOME Application Development
  • Alex “Skud” Bayley explained that Open Source can help other Open communities, and Open communities can bring new ideas to the Open Source world
  • Federico Mena Quintero, Jonathan Blandford & Dave Mason told us about the early history of the GNOME project. They reassured everyone by saying that, from the start, there was always this sense of impending doom, but 15 years later, GNOME is still growing, going stronger and stronger.


Recently, we saw an interesting idea about a Banshee based touch screen Hi-Fi and maybe the birth of the need of a Banshee live CD. Are you planning anything in this direction?

I’m always delighted to see Banshee used in ways I never thought about, especially when it as cool as this touch screen Hi-Fi system. I personally don’t have anything specific planned with regards to a Banshee live CD, but I like the idea, and I guess the Banshee community would be happy to help anyone who wants to work on that. These days, with tools like the Open Build Service, it’s easier than ever!

It is true that Banshee is already doing good on touch screen use and this will become more and more important for the tablet devices that Gnome wants to get in. Are you planning to improve this sector on the next Banshee versions? Are you performing any kind of testing to determine how Banshee can be tailored for our fingers?

I think a lot of the work for touch screen use has to be done at the level of the toolkits (GTK and friends). This one of the reason why we’ve spent so much time working on porting GTK# and Banshee to GTK 3.

The only touch screen device I currently have is my Android phone, and I can’t run Banshee on it, at least for now… ;) So I’d be happy to hear about people’s experience using Banshee on tablets, and what we can do to improve in this area.

What is the planning for version 2.6? What can you tell us about the new features that Banshee 2.6 will bring and when should we expect its release?

The release of Banshee 2.6 is planned for early October, in keeping with our 6-months schedule. Along with the usual bunch of bugfixes, it will bring enhancements to the way Banshee scrobbles tracks to, and also several improvements to Banshee on OSX. Our second Summer of Code student, Timo, has been doing a great job in that area, and several of his patches are already integrated in the main source repository.

There are probably other things that I’m forgetting, and there will certainly be other good stuff that will be done until October. If anyone wants to help, to make Banshee 2.6 the best Banshee release ever, there’s one place to go!

Thanks Bertrand! We all look forward to the next Banshee release and I am sure it will be amazing once again!

Banshee Homepage Bertrand’s Blog

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  • Arron Washington

    Not surprised to hear Xamarian not helping as much with Linux-specific libraries / products… it looks like their entire focus is pushing C# for mobile development, based on the homepage. Pretty much every screenshot of their development workflow / screencasts are shown under Mac OS X as well.

    Wonder how that will affect Mono in the long-run: meaning, will they keep tracking the newest C# and .NET features if those features aren’t applicable to mobile development?

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