2011-03-07

Banshee Bundle on Linux : One file to run on them all

As you might know, Banshee is available for Mac OS X, as a single file, which is a self-contained bundle of the Banshee binaries, along with all the dependencies. You just have to download it somewhere on your system, and run it.
Back in late 2009, when working on the tools to create this OS X bundle, Aaron already had the idea to create a similar thing for Linux, calling it "an interesting hack".
I'm happy to report that it was indeed an interesting hack, and you can enjoy the result by clicking on this link : banshee-1.9.4.run.tgz (49 MB)
Download the file, uncompress it with your favorite tool and you'll get a banshee-1.9.4.run executable. Just run it !



What do I get in that big file ?

The bundle contains almost everything you need to run Banshee, except maybe an operating system : GLib 2.28.1, GTK+ 2.24.1, SQLite 3.7.5, WebKit 1.2.5, GStreamer 0.10.32, Mono 2.10.1, GTK# 2.12, etc. What is missing though are MP3 codecs, but you should be able to play ogg file and other formats.
So you should be able to run that file on pretty much any Linux system, provided it has an X server and supports fuse (more on that later).

How does it work ?

This bundle is built using two great tools :
  • Bockbuild by Aaron, which is a light-weight build/packaging/bundling system for OS X, Linux, and Windows and is used to produce the Banshee OS X bundle.
  • Glick by Alexander Larsson, which is set of tools to easily create application bundles, using a nice trick with /proc/self and file descriptors.
So that big file is just a regular 32-bit i386 ELF executable, with a small bootstrap code and an ext2 filesystem image in one of its data section. When you launch that executable, the bootstrap code will mount the filesystem image in a temporary directory and do it's trick so that /proc/self/fd/1023 point to the root of that filesystem. It will then run the "start" script that sets up a nice environement and launches Banshee from that filesystem.

I've tried to do everything so that there's no interference with any thing on the system, in particular with an existing Banshee installation : configuration files are stored under $HOME/.config-glick/ and Banshee uses its XML configuration backend instead of the usual GConf. But of course standard disclaimers apply !

I had to modify and slightly extend both Bockbuild and Glick, so you will find my changes in the following branches on GitHub :
That last branch also contains a README.linux-bundle file with what I hope are clear instructions on how to create a bundle with these tools.

Why ?

The idea here is not to replace the packages you get through your Linux distribution (we love our packagers !), but to cover the use cases that aren't covered yet :
  • Allow users to quickly and easily try out a new version of Banshee, without having to wait for the packages to be available for their distro.
  • Provide an easy to test experimental features, instead of asking people to compile from a git branch.
  • Run Banshee with the latest versions of its dependencies, without any risk of compromising system stability.
  • Provide a custom UI theme (aka skin), using GTK theming.
  • [Insert your idea here]

What's next ?

There are a few things missing and some things that could probably be improved :
  • The bundle doesn't contain any hardware backends, so you won't be able to see your media player in Banshee. It should be possible to make that work by adding the missing build dependency, and let everything work its magic at runtime.
  • Although the bundle contains Mono 2.10.1, the new SGen garbage collector is not enabled yet. I just wanted to play it extra-safe for now.
  • I've seen some weirdness with fonts on some systems, maybe we could just add a nice font in the bundle.
It would be really great if somebody with artistic talent could come up with a nice and elegant UI theme for Banshee. Right now the bundle contains the Shiki-Brave GTK theme, but I'd be happy to add others to the mix !
I'm also looking forward to hear about your experiences running Banshee from this bundle, good or bad. Bonus points for running on the craziest Linux systems out there !
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