Rant: welcome to 2011, not unlike 2001

Remember how mediaplayers were really primitive back in the day? How they always had trouble keeping your music properly sorted and display the right metadata for whatever format you preferred? I bet you do because nothing changed, really. (Yes, I know, “RAEG” right?)

When I drop my properly standardized ID3-ed MP3’s and FLACs into my player, I get all sorts of interesting effects. And before you start, we’re talking about my own CD’s here. Ripped to FLAC for playback on my media center and MP3-encoded for convenient use on my smartphone and other devices. Depending on where you live, that may be illegal or borderline illegal, but where I live, it’s legal – at least at the time of writing. At the worst, we could be having a discussion about the legality of mp3-encoding.

For example, Android has no trouble finding and indexing the files. But the database it constructs decides to ignore the albumartist field (or any of the many variants of it, I filled all of them with the correct values). So, a “Various artists” album will be assigned some random artist that happens to be on there as the album artist. Also, Android happily ignores any sorting metadata your added and will sort Kate Bush under ‘K’ for ‘Kate’, unless you don’t mind seeing her name rendered as “Bush (Kate)” everywhere, which would also mean searching for “Kate Bush” gets you nowhere. Wonderful.

Windows Media Player is no better. It doesn’t have the two problems Android does, but Media Player can’t deal with anything that Microsoft didn’t invent, with (thank heavens) the exception of MP3. But FLAC, Ogg, Ape, you can just take that and you know what. Luckily there’s some third party plugins that help out a little but if you like to be able to see how long a track will run, you’re still shit out of luck. Another nice one that WMP pulls is it’s inability to read the disc number or act on it. So, if you have an album that consists of two discs (or worse, an audio book that consists of 12), WMP will sort all the #1 tracks to the top, followed by all the #2’s, etc. Awesome, right?

I’m not even going to waste more than two words on iTunes. Network shares. You know what I’m talking about and Steve Jobs should have whatever klutz is responsible for that piece of junk shot at the next Apple conference – I guarantee most thumbs up for the video ever.

Now Songbird is better in all these ways. But Songbird breaks if you run it on anything other than a standard desktop box. And I’m talking about Songbird for Windows/Linux here, because Songbird for Android just uses whatever Android hands it, so no need to try that. I did; I wept; I uninstalled. Try running Songbird on a system with enlarged fonts however (almost required on a system that runs 1920×1080 on a TV 10′ from your face) and the interface completely goes to hell. Of course you can scale the interface of Songbird itself, but that means it becomes the only legible application on the box and I’d like to be able to use some others too.

I’m aware of the possibilities I’d have if I turned my entire media box to Linux, but I don’t have a way to view BluRay on Linux, so there’s that – I’m stuck with the (legal) copy of Windows I have running and I still need a decent solution for my smartphone, tablet, desktop PC and laptop as well. Apparently, the time of developers is best spent writing glass-simulating bling for desktops, rewrites of the Control Panel, spinning cover art and other essentials. Actually doing something that would help find and organize your music is an afterthought at most, makes sense, right?

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Jaap van der Velde

I live and breathe software, love games and spent many a vacation touring Europe on my motorcycle. Currently diving, riding, hopefully flying and gaining perspective around Oz.

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