A lot of words about computer music players
(Note: This post originally appeared on the now defunct craigtsoandso.com. Datestamped footnotes with commentary may have been added for my own reflection and amusement.)
*(The application, on windows)
I listen to a well above average amount of music while sitting at a computer, both at home and at the office. I have a very large collection of music, but I don’t think my musical needs and computer music quirks are all that outrageous. It very well may be a symptom of my inaction or seeming inability to migrate away from Windows as a primary operating system1, but iTunes causes me an inordinate amount of aggravation.
Why do I use it you say? Well, until recently I lived a blissful musical existence without it even installed- until I bought an iPod. Since it was a new fangled revision, all the third party iPod syncing software was useless. So, I installed iTunes for the first time on my new desktop, and I was pleased that it didn’t seem as molasses slow on Windows as it was the last time I tried to use it. However, I continued to use my personal favorite music player, the open source musikcube2.
Then the last.fm plugin for musikcube stopped working reliably.
This presented a problem, because I happen to like last.fm quite a bit, it’s a great tool for finding new artists and music to listen to, as well as a provider of cool analytics based on what you’re actually listening to. Without a steady stream of data, it’s not nearly as effective, so even though I soldiered on for a while, I became annoyed enough to seek out an alternate music player solution. Preferably one that integrated with last.fm’s official application so I could easily integrate the radio.
While I was initially impressed with the iTunes speed improvement at a glance, heavy usage made it feel like a molasses bath coming from the snappy musikcube with its native ui and blazing fast sqlite database for music metadata. Then there’s the library management. One thing I am pretty finicky about is my music collection’s organization, and there’s no way I was going to give up my intimate knowledge of my sizable music collection to a different format. But, I still hated having to manually add every new album I ripped or got online. Musikcube does this out of the box, and iTunes and I entered into a shaky truce when I discovered the iTunes Library Updater, which was somewhat of a MacGuyver solution to do this that I could set up a scheduled task for. But, recent iTunes updates seem to have turned my MacGuyver utility into a MacGruber, detonating my e-truce.
So here I am, installing the most extensible and powerful music player out there, (for Windows anyway, I’ve really liked amarok when I’ve used it in the past) foobar3. Of course, it’s also the player that requires by far the most tinkering and configuration out of the box, which is what I’ve been trying to avoid. However it is supported by the official last.fm application, is lightning fast, and it is possible to do some pretty incredible stuff with its interface. It just requires putting a lot of time and effort in getting it just right and making sure all the plugins I want are installed- time that I could be spending on other projects, but since my hand is now forced it’s time to queue up a bunch of music (on iTunes) and commence to configuring.
For all the flak I give iTunes though, I will say I prefer it to Windows Media Player since I really never did like the way they organize their library, and when I think of Winamp, I think back to the days of a big long list of 1500 songs I downloaded off of napster and audiogalaxy. So I guess I will award a little something extra to the apple developers besides the parks & rec standard ‘participant’ trophy.
As for the iTunes music store, I have no problems with it. When I’ve bought an album from there aside from the annoyance of getting aac files to play outside of iTunes and iPods it has been a pleasant experience, but if given the choice I’ll never again buy an album from there, given that #1) I like to own the cd and rip it myself in variable bitrate mp3, and #2) Amazon’s music store provides all their music without drm and in high bitrate mp3, I really have no reason to ever look at the iTunes store again except for media that it sells exclusively.
For many nerds I know, how they choose to listen to their music is a deeply personal choice. Am I missing some grand solution4?
I now do spend most of my time in OS X, but I do still run windows 8 on my desktop computer. (08/2013)↩
I had actually forgotten about musikcube completely until I reread this. (08/2013)↩
My foobar phase did not last long. (08/2013)↩
Now I'm actually behind the curve since I'm not a big streaming service listener outside of when I have the itch to discover something new. Plus, I actually like the newer iTunes interface better than the old one which seems to be a minority opinion as well. I honestly spend most of my listening time with podcasts these days, must be a bit that flips around the time you hit 30. (08/2013)↩