Posts Tagged ‘Media Player’

First Impression of Front Row

Wednesday, May 3rd, 2006

I had some doubts about Front Row on my new iMac, especially its requirement that it only play files that QuickTime recognizes. I have a whole bunch of videos ripped from my DVDs in DivX or XviD format. How to play them?

I tried the official plug-in and an open-source version, but Front Row still wouldn’t play any of my Lost or Battlestar Galactica episodes. After some digging around on the web, however, I found a beta of the Macintel version of DivX, and installed that. Lo and behold, the episodes appeared! Not only that, but I made aliases from my file server and put them in my Movies folder, and Front Row saw them and used them!

Unfortunately, some of the videos crash Front Row — it just quits when it gets to certain spots in the episode. I have VLC, which plays them fine, but I’m still a bit upset. It would be nice to sit down and watch a few episodes without having to screw around with different programs for bickering codecs.

One downside is that I’m running a lot of beta software. The DiVX codec I found is a beta release. The version of VLC for Macintel is also beta. Also, Apple’s software sometimes seems like beta stuff — how hard is it to give me an error when Front Row hiccups playing a video file?

Of course, now that my iMac is the hub of my ‘media center’, I need to get a Dolby Receiver with digital inputs so I can get my 5.1 setup working with DVDs. The purchasing never ends…

But aside from that, Front Row is impressive. I like the iPod-like interface for music. I like that it recongized aliases that point to files on a Windows server. Except for the few bugs (which should be blamed on beta software), it’s a solid program.

A Rant About iTunes for Windows

Thursday, March 30th, 2006

Or, more specifically, a rant about Windows.

One of the nice things about the Mac OS is that files are not necessarily referenced by pathname. This has been true all the way back to System 7, when aliases debuted. I remember being but a tiny lad back then, and strewing aliases for everything all over the desktop of my dad’s Mac IIcx. The neat thing about aliases (which are the equivalent of Windows Shortcuts but better) is that if you moved the original file, the link would not ‘break’ (this was only true on the same disk).

This magic worked because of the way the Macintosh file system works (note that this is my understanding and not a canonical explanation). Each file on a disk had its own unique ID number (probably the primary key in the database). So when you created an alias, it pointed to the original file’s ID number in the database. As opposed to certain, less urbane file systems, where an alias (*cough, cough*, shortcut) would only hold the path the the original file. In these OSs, move the file and you break any links to it.

Which is where my rant about the Windows version of iTunes comes in. I often download audio files — like the Video Game Pianist’s repertoire — that go on my desktop. To make sure they sound good, I’ll open them in iTunes and give the files a listen. Then, I move them to my music directory, rename the files to my naming scheme, and add them all. The problem? iTunes’ library is permanent, so that one file that was on the desktop (and is now probably deleted) stays in my library, with one of those exclamation point icons next to it.

It would be so much easier if Windows used the scheme described above to reference files. Instead, I have to do stupid stuff when I’m not 100% on the ball. For example, if I download the Something Awful 8-Bit Christmas album and load it into iTunes from my desktop, all sorts of stupid stuff has to be done when I realize my mistake. First, I have to remove the files from my iTunes library. Then, I have to move them to my music folder. Finally, I can put them back into the library. God forbid I actually rated the files or made changes to the meta-data in iTunes’ database — that information disappeared when I moved the files.

So I have to be uber-cautious about my files, always putting them away right away. I even have to name the damn things correctly before I even load them into iTunes — if there’s a typo in one of the filenames and it’s been in iTunes for a while, collecting metadata, I’m SOL. Renaming the file, or moving the folder, renders the tracks unusable in iTunes.

There has to be a better way.

Oh, wait — there is. And it’s called Macintosh.

What Bugs Me About iTunes’ Party Shuffle

Monday, August 16th, 2004

I’ve been trying like mad to get a nice ratio of high-rated songs to low-rated or unrated songs in iTunes. the Party Shuffle feature is nifty, but it plays too many high-rated songs for every unrated or low-rated song.

I tried using Smart Playlists. One was for 5-star songs and was limited to 100, one was for 4-star and was limited to 80, one was for 3-star and was limited to 50, and the other was for below that and was limited to 120, so that for every highly-rated song, there would be one unrated/low-rated song. Then, I created another smart playlist that contained each of these playlists.

I should also mention that I added ‘last played’ criteria to the component playlists, so that I didn’t hear the same high-rated song too often.

So, I have four component Smart Playlists and one master playlist containing them all:

100 5-star songs

80 4-star songs

50 3-star songs

120 unrated/2-star or below songs

The problem with this method is that the lists don’t update; i.e. my big playlist, the one containing all the others, would always have draw from the same 350 songs. The only way to alleviate this problem is to go through and manually refresh the component playlists, defeating the purpose of smart playlists.

So, for now I’m keeping with the smart playlists, and using the ‘master’ smart playlist to play from instead of party shuffle. When it runs out, I’ll refresh the others. Not the best strategy, but at least the playlist deletes songs as soon as they’re played, so I don’t lose my place.

Update Actually, once a song is played, it removes itself from the component playlists, because is has been played in the last few days. So the system works fine with party shuffle. My bad! Still, it would be nice to set some sort of ratio for the Party Shuffle.

Marry Me, Sabrina Lloyd!

Sunday, June 15th, 2003

Marry me, Sabrina Lloyd, and we can celebrate our shared birthday together

So ends another weekend. I’m watching the Dilbert cartoon right now on Comedy Central. They’re like K-Mart for expired TV shows which have only six episodes: The Critic, the aforementioned Dilbert, Clerks, Undergrads. Plus, Sports Night is on later tonight. As we all should know, Sports Night features the fabulously pretty Sabrina Lloyd as Natalie. Coincidentally, the actress has the same birthday as me — November 20. That show was really, really good; I think it’s the only comedy ever to not have a laugh track. Too bad it got canned.

I went to K-Mart to get my Father’s Day present today: a 50-pack of CD-R’s. I also picked up the deal of the century. It was a greatest hits compilation from Little Richard. Only $5.00! “Keep a Knockin'” is an awesome song, as is “Rip It Up” — a tune The Queers cover. I also got some CD-R’s for myself, since I ran out last month. The final purchase I made was a new portable CD player for the car. For those readers who do not know, here is a history of music and my driving:

November 1999 I get my license. For my birthday my parents give me a personal CD player.

March 2000 I hook my CD player up to a device which broadcasts to the radio in the car. The sound is okay, but crummy — Nellie’s speakers are tinny at best. This almost exactly coincides with my purchase of No Substance by Bad Religion.

October 2000 I hook up a power amp to the line output of the CD player and the radio broadcast thingie to the headphone output. I connect a speaker box to the power amp.

Current Listening:
Screeching Weasel: “Falling Apart”
If I smile outside and roll back my eyes
And shake hands do you know what?
I can’t even tell that I’m
Not even welcome in the town where I grew up
‘Cause I’m in my own world
And you’re not a part of it
I’m in my own world
And it’s falling apart

The system sounds better, but is jury-rigged and prone to falling apart.

July 2001 In a freak accident, I put a guy’s trailer hitch through my radiator grille (but not the radiator) on Main Street in Hamilton. This happened, by the way, because I was fidgiting with the sound system and the brakes in Nellie suck.

November 2001 My parents give me an in-dash CD player for my birthday, as well as new speakers for Nellie. For the first time, music in the car is easy and sounds good.

November 2002 The CD player starts going on the fritz.

May 2003 I hook up the previous portable Discman to the line input on my dashboard CD player. It sounds good, but my music listening is once again battery powered.

May 25 2003 Tiny Gremlins or demons infiltrate the CD player and it refuses to play CD-R’s.

June 5 2003 All CDs, regardless of their origin, stop working in the portable player except The Queers’ Pleasant Screams.

So I got a new one for $25. It plays CD-R’s!