The Quest for an iPod Replacement

You heard me. I need something to replace my iPod at work… I have a computer that is more than capable of playing music, so why not use it? Why keep lugging a portable MP3 player to and from work everyday, when there’s a PC there? It’s not like I take the iPod with me from office to office – it sits in its Dock and never comes off AC power… that can’t be good for it, yet I need music, so how can I get by without an iPod?

Get another portable MP3 player? No, that would be stupid: I personally believe the iPod is the head of the class right now and I’ve still got a third and fourth generation knocking around my the house. iPod Mini? Again, what’s the point? Giving up 20GB of storage for 5GB, when I’m always in need of “more” music in the office as it is…

In talking to Steve he pointed out the obvious: you’ve got all of your music on your home PC, you have broadband, why not stream the music to work? Was a good idea, except for one small problem: bandwidth. I set up a web server at home on an XP box and was able to use Windows Media Player 10 (WMP) to play those files. Worked well, actually. No lag in the music. I created a lil bit of code that built playlists for me. Yay me. Except when I did this, my upsteam connection was flooded whenever moving an MP3 file and I couldn’t do anything else on the network… would installing Windows Server 2003 with Windows Media Server functionality help? Maybe, if it throttled bandwidth for you, but there’s no way I’m adding another box to my house for this experiment. Knocked out streaming.

Phase two involved getting a new 80GB HD and enclosure, while Fry’s and CompUSA had a sale running. However, this required an additional AC Adapter, and that would suck when I needed to bring the HD home… I eventually switch to a 2.5 inch 40GB drive and enclosure: same size as the iPod (more or less) and this one didn’t need additional power, since it was powered by the USB connection.


Except that every single freaking music player in the world has some sort of a tragic flaw. And it sucks balls.

WMP looked good. Version 10 is the best version so far. However, there’s no “Shuffle by Album”, and that’s something I left turned on on my iPod at all times. In a playlist of “all of these songs are good”, I let one entire CD play through and then let another. I find that bouncing around on a song to song basis is somewhat distracting, especially with my screwed up music library. If I have to select my own CD to play, I’ll overplay two or three of them and that sucks too… thins out my music collection too quickly. My iPod has Shuffle by Album, yet WMP doesn’t.

Hey wait, maybe there’s a plug in for it? I did a little searching and found one: Someone wants $10 for it and claims that it works… if it does, I couldn’t figure out their UI and that’s just sad in today’s day and age. This knocked out WMP.

iTunes? Yeah, they have Shuffle by Album… to that I said *w00t*. Then I tried to use my nifty media buttons on my Microsoft keyboard… that only works so long as iTunes has focus. If it’s minimized, the buttons get ignored. Also, the Play/Pause button did just that: paused the music and restarted it instantly. So it was like having a rap button. Knocked out iTunes, if only on principle, the fuckers.

WinAmp 5? No Shuffle by Album. And it seems to want to take over my MP3 files if I install it.

And when the hell did that become acceptable? What happened to “I’ll tell my players what music I want it to know about?” When I get a new DVD/CD player does it take a walk around my house cataloging movies and CDs that it can play? Hell no. I tell it what I want to play. All of these media players all try to be helpful and run around your hard drive keeping track of files: stop it! What’s worse is when you have more than one on your PC at a time! Why would you want more than one? How about I want to? I like playing movies with WMP but I need iTunes to sync with my iPod… Yet the players all seem to think that they are the only ones on the box and should be the only one. Bah.

Back to WinAmp. Version 5 didn’t have it, so version 2 certainly wouldn’t. At least I didn’t think it would, so I checked it. At least version 2 was a “simple” player: you gave it playlists of music and it played it. No library, no searching tool – you gave it a file, directory or URL. And I found a couple of plug ins for WinAmp that look promising, but they seem to require a certain format for your MP3 files… there’s a couple of supported formats, but I don’t have the album name in the file name and that seems to cause issues. Thankfully the plug in developer is open to questions and suggestions, so there might be an option coming…

Why? Why is it so hard to get something that just works?!

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