Monday, May 4, 2009

Things That Chap My Ass About WMP11 (updated)

I updated my ZEN.

I like my ZEN a lot, it's the 60GB model, it plays movies and music and stores data and pictures and it's just all kinds of useful to me. I plug it into the shop sound system and the truck's stereo. I don't want to face air travel without it. It's a little bulker than the iPod, but I like the interface a whole lot better and I'm not limited to iTunes (which I refuse to allow on my system under any circumstance).

I thought I'd share my latest playlist with you. You know, just because I'm cool like that.

My music library is large and I've had trouble finding software to manage it without choking. I've tried just about everything. Unfortunately, the best product seems to be Microsoft's Windows Media Player 11 for Vista. I don't particularly like WMP11, and I don't particularly dislike it either. Like most MS products, it's OK. It's useable. It works reasonably well. And it does handle large libraries better than anything else.

And like most Microsoft products it has some amazingly idiot oversights.

So idiotic in fact, that you have to wonder if those oversights are on purpose – and if so, what possible purpose could there be for such deliberate stupidity.

For example, I wanted to print out a couple of my playlists. And, in fact I'd like to be able to print portions of my library. I'd really like to output a text file of my library and playlists in a standard column delineated format - say like an Excel spreadsheet, or an Access Table, or even a Word Table. What I really want to do is export full data for each tune, title, artist, genre, composer, and all the super tag data into an Access database so that I can search, sort, and make correlations and custom analysis of the data - to create new playlists for one thing – but mostly so I can play with the data in ways beyond WMP11's organic capability.

You can't.

It's not that you can't select portions of the library. It's not that you can't select the existing playlists. It's not that you can't display the information


None. No list printing, no jewel case printing, no disk label printing, nothing.

Oh and before one of you wise guys mentions that you used to be able to buy Windows XP Plus add-on pack and get WMP printing capability, don't. Thanks. I know. It doesn't work under Vista, and there isn't any replacement for it.

There isn't any printing function in WMP11 at all.

There isn't any file output function at all, either.

And as far as I can tell there is no information or advice about such things in the incredibly useless "help" system.

And in fact the help system is so singularly useless and unhelpful that I've got a macro set up to automatically check the "no" box after the question "Was this page useful to you" and fill in the comments box with "Seriously Microsoft, what the fuck?"

I thought maybe the latest version of Word, Access, or Excel might open native format WMP11 playlists and allow you to view, format, and print them. Yeah, sure.

The online knowledge base has no advice or information, other than to suggest you go ask some clueless 17-year old dipshit "Microsoft Expert" on one of their forums – where the answer is invariably a flamewar followed by "you're stupid, we answered that question over on the blah blah thread." Yeah, thanks dickhead.

I eventually downloaded a shareware program that would allow me some minimal ability to print out a playlist.

Then I scanned that back into the system, using the OCF Scan to Searchable PDF function.

Then I copied the PDF document to Word using a cut and paste.

Then I converted that into a table.

Then I formatted the table and uploaded it to my blog editor.

Yeah, I know. But it sort of became a thing.



For What It's Worth

Buffalo Springfield

Keep on Tryin'


Canci6n del Mariachi

Los Lobos, Antonio Bandaras

Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead

Warren Zevon

Back to the House That Love Built

Tito & Tarantula

Telling Stories

Tracy Chapman

Down on the Corner

Creedence Clearwater Revival

Gimme Shelter

The Rolling Stones

Sweet Talkin' Woman

Electric Light Orchestra

We Are the People

John Cougar Mellencamp

Walking in Memphis

Marc Cohn

What It Is

Mark Knopfler

No Rain

Blind Melon

Losing My Religion


We Just Disagree

Dave Mason

Superman's Song

Crash Test Dummies

Gorilla, You're a Desperado

Warren Zevon

Mr. Bad Example

Warren Zevon

Stacy's Mom

Fountains of Wayne

Somebody to Love

Jefferson Airplane

Basement Apt

Sarah Harmer


Big Head Todd & the Monsters

Sweet Home Alabama

Lynyrd Skynyrd

The Future's So Bright, I Gotta wear shades

Timbuk 3

All Roads to the River

Janis Ian


Van Morrison

My Maria

B.W. Stevenson

Dreaming Of You

The Coral

A Place in Time

Amanda Abizaid

Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da

The Beatles

Werewolves of London

Warren Zevon

Reelin' in the Years

Steely Dan

Hard Times for an Honest Man

John Cougar Mellencamp


Blues Traveler

Bang Bang Bang

Tracy Chapman

Fire Coming Out of the Monkey's Head


Zombie Zoo

Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers

Sister Golden Hair


Bad Moon Rising

Creedence Clearwater Revival

(Don't Fear) The Reaper

Blue Oyster Cult

Dancing Barefoot

Patti Smith

Frank's Wild Years

Tom Waits

Change Your Mind

Sister Hazel

Hey Julie

Fountains of Wayne

These Are Days

10,000 Maniacs

Deja Vu (AllOver Again)

John Fogerty

Touch Of Grey

The Grateful Dead


Linda Ronstadt

Wild Night [Live]

John Mellencamp

My Baby Gives It Away

Pete Townshend & Ronny Lane


The Kinks

The Weight

The Band

Mary Jane's Last Dance

Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers

Learning to Fly

Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers

Come To My Window

Melissa Etheridge

Down to the Waterline

Dire Straits

Message in a Bottle

The Police

Thick-Necked Man

Crash Test Dummies

People Are Strange

Echo & the Bunnymen


Del Shannon

Heat Come Down

David Knopfler

Boom Boom

John Lee Hooker

Doctor My Eyes

Jackson Browne

Extreme Ways


And She Was

Talking Heads

Building a Mystery

Sarah McLachlan

Heard It in a Love Song

The Marshall Tucker Band

Band on the Run

Paul McCartney

You Got Lucky

Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers

Low Rider [Remix]


Rooty Toot Toot

John Cougar Mellencamp


John Fogerty

Buffalo Soldier

Bob Marley & The Wailers

It Don't Come Easy

Ringo Starr



Okay, I'm looking at some other Media Players.


First impression, it's fast, it's free (and the paid version is only $20) and it does seem to handle large libraries. The interface sucks ass - though you can load skins, I'll fool with it and see if there's something I like. But just as a general rule developers, 8pt default font is a deal breaker. Really fellas, and I can't emphasize this enough, you have to give me the option of Windows Default. I want all my apps laid out the same, looking the same, with the buttons and controls in the same place, i.e. I want to set my defaults in the Windows control panel and then I want everything that runs on my system to adhere to it. One of the reasons I dumped all Symantec products is because I got tired of fucking around with their stupid interface.

I'm not dismissing WinAmp out of hand, it's got potential. I'll fool with it and see if I can make it do what I want, the way I want.


  1. WMP... WMP...? Oh! You mean Windows Media Player!

    Excuse me. Sorry, just threw up in my mouth a little!

    Winamp used to have an "export to HTML" but I'm not sure it still does (I don't see it in any of the menus, but it may be so long since I used the feature that I forgot where it was). Wouldn't solve your table problem, but would at least give you text you could use.

    But WMP? Shit, the only music player I know of (for Windows) worse than WMP is iTunes. Hell, the non-Windows media players I know of that are worse than WMP and iTunes are all in pre 1.x versions.

    WMP.... Wow.

    ::shakes head sadly::

  2. Yes, yes, I know.

    But see Music Match, and JukeBox and the other mainstream media players I've tried just don't work on large libraries. They do, but it is just goddamned painfully slow. WMP at least can index and play large libraries without choking, it doesn't do much of anything else worth a shit, I grant you that, but at least it does what I need - mostly.

    Hey, I'm open to suggestions. Please, suggest away.

  3. Interesting, I would have expected earlier Tom Petty songs.

  4. I'm not sure why it offends me so much, but that damned list takes up 8 full screens to scroll through.


  5. Yeah, and all of the songs suck too, also.

  6. Jim: in all seriousness, I've been happy with Winamp on my Windows machines. It handles large libraries pretty reliably, the interface is better than WMP in some respects (while I agree it's a small default font, getting to streaming audio and using bookmarks on WMP is a BITCH unless they fixed that with 11, which would shock me), and there are some good SHN (Shorten) and FLAC (Free Lossless Audio Codec) plugins for Winamp if you have any interest in ROIOs (I probably have at least one recording from every single Floyd tour ever, and a few tours (like '77) pretty damn well represented). And I think you'll find all of the interface issues can be fixed with skins.

    Of course, as always, the right program is the one that works for you. Unless it's WMP. WMP just sucks ass. :-)

  7. Jim...we have a great deal in common musically...you've got at least half of my playlist in your playlist.


  8. I wish I had some words of wisdom, but you lost me at Windows.

    iTunes girl here, but I have been told it behaves differently on a PC.

    (and thanks for reminding me that I need to clear out all of my seasonal tunes out of my playlists)

  9. Until you mentioned it, I never even thought of making a cross-referenced database of my music, but now that I can't I suddenly really want to.

    That would be awesomely useful, especially if the database entries were clickable shortcuts to the track in question.

    Can't really dig around with this now, but I'll check back tonight.

    Here are a couple of places to start:



  10. We use WMP for music management, but I use WinAmp for online radio and some video downloads default to it (why? who knows?)

    I think it's fairly easy to use, but I don't download skins or do anything but upgrade when they tell me I have to.


  11. Huhn, I've never had a problem with my iTunes wanting to do all that. Although I can't speak to the super large libraries, I rotate out playlists all the time (copied MP3s to DVD for offline storage). But I drive it off my now 8 year old laptop, and it's got a small hard drive in it (I could do a total backup of the hard drive on my iPod).

    I have to use Microsoft products here at work on a constant basis. If I have to read the dialog box of "this device would work oh so much better if you connected it to a high-speed USB 2 port" one more time I might toss the machine. You don't have a USB 2 port little machine. Stop bugging me about it.

    And don't get me started on the whole "I'll copy and paste when I get good and ready to" problems I have with their software.

  12. Have you tried Songbird? It's open source from some of the guys that did WinAmp. My music collection isn't very large so I don't know how robust Songbird can be or its high end capabilities.


  13. Heck, I don't know if Jim will be interested in Songbird, but I may have to take a look at it, anon: not for my Windows machine (happy with Winamp) but for Linux, which the Wikipedia article says is supported. The newest version of Amarok is kinda grotty under GNOME and Exaile hasn't quite won me over yet. (Don't even get me started on Totem. Just don't. And Banshee and Rhythmbox might be alright if you like iTunes, but I really don't so I can't say how they actually are featurewise).

    Anyway, thank you for the tip! I may take a look at that!

  14. Just reinforcing my belief that Bill Gates is the Anti-Christ.

  15. Anon, thanks for the tip, Songbird will be next on the testing list.

    In between reviewing my resume and my certification paperwork last night, I fooled around with WinAmp and got it where I almost like it. I found a skin I can mostly live with, but I don't much care for how the library functions work - however, since there seems to be extensive customization options, it may be that I can tweak into behaving the way I want. It does seem to be much less resource intensive than WMP, but it doesn't allow much in the way of printing capability either.

  16. My first glance at Songbird thus far is that it will be pretty cool but isn't quite ready for primetime yet. The XULrunner framework means that Songbird is (at least from the user perspective) "Firefox for multimedia instead of the web," which means it will ultimately have the same level of features and customization that you can give to Firefox--appearance, plug-ins, etc. Hot-off-the-web it plays FLACs and has tabbed browsing of your music, which is very cool.

    That's the good part. The bad part is that it still doesn't have CD Ripping and encoding as of version 1.1.2 and iPod support is apparently wonky (a recent bug apparently had Songbird erasing tracks from the iPod without permission). In my own brief testing Songbird failed to initialize on install, hung on its second loading, and then when it ran somehow failed to load any metadata into the library though it apparently did read it while playing tracks back.

    The thing I really would emphasize in saying Songbird just isn't worth it to me right now is that I can see where they're going with it and I think the path is full of Awesome. In a few version numbers I may have to give it another try (for now, on Linux I'll stick with Exaile and on Windows, Winamp). So I don't want a bad review to be a condemning one--even the designers acknowledge that Songbird is barely versioned, just a few decimals past pure beta and with lots of kinks to be ironed out. But if you need a solution now, Songbird isn't it. It probably will be, just not yet. (And if you're in experimental mode, I'd say go ahead and take a gander at it and see what they're up to--it's worth that much, at least.)

    Hope that's helpful to someone/anyone.

  17. Gee, after all that work with scanning and coppying you would have been better off with a simple DIR command to a text file. You get the path (e.g. C:\Music\Van Halen\...) included and if you're really good you can turn the paths into links.

    Agreed, WMP is a long way off from being the database manager it needs to be for multimedia.


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