(2003 to 2005)

Media mania

Tue Dec 9 16:35:00 UTC+1100 2003


Many moons ago, I purchased an Audio Grabber licence and ripped my CD collection to my computer, so that I could enjoy listening to my music without having to stuff around loading Cd's. Having over a thousand songs, also makes it impractical to remember exactly what music I have and what CD it's on (especially with compilation Cd's such as soundtracks) - so having it all catalogued on my computer is important to me.

The grabs I did with Audio Grabber weren't great. Some of the stuff was encoded at 128bps, others at 192bps, and I could notice the crap sound. I had to get the LAME MP3 encoder and hook that up to Audio Grabber, which while functional was painful from a UI perspective.

Recently I got a new keyboard, that has a host of 'special' buttons. There is a set of buttons for controlling audio, such as Play, Stop, Next, Prev, Volume, Mute, etc. By default these are hooked up to work with Windows Media Player, and the interface for configuring the device (i.e. key assignments) leaves quite a bit to be desired, making it difficult for me to figure out how to get these keys to work with Winamp, which I have used as my media player of choice for the last 5 or more years.

Cutting a long story short, I decided to check out Windows Media Player 9 (WMP) and I have basically abandoned some of my old prejudices against this software. I do have one or two complaints, but mostly I'm happy with it, and frankly the fact that it works from my keyboard is enough for me. Two things that particularly annoy me are that there is no way to 'Refresh' the track listing, the software assumes that the CD auto-insert notifications will be received (and I killed them), the other thing is that I can't get it out of my task bar. I don't like my media player being in the task bar, as I consider this area to be for items that I need to address, I much prefer it to be in the sys tray where it is out of the way, but I can't find a setting for this (Winamp has been able to do this since I can remember).

On the same day that I got my new keyboard, I also got a 128MB USB portable media player. This device plays media encoded in MP3 and WMA formats. Since I've made the migration to WMP, to my mates' horror I have decided to re-rip my Cd's using the WMA format. I have to say that this was a piece of cake, and took hardly any time compared to the last time that I did it with Audio Grabber. After much deliberation, I ended up ripping my Cd's using the highest quality variable bit-rate WMA encoding. The only reason I'd have considered using a lower bit-rate would have been to enable storage of more songs on my low capacity portable device.

I must confess that I'm still a little nervous about the obvious profiling that MS has facilitated. Their privacy settings appear to be pretty solid, but as usual if you want 'functionality' you have to give up 'privacy'. Specifically, WMP hooks into a (or various) web service(s) that returns additional information about the media that you are playing. I like this feature, because I get album covers, without having to collect them myself or embed them in my media. The problem is that as a result of enabling this service when a song loads it is effectively reported to a third party. In other words, someone can monitor (and invariably is monitoring) what I'm listening to.

I've been bashed by plenty of institutions, corporations and bureaucrats in my life. I've given up trying to hide from them. I'm chronically depressed about this state of affairs, but I give up. I want to hear my music in decent quality when I press the play button on my keyboard. I've read 1984, I know how it ends. When you are ready I will surrender, Take me and do as you will, Have what you want - your way's always the best way.


Copyright © 2003-2005 John Elliot