Tag: foobar2000

Alphabetization Is Positively Fucking Shite for (large) Music Libraries

I’ve been running Ubuntu for several weeks now, probably over a month, almost exclusively. There are a couple things I miss about Windows; I keep it installed as a dual-boot option in case it takes me more than half an hour to figure out how to do something in Ubuntu that I can do in Windows in under two minutes.

One of the things I miss the most, of course, is foobar. I’ve been using Songbird, whose Linux version runs just as well as the Windows version I’ve gotten used to. But I didn’t truly realize how lost I was without my library filters in foobar; I think if in Windows I had wanted to play something in Songbird, but didn’t know what to listen to, I would have used my foobar setup to figure it out, then searched for the album in Songbird. I did this absentmindedly enough that, now that I’m without foobar, I’m alarmed at how difficult it is to navigate my library. I’m sitting here with Songbird open, and I’ve got 1,369 artists. What the hell am I supposed to do with that?

In foobar I had mood tags and clusters based on AllMusic data, so if I wanted something upbeat, I’d just look under the appropriate moods. If that didn’t work, I’d at least find an artist who came close, and then could use foo_scrobblecharts to find anybody in my library who was up to two degrees of separation away from any selected artist on Last.fm.

In Songbird, the best I can do is browse by genre (eyeroll), or use the Music Recommendations add-on, which only lists the top five matches for the currently playing artist on Last.fm, whether or not those five are in my library; if one of them happens to be, it conveniently links me to their tracks in my library, but it’s not that frequent an occurrence.

Anyway. The short of it is, for the eightieth time: something has to be done. How on God’s green earth does anybody figure out what to listen to? Oh that’s right, everybody just listens to Coldplay and U2 and Radiohead and Sufjan and The Hold Steady and The Shins and Miles Davis. If I only had seven artists I suppose I wouldn’t be making much of a fuss either.

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[req] Perfect Recall

I have a big problem with keeping track of the media I consume. With all the albums I download and listen to, and all the shit I read online, I’m oppressed by this feeling that it’s all just running through me without being digested or processed. It’s over-stimulation, I end up with all this shit in my head that I don’t know what to do with. I could of course just limit my intake, but I’m addicted to media and I don’t feel like changing any time soon. Plus there’s got to be a way I can apply all this stuff.

I suppose traditionally that’s what the blog format is meant for, to just kind of shit out everything you consume in the form of links and video embeds. But really that’s more like just “taking notes” at a lecture with a cassette recorder, see what I mean? That’s just transcription. I need something to do with it all. This problem is addressed to some extent by my meticulous music library curation with foobar, and my desperate calls recently for somebody to improve on the way we manage our music.

I think a prevailing problem is that of linearity; I can write a post on here, then another post, then another, and they appear chronologically in a line. Tagging and categorizing helps to make the content on here a little less linear, but it’s still not satisfying enough. I mean what I want is to be able to have some very loose, scrapbook-y interface where I can just kind of swim through collages of things: albums, journal entries. Snapshots of various aspects of certain time-periods. Paper is free-form enough to serve a purpose like this, but notebooks aren’t searchable or easily rearrangeable, and aren’t as ubiquitous as the web.

Continue reading “[req] Perfect Recall”

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Alphabetization Is Not Fit for Music Libraries

Wikipedia’s article on alphabetization explains:

Advantages of sorted lists include:

  • one can easily find the first n elements (e.g. the 5 smallest countries) and the last n elements (e.g. the 3 largest countries)
  • one can easily find the elements in a given range (e.g. countries with an area between .. and .. square km)
  • one can easily search for an element, and conclude whether it is in the list

The first two advantages are things you almost never need to do with music libraries. And the third has been supplanted by now-ubiquitous search boxes: if you know what you’re looking for, you search; and if you don’t, an alphabetized list is not the way to find it.

Web visionary Ted Nelson (<mst3k>Dr. Ted Nelson?</mst3k>) has been paraphrased as pointing out that “electronic documents have been designed to mimic their paper antecedents,” and that “this is where everything went wrong: electronic documents could and should behave entirely differently from paper ones.” If the folder metaphor is inadequate for digital documents, no wonder it’s so pitiful at handling music. The proximity between pieces of music in a library should least of all be based on the first letter in a band’s name – it’s as arbitrary as sorting them by the vocalist’s month of birth – yet this is how it’s universally done.

Music library organization needs to be re-thought from the ground up. We need to consider how it is that people used to listen to music before it was all on their iTunes. How are your CDs organized (or disorganized) on your shelf? How are they organized in your head? What is it that prompts you to listen to what you listen to when you listen to it? And how can we use computers to adopt and enhance these ways of thinking, rather than forcing us to think like computers? Continue reading “Alphabetization Is Not Fit for Music Libraries”

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foobar2000 Is Dead or Dying: Part 1

Originally written June 30, 2007.

There’s always been a significant faction of foobar2000 users whose primary attraction to the player is its appearance, or rather the level of control given to its users over its appearance. In its infancy, with the standard (and still default) UI, very little was possible — the main window consisted solely of a tabbed playlist and several functional toolbars — but people nevertheless took a lot of pride in making it their own, and some impressive things were done with relatively minimal flexibility. It was in the standard UI that users began experimenting with album-level presentation, choosing not to repeat redundantly the artist and album name on each line of the playlist, but to use the second, third, and sometimes fourth lines to display other info, such as year, label, genre, replaygain info, etc. Each of these customizations was unquestionably unique, but most of the broad details of the interface were consistent and inescapable.

The Columns UI component began as an experiment in allowing for multiple columns within the playlist display, emulating the Windows Explorer “Detail” view (and many other Windows programs), with sortability via clickable column headings. Eventually Columns UI added a sidebar and, later, panels, allowing the whole foobar window to be split up indefinitely into panel-based component displays, the playlist viewer becoming just another one of these. This granted much greater flexibility, allowing users to tailor the interface even more precisely to their needs. You could now display album art as prominently as you wanted, or not at all; your entire library tree could be embedded within the main window, rather than tucked away in a pop-up; and with the trackinfo panel’s exceptionally lax (by that era’s standards) stylizations, the personalization of your foobar became even more addictive, and, more importantly, rewarding.

Many seemed hell-bent on concocting the most garish presentations imaginable: giant gothic blue-on-black custom fonts, deep-red 200-px-tall spectrum analyzers, all, of course, coupled with custom OS “vis.”

While some still preferred the purity and elegance of the standard UI, the personalizations made possible by Columns UI were inarguably functional ones, for the most part. Fonts, colors, distribution of panels, and a rudimentary method of text alignment were really as far as you could go. At the core of all the boasted screenshots was a recognizable structure, all slight variations on the theme of playlist+trackinfo+albumlist+albumart. Outside of displaying album art, there was nothing profoundly new that Columns UI allowed you to do — rather, Columns UI gave you more control over how you did what you needed to do.

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Hotness 1.6.c.1

Totally warranted subversioning!

My foray into MP3Toys was ultimately short-lived, brought to a halt when I found what people were doing with Single Column Playlist for foobar, particularly the playlist-embedded album art. Back in the foobar saddle, I also gave in and tried out the “official” Play Count component, which I had avoided for so long because it didn’t support %FIRST_PLAYED%, and because I wasn’t sure I wanted my playback statistics only kept in the database — even though writing them to the files posed a lot of trouble as well. Turns out, playback statistics stored by the official component are less sensitive to changes to the files it’s keeping track of than the unofficial one, which means I only have to be a little careful to keep all my stats intact, while being able to play and track files that I’m still seeding.

This, along with the invaluable $cwb_datediff() function provided by Bowron’s new foo_cwb_hooks component, called for a rewrite to the hotness code, which had been stagnating in some marginally compatible 1.5 version since May. After severely trimming the code down and robusting things up, I thought of a new and totally non-arbitrary way to soften the blow hotness scores receive when songs are played. I hated seeing them leap to 100 every time, and this new softening method makes so much sense, utilizing existing baseline calibrations to keep things a lot more interesting. How anybody tolerated the old method is beyond me.

Anyway, here it is.

I also dug up a lot of old screenshots this week and I’m planning a nostalgia-fueled retrospective in the near future.

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MP3Toys

This will come as a shock to anybody who knows me, but I’ve all but stopped using foobar2000. A couple months ago on the indietorrents forums, somebody mentioned MP3Toys, and I’ve been using it almost exclusively since.

MP3ToysAs I mentioned in a previous post, all the chores I was made to do in foobar seemed to keep me from listening to music: I was working for my software, and not vice-versa. My collection of music felt cold and dead and fragile in the hands of foobar, and none of the features I had idealized in my mind were anywhere near fruition (true hotness, similarity-by-mood filters, etc.). I desperately wanted something to get me back in touch with my music, something that delivered music to me in a way that felt as natural as buying a CD and putting it in my stereo. I even considered switching to iTunes.

MP3Toys isn’t for every foobar user; I just got lucky enough that it emulates my ideal behavior in foobar. It’s a living, breathing program, and using it is a humanistic experience. It understands not just that you listen to music, but why you listen to music. Some of its intelligent features include:
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Intelligent browsing in foobar

Collecting my thoughts here…

foobarSo, ironically, music is becoming increasingly difficult for me to listen to. As though worrying about an extensive gauntlet of tagging procedures isn’t enough, I just have too much damn music. Browsing alphabetically through upwards of 500 artists is not the best way to go looking for something when you have no idea what you want to hear.

I’ve auditioned various methods of tweaking foobar to ‘deliver’ music to me more or less automatically, and I’m close to having something ideal. The playlist tree component allows for dynamic tree structures (which, unfortunately, can only be rebuilt manually or every time a new song begins); using the titleformatting language, I’ve generated five queries whose purpose it is to ‘coax’ certain albums to starker visibility from the featureless and indifferent music library, to greater or lesser success.

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