Saturday, November 11, 2006

Windows Media Player 11

A couple weeks ago I upgraded to Windows Media Player 11 at home. There are really only three noticeable changes: the default color scheme is black (I assume to match Vista) and the library has been redesigned to show album art and make browsing easier, and the search function actually works without hanging the entire application. Oh, and they added yet another soon-to-be-defunct online music store (Urge) to the application.

The frustrating part is that despite the fact that it was years between releases, there is a disturbing lack of polish on the program. For example, the fancy new black interface.

Since the dawn of multitasking in Windows, you can close a window by double-clicking in the upper left corner. Similarly, as of Windows 95 you can close a window using the X in the upper-right corner as well. Except in WMP 11 that is.

Oh, they have a close function on the upper left and right, but the buttons don't extend all the way to the edges of the window, even though the one on the upper left looks like it should. So, instead of being able to close the program by scrolling all the way to either upper corner of the screen, you have to back off a few pixels. That's just stupid, the objects are there, just increase their hit boxes to touch the edge.

Similarly the whole album art integration. It's cool, in that I haven't looked at album art for any of my cds for probably 8 years (when I ripped everything to the computer for the first time). But, since my mp3s are that old, that was before anyone thought to download album art. Instead, the album art has been slowly downloaded by older versions of Windows Media Player over the years. Which would be fine, except that most of that automatically downloaded album art is not used by the new version of WMP.

That's dumb. Stealing-a-laptop-while-going-through-airport-security dumb. It should have happened automatically, after all it was not like I had downloaded the album covers by hand and the program doesn't know anything about them. Instead, I have to manually go out, find the hidden and system attrib'd files that were already downloaded and re-apply them to the files in WMP 11. Dumb.

Oh, and that fancy album art display doesn't appear to work for playlists, which sucks because the 'Recently Added' threshold is too low for my slow music acquisition pace. So I tended to use an automatic playlist to display albums added in the past 6 months rather then the past two weeks (or month or whatever the Recently Added search finds). But now I can't browse through that list with the album art displayed.

As far as fixing problems with the previous play, my main complaint about WMP 10 was that the syncing with my Rio mp3 player was too stupid to avoid completely filling the player causing it to panic and re-format itself. But since the player is effectively broken, I don't sync it anymore, so I have no idea if they fixed that. I suspect not.

I am glad search is finally responsive and doesn't hang the player, but I have not noticed the supposed speed-up when dealing with extremely large mp3 libraries (like mine). It is somewhat laggy scrolling through the list of albums/artists, even with most of them not having any album art. Plus since they removed the tree control for skipping right to a particular artist now I have to scroll through that list.

Oh, and they shipped with no podcasting support? That might have been acceptable in 2004, but today that is lame. Especially when the player they stole album art from has had support for it for over a year.

All in all, not particularly impressive after two years of development.


Bill Roehl said...

I haven't used WMP ever. Many people are surprised to learn that I use iTunes for my media playing but I see no reason why not -- apparently WMP doesn't cut the mustard.

While iTunes does include podcasting support, it seems that the latest version requires you to either have the podcasts automatically updated or you have to manually select them for updates each time.

Since I like to do a manual update only, it's terribly annoying for me to click on each one every time. The old version just let you update them all at once.

We can never win Steve :(

Steve Eck said...

I thought you were Linux-only, you must have Macs as well?

I wouldn't mind using iTunes, but I unfortunately have some cds ripped to lossy WMA, which means I would have to re-rip the cds to switch them into mp3s or lossless WMA and then cross-convert. That's a lot of work, so thus I just stick with WMP and its little annoyances.