Thursday, January 06, 2005

MusicMatch Moves My Cheese

Generally I'm quite enthused about upgrading my copy of MusicMatch Jukebox software. The upgrade mechanism in itself is neat. Nine times out of ten the upgrades are of the incremental variety, and (I think) have been downloading in the background over time as you have been using the software. When the update is fully downloaded, you get a little alert that says quick upgrade is available, and it starts installing at your prompt. When major releases become available, a separate download and install is required.

Both the incremental and major upgrades are generally good, I find, so when version 10 of the software became available, I quickly downloaded and installed. As always, there are interface tweaks that makes the player just a wee bit more cool looking, but this time around I noticed a number of things that annoy the ever lovin' peace out of me.

1. I archive my stuff onto CD/DVD ROM and used the "Audio File URL" field to hold
the name of the CD/DVD the audio file was archived to. Guess what? That field is no longer available as a column header in the library view. When I add new files to the library I generally put in a temporary identifier into this field so that when the library is sorted on this column this identifier falls to the bottom (or top) of the list. This allows me to find unarchived files sooner, burn them to CD, and then reassign the field to CD/DVD archive name. Every other conceivable field is available except "Audio File URL," although it's still available when I edit the track's tag. Argh... FIX THIS.

2. I generally view the library by Artist and then sort by album and track (respectively). I used to be able to start typing the name of the artist and the library would jump to that artist, jumping further with each letter I typed. Guess what? Typing the artist name doesn't work anymore unless you click on the column heading for the artist, which sorts by artist (indicated by an arrow on the column header), which is worthless because I'm already viewing by artist. And... guess what? When clicking on the artist column header, it messes up the sorting on album names and tracks. The albums and tracks are now sorted according to the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle. How stupid is that?

3. There used to be a tiny play button next to each of the tracks in the library that would allow me to play that track without adding it to the playlist. That's extremely useful if you're putting a playlist together and want to sample the track without the extra steps of adding and deleting tracks. Well, guess what? Button gone.

4. The "Edit Track Tag" button is gone from the library manager. Guess what? I have to right click and go two menus deep to find that function, or use the menu bar at the top. That wastes a couple more of my precious nanoseconds during the day.

5. Highlighting tracks using the shift key in the library and dragging to the playlist... uh, guess what? The dragging motion every so often (again, think Heisenberg) continues to select (or deselect) tracks rather than drag.

6. Okay, you don't have to guess anymore. Although I am generally pleased with the upgrades, I have an uneasiness about the general direction of the software. It seems to be moving more towards an online/streaming experience. The various music services (MM has one built in to their Jukebox) and DRM schemes leave a bad taste in my mouth. MM has now inexplicably thought it necessary to include the "rating" field as a default column on install of v10. Guh, how much of my broadband is being used to tell the mothership what I'm listening to?

7. If I may beg, write a driver for Hi-MD MiniDisc. Even RealPlayer supported NetMD MiniDisc at one point. This I would probably blame Sony a bit more for. Their SonicStage jukebox software (which works in conjunction with and is available from their Connect online store) is a horribly convoluted contraption. It's a "best of" collection including hand-cuffing DRM schemes, commitment to an unpopular and generally ignored audio format, and a user interface philosophy believing that your experience should resemble a Flash application.

Of course, there ARE a redeeming factors in v10. The new Cobalt scheme is quite nice to look at. And I really like that they've changed the small player view from a bar to a brick. You can see more of the artist and track names without the annoying scroll. That can only mean that somebody else's cheese was moved...

UPDATE: Apparently, I'm not one of only a few that does not like the v10 upgrade. MM10 is getting hammered by users on download.com. Coincidentally, I was looking for a way to downgrade to v9 when I ran across these.

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