Saturday, October 26, 2002

I've been revisiting computer MP3/WMA/Ogg player/managers. I have used Sonic Foundry's Siren for a long time. In many ways it is the most expansive and well thought out of all the players out there. Unfortunately, Sonic Foundry stopped developing the product. I tried out recent versions of Winamp (ver 3) and MusicMatch (ver 7.2). Each had odd flaws that utimately led to my uninstalling them.

In the case of Winamp, despite it's claims it has poor support of WMA files. For instance, it will play WMA files but it will not properly retrieve WMA headers and display them in the Music Library. This makes it unusable for WMA in my book. Their response is WMA sucks, use MP3 or Ogg. Well the "WMA sucks" point is debatable. MP3 needs more disk space for equivalent WMA sound with a smaller file. Ogg is ok but is still too new and is not supported by any portable players. With DRM turned off, WMA is quite satisfactory. I don't know if WMA 9 will change things?

In the case of MusicMatch it too has a problem with WMA files. The default player install doesn't include support for WMA. One has to download and install a separate WMA "patch". Once installed, WMA files play but again there is a catch. Using the library, WMA files do not display their Track Number embedded in the header. Again this is deal killer. I don't understand what these companies are thinking? It seems more political than technical. Siren doesn't have these issues. It supports WAV, PCA, Ogg, MP3, WMA, and more.

This makes me wonder why there are no truly well designed MP3 players in production for the PC?

I look longingly at iTunes on the Mac. I've only played with it at stores but it appears well designed when compared to PC products. The iPod combined with iTunes seems like a killer combo that has no competition in the PC world. I wonder if Apple will ever embrace Ogg?

I suppose I may look at MS Windows Player 9 when it ships. Even so, out of the gate it is limited by slavish support of WMA only and using the lame All Music Guide for lookups. One can add MP3 support but I do not know of a way to add other codecs like Ogg?

It's surprising how little is written about the poor state of players for the PC?

Tuesday, October 15, 2002

Walt Mossberg writes a very good column for the WSJ. I enjoy his no nonsense pragmatic approach to technology. This is an example of his insightful approach and addresses a view on a subject (email clients) I have long espoused. As some know, I have railed against the mess that is Microsoft Outlook, I refuse to use it and made my feelings known while I was at Microsoft. I have always felt that Outlook Express was long undervalued as a very carefully crafted email and news client. Few realize that even if you you use Outlook, if you connect to a POP3 account you are using the Outlook Express engine. Further, Outlook does not support Newsgroups and never will due to MSFT's favor of Outlook's Public Folders - a completely braindead and unusable technology. Walt Mossberg addresses these issues in this article: Frustrated with Outlook? Take the Express Route.

Friday, October 11, 2002

With the continuing Tech downturn, I think there is new pragmatism to personal technology. This NY Times article, Wired, but Drawing the Line, exlpores this trend. Overall, I think it is a good trend. I certainly encountered too many "tech for tech's sake" people when I worked at MSFT. Some saw me as cynical. I prefer "pragmatic" as my moniker.

Wednesday, October 02, 2002

Another day of troubleshooting. One day after I testified in front of the Montgomery County Council on the sad state of Comcast Internet, right on schedule my Internet goes out for the majority of the afternoon. Called Comcast, again, and read them the riot act. They're hopeless.

Contacted Tacoma guitars about my preamp burning up batteries. Decided to contact HMT and see if they would help me. They consulted with Tacoma and they are sending a new preamp which they will have installed locally in about a week. Hopefully this will solve the problem?

Also, found out that Pinnacle Systems will have a patch that fixes my just purchased Expression DVD authoring program to allow it to not re-encode imported mpeg video. I can't believe they released the product without this. What were they thinking?

At least my SAT dish, stereo, and phone are working. Decided to ditch the Sony CD-RW and ordered another Plextor drive. Plextor has always been the premier CD-RW. I am a bit disappointed in the Sony drives. I expected better from Sony.

Need to take the car in for it's yearly checkup. Also, need to take my new preamp in for the quick update as recommended by Lew Johnson.

Suddenly, very busy.

Weather very summer like. I want it to get cold. I'm weary of warm weather.

Tuesday, October 01, 2002

Working on getting technical glitches solved today. Just had Verizon here to clear up a persistent hum/buzz on my phone line. They removed some old RF filters and cleaned up my connection at my network junction box. Seems a bit better.

Yesterday, I made the discovery that the cause of the radio interference (WTOP-AM) on my phone line was due to the satellite dish phone connection. I disconnected the SAT to phone link and the radio goes away. Very odd?

Comcast seems to behaving itself this week. I am off to testify this evening in Rockville.