Archive for the 'Music' Category

Connect Player or SonicStage? Not even Sony know…

Sony confuse me.

They appear to have two pieces of music management software competing for the same space. There’s SonicStage, which came with MiniDiscs and the HD series of players. It’s ugly and horrible to use but had the massive advantage of being fairly stable. Then they’ve got the new upstart, Connect Player, which comes with the new A-series Walkmans (Walkmen?). It’s both prettier and easier to use, but until recently was horribly slow and crashed every few seconds. I’ll ignore the third option, which I believe shipped with the PSP.

The thing is, they’ve finally got the Connect Player working as it should. It’s not perfect, but it works properly. Hooray! But now SonicStage is about to trump it again, adding support for the very Walkmans that Connect was designed to work with.

Come on Sony, make your minds up. What’s it to be? Connect Player or SonicStage? It was good to keep SonicStage around while you got Connect Player into a usable state, but surely now you should drop it? If you do keep developing it, it needs a major interface upgrade at the very least. It still looks and feels like some “scene” software from the heyday of the Amiga A500.

Maybe I’ve been spoilt by the likes of iTunes — software that makes it easy to look after thousands of songs — but then so has the rest of the world. I think Sony need to think long and hard, then cull one of these applications and bring the other one up to spec.

Update — It seems that the Connect Player is no more. Let’s hope SonicStage gets an interface upgrade in the next version, because even version 4.0 is miles behind the competition.

Sony’s Connect Player is back on track

Screenshot of Sony Connect Player v1.0.04.16100. Sony recently updated their Connect Player software (to version and I’m very glad to report that it’s a huge, huge improvement. It now runs at a decent speed on my fairly modest Athlon 1800+ system and appears to be stable. Nice one Sony.


The new version wouldn’t start at first though – it just hung at the “Initialising Library” stage. The fix was fairly simple: I went to C:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Application Data\Sony Corporation\CONNECT Player\Library (the path may be slightly different on your machine) and deleted everything in there. Once I did that, it started up with an empty library just fine.

From there, I went to File > Import Files... and pointed it at my iTunes music folder. It picked up everything (all 36.6gb of it) and imported it fairly quickly.

GAARGH! Compilations!

Alas Connect Player went the same way as SonicStage and imported each track in my various-artists compilations as a separate album. A bit of trial and error found a fairly easy way to correct this:

  1. Switch the view mode to Group By: Album.
  2. Open up one of the albums that make your compilation, right click on the track within and select Properties.
  3. Under Album Artist enter Various Artists (or whatever else you want it to say). Click OK.
  4. Now, select all of the other “albums” in that compilation (shift-click or ctrl-click to select more than one album) and drag-drop them onto the one you’ve just modified. Click OK to the warning box and hey presto! They’re all in one album.


Right, now for the one thing I’ve not tried yet: Syncing it up with my Walkman. Wish me luck…

Sony Walkman Wishlist

So then, the Sony Walkman NW-A3000. It’s a lovely machine in many ways. It’s beautifully made as you would expect from Sony. The sound quality is fantastic too, once you’ve purchased some decent earphones. The supplied ones really aren’t too hot.

Unfortunately, a few things let it down, so I’ve put together a wishlist of things I’d like to see improved:

The Software

  • The Connect Player is unusably slow and it’s TinyHTTP.exe process is very resource hungry and unstable. Sort it out, please.
  • The alternative, SonicStage, is better, but only in so far as it’s usable. It’s not altogether stable itself, and when compared with it’s biggest competition (iTunes), it’s not a very good music player / manager at all.
  • Support for compilation / various-artists albums definitely needs improvement. Specifically, when viewing my music, it should give me the option to separate compilation albums out from the rest of the music. The option to separate artists that only appear on compilations from the rest of the artist listing would be great, too. The same complaints apply to the player itself.
  • It would be nice if it could do the same with Podcasts. Some sort of poscast aggregation built into the software would be very nice, too.
  • Make the whole playlists experience nicer to use. If they were sorted out on this side, i’d use them a lot more on the player itself.
  • The ability to import playlists from other software – iTunes and WinAMP in particular – would be a very nice feature.
  • Support for the Mac and other alternative platforms would be lovely, thanks. In fact, just documenting the disc format you use and releasing it into the public domain would be a huge help. You wouldn’t have to do the work then, would you? The folks over at Songbird would quite likely do it for you.

The Hardware

To be honest, there isn’t a great deal wrong with the Walkman itself. The majority of the problems lie in the software that sits on your PC. I do have a few bugbears though:

  • It can be so very very slow at times. It’s usually when navigating through the music library while music is playing, but quite often it grinds to a halt and shows the “accessing” screen for ages while nothing else is happening. This is very frustrating. More speed please Sony.
  • Support for compilation albums isn’t brilliant on the player either. Separating them out from the rest of the library would be nice. The same would be nice for Podcasts.
  • Um… it’d be nice if you could squeeze in a bigger hard disc. 20gb simply isn’t enough for me anymore.
  • You know deep down, what I really want, is to be able to just drag and drop folders of music straight on there as if it was an external hard drive. Not going to happen, is it? No, I didn’t think so.

Dear Sony…

I bought myself a Sony Walkman A3000 shortly before christmas.

It’s a really good bit of hardware: The sound quality is great (especially with a decent set of earphones), looks lovely, is nice to use, line-out mode is handy for plugging it into the stereo, I could go on.

Alas Sony have largely ruined it. How? Well, they’ve gone and bundled it with the wonderful new Connect Player v1.0.

Now, to look at it’s quite nice. All dark colours and smooth edges – very Sony. Alas to use it is a complete nightmare.

Connect Player falling over. Again.

It uses up shedloads of memory and CPU time (how does 674mb and 97% sound?). It takes upwards of five minutes to start up. Despite using all that memory and CPU time it’s slower than a snail climbing Everest. On top of all this it’s not even stable: It usually crashes when you try to import a lot of music at once. Nope, I wouldn’t reccomend that anybody even tries to use it.

Instead, march straight over to the Sony Website, grab a copy of SonicStage 3.3 and use that instead. In terms of looks it’s the complete antithesis of Connect – being an ugly thing. On the other hand, it’s loads faster, a lot more stable, uses less memory and will quite happily transfer music over to your new player.

Alas this means you’ll lose some of the extra functions of the Walkman (the Artist Link and some of the intelligent shuffle features), but to be honest I don’t think you’ll miss them. The joy of being able to finally put music onto the new player without tearing out your hair ought to more than make up for it.


Thankfully, it looks like they’re making steps in the right direction. ATRACLife reports that they’re taking a leaf right out of Apple’s book (quite literally) by poaching Tim Schaaff and making him Senior Vice President of Software Development. Still, that doesn’t help those of us using the software right now…

Sony Network Walkman

I want a music player with a gert big hard drive in it again. I’ve seen the adverts for the new Sony Walkman and really really want one. Or at least I did.

You see, I wandered over to Amazon to see how much they are. Not a lot more than an iPod Nano and 16gb bigger! It looks ace!

Then I started reading the user reviews. Everybody seems to think the player itself is fantastic – which is no surprise. Sony have traditionally been the daddies when it comes to portable music hardware.

Unfortunately, it would seem that software is not their strong point. Phrases like “the Connect software does its best to wreck your PC and prevents you loading any more than a handful of albums” kept popping up. I googled around for some more reviews and the same thing comes up over and over again. One review summed it up:

“It’s the broken software that lets this product down, not the player – it’s such a shame that Sony haven’t been able to get it right. They’ve put so much effort into getting a great MP3 player out for Christmas – and they’ve forgotten to finish the software.”

Bah humbug.

All these things rock:

  • My Orange 222. Stable, planted, fast, FUN! Oh, and removing the brake-arm didn’t appear to make any difference to the ride. One afternoon’s riding without it isn’t exactly an extensive test, I know…
  • Topshelf Components. I ordered a custom built new wheel, and found it waiting on the doorstep the following day. Fantastic service. The Aireal stuff they sell is pretty damn good aswell.
  • G-Dog’s new trails. Funtastic aceness – except for that drop. It’s just plain silly.
  • Falling off your bike and not hurting yourself.
  • Fog. It made Cheltenham disappear entirely, which looked cool from the top of the hill.
  • The current albums by Maximo Park, Hard-Fi and Bloc Party, not to mention some older ones by Everlast, Haven and The Black Keys.
  • Apple crumble and custard. In fact, I think I deserve another portion…

They’re a funny old bunch, Sony.

On the one hand they’re a bunch of idiots, whose copy-protected music CDs can leave your computer open to virus attack. OK, I’m sensationalising, but that surely is a sign of a company that just doesn’t get it. It’s like they believe that if they don’t install something really nasty on the CD, the consumer is just bound to pirate it. Meanwhile, illegal copies of the CDs appear through the usual channels within hours of release – as per usual. This sort of thing just doesn’t work Sony – it’s only ever going to generate you bad P.R.

On the other hand, they produce some absolutely fantastic hardware and commission some wonderful adverts [thanks Eeen] in which to showcase it.

Go figure.

Update: It gets worse for Sony

Brilliant: It would appear that Sony’s copyright protection software is itself in breach of copyright [thanks Andy]. They’re really thought this one though, haven’t they?

Album of your life

Owen posted an album of his life today. He’s by no means the first either – Stuart posted the wonderful Ubermix a while back aswell.

I’ve thought about doing a similar thing myself a few times in the past. The thing is, I don’t think I could – at least not without it being a huge multi-disc compendium. There’s just so much that i’d want to put in there, and I can’t see myself being able to edit it down to one CD at all.

The problem lies with albums, or rather that I can’t pick out one particular track. I too remember the evenings in the first year of college spent listening to Portishead’s Dummy. There’s no way I could pick one standout track from there – there’s too much good stuff to choose from. Then there’s the other albums that I played to death back then: The Fat of the Land, Mezzanine, Brothers Gonna Work It Out and Asylum to name but a few. How can I take just one track from each of those? I can’t (especially seeing as one of them is a mix album where are no tracks as such).

Sod it I thought, I’ll list off my all time favourite albums. That’s all well and good, except even that list got far far far too long within a space of about ten minutes. Right then, favourite artists it is then. Or rather, it isn’t, because again, there’s bloody loads of them. So I’ve given up on that idea for now.

So it seems that Olly’s favourite band is “Various Artists”. Stick that on your shiny new iPod, it’s bound to be good.