The Challenge: Best Strategies for Navigating the Waters of a Large Media Library

In recent weeks I’ve found my listening habits growing stagnant as my artist and label discographies are slowly exhausted.  The challenge for users with large media libraries is the task of finding yet-unexplored territories and developing strategies to facilitate the charting of those new waters.

One of the caveats of my otherwise-stellar media server software is that there is no way to browse by genre.  I realized this evening that queuing a chronology of albums from a given genre would be a wonderful way to explore new sounds within my library so I went to work straight away and by nightfall the project was a success.

A few initial discoveries – classics of soul jazz

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Using the genre text cloud feature in gmusicbrowser I constructed .m3u playlists of several intriguing but unfamiliar genres within my collection.  Each list  contained 10,000 to 17,000 of the tracks best-representative of the genre based upon RYM data and discographic libraries from the genre’s most prominent artists and composers.

I ended up splitting the Jazz list into two subsets – early jazz recordings from 1924-1958 and modern jazz recordings from 1959-1979.  This will help make the listening experience more uniform and will be an easier load on my mobile devices when spooling the lists.

With the task completed, I’m now ready to queue up thousands of hours of quality content from an array of genres I’d only explored superficially when I first acquired the recordings.  I’m looking forward to new discoveries and to the wonderful soundtrack it will provide for my days at the office!

The first batch of playlists are as follows:

  • Hot on the One – A Funk Odyssey
  • Ambient Worlds
  • Anatomy of a Murder: Film Noir Soundtracks
  • Beatless Space – Pure Drone
  • Beautiful Noise – 90s Dream Pop
  • Friday Nights – Intelligent Drum & Bass
  • 30 Years of Music from the Hearts of Space
  • Ninja Tune – The First 150 Albums
  • Psybient Dreams
  • Cinematic Soundscapes – Music for Films
  • The Chill Out Room – Downtempo Classics
  • The Imaginarium – Early Gypsy Jazz
  • The World of Jazz (1924-1958)
  • The World of Jazz (1959-1979)

Time to start listening!

Published in: on August 20, 2015 at 9:53 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Superman Drive: Escaping Windows and Embracing Linux

Today’s entry is a break from the usual music news.  As you’re undoubtedly aware, media servers occasionally require a bit of maintenance and today was that day.

For days the Windows 10 free upgrade offer had been calling to me from the bottom of my screen. After nearly a week’s hesitation I gave in and accepted the offer. Of course, this was a Microsoft upgrade, so it wasn’t going to be a smooth ride. Three failed attempts and a non-responsive Windows Update later I found myself once again growing tired of Windows issues.

Curiously, my fiance was experiencing similar difficulties with her own machine – her latest Windows Update had run for an eternity with no response. Manual installation attempts were fruitless so we gave up and ran the full version installer.

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The full version offered an opt-out for updates, but problems persisted when the installer failed to complete due to my multi-boot configuration.

Worse still an attempted removal of the secondary partition resulted in a corrupted MBR. I’d really had enough. Now the system was locked in an infinite booting loop with a dodgy partition.  This called for drastic measures.

I raced to the nearest office supply store and snatched up a $9 novelty 8GB flash drive shaped like Superman. At the checkout, I asked if the store had a resident Linux guru and was directed to a scruffy fellow with a yeard (clearly qualifying him for the task). I asked if he knew whether a bootable USB Linux distro would be robust enough to repair a damaged MBR. He wisely responded, “well… it IS shaped like Superman.”

And so I went to work. A quick bit of research produced a boot-repair-disk 64bit Linux distro and pendrivelinux.com’s UUI software. I had previously left Linux behind in favor of a few Windows-based music management applications a few years ago, but this incident was a wake-up call that I needed to get back to Ubuntu.

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After a successful system repair and a bit of research I successfully identified Linux alternatives for two dozen of my most-used applications and worked out the necessary Terminal commands for each of their respective installations.

playerThe Guayadeque Audio Manager – a potential replacement for MediaMonkey Gold

And with that harrowing experience behind our intrepid hero, Innerspace Labs and our media server are now operating 100% in a Linux environment.  It was long overdue, but it feels great to have made it to the other side.

The Superman Drive 2

Thank you, Superman.

Published in: on August 13, 2015 at 7:06 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Making the Move to the Mobile Web

Today I’ve started a new project.  After working for an app development company for 8 months, hearing every day that the app market has hit critical mass, and that mobile web access has overtaken desktops as the primary means of accessing the internet, it seemed in my best interest to invest in a tablet to keep abreast of the mobile “craze.”

I’ve never paid much attention to the Play Store other than my daily use of Sindre Mehus’ wonderful Subsonic media server app.  Projects like music research, databasing, and library management just don’t lend themselves to a mobile environment, much less to an app.

But I took on the project and invested in a Nexus 7 2nd gen (2013) which appeared to have universal acclaim as the best 7″ tablet on the market at present.

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With its quad-core Snapdragon processor and the highest resolution of any available tablet (WUXGA 1920×1200) coupled with its affordable price tag, the choice was simple.  A certified refurbished model from a licensed distributor was $160.  A package of Tech Armor screen shields and a Moko faux leather case/stand with a compact Bluetooth keyboard was only $39 more, so the entire package was $200, tax and shipping-free.

But the question remained – would this mobile device be of any use to a user like myself?

I spent the first evening customizing the tablet.  I compiled a beautiful high res album of photographs from the most renowned libraries in the world and installed Wallpaper Changer to cycle through a gallery of bibliophilia and really show off the resolution of the Nexus 7.

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Next I ported my browser add-ons and settings to sync from my desktop to my mobile environment, which was surprisingly easier than I anticipated.

Then I arrived at perhaps my most empowering conclusion.  To really get the most out of the mobile interface, I needed all of my library resources to be instantly accessible.  As I had a fondness for the desktop interface of most of these services, I learned how to save deep-web links to my home screen instead of using apps.

Below is a snapshot of my fourth home screen where I’ve created shortcuts to everything from my most-traveled music subreddits to my audio reference texts which I’ve converted from PDF to reflowable ePubs and synced to my Google Books account.

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I was excited to explore my record catalog which I had recently ported from a static database to the cloud on Discogs.com.  The interface is clean and customizable in the tablet browser environment.  Here is the Art Rock folder of my top 300 LPs in cover-view.

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And the same folder in detail view.

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And finally, the summary view from the home folder.

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The site functions very well with a touch-based tablet interface, and my Subsonic media server was equally easy to use.  In addition to the high resolution display, the Nexus 7 is fitted with stereo speakers which perform well in the mobile setting.  Better still, I travel with my Sennheiser monitors wherever I go, so I am ready for anything (although I might consider a portable DAC further down the line).

Here is the Subsonic interface, viewing one artist’s folder on the Nexus 7.

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And a view of a primary discographic chronology folder.

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Or if you prefer to navigate by playlist…

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So it would appear that the Nexus 7 is up to the challenge of the majority of my computing tasks.  The one remaining challenge would be to draft an entire blog entry on the tablet.

Which I’ve just done.

This increased mobility will let me seize the opportunity to work on my research and blogging wherever I go.  I’m looking forward to the productivity.

I’ll leave you with an interesting thought piece.

(Begin at 6m 45s if the video fails to jump to that time.)

This is Zimerman’s Paradox. “Music is not sound.”

In this BBC interview segment, Krystian Zimerman condemns digital recording for its perfection, and claims that it strips away the emotion and character of a composition.

What do you think?