December 26, 2003

Tuning into the Crystal Spheres

If nothing else, all you PC users out there should download Winamp 5.0. It’s free, it rocks, and it lets you toggle between the huge, ugly freeform Winamp 3.0 skins (the default of which is actually very pleasant and comes in a wide spectrum of colors) or the leaner and meaner Winamp 2.0 skins.

Winamp 3.0 sucked so much it chilled my heels into ever upgrading Winamp again, but 5.0 has renewed my faith. It handles tracks and playlists with much more elegance than previous versions, and they must have retooled the randomizer algorithms because a) they sucked before and were merely a cruel abstraction of true randomness and b) I’m hearing songs from my collection of 3,155 mp3s that were never randomly summoned up with Winamp 2.0.

It’s the little things, too. Speedy loading. Subtle cross-fading between tracks. A CD player that actually works. Multiple pretty color options for the same skin. I’m tempted to slap down the measly $15 for the full version so I can rip mp3s for the first time in nearly a year. I used to use an old demo version of MusicMatch (which sucked for everything but ripping) to generate mp3s, and it let me sample at 160kbps, which t’ain’t bad. I then made the mistake of upgrading the demo to a newer version, which chopped me down to 128kbps, which is unacceptable in my realm. I spent the better part of an afternoon uninstalling the sinister new version and reinstalling the old version, which never completely forgave me. Then this past summer my Windows partition collapsed and the only way I could rescue my computer was booting in my Linux partition, cleaning house and reinstalling Windows. Stretched thin, like too little butter over too much bread, MusicMatch finally keeled over and stiffened with rigor mortis, and I was left with 200 CDs that still needed to find their ways into mp3 form.

So. If Winamp 5.0 can play mp3s well, and can play CDs well, and can burn CDs well, and can rip mp3s from CDs well, I may have found the last program I’ll ever need to buy for my PC. Why, unconfirmed rumors claim that it can even play videos, but I don’t want to strain the poor feller. On second thought, yes I do. Now I’m watching Harvey Birdman! Now I’m watching Invader Zim!

No way! It streams Internet TV! Now I’m watching British comedy! Now I’m watching Ween! Now I’m watching Radiohead! No way! It streams Internet Radio! Now I’m listening to symphonic music! Now I’m listening to ambient trance! Now I’m listening to Korean Gospel!

Now I’m siphoning fifteen smackers out of my bank account!

How very odd. It must log IP addresses or something. My Winamp 5.0 randomization is definitely better than 2.0, but it still has an uncomfortable fondness for Sweeney Todd and Schoolhouse Rock.