Monday, June 10, 2019

foobar2000, peripherals, and Goodnight Meowmie

Let's see here...the first major thing I have to write about is foobar2000!!!

I'm perhaps ages late to the party (?), but I've finally taken the plunge and switched from using iTunes to foobar2000!  This was not a decision I took lightly, but I decided to pull the trigger after working with foobar2k and considering the pros and cons, and I've been pretty satisfied so far!

Foobar2000 is a free windows-based audio player that is known for many for its customizability, advanced features, modular design, and basically being the dream of anyone who is not scared of complexity and wants to really have their music player function the way THEY want.  It's also available for OSX as of ~1.5 years ago, though I have not tested that build yet.

Perhaps more importantly, foobar2000 now (as of ~a year ago I think) has a mobile client, available for all of iOS/Android/WindowsPhone.  This is key as one of the primary things tying me to iTunes has always been the fact that my ecosystem includes a lovely iPhone SE running iOS and of course I'd really like to have my music readily available on that.

Right, so let's first talk about the things I'm losing during the move to fb2k:
First off, syncing music to iOS is a bit more involved.  Unfortunately, foobar2000 has no way of directly interfacing with the iOS media library, so instead you write music to the foobar2000 app's sandbox and only fb2k can access it.  There is no "automatic" way to do this, but fortunately the iOS fb2k app includes an FTP server that you can use to transfer files via FTP.  This is as far as I can tell the best way to transfer music to fb2k mobile as you can't access the foobar2000 app sandbox directly (without jailbreaking your phone).

Of course there's no built-in "sync management" like there is with iTunes, so instead I first use foobar_onewaysync to copy out the relevant playlists (and their associated music files) to a temporary directory, then use WinSCP to mirror that on the iPhone over FTP.  So like I said, this is "a bit more involved", but now that I have that flow set up it's as simple as running those two commands and waiting for them to complete.

Like with all things in foobar2000, I have so much more =confidence= in what is happening here with the sync.  There would be all kinds of uncommon weird annoyances back when iTunes was in the picture -- you'd find it transferring old files again and again (why?), you'd find that certain songs were missing and showed up on the device but weren't actually playable (why?), you'd find that every time you did a sync one of your playlists mysteriously duplicated itself (why?).  I think a recurring theme so far with foobar2000 is that you have to spend some effort setting up your workflow for doing certain things, but once you do, it Just Works.

The REAL main thing I'm losing during the move to fb2k is actually a significant one: it's bluetooth media browsing via the AVRCP protocol.  In other words, browsing music via my car's on-board display (or through the controls on the steering wheel).  I can still trigger playback and track skips via bluetooth, but any attempts to browse the tracks/playlists/etc from my car's bluetooth interface will result in it looking at the native iOS music library, which is now empty (as all of the music is in foobar2000).  This is actually a pretty major loss as it means that I can't really fire up a music playlist in my car unless I'm parked or stopped for a good minute, as I have to actually do that browsing on my phone itself.

As far as I can tell there's no real way around this.  foobar2000 used to have an iPod management module but that is looooooooong defunct and iOS tends to be very closed off in terms of these sorts of things anyways.  The only way I could really get this functionality back would be to bring iTunes back into the picture, and then use iOS music as my mobile app while still using foobar2000 as my desktop/laptop music player.  We'll see if it comes to that, but I don't think it will.  foobar2000 mobile is a better media player anyhow, and I don't see an efficient way to sync from foobar2000->through itunes->to the iOS device for anything more than maybe a single playlist.

That being said, what I'm =gaining= in the transition to foobar2000 feels well worth the loss so far:
- A =working= ReplayGain implementation!  I now use replaygain to play music at adjusted volumes for normalized listening.  iTunes has a proprietary "Sound Check" feature that is supposed to do this but completely fails on VBR-encoded files.  This is super useful for social dance DJing in particular as having normalized (normalized as in equal perceived loudness, not as in peaking at 0dB) volumes is pretty important.
- I've customized my UI to include a clickable waveform display that shows the current song progress and can be clicked to seek to any point in the song.  Super useful for visually seeking to a given point in the song!
- The ability to work with ID3 tags and file metadata in a very fully-featured and rich way.  Want to convert all ID3 tags to ID3v2.3?  Want to batch-append a genre or grouping tag to 500 songs?  fb2k can do it all!
- The ability to ensure that your media library's files are organized correctly and robustly.  iTunes of course attempted to do this automatically, but it wasn't customizable at all and there were a lot of times when it would come up with filenames and/or paths that seemed a  fb2k gives you the option to organize your paths however you want and will give you a preview of what files need to be moved where before actually reorganizing everything.

Anyhow, that's sort of been an ongoing pet project of mine, but I'm basically done with the switch now and have been enjoying not only the new functionality but most of all the peace of mind and robustness that fb2k offers.


Alongside that big customization project, I also spent quite a while looking at mechanical keyboards and finally decided to get myself a pink Filco Majestouch 2!!!  I first started thinking about buying a new keyboard when I saw the Razer Huntsman Quartz Pink edition, but after some research I figured that I'd probably be much happier with a less "consumer-y" brand and decided on the Majestouch 2.

Just look at that beauty!  It's possible I might replace the keycap color scheme with something a little more exciting in the future, but I'm happy to just try going with the all-pink for now.  I decided on Cherry MX 'brown' switches, as I'm not a huge fan of the infamous clickety-clackity noises of the blues, and I'd still like some tactile feedback (so not going with the reds).  I also decided to go with a "TenKeyLess" size -- you'll notice that it has the arrow keys and home/end/printscreen/scrolllock/etc but no numpad.  Having full arrow keys around I think is still very useful and necessary but I think I can actually live without a numpad as there are only really a few cases where I really use it and I think the prospect of having that additional desk space freed up (and having the mouse be closer to the keys) is pretty exciting.  (if I REALLY miss the numpad I could always buy a standalone numpad, but I get the feeling I really won't miss it that much)

Anyways, that should theoretically arrive in a couple days -- super exciting!!!

I've also already gone ahead and got a Quartz Pink Razer Basilisk to go along with it:

Unfortunately for getting an aesthetically-pleasing pink mouse there are wayyy fewer options than keyboards, so it was pretty much between this and the pink Razer Lancehead (which has a symmetrical design), or perhaps a pink Zowie mouse, but that seemed to both look worse and have a worse scroll wheel/etc. (despite being lighter/etc).  Razer's Synapse software is.....a bit shady to say the least, but unfortunately that is an evil I ended up having to swallow for now.

On the plus side, the mouse itself is working great.  I was previously running a Logitech MX Revolution and this mouse feels more sensitive/smoothly responsive, and the control mapping is actually a step up as well.  There's an optional thumb trigger (they give you two different sizes!) that you can use as a modifier to give yourself a whole other set of mappings, so for example thumbswitch + mouse wheel up increases my volume, thumbswitch + mouse middle click triggers a pause/play in whatever media player is open, etc.  The media controls also work better than that of Logitech's -- no annoying onscreen display and it is also pretty intelligent about looking for media players to send the command to.  I miss having the scroll wheel free-spin function, but I'm fine living without it to be honest.

No bluetooth version so I'm back to having a cord, but I don't actually find myself minding that too much either.  Plus, it's got two multicolored lights (one in the scroll wheel and one on the logo display) and I have them set up to react to whatever audio is playing from my computer, which is pretty spiffy as well.  If I wanted I could have gotten a keyboard that also has fancy backlighting (basically the corresponding Razer model) but I really didn't consider that a priority, so just the mouse lights will have to do.

Oh, related to mice: I downloaded Smooze for OSX and am happily using it for one thing and one thing only: disabling scroll wheel acceleration!  I'm not super against scroll wheel acceleration in theory, but in practice the way OSX handles scroll wheel acceleration for mouse has just never seemed to be sensible for any mouse I've used (maybe it's different for an actual apple mouse).  Now that I've completely disabled it, I can go back to sensible scrolling, yay!!!


In other news, our game Goodnight Meowmie has gotten quite a lot of attention since I posted it on, which is really great to see, especially because I feel like this is the most significant game I've ever worked on.  It's gotten about 2.5k views on itch since I threw it up there, which is pretty amazing.  It's also been really cool watching people's video playthroughs of it on youtube, seeing their reactions and interpretations of the game.  It really makes me feel like we did something worthwhile, that we were able to reach out to people and have them listen to our story, and perhaps take it to heart.


In other other news, I'll be DJing at Friday Night Waltz this Friday!  Be sure to come out if you're in the area, it's gonna be great!

Life has actually been going pretty fantastically lately -- this weekend was a lot of fun, between FNW, spending time with good friends, and just being in a good place.  I feel as if I'm not losing my attachment with the past because of it either.  Things are really good right now.

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