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Mike New
2005-08-05, 16:50
I'm a big fan of SlimServer. It is the most versatile, powerful music management software I've seen, and my FLAC-driven SB2 sounds flawless. My sincere appreciation to Slim Devices and the developer community!

But despite all its capabilities, the SlimServer server-driven User Interface is a step behind. Has anyone considered a more robust, application-based UI? My only reference point is iTunes, but here are some of the things I like about it:

1. The ability to see all the albums and songs by any given artist on one screen, including time, genre and bit rate.

2. Drag and drop capability for creating playlists and re-ordering songs within the lists.

3. A slider bar for quickly moving to any point in a song. I use this to test how one song transitions to the next.

4. The ability to change song titles/artists/genres/etc. by clicking on them. (This is useful for cleanup of errors and inconsistencies)

5. A button to burn a CD

6. The ability to print a playlist.

There are some cool things SlimServer does that iTunes doesn't, like browse the Music Folder and, of course, the killer list of configurable options. The underlying functionality is obviously much stronger than any competition; it's just a matter of making it slick and easy.

From my perspective, the eventual winner in the mass-market music management game will be the company with the most consumer-friendly UI. For once, it would be cool to see that success go to best product.

Any plans?

ceejay
2005-08-06, 00:27
I suspect that this is a subject that might stir up, shall we say, a little controversy, so I shall tread carefully (and may end up sitting on the fence, which is a very difficult combination!!).

(1) You're absolutely right. The UI of, say, iTunes is much slicker and easier to use than the Slimserver web UI. Though we should pause to note the various alternative skins which make SS look prettier, not sure if you've tried those. But they are after all just skins, and are limited in what they can add.

As a simple test, I can't get anyone else in my house to use the SS UI, though they are all happy with iTunes and find it intuitive.

(2) On the other hand, iTunes runs only on Windows and Mac ... and there's a reason for that, it takes a lot of effort to keep a fully functioning app going on an OS. Its an essential feature of SS that it will run on almost anything, which pretty much dictates a lowest-common-denominator browser based interface. Sure, someone could write a fancy UI as an alternative for just (say) Windows but you're then getting into first- and second- class customers which may not be a great place to go.

(3) You've noted the advanced functionality, I'd also add the openness... there is a link between these! The functionality (and all those fabulous plugins) stem from the open source approach, which is much harder to do with something in the iTunes style.

Much as I'd like to have everything, my personal suspicion is that it may not be possible: there is (as in most things in life) a tradeoff to be made between (openness/rapid development/rich functionality) and (slick/closed). Slim have picked a place and I'm happy to be there with them.


Just a thought....

Ceejay

Yannzola
2005-08-06, 16:54
Again, I know not of what I speak.... but wouldn't a slick interface written in Java work across all of the supported platforms? Something like softsqueeze would work... non?

stinkingpig
2005-08-06, 21:50
Yannzola wrote:

>Again, I know not of what I speak.... but wouldn't a slick interface
>written in Java work across all of the supported platforms? Something
>like softsqueeze would work... non?
>
>
>
>
I'll spare the guys who write the stuff saying this: patches are welcome :)

Anywho, some things to think about: Google Maps, GMail, Wikipedia. A lot
can be done in a web interface. Check out the ExBrowse2 interface for
baby steps in that direction -- some drag-n-drop, a lot more
browser-side work than server-side, &c.

--
Jack at Monkeynoodle dot Org : It's a Scientific Venture!
"I spent all me tin with the ladies drinking gin, so across the Western ocean I must wander." -- All for Me Grog, traditional

Patrick Dixon
2005-08-07, 01:55
I'm a big fan of SlimServer. It is the most versatile, powerful music management software I've seen, and my FLAC-driven SB2 sounds flawless. My sincere appreciation to Slim Devices and the developer community!

But despite all its capabilities, the SlimServer server-driven User Interface is a step behind. Has anyone considered a more robust, application-based UI? My only reference point is iTunes, but here are some of the things I like about it:

1. The ability to see all the albums and songs by any given artist on one screen, including time, genre and bit rate.

2. Drag and drop capability for creating playlists and re-ordering songs within the lists.

3. A slider bar for quickly moving to any point in a song. I use this to test how one song transitions to the next.

4. The ability to change song titles/artists/genres/etc. by clicking on them. (This is useful for cleanup of errors and inconsistencies)

5. A button to burn a CD

6. The ability to print a playlist.

There are some cool things SlimServer does that iTunes doesn't, like browse the Music Folder and, of course, the killer list of configurable options. The underlying functionality is obviously much stronger than any competition; it's just a matter of making it slick and easy.

From my perspective, the eventual winner in the mass-market music management game will be the company with the most consumer-friendly UI. For once, it would be cool to see that success go to best product.

Any plans?
I'd agree that these are all good suggestions - especially 2 & 4.

max.spicer
2005-08-07, 14:02
I think one thing that the web interface could do with having is proper form controls. Everything is pretty much based around links atm, which means that you can only really work on one track/album/genre at a time. You really should be able to select several things at once and say "play these", or select several things and say "play everything but these". I'd love to be able to do this with genres, for example. Adding checkboxes to the ui, and rewriting the underlying bits to handle the new form of input would do this, and apparently (according to KDF) wouldn't be that much work. I was originally saying I'd do it myself, but I'm really suffering from lack of time atm. If anyone else fancies it...

Max

mac
2005-08-07, 18:29
Again, I know not of what I speak.... but wouldn't a slick interface written in Java work across all of the supported platforms? Something like softsqueeze would work... non?Yes! Applications written in Java are cross platform. Java provides a very rich set of components (known as JFC/Swing) which would enable an iTunes-like user interface to be built. Since the entire Slimserver application is written in Perl it would need to be ported/rewritten, and I'm sure that's not a trivial task.

Mike New
2005-08-07, 21:20
Quick update,

Today my neighbor went out and bought a Roku. He's played with my SB2, loves its capabilities, but the SlimServer UI killed the deal. To him (and his wife), the iTunes interface was enough better to justify buying the Roku. Nobody's is technical here; it's just everyday people trying to improve their music systems.

A quick comparo between the Roku and SB2 confirmed for me that I liked using the SB2 better when using the remote. But in practice, I seem to launch most of my music - and build all of my playlists - from the PC.

We agreed a TV interface would be cool...

Yannzola
2005-08-07, 21:46
Could a TV out signal be sent via the SPDIF out.... sorta cool. But redundant I suppose, if all you are doing is repeating the SB2 display on a tv.

dean
2005-08-07, 22:23
On Aug 7, 2005, at 9:20 PM, Mike New wrote:
> Today my neighbor went out and bought a Roku. He's played with my SB2,
> loves its capabilities, but the SlimServer UI killed the deal. To him
> (and his wife), the iTunes interface was enough better to justify
> buying the Roku.
As far as I know, you can't use iTunes to control either device.
Your neighbor can use iTunes with Squeezebox in the same way as you
can with a Roku AND get the better player UI to boot.
There's a little confusion here.

Luckily, he should still be able to return the lesser device and
still get a Squeezebox. :)

-dean

seanadams
2005-08-07, 22:28
To him (and his wife), the iTunes interface was enough better to justify buying the Roku.

Your friend is misinformed. The only device you can control from iTunes is Apple's (lame) Airport Express.

You don't have to "give up" iTunes to use Squeezebox2 - our software is designed to complement iTunes. In terms of just iTunes support, the experience is vastly better than any tubular music players, because you have

a) full control of the player from your computer (actually, any computer, not just the one with your music on it)
b) the ability to listen to your music without having to launch iTunes
c) support for Apple Lossless compression

Caveat emptor.

netim3
2005-08-08, 10:13
Having installed Telcanto on a pocket-pc, I now use it almost exclusively to browse/play my collection. The integration with SlimServer is terrific, and it's fast & simple enough for my family. I know a pocket-pc is another expense, but it definitely changed my impression of the SB.

One limitation I've found is that Telcanto hasn't integrated access to some of the plugins. I particularly miss not having access to the MusicMagic, Biography & AlmbumReview plugins from within the Telcanto application - so I occasionally switch back into a web-browser to access these. It's simple enough to pull up the Biography or AlbumReview links from my favourites list, but I find it a pain to browse through to a song just to kick off a MusicMagic mix. One other desirable feature is missing is the ability to browse by artwork - but having experimented I know that most Pocket-PCs don't come with enough memory to display more than 20 covers at a time without choking.

Malcolm, who writes Telcanto, mentioned on the support website that he was considering developing a PC-based application to do the same - this might address many of the issues raised here, but would still leave the issue of access to plugins. I suppose some messages of encouragement wouldn't do any harm - provided people are willing to pay a nominal fee.

Natan

JulianL
2005-08-08, 14:03
Having installed Telcanto on a pocket-pc, I now use it almost exclusively to browse/play my collection. The integration with SlimServer is terrific, and it's fast & simple enough for my family. I know a pocket-pc is another expense, but it definitely changed my impression of the SB.
<SNIP>
Natan
That's encouraging to hear, given that my Squeezebox system is currently entirely virtual (Slimserver 6.1.1 + SoftSqueeze) with the exception of a Dell Axim X30 which is the only piece of hardware I have bought so far with the view to dedicating it 100% to Telcanto; right now it's sitting gathering dust.

When you say you use it "almost exclusively" do you mean that you don't use any other interface to SlimServer, or do you mean that you don't use the PocketPC for anything else other than controlling SlimServer (or both)?

It is the second scenario that I am most interested in. I intend to dedicate my Dell Axim as a SlimServer controller and I suspect that in this area I will find a few features missing in Telcanto. I should say that I have posted some questions to the Telcanto mail group and got prompt and constructive answers back from Malcolm but I thought I'd mention my minor concerns here because if other users are in the same situation then I'm sure it wouldn't hurt to also request them from Telcanto.

The first thing I would like, and have requested, is the ability to map hard buttons to Telcanto functions, Malcolm said he would add this to the list of features to be considered for a future release. If I am using my Axim as a dedicated device then the hard buttons aren't needed for anything else so it would be really nice to be able to map them to things like browse by artist, album, play, pause, etc and to use the DPad for scrolling or other functions. Also, my Dell has some sort of volume wheel on the left hand edge of the device, I don't know if this is a standard feature of PocketPCs but if it is then it would also be really great to be able to map that to volume or scrolling.

The second thing that I haven't requested yet because I don't know if it is already possible, or maybe there is third party software to do it, is automatic running of Telcanto on power-on. Again if I am using my Axim as a dedicated device I would really like to be able to set it up so that it automatically runs Telcanto on power-on. Has anyone got this configured somehow?

I'm pretty curious as to how many other Telcant users have a PocketPC device dedicated to Telcanto and, if they do, whather they would also value the features I've mentioned above.

- Julian

Yannzola
2005-08-08, 16:04
I think I understand why a browser based UI was chosen (cross platform compatible, network friendly, portable, yadda yadda). And for many applications, a web UI is good enough.

Unfortunately all of these browser interfaces suffer from =seriously= rudimentary file management ability... and while some advanced web-based file management features do exist, they tend to be platform dependant.

No drag and drop.
No multiple item selection/actions (check boxed lists are a poor hack)
No contextual actions available off of individual items (i.e. "right click" or hover options).

In addition... they waste valuable screen real estate with unnecessary "internet nav chrome", consistently have cache, screen refresh, and/or cookie problems... the list goes on.

According to the new software roadmap, one of the key goals involves better Large library support. Can a browser based UI really "Ensure that we make it easy to manage and use large music collections."? Or should other options be considered =in addition= to the browser interface?

If foobar had the ability to communicate directly with Slimserver, I'd use it in a heartbeat over the web UI. It may not be sexy... but at least it allows you to manage multiple files the right way.


y.

MeSue
2005-08-08, 17:30
>>No multiple item selection/actions (check boxed lists are a poor hack)<<

I use a Web UI that offers shift-click and ctrl-click for multiple item selection, so at least that much is do-able. (I have no idea how it's done though.)

Yannzola
2005-08-08, 18:23
I use a Web UI that offers shift-click and ctrl-click for multiple item selection, so at least that much is do-able. (I have no idea how it's done though.)


I tried ExBrowse2 a couple of times... but only had it work reliably about 50% of the time in Firefox... maybe it's been fixed since? I'll try it again this eve.

Yannzola
2005-08-08, 19:24
I tried ExBrowse2 a couple of times... but only had it work reliably about 50% of the time in Firefox... maybe it's been fixed since? I'll try it again this eve.


Ah yes. Tried it again. No Musicmagic links displayed, and portions of the UI were hidden behind unmovable frames at 800x600. It loaded very fast, though. I =love= the remaining time display.

Mike New
2005-08-08, 20:20
The Roku box is driven directly from iTunes; there is no need to export playlists etc. In fact, the Roku site doesn't even really mention any "server" software of their own. They also claim to be able to play FLAC files, but you have to download SlimServer software - which also works with Roku.

To me, there is no question that the Squeezebox is a superior device, or that SlimServer has capabilities well beyond iTunes. But at the end of the day, the best UI (and marketing) wins. Imagine the possiblities if we had the best box, the best server software, AND a killer UI that could play something besides MP3...

It's not too early to think about market dominance. Of course, Roku isn't the threat. Microsoft is. But as Intuit demonstrated with personal finance software, if you're early and build it for the masses, you can win big.

ackcheng
2005-08-08, 20:39
Quite agree! It takes smart marketing to keep a good company alive. Most
people buy iPod not because it sound good, but because it looks good and
cool!

-----Original Message-----
From: discuss-bounces (AT) lists (DOT) slimdevices.com
[mailto:discuss-bounces (AT) lists (DOT) slimdevices.com] On Behalf Of Mike New
Sent: Tuesday, August 09, 2005 11:20 AM
To: discuss (AT) lists (DOT) slimdevices.com
Subject: [slim] Re: A slicker UI for SlimServer?


The Roku box is driven directly from iTunes; there is no need to export
playlists etc. In fact, the Roku site doesn't even really mention any
"server" software of their own. They also claim to be able to play
FLAC files, but you have to download SlimServer software - which also
works with Roku.

To me, there is no question that the Squeezebox is a superior device,
or that SlimServer has capabilities well beyond iTunes. But at the end
of the day, the best UI (and marketing) wins. Imagine the possiblities
if we had the best box, the best server software, AND a killer UI that
could play something besides MP3...

It's not too early to think about market dominance. Of course, Roku
isn't the threat. Microsoft is. But as Intuit demonstrated with
personal finance software, if you're early and build it for the masses,
you can win big.


--
Mike New

dean
2005-08-08, 21:30
On Aug 8, 2005, at 8:20 PM, Mike New wrote:
> The Roku box is driven directly from iTunes; there is no need to
> export
> playlists etc.
Sort of. You can't control the Soundbridge from iTunes. The
Soundbridge uses the iTunes DAAP protocol to access your music
library, so iTunes has to be running and you have to be in front of
the device to access it.

> In fact, the Roku site doesn't even really mention any
> "server" software of their own. They also claim to be able to play
> FLAC files, but you have to download SlimServer software - which also
> works with Roku.
They don't have any. The Soundbridge can use an old version of
SlimServer but it emulates an old Squeezebox1 with a text display
(two generations old). Badly.

> To me, there is no question that the Squeezebox is a superior device,
> or that SlimServer has capabilities well beyond iTunes.
iTunes is a great program for ripping and organizing your music.
It's my tool of choice for that purpose. Unfortunately, it's a
terrible music serving program.

> Imagine the possiblities
> if we had the best box, the best server software, AND a killer UI that
> could play something besides MP3...
We do! :)

-dean

Philip Meyer
2005-08-09, 17:16
>As a simple test, I can't get anyone else in my house to use the SS UI,
>though they are all happy with iTunes and find it intuitive.
>
My wife actually finds the Web UI easier to understand and use than the two-line SB display. She keeps pressing up/down instead of left/right and generally getting in a muddle. The Web interface may not be that pretty, but for simply selecting and playing an album, its functional and easy to work out.

I agree though, a proper app would be really nice.

Perhaps once the threading issues have been sorted out in a future release, to seperate the database, streaming and GUI components, it might be easier to build additional UI's. I would imaging that the web UI would stay in the default installation to support all platforms, but a third party may provide smaller dedicated GUIs. Eg. maybe a simple UI to start/stop/pause/ffd/rewind, and another one to select music to play.

In fact new UI applications can be written now that use the CLI to get information and perform actions. I'm not sure how slick these apps would be using the CLI though - are there any threading issues, eg DB access/locking?

Phil

Super-Gonzo
2005-08-09, 23:18
The existing web skinning format is too limiting to really allow major functional changes in the UI w/o having to get into the Perl that generates the data for the skin in the first place.

I would love to see a SOAP interface for slimserver. It would be a great way to provide a simple and flexible access layer to build apps with.

Given that, I think we'd see a lot more interface options pop-up from the os community. Plus, it'd give an avenue for better interaction with other applications down the road.

dukeinlondon
2005-08-10, 08:46
A java application would be great (I don't use windows at home), especially with drag and drop support. Can't you do that in javascript though ?

However, just getting the library in a filtered list (by artist/genre) with something to quickly select bunch of songs to build playlists would be excellent in the current web frontend.

Right now, getting back to the artist list brings you back to the start of it and using the back button of the browser is only slightly less tedious.

Yannzola
2005-08-10, 09:38
A java application would be great (I don't use windows at home), especially with drag and drop support. Can't you do that in javascript though ?

However, just getting the library in a filtered list (by artist/genre) with something to quickly select bunch of songs to build playlists would be excellent in the current web frontend.

Right now, getting back to the artist list brings you back to the start of it and using the back button of the browser is only slightly less tedious.

As Sue reminded me, the Exbrowse2 skin does have limited drag and drop and multi-selectability (sp?). I was wary of it at first as it seemed buggy when I ran it originally... but it seems better behaved now. Unfortunately, ExBrowse2 doesn't scale well to the 800x600 screen res I am forced to use on my LCD TV... and it doesn't provide a MusicMagic Mixer interface (like Fishbone does). Give it a try, though!

y.