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bhaagensen
2007-06-06, 16:49
Hi,

I've thought about this for a while, and I have come to the conclusion that slimserver is one of the most complicated pieces of leisure time software on my computer. In short from a UI perspective I think it is really bad. Let me list some more or less randomly chosen examples of what I mean:

Player settings.

Display
-Scroll pause/scroll rate configurable for one/two lines.
-Scroll pixels.
(Can this not just be a performance setting?)

Under functions
-One can configure the "Various Artists" label.
(Make it a translatable string)
-Timeout for entering text.
(Does you mobile offer this?)
-New random playlist on repeat.
(Useful exactly how/when???)
Under formatting
-Guess tags format.
(SD could just decide on e.g. /Artist/Album/
-Short/long data format.
(Just make it those two to choose from.Format by locale)
Interface
-Number of elements pr side.
-Browser refresh timing.
Network
-TCP parameters.
Performance
-Build items pr pass.
-Prefs write interval
-Server/server priority
(All mostly performance which could be collapsed)
Modules
-CLI/RS232/XML/XPC
(Why am I given this choice at all?)

You can always argue that for "some", feature x solves this problem, or say that "you don't need to set ALL options". But that's not the point, the option is there and it can be confusing or there might be better solutions to the problem. I just listed some keywords/arguments above. To me the obvious answer to as to wether to have the options is yes, but if one really thinks about each and every one for a while, I at least find that many times there are no convincing arguments for having the option. Or the option could be simplified or changed.

One idea could be to collapse many of the performance related options into a single setting for running on normal or low performance hardware. Other times it might be a matter of improving the slimserver so that things does not need a setting to work. Other times SD should just decide. E.g. the "Various Artists" setting should be a translatable string.

The thing about all these options is that when users are asked wether they would like to be able to do this or that, of course they'll say yes, because why not? There are in fact good not arguments, they just aren't as obvious as the yes ones.

I'm not gonna ditch my SB if this does not change, but I surely would be even happier with it if it did. Any chance of that?

Bjørn

PS! As I've repeatedly said, these things require thinking, and as I did not really think the list through I might be dead wrong on some of them.

mherger
2007-06-06, 17:07
Hi Bjorn

> I've thought about this for a while, and I have come to the conclusion
> that slimserver is one of the most complicated pieces of leisure time
> software on my computer. In short from a UI perspective I think it is
> really bad.

While I do not agree with this global verdict, I do so with your main
point. In fact, your examples show one thing: there are too many options.
That's not a UI problem ;-). (BTW: Most of the parameters you list have
been asked for by users)

> One idea could be to collapse many of the performance related options
> into a single setting for running on normal or low performance
> hardware.

A simplified view on the settings would indeed do some good to the
slimserver.

> E.g. the "Various Artists" setting should be a
> translatable string.

I'll have a look at this.

> I'm not gonna ditch my SB if this does not change, but I surely would
> be even happier with it if it did. Any chance of that?

You could give my NoSetup plugin a chance: it will hide all settings
pages. As this is all you're complaining about, it might solve your
problem :-).

--

Michael

-----------------------------------------------------------------
http://www.herger.net/SlimCD - your SlimServer on a CD
http://www.herger.net/slim - AlbumReview, Biography, MusicInfoSCR

mherger
2007-06-06, 17:13
> -One can configure the "Various Artists" label.
> (Make it a translatable string)

It imho is. What language are you using? Where do you see it? Please note
that not all languages are 100% translated. DE, FR, IT, NL, HE and ES are
almost complete. The others are partially incomplete.

--

Michael

-----------------------------------------------------------------
http://www.herger.net/SlimCD - your SlimServer on a CD
http://www.herger.net/slim - AlbumReview, Biography, MusicInfoSCR

JJZolx
2007-06-06, 17:39
While I do not agree with this global verdict, I do so with your main
point. In fact, your examples show one thing: there are too many options.
That's not a UI problem ;-). (BTW: Most of the parameters you list have
been asked for by users)

I disagree. I see it as very much a UI problem. I realize many of the preferences interface issues are being addressed for SlimServer 7, so it's obvious that SD is aware of many of them.

Number one, the nearly complete lack of help. Poor or lacking descriptions for nearly all settings. Maybe this is driven by the insistence on translations for nearly every word in the web UI. Surely someone is going to be reluctant to add or change a description for a simple option when it needs to be retranslated into Hebrew and a dozen other languages.

Hide some of the 'advanced' options where they won't confuse people, but where they can be gotten to. Increase the sophistication and usability of the web options forms. For example, selecting one setting might enable another selection, changing another setting hides yet another or even a group of settings. Group things a little more logically.

Oh, and choose some better default settings (Players set to REPEAT by default. Huh?).

I run many desktop apps with several times the number of options of SlimServer. The difference is in the user interface. I've never seen many of the screens that house a lot of the options - because I've never needed to. But they're there in case I ever need them.

PhilNYC
2007-06-06, 17:41
Maybe its because I use iTunes to rip and manage my music and I don't mess around with a lot of the settings, but I find the UI to be incredibly easy to use in terms of finding the music I want to play and creating playlists, etc. I did spend some time making sure the file types are set the way I want, as well as some of the other performance parameters (eg. fixing digital volume, etc), but beyond that it all seems very intuitive to me...

exile
2007-06-06, 19:53
I would love to recommend the slimbox/server to my friends who are looking for a digital music solution but unfortunately I can only recommend this spectacular product to my friends that are either computer professionals or friends that are very computer savvy.

I've been working professionally on computers as a television editor for over ten years and I thought I knew computers pretty well until i encountered the nearly continuous challenges of configuring my squeezebox and slimserver.

maybe I'm a masochist but I actually enjoy the endless challenges of getting plugins working, tweaking settings and regularly organizing and reorganizing my music to a state of perfection (in my mind).

but for someone who either doesn't have the computer acumen or the free time to devote to this silly hobby, then the slim is definitely not a viable solution.

I love this product. I speak lovingly to others about it and how much joy it brings me and my family when listening but as plug and play things go-the slimbox has a long way to go.

maybe some of the folks on this forum have some ideas for making the squeezebox competitive in a mass market situation.

pfarrell
2007-06-06, 20:14
exile wrote:
> I would love to recommend the slimbox/server to my friends who are
> looking for a digital music solution but unfortunately I can only
> recommend this spectacular product to my friends that are either
> computer professionals or friends that are very computer savvy.

I have not found this to be the case.
I recently showed by SqueezeBox to some friends who while computer
professionals, are mainframe folks and have spent the past 25+ years in
management. They know how to use Word and Outlook. They are not PC geeks
by any measure. Smart, talented, and good looking, sure, but all owners
of SqueezeBoxen fall into that category.

I lent them a SqueezeBox and they did everything.
They had some problems getting album art to work, but otherwise it was
easy, and they bought a SB/3

I will grant that it could be easier, but a fair amount of what I love
about it is fundamentally incompatible with the shrink-wrap mass market
mentality. Frequent releases and massive cross platform support are just
not viable without mega dollars for testing, documentation, and tech
support. Perhaps Logitech wants to go there, but I never see a
SqueezeBox being as easy to use as a Logitech mouse. I've bought several
SqueezeBoxen, a Transporter and many LogiTech mice.


--
Pat
http://www.pfarrell.com/music/slimserver/slimsoftware.html

JJZolx
2007-06-06, 20:40
maybe some of the folks on this forum have some ideas for making the squeezebox competitive in a mass market situation.
By definition that means developing a native Windows application and/or adapting the firmware to work with existing Windows media servers. Both of these approaches are being taken by competing products. I suspect that products and software based on this direction are being worked on right now by Logitech. Native OS X and Linux server counterparts might be maintained, but they would take a back seat to Windows apps that would be used by 90% of the new customer base. This would be the exact opposite to the development philosophy now taken.

This would also mean that new products would have a substantially reduced amount of flexibility compared to Squeezebox and SlimServer. A plugin architecture might be created within this context, but I doubt that a closed application would appeal to any of the current plugin authors, so you'd be selling it all over again to a completely new audience. It would take a highly successful product in the consumer market to raise the same level of participation in plugin development that you now have with the current computer-savvy user base.

mherger
2007-06-06, 23:48
> I disagree. I see it as very much a UI problem. I realize many of the
> preferences interface issues are being addressed for SlimServer 7, so
> it's obvious that SD is aware of many of them.

Hmm... I haven't seen big improvements in the settings' UI. But there are
plans.

> Number one, the nearly complete lack of help. Poor or lacking
> descriptions for nearly all settings.

I'd rather say some of the settings are too technical, thus even the
description available won't help everybody understand it.

> Maybe this is driven by the
> insistence on translations for nearly every word in the web UI. Surely

You'll understand that I have to answer back here :-).

> someone is going to be reluctant to add or change a description for a
> simple option when it needs to be retranslated into Hebrew and a dozen
> other languages.

As a long time maintainer of the German translation I can assure you that
strings were changed as freely as needed. Policy is to remove the
translation if there is a change. In the SD times all translation was done
by volunteers - a change didn't cost the developer anything. Some of the
translations therefore are incomplete.

Logitech decided to have the main languages translated by professionals.
That's been done only a few weeks ago (for the 6.5.2 release). Thus the
claim about folks being reluctant to change descriptions is rather
farfetched. I'd rather blame it to the lack of volunteers willing to
improve them. And technicians usually aren't known for liking to document
:-).

> Hide some of the 'advanced' options where they won't confuse people,
> but where they can be gotten to.

That was the idea of the "Basic settings" page. But I do agree that we'd
have to re-define what the basic settings are, probably re-grouping them.


> Increase the sophistication and
> usability of the web options forms. For example, selecting one setting
> might enable another selection, changing another setting hides yet
> another or even a group of settings. Group things a little more
> logically.

Agreed. I've been playing with that way of uncluttering the UI. But there
aren't any results yet.

> Oh, and choose some better default settings (Players set to REPEAT by
> default. Huh?).

You can't please everyone. Many would ask for it if it was removed.

--

Michael

-----------------------------------------------------------------
http://www.herger.net/SlimCD - your SlimServer on a CD
http://www.herger.net/slim - AlbumReview, Biography, MusicInfoSCR

matthijskoopmans
2007-06-07, 00:25
Whilst I personally love tinkering with things like SlimServer, I do see the point.

No offense to all great contributors to the project (in fact: a round of applause!), but in these types of projects things tend to get designed from a technical perspective. It is the nature of an open project.

If SlimServer itself was a commercial, closed source package, I am sure it would all look different. You would not have as many choices in configuration, and plugins would not be as widespread as they are now.

My advice to you is: install SlimServer as stock standard. works like a charm. If you want more options, than that is going to complicate things... your choice (I for one, am glad to have that choice).

To the SS team: a rethink of the default layout: all "complicated but optional" settings in an advanced mode. Experienced users can always revert back to their favourite skin...

Perhaps with Logitech involved, we will see those changes in the UI of SS with version 7...

A very happy Squeezebox user...

mherger
2007-06-07, 00:59
> My advice to you is: install SlimServer as stock standard. works like a
> charm. If you want more options, than that is going to complicate
> things... your choice (I for one, am glad to have that choice).

We hope to get plugin installation much easier ("automatically" through
the web interface) with SlimServer 7. That's one of the big targets for
that new release.

> To the SS team: a rethink of the default layout: all "complicated but
> optional" settings in an advanced mode. Experienced users can always
> revert back to their favourite skin...

Good idea!

--

Michael

-----------------------------------------------------------------
http://www.herger.net/SlimCD - your SlimServer on a CD
http://www.herger.net/slim - AlbumReview, Biography, MusicInfoSCR

RobHall
2007-06-07, 02:44
One day we will buy our music online in our desired format/bit rate with album art, artist info, lyrics, etc. It will come with industry standard tags and be stored in the music library on our home media server. We will be able to pick up our Internet Tablet and browse through our music to play any song, wherever we have set up our media receivers.

We will also be able to synchronise our music library with any portable music player (a process which will automatically compress the music to fit on the player). This portable player will be able to slot into my car stereo.

All of this would be Plug n Play.

For now it is going to be a bit of a ball ache.

whitman
2007-06-07, 05:35
I would love to recommend the slimbox/server to my friends who are looking for a digital music solution but unfortunately I can only recommend this spectacular product to my friends that are either computer professionals or friends that are very computer savvy.

I have to agree with Exile. I've showed my SB3 to quite a few mates and they love it. Then they ask questions, and I say things like 'It just sits on your wireless network.' They look blankly back at me. I try some more. I draw a diagram or two. They get restless and ask if I can play that African radio station again or let them search through those Dylan basement tapes some more. They all own computers and they know how to swtich them on. Hand on heart, I cannot recommend an SB to them.

Mark Lanctot
2007-06-07, 06:03
I'm of the opinion that the developers are too nice and too willing to bend to every user demand. Look at the current brouhaha over compilation albums. What was working for most suddenly is completely unworkable for some. There are vocal demands for "can't we choose to have it this way rather than that way?" This is how one of those arcane options gets created...

The opposite end of the spectrum is iTunes. But rather than earn the scorn of its users, it's lauded as the best thing since...well, the best thing ever. Goes to show you, people really do want to be led and people really do want to be told what's best for them.

Perhaps all these advanced options could be hidden behind an "Advanced" button?

slimkid
2007-06-07, 08:58
I'm of the opinion that the developers are too nice and too willing to bend to every user demand. Look at the current brouhaha over compilation albums. What was working for most suddenly is completely unworkable for some. There are vocal demands for "can't we choose to have it this way rather than that way?" This is how one of those arcane options gets created...

Blame the user. I like that, certainly makes my everytday life easy. However, try to thing this way:

- If software development process was done the right way, there won't be scenario where the developers would be in possition to be nice or bent over. Try to play nice card with MS developer for example :)

- If basic features were set up right from the start, then most of people won't be asking for tweaks because the software would be working reasonably well for most.

Mark Lanctot
2007-06-07, 09:07
- If software development process was done the right way, there won't be scenario where the developers would be in possition to be nice or bent over. Try to play nice card with MS developer for example :)

Microsoft is, of course, the shining example of top-notch software development, a model for the world to follow.

There has never been a bug in a Microsoft product, especially not Windows ME. Even if there were, they would fix it right away.

slimkid
2007-06-07, 09:21
Microsoft is, of course, the shining example of top-notch software development, a model for the world to follow.

There has never been a bug in a Microsoft product, especially not Windows ME. Even if there were, they would fix it right away.

That's beside a point. Point is that in professionaly organized development process user can not bend the developer over.

mherger
2007-06-07, 09:35
> - If basic features were set up right from the start, then most of
> people won't be asking for tweaks because the software would be working
> reasonably well for most.

Exactly. For most. But the others cry louder ;-).

Michael

mherger
2007-06-07, 09:40
> That's beside a point. Point is that in professionaly organized
> development process user can not bend the developer over.

Former SlimDevices imho wouldn't be where they are today if they had
followed pure old school "professional development" processes. Does this
allow for open source at all?

Michael

slimkid
2007-06-07, 10:33
> That's beside a point. Point is that in professionaly organized
> development process user can not bend the developer over.

Former SlimDevices imho wouldn't be where they are today if they had
followed pure old school "professional development" processes. Does this
allow for open source at all?

Michael

I agree with you that open source concept has brought SD (among other things - don't forget they have superb hardware product :) ) where they are today. However, I don't agree that open source necessarilly needs to allow for slopy, hectic and out of control.

Open source means that everybody who wants and knows how, can participate in the development of something they share a common interest about. Nice. Unfortunately, it is in human nature that people want to do 'cool' stuff and tend to skip on 'chores'. Now, since open source has a very vague concept of responsibility and accountability (after all you can not fire poor performer and get him bad references, so that he needs to pay off his mortgage delivering pizza), there is a point in the concept where the whole thing start suffering from being the monument to its creators rather than useful piece of code.

In my opinion, SD needs to recognise that that moment is just around the corner, and that they need to start streamlining some of their processes.

I think, release mangement and quality control will have to go through serious rework. Here's why. I have never heard that comunity gets to vote about the fixing a bug. Bug is a bug and it needs to be worked out immediately - it's not a matter of democracy (of course, bugs can have thier priority). And then, in order to get a fix for your bug, you need to keep upgrading nighties, even though, there are no guaranties that new bugs have not been introduced while some new cool feature has been implemented in the same build.

Think for a moment how would it be if your cell phone service couldn't reach 911, and the customer representative told you something like ... yap, we have a problem with that, but in the meantime we've just implemented that feature where you can watch Britney S. shawing her head - real time on you cell. Oh, and BTW, if enought people complain and vote for it, we'll be reinstating 911 service some time later this month ...

So, since you participate in the development, let me ask you a question - is there something like 'regression testing cases' that are executed over the software everytime the nightly release is cut or at least everytime before the version is made 'stable'?

Back to your other post - some people whining about compilation albums trying to push their special needs. Right now, if I choose to have my albums listed by Album Artist, I have tracks written by various composers, like Baroque Favorites, listed by main peformer - 'album Artist', say Glenn Gould. Fine. However, that also means that Beethowen's 5th is listed by Herbert von Karajan, since he is the album artist, even though Beethowen is artist for every track of that album. Am I the only one who doesn't think this is right? Could that have been thought about a little bit more?

And before you tell me that I can probably wiggle this out with some creative tagging - yes I can, but how many people from the target market for this product will too?

Mitch Harding
2007-06-07, 10:43
Couldn't most of this be solved by having a "simple view" with advanced tabs
you could delve into if desired?

I've modified several of the options that you listed as unnecessary, and I
would lament having them removed in the name of simplicity. That said, I do
acknowledge that there are many advanced settings I do not touch, and it's
quite possible that the majority of users don't modify any of the advanced
settings.

It seems that often software has basic setup panels with advanced panels you
can view if desired.

This isn't high on my priority list personally, but it could make the
product more user friendly to newbies.

On 6/6/07, Michael Herger <slim (AT) herger (DOT) net> wrote:
>
> Hi Bjorn
>
> > I've thought about this for a while, and I have come to the conclusion
> > that slimserver is one of the most complicated pieces of leisure time
> > software on my computer. In short from a UI perspective I think it is
> > really bad.
>
> While I do not agree with this global verdict, I do so with your main
> point. In fact, your examples show one thing: there are too many options.
> That's not a UI problem ;-). (BTW: Most of the parameters you list have
> been asked for by users)
>
> > One idea could be to collapse many of the performance related options
> > into a single setting for running on normal or low performance
> > hardware.
>
> A simplified view on the settings would indeed do some good to the
> slimserver.
>
> > E.g. the "Various Artists" setting should be a
> > translatable string.
>
> I'll have a look at this.
>
> > I'm not gonna ditch my SB if this does not change, but I surely would
> > be even happier with it if it did. Any chance of that?
>
> You could give my NoSetup plugin a chance: it will hide all settings
> pages. As this is all you're complaining about, it might solve your
> problem :-).
>
> --
>
> Michael
>
> -----------------------------------------------------------------
> http://www.herger.net/SlimCD - your SlimServer on a CD
> http://www.herger.net/slim - AlbumReview, Biography, MusicInfoSCR
>

mherger
2007-06-07, 11:06
> It seems that often software has basic setup panels with advanced panels
> you can view if desired.

SlimServer has a basic settings page...

We'll probably have to redefine what options should be basic. Which
settings currently _not_ on that page would you consider candidates for
the basic settings page?

Michael

Mitch Harding
2007-06-07, 11:13
I'll take a look when I get home and see what strikes me as belonging on the
basic page.

I think the other half of things would be to make simpler versions of some
of the advanced settings. The scroll speed settings are a good example.
Have a basic version with just a few options "High, Medium, Low" or
something -- you'd pick high if you have a fast computer and reliable
network, and it would set a small number of pixels and a higher scrolling
speed. And so on. But the advanced tab would still allow you the current
fine control.

On 6/7/07, Michael Herger <slim (AT) herger (DOT) net> wrote:
>
> > It seems that often software has basic setup panels with advanced panels
> > you can view if desired.
>
> SlimServer has a basic settings page...
>
> We'll probably have to redefine what options should be basic. Which
> settings currently _not_ on that page would you consider candidates for
> the basic settings page?
>
> Michael
>

kbindera
2007-06-07, 16:19
I would love to recommend the slimbox/server to my friends who are looking for a digital music solution but unfortunately I can only recommend this spectacular product to my friends that are either computer professionals or friends that are very computer savvy.

Man, you read my mind! When people come over and see the Slimserver on top of my entertainment system they are so intrigued and they all want one. I discourage them as I know I will need to support them as they fumble about.

Anyway, the core issue raised of too many options is a good problem to have. It means you have a lot of users giving you good feeback and that you are listenting and implementing needed features. However, when the feature bloat gets too big, you need to step back and streamline. Especially, if you want to tackle the market of non-techies who just want to plug stuff in and have it just work without messing about with a bunch of config settings.

DrNic
2007-06-07, 16:51
I guess that since Logitech have bought the company this sort of make it all simple for joe (below?) average is going to be the voice of the masses on these forums soon. Shame.
I am all for creating the "Basic" and "Advanced" setup pages, then those people who can barely open a word document without needing help will be happy that their Squeezebox/Slimserver combo works with little fuss.
Having been a (relatively) long time user, it is interesting to see the switch to this way of thinking. I bought the SB for the exact reason that it wasn't closed source, had regular updates, and was run by enthusiasts. Remember the Netgear MP-101 - they had a server release cycle of about 1 year! (and it still didn't work properly)
As for problems setting up and running SB/Slimserver - ever since SS 5.2 it has installed and run without hitch (some of my old problems were purely related to poor tagging). But I guess you were expecting someone with my standpoint to say that!
My request - please don't dumb down this excellent product for the mass market; they can buy logitechs Wireless DJ system.
However, money always betters quality and I fear we may be seeing the start of the over commercialisation of my favourite music streaming device.

No flames intended.

Nic

seanadams
2007-06-07, 17:45
Nic - you seem to be suggesting that the only way to make the product easier to use is to compromise its advanced capabilities. I disagree.

erland
2007-06-07, 21:15
I guess that since Logitech have bought the company this sort of make it all simple for joe (below?) average is going to be the voice of the masses on these forums soon. Shame.
I am all for creating the "Basic" and "Advanced" setup pages, then those people who can barely open a word document without needing help will be happy that their Squeezebox/Slimserver combo works with little fuss.I don't think the advanced setup option will be the major problem for this kind of people. Those that barely can open a word document will have a lot bigger problem to actually rip and tag their music correctly.

For the average Joe I think this is the most important step to improve. As an example look at iTunes, you just insert the CD and you will get a question and it will automatically rip the CD, download correct tag information from Internet and tag it correctly. After this the new music is placed in the correct place on your disk and is already in your library and ready to use together with iTunes.

To do the same with SlimServer you will have to:
1. Download an external tagging application, none is recommended so you will have to find and choose one for your self
2. You will have to choose which file format to choose, again none is officially recommended so you will have to choose among those supported by SlimServer
3. You will have to learn the settings of your external tagging application to make sure the tagging and ripping is done correctly. As an example if you like to use EAC and FLAC, which is one of the combinations recommended on the forum, it isn't setup automatically. You will have to find a tutorial how to setup EAC and FLAC, none is officially recommended.
4. After ripping you will have to make sure your music is stored in a place where SlimServer will find it. In iTunes this is done automatically.
5. You will have to realize that you must actually perform a rescan to get SlimServer to know the new music.

After you have successfully gone through all this it is time to start worrying about the basic/advanced settings in SlimServer. This is the time where you will realize that you have tagged your music incorrectly to make it work with the basic settings in SlimServer, so you will have to learn the advanced settings to make it work correctly.

Now, I'm not saying that SlimServer should be a tagging software. I'm just saying that average Joe will probably have problem with this tagging and ripping part of the process, especially since there is very little information and recommendations related to this in a place where it can easily be found by average Joe. The information exist for sure, both in the forum and on the wiki, but it isn't that easy to find in case you don't know where to look. Another problem is that there is just to many options in this tagging/ripping part of the process. I personally have no problem with this since I have learned how to do it and have my own process I go through after buying new music, but new users probably doesn't have this.

I also think one of the major reasons for the problems we are seeing on the forums, is this non existing tagging/ripping process. The problem is that people tag and rip their music differently and SlimServer needs to support and handle all the different variations of ripping and tagging. I'm not saying that this is bad, because it means that SlimServer is very flexible, but it costs a lot of money for Logitech that could be used for more useful stuff.

A suggestion is that Logitech starts to look for some specific tagging/ripping software which could be bundled together with SlimServer. This way the instructions could be a lot more detailed and you could say "Do like this" instead of saying "You can do it this way or you can do it that way or...". Other applications than the bundled can still be supported, but average Joe will probably choose to use the bundled application and this should get rid of many problems.

Now when I have said all this, I also like to say that the SlimServer/SqueezeBox combination has been the biggest improvement of my personal music listening since the time I went from LP to CD player.

whitman
2007-06-08, 00:04
Erland, haven't you just answered your own question, by mentioning the straightforward and efficient iTunes? Dare I suggest that most people get a Squeezebox (and therefore Slimserver) becasue they're into music? And that most people into digital music these days will have iTunes? Problem solved, surely?

servies
2007-06-08, 01:37
Erland, haven't you just answered your own question, by mentioning the straightforward and efficient iTunes? Dare I suggest that most people get a Squeezebox (and therefore Slimserver) becasue they're into music? And that most people into digital music these days will have iTunes? Problem solved, surely?
Geez... I'm into digital music for a long period...
I don't use iTunes for ripping, I want a good copy so I use EAC for that, I created some profiles so that I can switch filetype pretty easily. And the rips are automatically placed in the correct directories...
I don't use iTunes for tagging, I use EAC for default standard tagging and for extra tagging stuff I use foobar2000.
I don't use iTunes for playing, I use winamp for that on my computer and slimserver for my media...
To be to the point: I don't have iTunes installed!
Why would I use iTunes anyway... It's bloated and the above mentioned applications are way better in their specific task!
And with iTunes I would be restricted to Apple or Windows and I'm running Linux on my server!
One of the reasons I bought an SB3 and not an Apple Airport is not being restricted to Windows or Apple only. If I want to use slimserver the "only" thing I need is support for Perl and that's a lot of platforms.

DrNic
2007-06-08, 06:01
Nic - you seem to be suggesting that the only way to make the product easier to use is to compromise its advanced capabilities. I disagree.

Sorry Sean, but I can't see where you read into that from my post! :)
I am a firm believer that the advanced options have to stay, I was just trying to suggest that perhaps they should be hidden from view unless "show advanced options" is selected (for example!) - so that the setup/interface appears uncomplicated to those users who find all this confusing...

@Erland: Where exactly is the big issue with ripping/tagging?
It really isn't that difficult in my experience. I have progressed from starting with iTunes doing it all at the very beginning to using EAC (with MAREO) and tag tweaking (if ever necessary) with MP3Tag. Even with the different systems and the different ID3 tag versions (for my old MP3 files - I've matured to FLAC a while ago!) that this has produced I must obviously be very lucky and don't have Interface issues.
Do we _really_ need to make it so noddy proof?

My feeling is we all end up having to use a system that is aimed at the lowest denominator.

Nic

4mula1
2007-06-08, 06:55
There has been a lot of discussion in the past about the mass market viability of Squeezebox/SlimServer, and the conclusion is usually that the average user will not be able to easily get to grips with it.

It's not that it's bad, but SlimServer can be a bit overwhelming at first. The idea of basic/advanced setup menus would be nice for somebody new to SlimServer. But that's probably not the biggest hurdle.

iTunes is used as a benchmark over and over again, not because it's superior in performance, but superior in ease of use overall. It rips, it tags, it sorts music into the appropriate directory, and it adds it to the library. SlimServer, by design, doesn't do that because it allows more flexibility and removes so many issues of cross-platform development.

I run SlimServer on Solaris, so for me ripping music (via dBPowerAmp on XP) isn't an issue, nor is using MP3Tag, getting cover art, or putting the flac tracks where they belong. But for so many computer users I know creating a directory and moving files around can be a pretty tall order.

A Windows (and probably Mac) only suite of tools would need to be created that could, for the average user, rip, tag, and organize the music collection, then tell SlimServer to look for it. Would the ripper need to be as good as EAC? No, because most people won't care and they'll encode with MP3 anyway. It just has to be easy for them.

My wife loves her iPod, but if she had to jump through hoops like I do to import music, she would never do it. I think most people are this way in regards to learning how to do a task on the computer. This is, IMO, what would be needed to get some players in the hands of non-techies.

People who run SlimServer on *nix are obviously more skilled with computers and wouldn't need the ripper/tagger/organizer. The odds are, we'd want to do it our own way anyway.

st2lemans
2007-06-08, 07:10
> My wife loves her iPod, but if she had to jump through hoops like I do
> to import music, she would never do it. I think most people are this
> way in regards to learning how to do a task on the computer.

Same thing with my kids. They both are able to install and use iTunes, but
they are only able to use SlimServer because I installed it. I recently
switched my home and work music servers to Ubuntu, and that is even less up
their alley.

Tom

erland
2007-06-08, 07:54
Erland, haven't you just answered your own question, by mentioning the straightforward and efficient iTunes? Dare I suggest that most people get a Squeezebox (and therefore Slimserver) becasue they're into music? And that most people into digital music these days will have iTunes? Problem solved, surely?
Sure, iTunes would solve a big part of the problem. So everything would be fine if Logitech actually recommend people that the easiest way to use SlimServer is to use the iTunes integration and provide a default installation of SlimServer that where setup this way. But today they don't as far as I know, they just show all the possibilities and choices which can get a bit overwhelming for some people. This is my point, provide a default software and adjust the SlimServer installation so it is really easy to use SlimServer with this software. The software might be iTunes or might be something else, the exact software isn't important as long as it is easy to use. Some problem with iTunes is that people will start to ask why they can't play their new music purchased from the iTunes Music Store. Another problem is that since iTunes also can play music, they will ask why the play button in iTunes can't result in that the Squeezebox starts to play. After all the iTunes user interface is so much easier to use than the SlimServer web interface. The bundled ripping/tagging software would need to support Windows (and maybe Mac), Linux users will be able to use the more advanced settings to use SlimServer with another tagging/ripping software.

I can't use iTunes myself since both my desktop and server is running Linux, but I'm not "average Joe" so that is not a problem as long as SlimServer still makes it possible to use other tagging/ripping software than the bundled one. I'm also using FLAC which is currently not supported in iTunes, but average Joe will be happy with standard mp3, so that shouldn't be an issue.



@Erland: Where exactly is the big issue with ripping/tagging?
It really isn't that difficult in my experience. I have progressed from starting with iTunes doing it all at the very beginning to using EAC (with MAREO) and tag tweaking (if ever necessary) with MP3Tag. Even with the different systems and the different ID3 tag versions (for my old MP3 files - I've matured to FLAC a while ago!) that this has produced I must obviously be very lucky and don't have Interface issues.
Do we _really_ need to make it so noddy proof? There are several problems:
1.
No specific ripping/tagging software is recommended, the result is that users starts to use EAC and other more complex solutions when they actually isn't ready for it, they would be much better off with something like iTunes.

2.
All the different tagging/ripping software works differently. The problem with this is that SlimServer must support all the different ways of tagging your music. I would imagine that the result is hugh costs in:
- Testing that SlimServer is actually working with all the different variations
- Handling support issues that is caused by some behavior in a tagging software
- Implementing support in SlimServer for all the different variations of tagging
For people that knows how to use a computer this might not be a big issue because they can help to find the actual problem. But if you have tried to instruct someone that hardly knows what a window is and calls their operating system Microsoft Office you get what I mean.

But in the end, I think the important thing is to decide who the target user is. The target user might not be average Joe and then the tagging/ripping part of the process might not be as important.

mherger
2007-06-08, 09:16
> Sure, iTunes would solve a big part of the problem. So everything would
> be fine if Logitech actually recommend people that the easiest way to
> use SlimServer is to use the iTunes integration and provide a default
> installation of SlimServer that where setup this way. But today they
> don't as far as I know, they just show all the possibilities and
> choices which can get a bit overwhelming for some people.

What about a wizard style dialog on first startup, asking whether you want
to use iTunes, MusicIP or your own music path. If it's the latter, let the
user visually choose the path as it's seen by the server (no mounted drive
letters and stuff) etc.?

Michael

erland
2007-06-08, 09:46
What about a wizard style dialog on first startup, asking whether you want to use iTunes, MusicIP or your own music path. If it's the latter, let the user visually choose the path as it's seen by the server (no mounted drive letters and stuff) etc.?
A wizard would help, since it can make the user do the choices in the correct order.

But lets assume that we are talking about someone who doesn't know how SlimServer works. This user has probably not realized that he needs a tagging/ripping program, so he has no idea what to choose in these options. If he has iTunes installed he might choose it, if not he probably choose the music path option since he probably doesn't know what MusicIP is.

The advantage of bundle the tagging/ripping software with SlimServer is that when the user install SlimServer, he will be informed that a tagging/ripping software is required. He will also be asked if he wants to install the bundled tagging/ripping software. If he choose to install it, SlimServer will be automatically setup to work as good as possible with this tagging/ripping software. Basically the user has clicked Next->Next->Next->Finish in a number of dialogs and after this everything is setup and ready to use, in the end of the installation he can also choose to automatically start the tagging/ripping software and start ripping his music collection. SlimServer will of course also be automatically started at the end of the installation.

I do realize that there will be a bit of work to get everyting described above, but IF logitech is targeting average Joe I think something like this is required to avoid support problems.

If we aren't targeting average Joe, a simple wizard at startup might be enough. It can probably detect some things to provide good default values. After all most people will be using Windows XP or Windows Vista and they will store their music in the "My Music" directory under their user. So it should be possible to suggest the correct directory if XP or Vista is used. On Linux no default directory is needed, if someone have installed Linux we can assume he knows what to do. SlimCD or similar solution is probably a better solution for people wanting to run Linux without having any Linux knowledge.

JJZolx
2007-06-08, 10:01
What about a wizard style dialog on first startup, asking whether you want
to use iTunes, MusicIP or your own music path. If it's the latter, let the
user visually choose the path as it's seen by the server (no mounted drive
letters and stuff) etc.?

Better yet, for Windows (and I would certainly imagine Apple) platforms it would be both easier and more powerful to use a good program installer to do these things.

One thing that I've always thought _must_ cause major headaches for support is having every packaged plugin enabled by default for a new install.

mherger
2007-06-08, 10:06
> But lets assume that we are talking about someone who doesn't know how
> SlimServer works. This user has probably not realized that he needs a
> tagging/ripping program, so he has no idea what to choose in these
> options.

Come on! Who's going to buy a SB without knowing what a music file is and
what they're used for. That's imho pretty far fetched.

> If he has iTunes installed he might choose it, if not he
> probably choose the music path option since he probably doesn't know
> what MusicIP is.

Then he's done the right choice :-)

> SlimServer will of course also be
> automatically started at the end of the installation.

One problem here is that you can't do a path selector from the installer.
It's imho only reasonable from inside the running server, as people would
again select mounted drive X: as a music source, which is not seen by the
server.

> I do realize that there will be a bit of work to get everyting
> described above, but IF logitech is targeting average Joe I think
> something like this is required to avoid support problems.

Support problems would imho increase, as may questions would be asked
concerning the bundled applications. Sometimes I'm even under the
impression that this is the QNAP support forum. Don't make it a
Winamp/Foobar/MP3Tag/Younameit forum as well.

> So it should be possible to suggest the correct directory if XP
> or Vista is used.

This again isn't that simple as SlimServer is run under the system account
by default. There's no "My Music" folder for it.

Michael

ddewey
2007-06-08, 10:09
Quoting erland (erland.2rvbtb1181321401 (AT) no-mx (DOT) forums.slimdevices.com):

>
> Michael Herger;207661 Wrote:
> >
> > What about a wizard style dialog on first startup, asking whether you
> > want to use iTunes, MusicIP or your own music path. If it's the latter,
> > let the user visually choose the path as it's seen by the server (no
> > mounted drive letters and stuff) etc.?

> A wizard would help, since it can make the user do the choices in the
> correct order.
>
> But lets assume that we are talking about someone who doesn't know how
> SlimServer works. This user has probably not realized that he needs a
> tagging/ripping program, so he has no idea what to choose in these
> options. If he has iTunes installed he might choose it, if not he
> probably choose the music path option since he probably doesn't know
> what MusicIP is.

Do we really think that a potential Squeezebox purchasers first
experience with needing to deal with digital music files is buying a
Squeezebox? I doubt it.

I'd postulate that people that are buying Squeezeboxes today have
already learned to deal with these issues because they have iPods or
other digital music players and through these players are already
well aware of tagging/ripping issues. iTunes has already handled
those issues for them - if music isn't tagged right they can't find
in on their iPod and they fix it.

Sure it can be done BETTER than by using iTunes or whatever sw came
with their non-Apple devices, but they are certainly already
familiar with the problem.

If SD/Logitech is really interested in fast start for new users to
the SB, then easy fast integration with iTunes is low hanging fruit.
iTunes's already installed, it already has music in it and users are
familiar with it.

As a more experienced user, I'd need the option to follow another
path, but having that fast start for the vast majority of users is
important.

--
http://www.last.fm/user/ddewey

mherger
2007-06-08, 10:19
> Come on! Who's going to buy a SB without knowing what a music file is and
> what they're used for. That's imho pretty far fetched.

Except for the online service only user.

Michael

erland
2007-06-08, 10:45
Do we really think that a potential Squeezebox purchasers first experience with needing to deal with digital music files is buying a Squeezebox? I doubt it.

I'd postulate that people that are buying Squeezeboxes today have
already learned to deal with these issues because they have iPods or other digital music players and through these players are already well aware of tagging/ripping issues. iTunes has already handled those issues for them - if music isn't tagged right they can't find in on their iPod and they fix it.

Agreed, the end users currently within reach are probably familiar with iTunes. I wouldn't go so far to say that this means that they are familiar with tagging and ripping though, because iTunes makes this really simple, so they might not have had any issues with this yet. Basically insert the CD and everything is done for you. But as you said, they can still continue to use iTunes so this might not be a big problem.

So maybe what's needed here is to make it clearer that using the iTunes integration is the easiest way to get SlimServer running.

We will of course still have the iTunes Music Store problem when the users realize that they can't easily play half of their music with their new SqueezeBox because they have bought it from iTunes Music Store, but thats another problem.



If SD/Logitech is really interested in fast start for new users to the SB, then easy fast integration with iTunes is low hanging fruit. iTunes's already installed, it already has music in it and users are familiar with it.

Isn't this pretty simple already ?
I haven't actually used the iTunes integration since I'm running SlimServer on Linux, but if I remember correctly the iTunes xml file is detected automatically.

I think the big improvement here is just to make it clear that iTunes is the fast and easy path.


As a more experienced user, I'd need the option to follow another path, but having that fast start for the vast majority of users is important.
Agreed again, I also want the advanced path because the fast start will never be optimized for Linux.

JJZolx
2007-06-08, 10:48
So maybe what's needed here is to make it clearer that using the iTunes integration is the easiest way to get SlimServer running.

Easiest way to get a new user to throw the thing out the window, you mean. iTunes integration has always been sketchy.

bephillips
2007-06-08, 15:21
I agree that trying to integrate with iTunes will always be sketchy. Apple can/will always change iTunes, which could break integration. In general, I think even with its problems, Slimserver is a better way to access a library. Except that drag and drop needs to be implemented for playlists. slimfx is a positive step in this direction (oh KDF, when will we have drag and drop in Fishbone? I'd do it if I knew how. I'd be pretty satisfied with this as a default interface.)

I think erland is right that ripping/tagging/scanning should be better integrated for the novice user, emulating the ease of use they may have come to expect through using iTunes. I think bundling a suggested ripper-tagger that triggers scanning, and not requiring rescan of the whole library each time, but just the changed directory.

I'm in the process of setting up a friend with the system. Her siblings got her the SB3 and hard drives as a present, and I agreed to provide support, as I live nearby.

Without close support, this would not be feasible for this person. She'll need to be trained on how to add new music to the collection, as well as how to use the new slim system.

I like the flexibility and customization possible, but there definitely needs to be a simplified set up for the less geeky user.

patrickw59
2007-06-13, 07:58
I am very happy to read the original post and your answers. It fully reflects my analysis after 2 years of pain.

The server software is too complicated. I am a serious Apple user and I do not have a single piece of software which has so many options. I want to use a simple electronic appliance and simple software. 90% of the options are of no interest to me, I want hassle free music and radios. Connect to the computer, scan daily Itunes, and playback its content.

An alternative to the existing server would be to have multiple levels of options...beginner...intermediate...expert.
Like for the video player software VLC available for all computer platforms.

Ron F.
2007-06-13, 13:16
Slimserver is a complex piece of software and it is certainly harder to use than iTunes for a new user - for what a typical new user wants to do.

On the other hand, I cannot think of anything else that will do as much in a music server than Slimserver. The browser interface could be better, but I don't want a stand-alone application - I would never use it. I want it browser-based forever because I want to be able to view it from anywhere - my desktop, my laptop, my palm, etc. - and I won't run it on anything now but my Linux machine.

Why would I want to rip CDs too, like iTunes does? DBpowerAMP is the final word now in ripping CDs. I would MUCH rather have the interface limitations present in Slimserver, than the present limitations in iTunes when being used as a music server - not even worth a comparison.

I think that adding music to my library as a work-flow, analogous to working with my camera:
1. Rip CD to Flac using DBpowerAMP on my Windows laptop ->
2. Move files to Slimserver machine via wireless network ->
3. Listen and enjoy

iTunes is fine, but I also feel it is something of a prison. I want to be free! Yes - I have had to learn how to use many of those settings and edit configuration files - but in the end the result is EXACTLY what I want. I cannot imagine another server working out as well for me.

I hope Logitech does not abandon the present approach.

-Ron