Monthly Archives: December 2007

Zune Gadgets

Playing with the new gadgets that were released with the latest Zune web-site update. One thing I really like is that if you click an album or artist it’ll show the tracks and if the Zune Marketplace has them available you can preview the music. It’s a pretty cool way to see what others are listening to and get a quick sample, all without needing to have the Zune software installed. Here’s the big version of mine:

ASP.NET MVC Makes .NET Fun Again

I've been dabbling in the Ruby on Rails world for awhile and I've always been drawn to the very clean separation of the Model-View-Controller framework, something Rails pretty much nailed in their implementation. I've done a few small Rails sites here and there, played with it enough to be dangerous but I didn't use it enough in my daily life to really get it under my belt. At the same time I was doing a lot of ASP.NET work and felt like I was constantly fighting the WebForms architecture to get it to produce proper stateless standards-compliant web applications that were based around the concept of request/response. I'd disable ViewState, override Inits(), hack into the page lifecycle and ignore server controls so I had real control the HTML output and get back my CSS id selectors. In a very bad way WebForms reminded me of VB6 and all the hacks I had to do during my stint with that language.

The most frustrating point came when the CSS Adapters were released and touted as some kind of panacea to those that cared about web standards when in reality they are more akin to giving a woman with a horrible breast job a big baggy sweater with a picture of a nice rack on the front. Sure, it may be a pretty picture but the scar tissue and ugly layers are still there.

I think I got some of my faith back after I started reading Rob Conery's blog because in him I found a Rails enthusiast who still enjoyed the many good aspects of ASP.NET and C#. Instead of just jumping ship he was bringing some of the better elements, and more importantly concepts, over to the .NET side with the SubSonic project. Then he somehow got mixed up with some other crazy people like Phil Haack, Scott Guthrie and Scott Hanselman and now we have the ASP.NET 3.5 Extensions Preview which contains a juicy little nugget otherwise known as ASP.NET MVC.

After wading through the bits, doing a few sample projects and generally taking their version of MVC for a walk-about I can say I'm once again excited about .NET. Sure there are some rough spots and some areas that are a bit too "chewy" (you know a line of code that's a 100 characters long and includes at least three generics and two type casts? yeah, that's chewy) and design decisions that some people are taking umbrage over but all in all it feels useful, feels clean and feels like real programming.

In an odd way I have the same feeling I had back in the day when I switched from Visual Basic to Delphi (which I still think is the best tool for creating native Win32 applications), like I once again have control.

Music I’m Not Buying

While looking for some mellow music for a late night coding session that wouldn’t disturb my wife I remembered an album I used to listen to quite a bit, ‘Far Away Trains Passing By‘ by Ulrich Schnauss, and wondered if he had something new out for me to enjoy. Seems he’s been busy since I first picked up that album in 2001 with at least four other releases so after listening to some samples I figured I’d pick up an album or two.

I started first with Zune Marketplace which has become a viable option ever since they started offering DRM-free MP3s. While they have all his albums none of them are in MP3 format which crosses it off my list. Not to be daunted I hit up Amazon’s MP3 downloads but no dice there either, I can order the CD but I want satisfaction now. Last on my list is eMusic, usually a great location for smaller or indie labels but I only found a scattering of his songs on compilations. I thought about checking iTunes to see if it was available as a “Plus” track, meaning DRM-free, but you can’t browse their catalog online and I really can’t be bothered to install iTunes just to see if it may or may not be there. I even toyed with using BitTorrent for some nefarious illegal song grabbing but honestly that’s entirely too much fussing just for a few songs.

After all of this searching and disappointment I realized I’ll probably never buy another Ulrich Schnauss album, not out of some petulant pouting or idealistic, chest-beating stance against the horrors of DRM but because I had an impulse and now it’s gone. Anyone that knows me knows that I’m slightly impulsive while at the same time I lose interest quickly so in a few days time it’s doubtful I’ll even remember Mr. Schnauss and instead I’ll be buying some DRM-free tracks that caught my ear on eMusic or something tasty I see come through Zune Marketplace.

I’m not just not buying (neat) Ulrich Schnauss either, The new Dropkick Murphys album ‘The Meanest of Times‘ hasn’t gotten any rotation from me and they’re one of my top 10 favorite bands. There is just too much good music out there and my tastes are too varied for me to obsess over a single album. These days if I can’t get it DRM-free it’s doubtful I’ll ever buy it or listen to it.

A little note to Ulrich Schnauss’s label Domino USA, you really need to look at licensing your music as DRM-free, whether it’s on eMusic, Amazon, Zune Marketplace or even iTunes. You could have had some of my hard-earned dosh, instead I’m just cueing up some ‘Thievery Corporation’ and calling it good.

Getting Artists to show up correctly in the Zune software

Ever have an artist not show up where you expected in the Zune software?  Ever swear it’s correctly labeled ‘Red Hot Chili Peppers’ yet it’s showing up under ‘Unknown Artist’ instead?  How about this one, you can find it in the software but under the Zune it’s in the wrong place?  The culprit here is the Zune software’s really weird use the artist and album artist metadata bundled inside the file.  I consider this a huge and highly annoying bug.

A lot of tracks out there only have the ‘Artist’ field filled out while a second, less-used field ‘Album Artist’, sometimes called ‘Band’, is empty.  The Zune, instead of defaulting to the artist when it has an empty album artist, puts all those tracks under the dreaded ‘Unknown Artist’ section.

I just had this comment on an older blog post showing just how frustrating this can be, Shad said…

I am having a hell of a time getting CDs that I recorded in my commercial recording studio to show up as anything other than Unknown Artist. I finally got the folders that I have labeled (by right clicking and renaming them) to show up in the software but when I sync to my PC and update the Zune, they do not show up as "Unknown Artist" in the Zune. I cannot find them at all on the Zune. Any ideas?

I answered him in the comments but thought I’d repeat the steps I use to fix this issue here:

  1. Download and install mp3tag or any other tag editing program. I just like this one because it’s straight forward, free, and small in size.
  2. After you install it run the software.
  3. On the menu go to Tools, then Options.
  4. Select the ‘Tag Panel’ node on the left.
  5. Click the ‘Add Field’ icon on the right, looks like a rectangle with a star.
  6. Under ‘Field’ select BAND.
  7. Under ‘Name’ type ‘Album Artist’ or ‘Band’. Doesn’t matter, it’s for your eyes only.
  8. OK out of everything.
  9. Drag & drop the files or folder of files you want to edit into the main white area of the app.
  10. You’ll notice on the left side you can edit all the metadata about your tracks. Make sure to edit both ‘Artist’ and ‘Album Artist’ to be the same thing.
  11. Save.
  12. Sometimes the Zune software will pick up on your new information, sometimes you have to kick it a little by renaming the file.
  13. Everything should be rocking now!

Another great thing about mp3tag is that it can rename your files using your metadata, can add cover art or look it up from Amazon and guess at what the metadata should be based on filename.  It supports pretty much every single audio format I’ve thrown at it as well that supports metadata.  The renaming is nice because the Zune software lacks the ability to customize how your files are named.

Any questions drop them in the comments.