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Displaying Composer information in a Control Point
23-11-2013, 23:16
Post: #1
Displaying Composer information in a Control Point
One of the frustrations I have with my network music system is the difficulty I have in persuading Control Points to display the information I want, where I want it. Simon has rightly spotted that this a particular problem for those with classical collections, and I have nothing but praise for the way he seeks to meet the needs of that group (of whom I am one) in the options provided by MinimServer. Would that things were the same in the Control point!

Where classical music is concerned, to the listener probably the single most important piece of information about a work is the name of the composer. That is why indexes of classical music are invariably ordered by composer name. The digitised music industry has had enormous difficulty getting its head round this simple fact. Ironically, a particular offender in this respect is Linn, which seems to make a determined attempt to omit composer data where it could and should be provided (in the scrolling titles on its own Linn Classical network radio station, for example).

This failing carries over into the design of Kinsky, which not only omits composer data where there is obviously space and need for it (in the rather significantly named "Full Artwork" screen for example), but also fails to scroll or wrap data where this would be useful in the Library and Playlist areas of the main screen (it doesn't even allow resizing of these areas). It's not that the composer name never gets displayed; it just isn't there when I most want it, for example when looking at the tracks of a compilation album.

Bubble DS (which I am coming to prefer generally to Kinsky in any case) is rather better in this regard, but still, for example, omits the composer name from its 'Now Playing' screen, which is in other respects much more functional than the Kinsky "Full Artwork" counterpart.

I am currently trialling the workaround of using MinimServer to add the Composer name to the track title display (by including Title.displayFormat={$composer$title^^^: } in tagFormat). This works surprisingly well, but introduces a lot of repetition into the Library and Playlist listings, and may push important track title information (which there should be, but isn't, an option to wrap, in either Control Point) out of the display.

One significant advantage Bubble has over Kinsky is that, on Bubble's Now Playing screen, track titles that do not fit are scrolled, so now I do have composer data on that screen.

Have any other users come across these issues? Is there anything else I can do in MininServer to alleviate the problem? Or do we just have to try to persuade the writers of Control Points to make them more user configurable? I think that the design of Bubble makes this rather easier than that of Kinsky, so I hope Bubbleguuum is reading this ... Smile

David
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24-11-2013, 06:20
Post: #2
RE: Displaying Composer information in a Control Point
(23-11-2013 23:16)DavidHB Wrote:  One of the frustrations I have with my network music system is the difficulty I have in persuading Control Points to display the information I want, where I want it. Simon has rightly spotted that this a particular problem for those with classical collections, and I have nothing but praise for the way he seeks to meet the needs of that group (of whom I am one) in the options provided by MinimServer. Would that things were the same in the Control point!

Where classical music is concerned, to the listener probably the single most important piece of information about a work is the name of the composer. That is why indexes of classical music are invariably ordered by composer name. The digitised music industry has had enormous difficulty getting its head round this simple fact. Ironically, a particular offender in this respect is Linn, which seems to make a determined attempt to omit composer data where it could and should be provided (in the scrolling titles on its own Linn Classical network radio station, for example).

This failing carries over into the design of Kinsky, which not only omits composer data where there is obviously space and need for it (in the rather significantly named "Full Artwork" screen for example), but also fails to scroll or wrap data where this would be useful in the Library and Playlist areas of the main screen (it doesn't even allow resizing of these areas). It's not that the composer name never gets displayed; it just isn't there when I most want it, for example when looking at the tracks of a compilation album.

Bubble DS (which I am coming to prefer generally to Kinsky in any case) is rather better in this regard, but still, for example, omits the composer name from its 'Now Playing' screen, which is in other respects much more functional than the Kinsky "Full Artwork" counterpart.

I am currently trialling the workaround of using MinimServer to add the Composer name to the track title display (by including Title.displayFormat={$composer$title^^^: } in tagFormat). This works surprisingly well, but introduces a lot of repetition into the Library and Playlist listings, and may push important track title information (which there should be, but isn't, an option to wrap, in either Control Point) out of the display.

One significant advantage Bubble has over Kinsky is that, on Bubble's Now Playing screen, track titles that do not fit are scrolled, so now I do have composer data on that screen.

Have any other users come across these issues? Is there anything else I can do in MininServer to alleviate the problem? Or do we just have to try to persuade the writers of Control Points to make them more user configurable? I think that the design of Bubble makes this rather easier than that of Kinsky, so I hope Bubbleguuum is reading this ... Smile

David
I agree with most of your points. I experimented with many control points, and the difficulty of clearly displaying the composer metadata when switching control points and music servers got me into the habit of always harcoding the composer last name as the start of the track titles when tagging my music files. This adds redundancy, but frees you of depending on a specific feature of a music server or control point to correctly see the composer info. (BTW, your remarks could also be extended to the conductor metadata, which for classical music lovers is also important, but are mostly ignored by most control points.)

Surprisingly, not all music servers publish the composer metadata when asked for track metadata by upnp control points. The upnp standard does not seem to impose that. For example, mediamonkey server does not publish either composer or conductor metadata, whereas minimserver, foobar and assetupnp do. This inconsistency in the behavior of upnp music servers may explain (but not excuse) why some control points treat the composer metadata somewhat lightly.

Also, it should be noted that BubbleUPnP displays the composer name at the top of playlist tab (when viewing by album), and also at the top of the library tab. In the Playing tab, composer is also shown below the track title if the "Show composer" choice is selected in the "Now Playing" settings. BubbleUPnP also displays the composer name in its "Show metadata" contextual menu when long pressing a track title. I think BubbleUPnP is doing a decent job when it comes to displaying composer metadata (if of course the music server in use cares to publish those in the first place).

André
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24-11-2013, 11:30
Post: #3
RE: Displaying Composer information in a Control Point
I suppose the question is whether there is a decent, easy to use, configurable control point to replace Kinsky. I am using a laptop with Windows 8.1. I am aware that MediaMonkey, J.River, Foobar2000, etc., are supposed to work, but my experience is that they are not very good for classical music, especially opera (gapless playback seems the issue).

I am surprised that the manufacturers have not put more effort into developing the control point software.
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24-11-2013, 14:44
Post: #4
RE: Displaying Composer information in a Control Point
I think we are still in stone age with most music servers and all control apps. Minim Server is far ahead, may be we're in middle ages with it. Perhaps in a few years we will be there where we are right now in other aspects of computer life.
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24-11-2013, 16:45 (This post was last modified: 24-11-2013 18:00 by DavidHB.)
Post: #5
RE: Displaying Composer information in a Control Point
Thank you, André, for your thoughtful and helpful response.

(24-11-2013 06:20)Andre Gosselin Wrote:  ... the difficulty of clearly displaying the composer metadata when switching control points and music servers got me into the habit of always hardcoding the composer last name as the start of the track titles when tagging my music files. This adds redundancy, but frees you of depending on a specific feature of a music server or control point to correctly see the composer info.

Yes, that is an approach. I decided not to use it because it goes against all the database discipline I was ever taught, and because I was (and am) uncertain as to whether the composer surname belongs in the track title, the group or the composition tag (maybe all three). Automating things with MinimServer does at least give me the option to change things back by changing one setting. It requires me to display the full composer name (I could also use ComposerSort, which puts the surname first), and that can be a disadvantage in some some circumstances. So my approach is not necessarily better than yours.

One thing that might bring our approaches closer together would be if MinimServer had the option to extract the composer surname (which I guess would be easier with Composer Sort than with Composer) on the fly and use it in tag formatting. You'd still have issues with Bach J.S./C.P.E./J.C. and Strauss J./R. etc., but I think I'd live with those.

Quote:(BTW, your remarks could also be extended to the conductor metadata, which for classical music lovers is also important, but are mostly ignored by most control points.)

True, and the same can be said for soloist, orchestra etc. I stuck with discussing the composer data to avoid over-complicating the topic, and because the composer name is likely to be the most important single metadata element for a classical collection.

Quote:Surprisingly, not all music servers publish the composer metadata when asked for track metadata by upnp control points. The upnp standard does not seem to impose that. For example, mediamonkey server does not publish either composer or conductor metadata, whereas minimserver, foobar and assetupnp do. This inconsistency in the behavior of upnp music servers may explain (but not excuse) why some control points treat the composer metadata somewhat lightly.

... allied to the fact that, in some parts of the industry, there seems to have been a strenuous effort to force classical music into the same mindset as other genres. I suspect that those of us who enjoy classical music are often thought of as just being prissy or pedantic when we say that it needs to be treated diffently from other genres. But the reality is that 'classical' music (a ridiculously inappropriate name, but we are saddled with it) is more than a genre; it is a repository of musical works built up over many centuries. People should expect it to have a more complex data structure than other music.

That said, I agree with what you say. It is interesting to consider why the UPnP standard should be so unhelpfully loose. Part of the reason is that many (perhaps most) of those who support UPnP are also involved (often more actively) in DNLA, which is even more unhelpfully draconian. And I suspect that it is from this group that the most influential among those who regard classical music as just awkward will come.

Quote:Also, it should be noted that BubbleUPnP displays the composer name at the top of playlist tab (when viewing by album), and also at the top of the library tab. In the Playing tab, composer is also shown below the track title if the "Show composer" choice is selected in the "Now Playing" settings. BubbleUPnP also displays the composer name in its "Show metadata" contextual menu when long pressing a track title. I think BubbleUPnP is doing a decent job when it comes to displaying composer metadata (if of course the music server in use cares to publish those in the first place).

How did I ever miss those settings? Thank you for pointing them out (they are present in Bubble DS as well as Bubble UPnP); I'll be trying out options over the next few days to see how I can best get what I need without overcrowding the display. I certainly agree with your positive view of the Bubble user interface.

But Bubbleguuum cannot rest easy just yet Smile. In my ideal world, Bubble would have at least options to let the user more completely design (with order, font size etc.) what goes where on the 'Now playing' Screen. And 'Now playing' screen profiles that change according to the genre or some other item of metadata would be rather nice. Those thoughts should keep Bubbleguuum busy when he finds he has a quiet Wednesday afternoon Smile. At least he has the consolation that he is already well ahead of the competition when it comes to meeting the needs we have identified.

David
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24-11-2013, 17:08
Post: #6
RE: Displaying Composer information in a Control Point
(24-11-2013 11:30)RSJ Wrote:  I suppose the question is whether there is a decent, easy to use, configurable control point to replace Kinsky. I am using a laptop with Windows 8.1. I am aware that MediaMonkey, J.River, Foobar2000, etc., are supposed to work, but my experience is that they are not very good for classical music, especially opera (gapless playback seems the issue).

On computers, there is a tendency to combine Control Points and Renderers (as both use the same OS user interface), and with some applications it can be a bit hard to spot where one ends and another begins. With commercial software, there must also be an incentive to blur the distinction; people like Microsoft want their application to be thought of as a one stop shop, and don't want users to look elsewhere. This may in part explain why UPnP on Windows Media Player is non-compliant; if it were compliant, WMP would work with MinimServer.

I can't speak of all the applications you mention, but foobar2000 with the foo_upnp add-on works well with MinimServer (with one relatively minor limitation, described in the MinimServer documentation). It seems to have no problems with gapless playback, which AFAIK is a renderer rather than a Control Point issue.

Quote:I am surprised that the manufacturers have not put more effort into developing the control point software.

I'm not surprised. Software is expensive to develop, but typically has to be provided free with hardware. Third party applications (such as the Bubble products) can only be sold at a price point that both keeps them in competition with device manufacturers' freeware and responds to the 'free software' culture of the internet. Inevitably, if we expect software to be free or cheap, some user requirements will not be met. That will not stop me asking for new features, however Smile.

David
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24-11-2013, 17:48
Post: #7
RE: Displaying Composer information in a Control Point
(24-11-2013 14:44)Dieter Stockert Wrote:  I think we are still in stone age with most music servers and all control apps. Minim Server is far ahead, may be we're in middle ages with it. Perhaps in a few years we will be there where we are right now in other aspects of computer life.

Considering that the First Linn DS (which I think is generally regarded as the first commercially available high end network music player) was only launched six years or so ago, the pace of development has been remarkably rapid. I'd guess that, if anything, it will become even more rapid during the next few years.

Network audio is still far from being a mainstream product, and the big money (and therefore the resource focus of development effort) will be in making it mainstream. A reasonable guess will be that manufacturers who make these products (notably the electronics giants like Sony, Samsung and Panasonic) will want to use DNLA as the technical core of their mainstream network audio offer.

This is bad news for classical music enthusiasts, as DNLA servers are designed to have a much more restricted capability than their UPnP counterparts, such as MinimServer. The justification for impoverishing the feature set is usually given as interoperability, but I suspect that manufacturers are really concerned that most users simply will not buy anything that seems technically complex, and that they also dislike on principle anything that is open source and therefore not under the control of their cartel.

Judging by tests with my Samsung network attached TV, the problem with DNLA renderers is not that they cannot receive and interpret correctly the browsing tree provided by MinimServer. The real problem is that they are designed to work only with mainstream (i.e. lossy) audio formats; FLAC, for example, is not supported. Distinctions of this kind will tend to drive a wedge between mainstream and niche products, and classical enthusiasts could continue to find themselves saddled with the requirement to use the latter.

David
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24-11-2013, 23:11
Post: #8
RE: Displaying Composer information in a Control Point
(24-11-2013 17:08)DavidHB Wrote:  This may in part explain why UPnP on Windows Media Player is non-compliant; if it were compliant, WMP would work with MinimServer.

WMP works with the next release of MinimServer. This is because the next release of MinimServer supports UPnP Search, which is an optional feature of UPnP (supporting your point).
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24-11-2013, 23:17
Post: #9
RE: Displaying Composer information in a Control Point
(24-11-2013 17:48)DavidHB Wrote:  Judging by tests with my Samsung network attached TV, the problem with DNLA renderers is not that they cannot receive and interpret correctly the browsing tree provided by MinimServer. The real problem is that they are designed to work only with mainstream (i.e. lossy) audio formats; FLAC, for example, is not supported. Distinctions of this kind will tend to drive a wedge between mainstream and niche products, and classical enthusiasts could continue to find themselves saddled with the requirement to use the latter.

I don't think this is caused by DLNA. AFAIK, the DLNA specifications and compliance tests don't say anything about how a control point (not renderer) should handle a browsing tree. I think this limitation of your Samsung TV is a Samsung issue, not a DLNA issue.
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25-11-2013, 00:35
Post: #10
RE: Displaying Composer information in a Control Point
(24-11-2013 23:11)simoncn Wrote:  
(24-11-2013 17:08)DavidHB Wrote:  This may in part explain why UPnP on Windows Media Player is non-compliant; if it were compliant, WMP would work with MinimServer.

WMP works with the next release of MinimServer. This is because the next release of MinimServer supports UPnP Search, which is an optional feature of UPnP (supporting your point).

Thank you; that is very good news. I hope that the WMP compatibility will be the big boost to MinimServer that it deserves, because I know that many Windows users prefer to stick with WMP; for these users, WMP can provide a familiar means of implementing a combined control point and renderer, especially with codecs installed to support FLAC etc.

David
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