Tag Archives: MP3

With XMplay who needs iTunes?

XMPlayPortable_128I’m a simple guy when it comes to music. I want a music player that stays out of my way, doesn’t try to sell me something and doesn’t take up a lot of my desktop. I want it to be able to play any music format I come across whether it’s MP3’s, FLAC’s, APE’s or game music files and convert them into something more useful. And I want this music player to be portable, able to be stored on a flash drive or even a floppy disk, never ask me for updates and be easy to install and customize.

XMplay is all this and then some.

Windows Media Player, iTunes and even the Amazon Music Player want to make a music library for you. They want to scan your hard drive, find all your music files, and report that information back to the mother-ship. They want to sell you new tracks, download tons of background files, and be constantly running in the background even when you don’t need them. They take up 100’s of megabytes of hard-disk space and infiltrate deep into your registry. They are difficult to customize, extend, or get rid of when you don’t want them anymore.

Music playback should be simple and ubiquitous, while still being powerful.

XMplay is easy to install, just download the ZIP file and extract it on your hard drive. The default installation with base plug-ins is 433 KB. For those of you who haven’t seen the kilobyte size in a while that’s about an eighth the size of your average photo from a halfway decent camera. Or about one two-hundredth the size of iTunes. The base installation plays MP3, OGG, WAV, CD-Audio and about a dozen more audio formats.

Personally, I’m not a fan of the default skin, but that’s okay because I can change that:


Before XMplay I used Winamp, and the skinning community on the XMplay site has skins that emulate the appearance of the common Winamp versions.


All you have to do is download the skin, and extract it in the same folder as XMplay. When you start up XMplay right-click on the player and select the ‘Skin’ menu to change the appearance of the player to any of the installed skins. There are dozens to choose from and you can even download tools to create your own. Some skins have compact modes which can be toggled by double-clicking on the player.


With the playlist hidden you can control playback with just the bottom bar.

Additional audio formats like MIDI (common to composer programs like MuseScore and Finale SongWriter), FLAC (a lossless high quality audio format), APE (the music format for monkeys) and Shorten (SHN, used for old concert files can be added) can be added with plugins. In addition to its own set of audio plugins, XMplay supports many plugins for Winamp like SHN. Again installation is as simple as downloading the plugin from the XMplay site and extracting it in the XMplay folder.

My recommended list of additional plugins:

  • MIDI – Oldy but a goody and be used to convert some older game sound files to music you can burn.
  • FLAC – A lot of game bundles offer both MP3 and FLAC downloads. FLAC is high quality compressed but lossless audio and for real audio aficionados offers a better sound than MP3.
  • RealAudio – Again some older files, but I bet you have some hiding on one of your old computers, and now you can play it again without having to dig up the old RealPlayer software.
  • Apple Lossless – A lot of common Apple formats covered here.
  • AAC Plugin – AAC/MP4 playing audio from common video formats.

You can see which audio file formats the player can play back by right-clicking, selecting ‘Options and stuff’ and selecting ‘Integration’ from the selections on the left:


With all of this installed, and maybe a couple of skins and additional plugins, we’re still clocking in at under 2MB. And the best part is if you get a configuration you like you can take that folder, copy it to a flash drive, and take it to any computer you connect to. Throw a compilation of your favorite music on the drive as well and you are set for life.

Here’s all I’m saying. We all are used to the name brand software, just like with a lot of other things. We don’t investigate and make other choices because this is just what everyone does. How else do you explain how Internet Explorer has been one of the dominant browsers (at least until Chrome) for all these years? But with minimal effort you can get something that is actually better, and will stay out of your way so you can listen to music rather than manage it.

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Who wants used MP3s anyway?

In a not terribly surprising move the New York supreme court has rejected ReDigi’s attempt to sell your used MP3s, at least not under existing law.

ReDigi sells your used MP3s by uploading your music files to their server, and then deleting any copies off your hard drive. From this you, the seller, get a 60% cut of the sale price of your used MP3, and you still get to keep your MP3 if you have half a brain. Backup hard drives, burning to physical media, even renaming files are just a few of the ways to circumvent the loss of your used content.

But the court didn’t get that far. By it’s very nature “moving” a digital file from one place to another is actually copying it, and therefore under the definition of “first sale” it cannot be resold. But ruling on these grounds makes me a little concerned if the music company wanted to get snippy about the copies of their songs floating on cloud servers, MP3 players, burned CDs, backup hard drives, etc.

The publishing industry, particularly Amazon and Apple are interested in this for the same reason. And the technical issues are more interesting with an eBook. When you buy a book from Amazon, it’s stored in the cloud. When you download it to a device you create a unique digital file encoded with the serial number of that device. Most Amazon books allow at least four “simultaneous downloads” meaning that you have four digital files that are technically unique. Are each of these “first sale” books or just the one in the cloud? Can we sell our cloud access provided the devices we download to are programmed to delete books that are no longer in the cloud? What about Amazon’s new “AutoRip” service which gives you an MP3 copy when you buy a physical CD? You can sell the CD and keep the MP3s but what about the other way around?

I think for a while the answer to that question and many other related digital questions is simply, no. I’ve returned digital books that were defective and gotten a refund (from Amazon), but I don’t think there will be a Half Price Books for eBooks anytime soon.

This is the thing that’s weird about digital media in general, we don’t own it, we’re just renting. That means we’re stuck with the things we liked when we were teenagers, or we at least have to press delete. As someone who frequently sells to Half Price Books, selling things used is never about making money, it’s about sharing something you love with someone else, and hoping that others do the same so that you can try something out for cheaper. In the digital world, with the law as it is right now, the only way to try out new things is to pay sticker price, or break the law. That may mean many of us will try less. A CD for $1.00 at Half Price Books is a what the hell moment (I mean one MP3 is 99 cents so I only have to like one song), but a digital file is a more permanent decision, for an impermanent object.

I understand the court’s perspective, it’s the laws that need to change, and 60% back to the seller for something used seems fishy for something so easily copied. But I love buying used music and books, and I love reading on my Kindle (for all I bash Amazon on the blog 🙂 ) and listening to MP3s. But it may be that reconciling these two parts of my relationship with media isn’t going to happen.

What do you do with old digital files (MP3, Video, Games)? Do you back it up, throw it away, or give it to a friend?


Filed under Trube On Tech