Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Google Music, More Disappointment

Time for more bitching about Google Music.

The first and biggest complaint about Google Music Beta was obviously the crappy desktop app that doesn't support Linux, or for that matter Google's own ChromeOS. I guess users must not want to store music locally on a Chromebook.

The second complaint is that some enterprising person figured out how the uploading is done and fixed Google's own problem, only to have the underlying protocol changed out from under him breaking his extension.

But I soldiered on. The Google Music Manager runs under Wine. See this forum. Specifically, download the files, unzip the file, get a recent version of wine:
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:ubuntu-wine/ppa
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install wine1.3
and finally run from the unzipped directory:
wine1.3 MusicManager.exe

Now I can upload music. This gives me a whole host of new things to complain about, but let's call them feature requests:

  • One cannot choose the songs to upload in the music directory. It's all or nothing.
  • One cannot play music in the music manager, say to see if that really is the song you remember it to be.
  • The website player requires flash. Seriously? As Google is telling everyone else in the world to move to HTML5 and is even moving their own properties such as YouTube to HTML5, they launch a new website which requires flash.
  • The website player requires flash. This deserves a second mention, especially for the bugs I've encountered so far. On two machines flash audio is currently choppy on some websites, including Google Music, but not Hulu. On another, for some reason the website is completely nonfunctional even with flash -- it can't seem to notice flash is there. Which means, of three machines, the website player currently works on none of them.
  • The Music Manager only supports a handful of formats, not including ogg. Most of my collection was in ogg format. At least they support flac, so you can use that as long as you have the space.
  • But wait! When the Music Manager is pointed at flac files, the uploads never finished! I transcoded flacs down to a low bitrate MP3 (VBR limited to at most 64kbps) and only then did the uploads ever finish.
  • Even then, the Music Manager took most of the day to upload 150 songs. It was mostly idle, and often complaining of connectivity to the Google Music servers. I have a decent internet connection too, by the way.
  • It appears to be the case that if you upload music and delete it, the album still shows in the list of "New and Recent" albums.
  • There is no easy way I can find to mass delete many songs or albums.
  • That is unfortunate, because it seems if you reencode the same song with the same tags as an mp3 with slightly different settings, Google Music cannot tell that it is the same song, so you end up with duplicates. It can tell if it is the exact same file however.
  • Cover art is found automatically for some albums, but not also for others including very popular music you would expect to be automatically located. You can manually set the album art, but it is an annoyance and I haven't tried.
  • Google Music allows you to rate music "thumbs up" in which case it is automagically added to a special playlist. The UI for that playlist includes the number of "plays". This doesn't appear to register plays from Android devices as opposed to the website. Unfortunate, since that's the only device that currently works for me (see above).
  • There is no way I can find to upload playlists.
  • There is no way I can see to integrate with third party services such as last.fm. I have years of listening data at last.fm. If Google provided integration, they could very easily determine my likes and dislikes more quickly, and at the same time provide my updates back to last.fm.
  • There is also no sharing I can see built-in. I thought Google was focused on social. There is no friends list, no way to easily share a certain song (which for listening would obviously require the recipient to own it until the music companies come on board). Likewise, there is no "+1". There are no badges to put on your blog to show what you are currently listening to, favorite songs, etc.
  • There is still no record company buy-in.
With all those negatives, it does seem to work well on Android. It just seems like the desktop and web experience were done by the second string hackers. It is beta remember. :)

I will continue to play with it and let you know how it goes.