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Music Software Hardware Technology

Plexamp, Plex's Spin on the Classic Winamp Player, Is the First Project From New Incubator Plex Labs (techcrunch.com) 209

Media software maker Plex today announced a new incubator and community resource called Plex Labs. "The idea here is to help the company's internal passion projects gain exposure, along with those from Plex community members," reports TechCrunch. "Plex Labs is also unveiling its first product: a music player called Plexamp," which is designed to replace the long-lost Winamp. From the report: The player was built by several Plex employees in their free time, and is meant for those who use Plex for music. As the company explains in its announcement, the goal was to build a small player that sits unobtrusively on the desktop and can handle any music format. The team limited itself to a single window, making Plexamp the smaller Plex player to date, in terms of pixel size. Under the hood, Plexamp uses the open source audio player Music Player Daemon (MPD), along with a combination of ES7, Electron, React, and MobX technologies. The end result is a player that runs on either macOS or Windows and works like a native app. That is, you can use media keys for skipping tracks or playing and pausing music, and receive notifications. The player can also handle any music format, and can play music offline when the Plex server runs on your laptop.

The player also supports gapless playback, soft transitions and visualizations to accompany your music. Plus, the visualizations' palette of colors is pulled from the album art, Plex notes. Additionally, Plexamp makes use of a few up-and-coming features that will be included in Plex's subscription, Plex Pass, in the future. These new features are powering functionality like loudness leveling (to normalize playback volume), smart transitions (to compute the optimal overlap times between tracks), soundprints (to represent tracks visually), waveform seeking (to present a graphical view of tracks), Library stations, and artist radio.

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Plexamp, Plex's Spin on the Classic Winamp Player, Is the First Project From New Incubator Plex Labs

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  • (Subject asks it all.)

    • In the comments on TFA:

      Elan Feingold
      Dec 19
      Keep in touch; we have a Linux version running internally, but it’s not yet in a state to be shared.

  • by PsychoSlashDot ( 207849 ) on Monday December 18, 2017 @07:11PM (#55765565)
    WinAmp's (default) UI was appropriate. Each button or knob or text field was exceptionally useful and well-placed.

    PlexAmp looks like yet another mobile device interfaceless-interface where almost everything is buried in a burger menu or controlled by unintuitive gestures. But at least it has gradient fills everywhere there aren't transparent controls on full-colour bitmaps.

    Do not want. Also, get off my goddamned lawn.
    • by rogoshen1 ( 2922505 ) on Monday December 18, 2017 @07:16PM (#55765599)

      foobar2000 (NFI) seems like a pretty solid replacement for winamp.. if you want a barebones player that doesn't do a bunch of nonsense like album art, social bullshit, or recommendations.

      just a simple, barebones mp3 player.

      • by Jody Bruchon ( 3404363 ) on Monday December 18, 2017 @08:38PM (#55766021)
        There's no need for a Winamp replacement. I'm running Winamp right now on Windows 7 and Windows 10. Newer displays with higher resolutions or old nerds losing their eyesight need "double size" turned on so the controls are easier to read but that's about it. The classic skins need to be used for maximum nostalgia and readability. Milkdrop2 and AVS come with Winamp 5.666 and I have zero complaints. It takes a while for it to sort a playlist with tens of thousands of songs but it's just as awesome as it was in 1999. Best of all, it's written the way a program should be: compact, easy to control, almost zero learning curve, no unnecessary internet phone home bullshit (especially since Winamp has changed hands and ceased development, even the installation stat reporter doesn't work when it does try to phone home to bump the install base stats.)
        • I'm still using it. And no, foobar doesn't do it all or as well.

          The one advantage of foobar was playing esoteric media files like SNES music files.

        • Winamp has several drawbacks:
          1. it distorts the sound at high volumes (anything near 100%).
          2. stupid, low-resolution fonts make everything hard to read.
          3. its use of a non-standard window means screen management apps like UltraMon can't place its controls in Winamp's top bar.

          I replaced winamp with VLC which solves all of these problems, and is infinitely more configurable to boot.

          • Winamp only distorts if you have the EQ cranked up and the audio is already loud and you don't lower the preamp but that's about it. Stupid low-resolution fonts? I guess you never turned on "double size" mode or used the CONFIGURABLE playlist font size.
            • as far as I remember (I ditched winamp a long time ago), "double size" mode just magnified the low-resolution art by 2x, so the interface looked like the screenshot here [medium.com] or see the comparison here [facebook.com]. The text in that screenshot is barely legible.

              • Yes, it literally doubles the size of the interface. I don't see a problem with readability there. What can't you read, and why can't you read it?
                • My eyesight is fine. Yet e.g. the word "stereo" is a green blob at first glance, thanks to the unneccessary 5x7 pixel bitmap used and the noise around the letters. Same goes for the track name. The W in 'Llama whip' is antialiased into '||||'. All of the text in the interface takes more trouble/time to decipher than it should: reading should be effortless. If I wanted low-resolution graphics, I'd work on a ZX Spectrum.

          • The problem with VLC is its playlist functionality is a complete joke compared to Winamp.

            Winamp shouldn't be distorting the audio if you have it configured correctly. I don't even use the EQ. VLC will distort the shit out the audio if you go past 100% as it is.

            The other complaints mostly have to do with a UI that was made to be cool by 1997 standards. It still manages to outdo many 2017 UI efforts though.

      • by darkain ( 749283 )

        That's probably because foobar2000 is authored by a former Winamp developer. (I've been a foobar2000 user myself for at least 15 years now). It started because Peter wanted a better MP3 audio rendering pipeline that Winamp devs wouldn't provide, so he made his own. He only cared about audio quality, and it shows.

      • by Luckyo ( 1726890 )

        Don't run the current w/e social BS winamp. Run the older fully offline versions. They never need to be updated. They just work and they don't need to ever go to the internet.

      • Huh? Foobar doesn't do album art?

        *stares at the album art visible in the foobar window*.

      • Foobar2000 is not barebones. It does follow function over form and is focused on audio playback and performance. It is fast, feature-rich, customizable, tweakable and extensible.

        It's just not particularly noob-friendly when it comes to things like theming or 'syncing your iPod'. For a power user, however, it sits lonely at the top of the desktop audio player-heap. IMHO.

    • by rudy_wayne ( 414635 ) on Monday December 18, 2017 @07:31PM (#55765699)
      I still use WinAmp and it works perfectly fine. I decided to give this new PlexAmp a try but you can't even install the program without first creating an account and logging into their website. Sorry. Fuck you. Deleted.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        Funny, I downloaded it just fine. The file name is "Plexamp Setup 1.0.0.exe"
        I followed the link from the story, but then again I downloaded the Windows version, perhaps the mac is different, I didn't see a Linux version either...

    • by aix tom ( 902140 )

      Heh. Before I read your post I thought those pictures in the article where adds for something completely different, and was going to complain that there wasn't a single screen-shots of that alleged new winamp-like player anywhere in the article. ;-)

    • Every time somebody wants to "improve" winamp they add extra windows, useless art and make it slower to start.

      Even the winamp guys themselves fell for that trap. I never used the media management stuff nor the modern skins.

    • by Dutch Gun ( 899105 ) on Monday December 18, 2017 @09:03PM (#55766149)

      the goal was to build a small player

      Failed out of the gate. Why is that?

      along with a combination of ES7, Electron, React, and MobX technologies

      Welp, this means that this music player is going to take up a hell of a lot more memory and CPU power than should conceivably be necessary for a simple music player. It's hilarious to me that this music player is probably going to eat up more RAM than an instance of Microsoft Word, which clocks in at a svelte 23MB on my computer with a reasonably substantial document loaded. Yes, I know they meant "small as in pixels", but a music player should also be small in size and complexity.

      Is an embedded web browser the only cross-platform UI these types of projects seem capable of reaching for these days? Electron is mighty convenient if all you have are web programmers, but the user pays a very heavy price for that programmer convenience. I'm not usually one of those guys who moans about modern code bloat, but Electron apps just take it to a whole other level.

      • oh it definitely uses more ram. I installed it just to give it a run through

        1) Requires a plex login just to open it after installation, fail on ubobstrusive
        2) After login requires a plex audio server running just to see audio files, fail on the audio player part when it cant even browse a music collection by itself
        3) Uses 160mb of ram just to display the 'Could not find audio server' window, fail on small

      • It's a shame musicpd [musicpd.org] doesn't get more attention. It's been around for ages and there are a bunch of clients (Mac, Windows, *NIX, Android, though strangely not iOS, and some web-based ones). I have it installed on my media centre box and also on a RPi in another room (which accesses the same music library over NFS). I can control the music from pretty much any computer in my house.

        The clients are generally written for each platform, so don't suffer from the bloat of something like Electron. You can run

        • And, apparently, this abomination is really just a badly written musicpd client with integration with some remote cloudy crap. Slow news day?
      • Yeah, I remember having a player that would actually play MP3's on a 486 running DOS, and it even had a decent little visualization thing in it. It doesn't take an enormous amount of computing resources to play music.
  • Great another app that eats half a gig of ram

    • Great another app that eats half a gig of ram

      Which is especially dumb given "Literally the only requirement we had was 'small'." But until the overwhelming majority of PCs in use have double-digit GB of RAM, "small" contraindicates Electron unless you can plan on users being able to afford to add more RAM and possibly replace their motherboard and CPU (or in the case of a Mac or laptop, their whole computer) just to run one application without risk of thrashing swap on a machine with 8 GB or less of RAM.

      • by Jody Bruchon ( 3404363 ) on Monday December 18, 2017 @08:53PM (#55766097)
        Winamp is using 10.6 MB of RAM and 0.4% CPU on my machine right now as it plays a song. If PlexAmp can run in less than that, I'm happy to try it out. Oh, wait, that's right...everything today, no matter how simple the purpose, is made of a hundred massive bullshit frameworks and high-level inefficient glue code. [tumblr.com] Oh well.
        • Well they aren't even close. Figured Id give it a shot just to laugh. So first of all it requires a plex login just to use. After a login it also then requires a plex audio server running to server music, completely ignoring the entire idea behind 'audio player'. Finally just sitting there at the tiny 'could not find audio server' window it uses 160mb ram

          Fail on every front

        • Winamp is using 10.6 MB of RAM and 0.4% CPU on my machine right now

          LOL, saving RAM in this day and age? The cold war is over man. Get yourself 32GB for Christmas and never look at your RAM consumption again.

          • LOL, saving RAM in this day and age? The cold war is over man. Get yourself 32GB for Christmas and never look at your RAM consumption again.

            My sarcasm meter reads 50/50, so if this was intended as sarcasm, I half-got it.

            If it isn't, then I will state that I disagree. Even if machines have 32GB of RAM, it should be used for things other than 'to accommodate inefficient code'. Sure, we're not trying to make every byte count, but elsewhere on the thread someone posted some information regarding how the iOS Facebook app is at least twice as large as it needs to be primarily because of the redundant copies of libraries, which could be linked. The us

            • it should be used for things other than 'to accommodate inefficient code'

              It wasn't sarcasm. The problem is the vast majority of what people whinge about "inefficient code" isn't actually so, but rather code that simply provides more functionality, different visualisations etc.

              Call it bloat if you will, if all you're after is a simple music player, but the reality is not even remotely as inefficient as you think, and with the cost of processing and RAM available to us there's no real requirement to count every cycle and optimise every instruction at the expense of the above.

              • You may have 32GB RAM. You may be able to upgrade to 32GB RAM.

                Most people only have between 2GB and 8GB RAM and cannot even upgrade it (either it's the maximum allowed by the CPU/chipset/motherboard or it's soldered directly on the motherboard).

                • Those most people who have 2GB of RAM aren't the multitaskers who are going to give a damn if a single app uses more than 10MB.

                  • Playing music and running a browser and a word processor at the same time is a very common scenario. Ask any student in college doing a paper. Just because you have 2GB of RAM doesn't mean you can get away with running even a small number of bloated programs. My browser right now is using 2.5GB of RAM (lots of tabs, paused videos, uptime 8 days) which already exceeds 2GB, so with the browser already in paging territory excluding every other thing in the system INCLUDING the operating system and its required
                    • Playing music and running a browser and a word processor at the same time is a very common scenario.

                      And one that can easily be achieved with iTunes and Chrome having 50+ tabs open on 2GB of RAM.

              • It WASN'T sarcasm? Ohhhhh, that's not good.

                Winamp has visualizations, a library system, an equalizer, internet streaming and inter stream server capabilities, CD ripping, player device management, and a set of plugin frameworks. While playng music largely with default settings, it uses 10MB RAM. This PlexAmp thing uses well over 10 times that RAM and practically sits on top of a web browser core...while doing absolutely nothing at all. Oh, and it ultimately has less features than Winamp and is harder to
                • That's cute. Most other media players have all that and more. Also claiming Winamp has visualizations is like saying that a 1970 Fiat 300 is a car. Yes, by definition it is. That doesn't mean there aren't far nicer ones around.

                  To be clear I don't use Winamp because it is inferior to many other options. While I don't know much about Plexamp including its memory use, there's a reason Winamp fell out of favour with many and that has nothing to do with it stopping doing what it was already capable of.

                  Rather:
                  1)

  • Yes a GCHQ/NSA spy machine that chokes most of a core on a modern PC, plays only 'OFFICIAL' formats, and is a million times heavier than foobar2000 is just what I was looking for.

    Funny, when as an old school windows users, I look for apps, I want them PORTABLE, tiny, lightweight (RAM and CPU), and fully focused on sane usage. I see no pleasure in badly coded apps that choke an entire system just so I can have toddler pleasing goo-goo graphic interfaces.

    This year AMD gave us the astonishingly good 8-core Ryz

  • The app comprises multiple Electron processes, a player server process (for being remotely controlled), and the MPD player process, while managing to present a semblance of a whole.

    Thankfully, no one had to endure the savage ordeal of writing in a low-level language to assemble this pile of media-playing middleware. Phew!

  • Why replace it? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ArchieBunker ( 132337 ) on Monday December 18, 2017 @07:41PM (#55765745) Homepage

    Winamp still runs just as fine as it did nearly two decades ago. It plays mp3s and plays them well. End of story. A hammer purchased today still looks like a hammer from a millennia ago for a reason. Programmers need to learn that philosophy.

    • A hammer purchased today still looks like a hammer from a millennia ago for a reason.

      "If you go through a lot of hammers each month, I don't think it necessarily means you're a hard worker. It may just mean that you have a lot to learn about proper hammer maintenance."

      - Jack Handey [anvari.org]

  • Deceiving headline (Score:4, Insightful)

    by DigitAl56K ( 805623 ) on Monday December 18, 2017 @07:41PM (#55765747)

    lexamp, Plex's Spin on the Classic Winamp Player

    Cool!

    Under the hood, Plexamp uses the open source audio player Music Player Daemon (MPD)

    So.. not related to Winamp whatsoever then. Maybe this is a decent player, maybe it's not, but if you aren't even using the same engine why reference the brand?

    • by Luckyo ( 1726890 )

      To give this useless piece of crap of a player some marketing using a known brand that is still in heavy use?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 18, 2017 @07:43PM (#55765759)

    Jesus, do I really need a web browser and layers of JS frameworks to display an "unobtrusive" music player?

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 18, 2017 @08:59PM (#55766123)

      And yet, it comes with no Volume Control. From the FAQ [plexamp.com]:

      How do I change the volume?
      There are no volume controls in the app itself. Instead, simply use the system volume controls on your computer.

      • by Bob-Bob Hardyoyo ( 4240135 ) on Monday December 18, 2017 @09:42PM (#55766321)

        Ha, I tried it just now and was wondering where the fuck the volume was. That is an unacceptable lack of an extremely basic feature. See, on a PC, I have different programs which may be producing noises at the same time. If I turn up the system volume it affects ALL those programs at once. That is not an acceptable method for changing the volume on a FUCKING MUSIC PLAYER. I shouldn't have to blast my ears into deafness from notification dings, bleeps, clangs, and plarbfts in order to turn up the volume on my music.

        • by Luckyo ( 1726890 )

          Windows does in fact offer per application volume settings. They're behind a few clicks though. Nothing like just scrolling your mouse wheel in winamp.

        • Well you could always use the system mixer, at least on Windows, though I admit that's a bit of a hassle if your music is very varied.

  • Plexamp (Score:5, Informative)

    by ChoGGi ( 522069 ) <slashdot@choggi.org> on Monday December 18, 2017 @08:49PM (#55766079) Homepage

    Plexamp is 45MB
    Winamp is 10MB

    But fuck it I got Foobar2000 (4MB)

  • Winamp and Plugins (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Dwedit ( 232252 ) on Monday December 18, 2017 @09:08PM (#55766183) Homepage

    Winamp is really defined by its whole plugins ecosystem, if it doesn't emulate Winamp Plugins, it's not Winamp.

  • by slaker ( 53818 ) on Monday December 18, 2017 @09:34PM (#55766291)

    Plex doesn't handle classical music properly. It doesn't even come close. Of course, nothing else does either, but holy fuck how hard is it to give us the option to key off the Composer, Soloist, Ensemble and/or Conductor tags instead of useless album and track titles?

    Do something useful and fix THAT.

  • Does it have plugins for all the various game music sound formats such as NSF, GYM, SPC, etc?

  • I like to fine tune the volume of my music when playing games. No such slider on this. Keep trying though plex team.

  • There's a lot of talk about memory footprints (which have always been very significant for me, although not anymore), and about modern features. The website mentions gorgeous features like transitions and visuals and polish of all sorts. I'm sure it's very good.

    Here's the thing though:

    I installed winamp twenty years ago. I've been through about 6 machines in that time, and aside from a ten-minute install-and-configure effort, I haven't even noticed winamp.

    It's needed zero effort from me. I don't see it.

  • The player can also handle any music format,

    Really? How about sheet music? Player piano punch cards?

  • by Shemmie ( 909181 ) on Tuesday December 19, 2017 @02:14AM (#55766983)

    Welp - I'm a Plex user, and I'd been after something to play my music... so... ideal...

    Downloaded, installed. And off we go.

    Program opens, but in an awkward spot. So I spend... a few minutes... trying to move the window. Growing increasingly frustrated, I give up and decide "Okay, fine. Let's just play... I don't know... some Nightwish. Yeah."

    Where's the music explorer, or whatever it's called in this paradigm? I... want to play... Nightwish. "You can listen to Radiohead!". "Here's some Jeff Wayne!"

    In the end, in frustration, I pull out the keyboard and search for Nightwish. I get Nightwish. Gah, but I don't want to play this song. I'd love some kind of 'list' that I can create of the music I wish to 'play'!

    In desperation, I load up the help page for the program.

    https://plexamp.com/#help [plexamp.com]

    How do I move the app window?
    The app can be moved once you choose something to play. While playing, simply click and drag in the top half of the album art/visualizer.

    How do I browse my library?
    Plexamp is not a normal Plex app in the sense that you're not intended to just straight "browse" a music library.

    How do I change the volume?
    There are no volume controls in the app itself. Instead, simply use the system volume controls on your computer.

    Summary.

    This is easily the best music app that required me to resort to an FAQ to move the window, play the music I wanted to hear, and decrease the volume.

    • by Mouldy ( 1322581 )
      I downloaded and install it too to see what the fuss is all about and I agree with everything you said.

      Additionally, I will add that plexamp bears no resemblance to winamp. winamp's strengths were;
      - Simple to use. Plexamp requires sign-in to a plex server, the volume cannot be controlled independently of the system (so good luck balancing music while playing a video game), there doesn't seem to be a way to manage playlists, browsing the library has been replaced with a search
      - Small footprint. Plexamp
    • That's incredible - somewhere in that program there's some code, that someone spent time writing, that specifically prevents the window moving until some other part of the program says it's okay. Methinks someone spent some time on some redundant code there :-(

      I'm reminded of a UI story several years ago which headlined something like "Don't grey out menu items". The thinking there was similar - stop taking the time to write code to selectively enable and disable certain menu items. Instead, just design the

  • I installed Plex years ago and I used it some, but what I didn't like was that it would just refuse to play certain files that it could, in theory, play. I looked for information and basically it came down to the fact that Plex actually had issues not with the content of the problem files but with their names. You could rename a file and Plex would then magically play it without issues. But nobody knew for sure what caused the name problem or exactly what fixed it. I found Plex to be more trouble than i
  • and it still kicks the llama's ass.
  • QMMP is more close to Winamp than Spin. And works very well in my opinion.
    And it's open-source and cross-platform.

    http://qmmp.ylsoftware.com/ [ylsoftware.com]

Tomorrow's computers some time next month. -- DEC

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