Windows 7 makes networked media work

Windows 7 RC1 (build 7100): the new Windows Media Player 12 is all kinds of goodness.

I readily admit that I am hard on computers, I really do break them on a regular basis while seeming to find the absolute limits of what they are capable of.  So with more than a little trepidation I installed the Release Candidate build (7100) of Windows 7 and set it to work scanning my overly large and complicated media library.

As a primer, it should be noted that my music library alone is somewhere over 30,000 songs and many of them have horribly broken tags that I refuse to fix, left over from many, many sessions of ripping the original CDs over the years.  Every version of Windows Media Player ever released has choked on them at some point.  ITunes is beyond worthless, freezing and locking up during the scan process and never fully recovering.  Winamp has long since bit the dust and even the mighty VLC goes down for the count when so many tracks are added to its “media library.”  My hopes for WMP 12 doing any better were very low.

Imagine my surprise when, after mere hours, it responded by downloading album artwork and behaving very snappily when searching through the volumes of tunes I have given it.  Better still, none of these tracks were located on the PC where Windows 7 resides: they were on a network attached storage device, the Netgear ReadyNAS.  Searching for tracks: quick.  Playing tracks: near instantaneous.  Exploring the library in Media Center: darn right blissful.  All this from a Microsoft product?  Color me impressed.  My next run at it will be to fire up another system and try streaming from one W7 system to another, both inside and outside the home network.  The nets say it’s possible, but we shall see.

Windows 7 Windows Media Player 12

Worst Service Nominees

worst-customer-servic2

I have recently had the great displeasure of participating in three different levels of grief and suffering with three different technology companies.  All three were so terrible that I felt compelled to write about it and post the results here, in the unlikely hope that someone might learn from my pain.  So here it goes…

Adobe: decided that it is OK to hang up on my calls twice for support to activate a product that I had purchased, transfer me between two different call centers and different support staffs in India, force me to repeat the same trouble-shooting steps no less than 8 separate times, and to, in the end, blame me for causing a problem which could only be repaired by tweaking their own registration servers. Just to get Photoshop to run.

HP:spent the better part of three hours bouncing my call between different call centers, different divisions of the company, taking over remote control of my PC, forcibly causing the loss of installed drivers and patches and lecturing me extensively on how I knew nothing about computer hardware to troubleshoot a problem, only to claim that the “outgoing phone lines are down” so that they couldn’t call me back for three days.  In the end, I relented and used the combination of the Internets free help (from other poor, tortured HP owners souls) and a Linux boot CD to restore functions to my USB ports.

AT&T: sent me around and around in circles for more than a week, trying to explain to me that “new services are available in your area”, but then deciding that no service has been improved, but that they can save me money if only I would switch to a new plan.  This led to nearly a week without any working DSL service, a series of confused support technicians, a promise of a new DSL modem that never appeared and a considerably more expensive bill than I started with for the same level of service I had before.  Extra pain points are awarded for having the local repair truck workers tell me that in 30 days or so fiber will be available in my area that will render all of this moot.

So who is the winner of this round?