With the recent release of itunes 8 and it's built in genius feature, it would seem that my work on similar playlist creation has become outdated. However, there is one thing that genius lacks: a feature that allows exploration of similar music apart from my own collection. Of course, there are suggestions from the itunes store, and I can preview 30 seconds from each of these songs, but that's not always a good indication of whether I'll like the song or not. So I decided to write a quick little program to combine the features of last.fm's similar tracks functionality and seeqpod's playable search. Here's the result. It's ugly, but it's functional (as far as I've tested it). As always, interest will dictate how much additional work goes into the program.
Requires .Net framework
To run the program, unzip the folder, run the .exe file, and select a track in itunes. Then click on the "Generate List" button to start listening to new music!
With the recently released iTunes 8.0, it seems that my itunes tagger app's similar playlist functionality isn't a big priority anymore. While I sometimes like the results from last.fm's similar tracks better than itunes', having Genius built into itunes is just a lot more convenient.
The one thing iTunes is still (surprisingly) missing is automatic lyrics downloading. A while back I wrote a quick program to find some lyrics from lyricwiki and sing365, but it has since become terribly outdated and provided no relevant results. And since I still get a couple hits a day for that program, I thought I'd update it for y'all.
I've just put together a new beta release of itunes tagger. It includes a couple really exciting features, which took a little bit more coding under the hood, but I think it was worth it.
- saves a list of tagged tracks
- saves your options on exit
- can make a playlist from a selected tag
- better error catching!
I've just come up with an idea to continue the trend of writing software to extend last.fm's web services. This program is just a little example so you can see the direction I'm heading. The program takes some selected tracks and will automatically create an itunes playlist of similar tracks (according to last.fm) that it finds in your library. It also spits out an approximate accuracy (just for curiosity's sake). Give it a try, and if you like the idea, leave a comment and I'll probably put more work into it. Maybe I'll even compile it to work with some of my other programs.
This isn't a real release, so take it with a grain of salt. Requires/will install .Net Framework 3.5.
[Download] (now it runs an installer to fix some dependency issues)
The possibilities for this program are endless really. Some ideas would be:
- Limit the playlist to contain only songs with a particular tag in the comments (would work well with itunes tagger)
- Create automatic playlists from itunes' most played tracks
- Allow user to specify the approximate popularity of the track (ie only songs you listen to a lot, only songs you rarely hear, somewhere in between)
- Exclude certain ratings, skip counts, etc
There is also another program out there that will create playlists for you based on various last.fm data. It's called Local.fm, available here.
CD Art Display is a great program. If you failed at the tutorial I posted on how to change your MSN picture to your currently playing album artwork, this program will do it all for you. It also displays the current artwork and info for the currently playing track, finds artwork, lyrics, etc. The display is skinnable, and can look amazing. Head over and download this program. I love it.
The lyric functionality doesn't save the lyrics to iTunes directly (as far as I know). So you can still use iTunes Lyric Downloader for that. And if you want to fix your track information so it looks a bit better when you display it in CAD, try this.
(This also means I'm ending all my work on iTunes Displayer, since it's crap compared to this program.)
Today I wrote a quick program that will automatically search for tabs of the selected tracks in iTunes. The tabs are saved as text files in a specified folder.
I've noticed over the years that it's nice to have copies of guitar tabs on your computer, especially for days where the internet is broken and you have nothing to do. I also like the option of selecting all of my favourite tracks in iTunes (ie my 3-star+ smart playlist) and just browsing the text files. A lot of times it just doesn't cross my mind to try and learn a certain song on guitar. Anyways, try it out and enjoy!
Update: If you'd rather just download a program instead of writing your own to do this for you, take a look at CD Art Display. It's free to download, and will do even more than just show album art in your msn profile picture.
This little howto is actually quite involved. I wasn't quite sure what was possible with the new Live Messenger Addin capability, but as it turns out, it is quite difficult to bypass some of the barriers set up by the addin technology. If you are really intent on getting this set up, or are just curious about what I did to get it going, feel free to read on.
A note to those who aren't interested in the programming side of this post: I'll post the files you need to download throughout the howto, but these files are not really recommended for everyday use. The actual solution I've come to is a pretty odd workaround, though it does work, so feel free to give it a try if you're brave. You'll need to go through each step, but you can just download the files for #1 and #4.
What you'll need:
-some knowledge of VB.Net and a visual studio version with vb.net
-a bit of free time
Step 1: Set up Live Messenger to allow Addins
The new Live Messenger does have addin capabilities built in, but they are not enabled by default (they're in beta I guess). To enable addins, you'll have to edit your messenger registry entries. Go to Run, type "regedit" and hit enter. then browse to "HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\MSNMessenger" and add a "DWORD" entry called "AddInFeatureEnabled" and change it's value to 1. Now restart your Live Messenger and go to Options. There should be a tab called "Add-ins". You're Messenger is all set to go.
Step 2: Write your .dll file for the Addin
Open up visual studio and start a new Class Library. You'll want to set up the project name right away, since your Class name has to be the same as the assembly name. Make sure your root namespace is empty. Add the MessengerClient.dll reference (browse to C:\Program Files\Windows Live\Messenger). Then you'll want to go through and look at this code (download the .dll here):
Imports Microsoft.MessengerPublic Class MessengerAddin '<- *Important* this is your assembly name!! Implements IMessengerAddIn Public theMessenger As MessengerClientPublic Sub Initialize(ByVal messenger As Microsoft.Messenger.MessengerClient)Implements Microsoft.Messenger.IMessengerAddIn.InitializeMe.theMessenger = messenger Me.theMessenger.AddInProperties.Creator = "SkyCapitan" Me.theMessenger.AddInProperties.Description = "iTunes Art plugin!" Me.theMessenger.AddInProperties.FriendlyName = "SkyCapitan's Addin" Me.theMessenger.AddInProperties.PersonalStatusMessage = TimeOfDay & " - Sky's not listening to music...." Me.theMessenger.AddInProperties.Url = New Uri("http://svankruistum.com")Dim systime As New System.Timers.Timer() systime.Interval = 5000 'This will check our config file every 5 seconds to see if the track has changed systime.Enabled = True AddHandler systime.Elapsed, AddressOf OnTimedEventEnd Sub Public Sub OnTimedEvent()On Error Resume Next 'in case the config file is not "0" or an artist_ or album combination Dim tempin As String Dim jpeg As String Dim oRead As System.IO.StreamReader Dim oWrite As System.IO.StreamWriteroRead = New System.IO.StreamReader("C:\art\config.txt") tempin = oRead.ReadLineIf tempin = "0" ThenoRead.Close() 'Nothing new we have to doElsejpeg = tempin 'Change the picture Me.theMessenger.AddInProperties.UserTile = System.Drawing.Image.FromFile("C:\art\" & jpeg & ".jpg") oRead.Close() 'Change the config file back to "0" oWrite = New System.IO.StreamWriter("C:\art\config.txt") oWrite.Write("0") oWrite.Close()End IfEnd SubEnd Class
A large part of this code is courtesy of a blog post at Nick's .NET Travels, found here. His example sets up a few other Messenger Events that you might like to explore. There is a lot of opportunity for some interesting addins.
The addin should be operational at this point, but another problem lies with MSN's strict sandbox for addins...
Step 3: Set up your MessengerAddin.dll to allow the System reference
The code above needs to access the system namespace for a few reasons: get the art file, check the config file, and use the system timer. Due to the sandbox restrictions in place by MSN Messenger, we need to register the addin on our system.
To do this, first you must sign your file. This is done under Project Properties -> signing. Sign the addin and add a password of your choice.
Next, you'll need to save and build the class library. Then browse to the location of the built .dll file. Now you need to drag and drop the file into your C:\WINDOWS\assembly folder.
Open up MSN, and try enabling your addin. Everything should work (though you don't have the artwork and the appropriate config file yet).
Step 4: Create a program to save your artwork and config file
After creating a few past itunes programs, I just had to edit a few lines in my itunes displayer program. If you don't want to create your own program, here is an adjusted version of itunes_displayer for you to run. This isn't really ideal, since a popup jumps up every track change, etc. here's some code (it's vb6, not vb.net) that might help you to set it up:
'Allows us to communicate with the running iTunes application
Dim WithEvents iTunes As iTunesApp
Dim Track As iTunesLib.IITTrack
'iTunes play event
Private Sub iTunes_OnPlayerPlayEvent(ByVal iTrack As Variant)
'Find the current track
Set Track = iTunes.CurrentTrack
Dim Art1 As iTunesLib.IITArtworkCollection
Dim Art2 As iTunesLib.IITArtwork
Set Art1 = Track.Artwork
If Art1.Count > 0 Then
Set Art2 = Art1.Item(1)
Art2.SaveArtworkToFile ("C:\art\" & Track.Artist & " - " & Track.Album & ".jpg")
Open "C:\art\config.txt" For Output As #5
Print #5, Track.Artist & " - " & Track.Album
Either way, you'll need the artwork and the config file one way or another.
Now all you need to do is run the itunes_displayer program (or your own alternative), and then enable the addin! Hope it works out for you!
A few notes:
-Your messenger picture does not change in real time for everyone. When you have an active conversation open, the person might see your picture change. If not, it won't always be apparent to others that your picture is changing.
-I had to make all the files and such because despite the signed dll and assembly folder move, the sandbox still doesnt let me open an itunes reference from within the addin. If anyone knows a more efficient way to do this, i'd love to hear it!!
Adding bpm (beats per minute) info can be beneficial to a variety of users. Perhaps you're an aspiring DJ, or like to jog with your ipod, or maybe you just like dancing to all the fastest songs in your music collection. No matter what your reason is, it's relatively easy to add bpm tags to your files. The best program I've found is called MixMeister BPM Analyzer. The program allows you to pick mp3 files, and will automatically determine a bpm value. The bpm value is stored in the id3 tag of the file, and will show up in your favourite media player (as long as it isn't boring old Windows Media Player).
The Bad News: I originally had visions of amazing playlists where I'd have all my fast rock tracks, and all my slow tracks separated for various moods, but as it turns out, bpm can only take you so far. In my experience, the bpm value really only allows you to match songs up without a change in pace. The value itself does not tell you too much about the actual feel of the track. Just because the speed is 120bpm doesn't necessarily make it a rock track. For example, over half of Jay-Z's "Black Album" has an average bpm of around 90 (with about 2 tracks at 165 bpm) while Belle & Sebastian's "Dear Catastrophe Waitress" has an average bpm of around 135. I wouldn't consider Belle & Sebastian more intense than Jay-Z, even though their songs have a faster tempo.
The Good News: The bpm value can provide some good insight when comparing tracks by the same artist. Since an artist is generally consistent within it's own genre, the tempo of a track can really help show where the "slow songs" are on an album. The only difficulty with this is that I have yet to find a valid algorithm within iTunes' smart playlists to properly compare bpm values between songs on the same album.
It'd be interesting to explore some more applicable uses for the bpm value of a track for an everyday iTunes user.
I just finished adding an automatic option for the itunes tagger. This means that the program will no longer overwrite any existing data unless the "Only check for missing data" option is disabled (in which case everything will be replaced). I also increased the delay between requests to last.fm. The web service provided by Last.fm will ban your IP address if more than 1 query is sent each second. This would be a very bad thing to happen, so I've set the program to only query every 2 seconds. As such, for each song you search in automatic mode, the program will require about 2.5 seconds (ie. 100 songs = 4.2 minutes).
Leave comments if you have anything to say about the latest release. Enjoy!
Turns out that the fingerprinting software from Musicip.com was a bit more restricted than I thought. So I completely redesigned my tagging program to work with a more recent player in the market, a last.fm fingerprinting client. This client was released by a guy named Norman (to whom I have no affiliation). To learn more about the last.fm fingerprinting program, visit here.
Anyways, the important part is this: The new program automatically searches the top 5 last.fm tags for each selected track, then saves the top tag as the song genre and saves all 5 tags in the comments. I actually have genres now for my top 300 tracks in itunes, from a mere 10 minutes of tagging. Give it a try and see how it works. The biggest problem? People who use ridiculous tags on Last.fm
Oh, and the program will also automatically find any missing metadata for your track using the last.fm fingerprinting stuff as well as some musicbrainz data. Pretty nifty.