It took me a long while to find a decent alternative for iTunes. First of all I wanted to get rid of Quicktime. It’s a player that really likes to hijack file associations. Still, I managed to live with that. Unfortunately the iTunes software keeps getting bigger with no benefit whatsoever. In my case I just need a mediaplayer (music player) for Windows that manages a music library and makes it easy to synchronize with my iPod Classic. I don’t need any other software stuffed down my throat containing drivers, connectors, features, ads,… for Apple hardware which I’m not planning to buy!
Moving from one player to another would be very easy if you hadn’t been upgrading like a good citizen into one of the latest iTunes releases where you followed the candytrail into the sealed fortress.
Requirements for a good alternative to iTunes
- transfer important music library data from iTunes such as artist, album, songtitle, tracknumber, play count (!), last play date (!), ratings, … (by means of the iTunes library XML-file or through a simple workaround)
- synchronize the music library with an iPod
Now I looked around and tested a lot of players out there. Some are really nice, but lack iPod support. For example: Songbird, which reads the XML-file very well but dropped iPod support, probably they are afraid of Steve Jobs.
Mediamonkey is another nice player with a lot of features, but can’t seem to read XML-files from iTunes. However if you look carefully you might find some scripts that can do the work for you, but still it’s a long way to go (I tried!).
I’ve tried a number of other players, but all of them lack the true basics necessary for my needs.
I decided to give Winamp (version 5.601) another try. It supports iPod synchronisation but still has a major problem reading the last play date from the iTunes library XML-file. Now I’ve tried changing the date manually a few times doing some regular expressions with notepad++, but still Winamp couldn’t get it right. The problem lies in the way Apple handles dates (calculating seconds from January 1st 1904 (as opposed to the more familiar UNIX epoch), the first leap year in the 20th century). The problem is known to Winamp, but still hasn’t been addressed. Today however, I found a nice workaround and it’s quite simple. Don’t bother about the iTunes Library XML, we’re going to copy all data from the iPod itself!
First thing to do is to synchronize your iPod one last time with iTunes. Be sure to make a backup of your iTunes folder and iTunes library files (itl and xml) in case you still want to go back!
Now you can start Winamp. I’ve tested this with Winamp 5.601 and the procedure imports all common music ID’s, including play count and last play date information. Playlists have to be imported manually, but that shouldn’t be a problem.
Local media folder
By default all media files are copied in the user’s ‘my music’ folder.
Go to preferences (CTRL +P) and change your local media folder (if necessary) to your liking under Media Library > Portables.
Copy data from your iPod to the local media folder
You can now connect your iPod and click on the iPod device name under ‘Devices’ in the ‘Media Library Window’ (first tab). You will see all songs on your iPod. Now you can select them all (CTRL + A) and press CTRL + C (or right click and copy to local media). Now all files are being copied to your local media folder and this way keeping all interested data (such as play count, last play date, …). All data will be visible in the media library tab from now. The copy process (visible under ‘devices > transfers’) can take a while but you will be able to start listening to music right away.
More at ‘Extend iPod support’