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Winamp3 Beta 1 Love is the very interesting name of Winamp’s new avatar. This latest release (though still in Beta) has been long desired by enthusiasts the world over, since the many 2.xx releases. So, what’s this release all about?

Technology

The most propounded characteristic of Winamp3 is that it can be customized. This is possible through a new system of component programming called Wasabi. The functions of the player are packed as components, which can be directly accessed from the code that is a part of the SDK available as a separate download for developers. This gives programmers the freedom to develop directly on the Wasabi coding platform. So, you could develop the functionality to allow Winamp to decode a different media format without having to rely on the plug-ins scheme as earlier. Also, the components are interlinked to each other when it comes to features. For example, a query when selected in the database explorer or the media library automatically starts playing in the playlist editor.

The most propounded characteristic of Winamp3 is that it can be Another part of the Wasabi platform is the skinning system. Skins are both free form and scriptable. Earlier skins had the limitation of being restricted to the UI shape of Winamp; now you can have skins shaped the way you want them. This goes well with alternative Windows shells/desktop managers and a customized look for your applications. You can also add your own scripts to enhance features or add new ones.

Playing around

The installer is the same old Nullsoft, which installs the application in a new folder named Winamp3 and thus does not mess with your existing Winamp 2.xx install. When you double-click on the desktop icon, you are greeted with the three familiar components—player, playlist editor, and equalizer. However, you see one more window called the ‘Thinger’. Here is where the real thing lies. All other feature windows—database explorer, color controls, script manager, visualization studio, classic visualization, media library, shoutcast server list, skin switcher—are accessed through the thinger.

Let’s look at some notable features. The media library is a complete indexed and categorized collection of your music. Whenever you add a song or playlist to your playlist editor, its ID3 tag information is taken up by Winamp3 and catalogued as music directories on the basis of artist, album, comment, genre and year. So finding a track requires just a click of the mouse.

You can double-click on a particular artist and all his songs will start playing. A double-click on a song adds it to the currently playing playlist. So you can quickly create your own favorite playlist. The database explorer is also integrated with the playlist, and re-turns results based on logical queries from the information that an ID3 tag carries.

Winamp3 also automatically connects to the shoutcast site, downloads the streaming servers’ information and arranges them into a list. You double-click on a station to start listening.

Another feature is cross-fading. Music freaks and DJs know that when you switch from one track to another, cross-fading eliminates sudden switchover and hence one track slowly fades while the next starts. Earlier Winamp had a plug-in to do this, but Winamp3 has this built-in. You can disable it if you want.

Where it stands

Currently in its Beta, some features like equalizer presets or some menu items need improvement. Though we didn’t face many crashes, on-the-fly loading of skins is slow, and the player itself takes a while to start. Not all the shortcut keys work as they do in the earlier releases. Also, with all the windows open and working, it tends to be memory and processor intensive.

Typical resources used on a PII/300 MHz machine are 65% CPU usage and 16 MB of RAM. Future and final releases should improve here. A Linux version of the player is being worked upon.

Ashish Sharma

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