Convert your iPhone/iPod Touch Or Any WiFi Enabled gadget to foobar2000 Remote

Background:

I have a WiFi network setup which covers my apartment. I’m a music buff as well, and music is almost always playing while I’m working/browsing.

Now more often than not, I would be generally working on my office laptop – testing/ coding/ documentation / something of that sort and my music collection is on my personal laptop. I’ve often wanted to control the music – skip it/ pause / jump to specific songs, and started about searching the best way to do so.

The most obvious solution was to use the Remote app for the iPhone/ iPod Touch. There was a slight problem with this. Remote app uses Bonjour, and that means I’d have to use iTunes as my media player. For the record – I hate iTunes. It’s a POS application which I’m forced to use for syncing my music and I try to use it sparingly. I love foobar2000. I started out searching for alternatives to Remote, and found this neat little plugin – foo_touchremote, but it was rather unpredictable and would crash foobar often. Another big problem was that I’d have to re authenticate foo_touchremote everytime I leave & rejoin my WiFi network – which is atleast 2-3 times a day. Very annoying.

That plus there would a dependency on the iPhone/ iPod Touch on the rare occasion that I’d have to give up my iPhone, so I started searching for more “open” (*snark*) solutions.

The thing which came to my mind when thinking about an “open” solution was use to an http server (plugin? ) so that any device with a semi-capable browser could handle this. After searching for a bit, I came across HTTP Control Plugin [foo_httpcontrol] which would be the foundation.

Going about doing this

So here’s how you set it up. Download the archive, and move foo_httpcontrol.dll file to your Program Files\\foobar2000\\components directory

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Copy the foo_httpcontrol_data directory to %appdata%\\foobar2000 directory ( %appdata% refers to Users\\AppData\\Roaming folder).

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Grab any of the templates. Save the template folder under %appdata%\\foobar2000\\foo_httpcontrol_data folder.

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Next, launch foobar2000. Goto File – > Preferences Menu.

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Click on HTTP Control to bring up the subpage.

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Now, the screen maybe confusing but we really need to focus on “Listen on:” area, more than anything

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Listen on allows you to define the IP address on which the server should run ( read: your computer). Now, before you rush off to enter your system IP address, remember couple of things:

  • The WiFi network is bound to be DHCP based, meaning the IP address is assigned automatically by the router
  • If you have multiple devices, the IP address is likely to changed. Meaning, that everytime the IP changes, you might have to stop and start the service.

You have 2 possible solutions to overcome this:

  • Let your router remain DHCP configured, but put up a static IP for your system. This way, your IP will never be assigned to any other devices
  • Some routers can reserve IP address and bind them to the MAC id. This way, when the system connects to the WiFi network, the router checks the MAC id and if a reservation is available, then assigns the IP. This is what I had done.

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I’d recommend that you use the router’s DHCP reservation feature, else fallback to static IP assignment.

Right, back to foobar, enter the IP of your system and a random port. Put a check mark against “Start server” and click on Apply. Your server is ready.

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Click on the open link to open your browser

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So the basics are set. Use any device and point to your IP address. If you don;t want to type in the full IP address:port combination, copy that, and use a URL shortener like j.mp or bit.ly and set your custom name, and use that URL to control foobar2000.

As a bonus, if you have an iPhone/ iPod Touch, open the URL in Safari and use the “Add to Home screen” feature and make it act as an app as well.

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This is how it looks with the kevo template on my iPhone

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If you’re paranoid about security, foo_httpcontrol allows you to restrict access to only specific IPs or even the standard username / password scheme

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At the bottom, of the screen you will see some advanced settings. – it’s recommended that you leave them as how it was configured.

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The concept is pretty simple, and with this approach, you can convert any Wifi enabled device into your own music remote control.

7 Free Alternatives for Windows Media Player

While Windows Media Player is a suitable software for very basic music player functions, it has several limitations. Most music player users would want a far greater degree of flexibility in music controls. For those of you who want greater control over your music files, there are many excellent free alternatives to WMP, some of which I have compiled in the list below:

1. VLC Media Player

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One of the best free multimedia players on the block, VLC Media Player is highly portable and supports a majority of audio and video formats. It can also be used for media file conversions as well as streaming protocols. I would personally recommend VLCMP for its great performance, light interface and flexibility.

[Download VLC Media Player for Windows]

2. Songbird

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If you want an Open Source-customizable alternative to WMP, Songbird is the way to go. It is highly customizable with a host of plug-ins and offers the user endless hours of seamless playback. Clarity and customization come naturally to this software, which is true to its name and easily syncs with most media players and smart phones.

[Download Songbird]

3. Foobar2000

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Now if being experimental is your kind of game, you needn’t look further than Foobar2000. It is an advanced Windows-based free audio player, which may not seem like much at first glance but can be completely   customized according to your wishes right from the interface itself! However, this is an audio-only software.

[Download Foobar2000]

4. KMPlayer

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Another great freeware for playing a variety of audio and video files is KMPlayer. Adding to its ability to support a large number of formats is its ability to capture screenshots of audio and video.

[Download KMPlayer]

5. Media Player Classic

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Although Media Player Classic looks like an older version of WMP, it has several additional features such as a built-in DVD player, AVI subtitle support etc. It is also light and can play various formats without needing any special codec.

[Download Media Player Classic]

6. GOM Player

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GOM Player, or Gretech Online Movie Player is a Windows-based free media player. It scores over other traditional media players in that it can play most media files without having to obtain a codec and can also play broken, damaged or incomplete media files.

[Download GOM Player]

7. WinAmp

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Finally, to conclude the list, there is good ol’ WinAmp. This player has been around for a long time indeed and supports most audio and video formats while also syncing to portable media players. It be customized and give excellent sund quality with the use of enhancing plug-ins. However, it runs a little slow, and I’ve seen from personal experience that it crashes when used with GoogleTalk.

[Download WinAmp]

Tell us what you thought of the list and do go ahead and add more free alternatives to Windows Media Player that you have used and liked! Enjoy!

How to Convert Flac files to MP3

[Windows] Among committed audiophiles, the flac file format is a pretty popular one when it comes to audio file storage. There is a significant difference between a flac audio file and a conventional mp3 file — the standard for audio players these days, and that is sound quality. However, one can only detect that difference when using powerful audio gear, the likes of which music producers and DJs use. In contrast, an mp3 file is a compressed, small-size file that is convenient to store and carry but for which they compromise quality. Also, Flac files have a huge file-size difference, for they aren’t compressed and have a higher bitrate.

If you have downloaded or just gotten a cd full of flac music tracks and find it inconvenient to store such huge files, or want to transfer them to an audio player compatible with mp3 files but not flac, this is your guide to follow. Also note, that the method used here applies only to Windows users.

We’ll be using the free Foobar2000 media player and the LAME encoder for the conversion process.

After you have installed Foobar2000, and have it running, open the flac file(s) which you want to convert. Then right click on those tracks and select Convert → Convert to.. You’ll get a box like this:

Converter Setup

Now this is the place where you can select what conversion properties you would like to apply to the selected files. From the Output Format box, select Mp3. Then click the box beside it with three dots. Over here, you can further customize the quality of the mp3s obtained.

MP3 Settings

Slide the bar to select the quality and bitrate of the soon-to-be obtained mp3 files. Evidently, if you move the slider to the left, the file size will be lesser, comprising the quality and if you move it to the right, the files will have better quality compromising with a high file size. Make your choice. Then click OK.

Now you should be back to the Converter Setup window. Here, select an output folder and decide the file naming structure. You can also create a music mix by checking the Merge all tracks into one output file checkbox. When you’re done, click the OK button.

Now, Foobar2000 in order to convert the flac files, needs an encoder. This is where the LAME encoder we downloaded before comes into action. Whichever mirror you used to download, make sure it has a lame.exe in it (or something like lame_xx_xxx.exe) Right here, we only need the lame.exe file. Extract it from the download, and save it somewhere you will remember — the desktop for instance.

Just when you click the OK button, Foobar2000 will ask you where you have the lame.exe file stored. An explorer browser will open, through which you must find the required lame.exe file and proceed. The conversion process will then start and you will see a window like this:

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Note: Playing the files while the conversion is in process can cause problems.

Further Information: Converting files from the flac format to the mp3 format will decrease the size phenomenally, but it may also cause reduction in quality. So make sure you are satisfied with the resulting files before disposing off the original flacs.

How To Link Foobar With Google Talk’s “Show Current Music Track” Feature

Foobar [Windows Only] When it comes to desktop music players, Foobar is my software of choice. It’s got features, it’s got speed and it can be customized like a ball of soft clay. Previously, I have written about how to turn the minimalistic interface of Foobar into something more expressive, and here’s something adding to it.

If you use Google Talk as your primary Internet Messenger and prefer Foobar for listening to music, you would have noticed that when setting the status in Google Talk, the Show Current Music Trackfeature doesn’t work. Well, it is not really supposed to work as such. Apparently, Google Talk only supports iTunes, Windows Media Player, Winamp and Yahoo Music Jukebox. The small number of supported players is actually justified because given the state and construction of every music player, the developers would have to utilize and bring to work a different API for each media player, which is not a viable option provided the large number of music players available.

So what does a user of a lesser known media player like Foobar do? Given the extensiveness of the audio player in question here, it is pretty easy. All it needs is a plugin, a little hack and minor registry editing.

Blogger Siddharth from UberUllu.com shows you how to make the task at hand happen. You should read the post over there, but I will explain briefly how it works. First you get a plugin, or component in foo-speak and install it to your Foobar. Next you’ll need a registry hack. And then you will need to create an empty playlist file in the Foobar directory. Now since Google Talk happens to support Winamp, when you choose the Show Current Music Trackoption, it will look for Winamp on your system. The registry hack that was applied earlier now deceives Google Talk into believing that Winamp is actually located in your Foobar installation folder. The Foobar component that was installed emulates a Winamp 2.x window so that other plugins and applications (Google talk in this case) can work with Foobar without any trouble. The empty playlist file probably facilitates the process.

So ultimately, now you can update all your contacts with the music track you are tuning into.

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