Tag Archives: rhapsody

How To Stream Rhapsody On Your PS3

Update 4/3/2010:

First, you should go to http://getsatisfaction.com/rhapsody/topics/playstation_3_issue and vote for PS3 support for Rhapsody. That’s Rhapsody’s official support site where they admit the PS3 is not supported. You don’t even need an account, you can sign in via OpenId, Facebook, etc. If everyone who visits this page votes for it, it will be their top priority in no time.

Second, Orb doesn’t seem to work anymore. I am now running on a new machine with Win7 x64. I grabbed the latest (2.50) Orb and after installing it, my PS3 couldn’t see the Orb media server (but WMP could). I backed down to 2.0 and the PS3 saw it, but complained it was unsupported media. I then tried going to the mycast.orb.com website (on my PS3) and signing in, which is the current recommendation for PS3 users, but the player plugin doesn’t work. (On Firefox on my PC there is no plugin, rather it tries to download the .asx file which only WMP can play.) So at this point it’s simply not working and I don’t know if it’s Rhapsody’s horrid DRM or Sony’s lousy PS3 browser or Flash support. I filled out a tech support ticket, maybe I’ll hear from them on Monday. But note that recent commenters have gotten it to work, so YMMV.

OK, this is big. Well, to some people. I’ve wanted to get Rhapsody on my PS3 for a while now, but it doesn’t support the Plays for Sure DRM. I’ve shared my Rhapsody library via the Windows Media Player streaming media server, but although I can see the files, I always get an error that the media is unsupported.

Enter Orb. This is yet another streaming media server. It appears that its main purpose is to share your library across the internet, so when you’re not at home you can still access the files on your desktop by visiting your personal Orb web page.

However, it also offers a UPnP server that allows you to browse shared directories with gaming consoles like the PS3. Unlike other UPnP servers (like the ones that come with Rhapsody and WMP), this allows you to play DRM-protected tracks. (As panarican mentions below, this includes subscription tracks. In fact, I’m a Rhapsody To Go member with a Sansa e280 so I haven’t purchased any tracks from Rhapsody.)

Here are the steps:

  1. Download Orb
  2. Run the installer. When it asks you if you want to set up support for gaming consoles like the PS3, say yes (duh). You must also sign up for an account that you won’t use, but oh well.
  3. Find the Orb icon in the task tray. Right click and select Configuration. Under the Media tab, choose the directories you want to share. Initially, I went to the web page and got rather frustrated when I couldn’t find a way to include/exclude directories.
  4. Fire up your PS3 and browse for your the Orb media server. You should see your folders and files. If you don’t, don’t panic! When I first visited my collection, the folders were there, but the files didn’t show up. I assumed it just didn’t work, or that I needed to change the transcoding format (somewhere along the way I chose Windows .asx; I think that was on the web page). A couple hours later my housemate was browsing through again and the files were showing up! When he selected one, it took a few seconds (buffering?) but it actually played!

I haven’t tried playlists yet, and I’m a little curious if it will go from track to track without a long load time.

So there you have it. Yeah, it’s not as good as a true Rhapsody client like the Sonos system or a Tivo HD XL. With those, you can actually browse Rhapsody as you do with the desktop client or their website. The Orb method isn’t much different from loading up your Sansa and connecting it to your receiver, which I’ve also done. But this way you don’t have to worry about batteries going dead or even transferring tracks beforehand. It’s much nicer for impromptu playing.

If this stuff interests you, you might also want to learn about my troubles with HDCP and the PS3.

Sandisk Sansa e200 Series MP3 Player Review

For Christmas this year, I treated myself to a longtime object of my technolust: the Sandisk Sansa e280 flash memory MP3 player. Part of the e200 series, the e280 is the 8GB version. I paid $185 at Amazon (no blogger bribes here!). All e200 players have many features to thrash those precious iPod Nanos:

  • Plays MP3, WMA, and secure WMA (see below)
  • 1.8″ color LCD screen
  • Image viewer
  • Video player
  • Voice recorder
  • Data storage
  • FM tuner, with record capability
  • microSD expansion slot
  • User replaceable, rechargeable Lithium Ion battery with 20 hours of play time (average)

That’s what everybody gets. The real kicker is if you have Windows XP [1] and a subscription service like Rhapsody-To-Go, Napster, or Yahoo! Music. This is a Plays For Sure player, so you can take subscription content with you. As long as I am a subscriber, I can transfer any track in my library, even though I didn’t buy it. Since I just got a great deal on Rhapsody-To-Go [2] I expect to subscribe indefinitely. That gives me any of Rhapsody’s 3 million+ tracks anywhere I want. It is the awesome.

That’s quite a feature list, in a very compact package. Here are the highs and lows.


  • Screen is sharp, photos and videos look good.
  • Sound quality is quite good, both for WMA (160K) and FM stereo
  • Using Rhapsody’s jukebox software, transferring music is quite easy. You either drag and drop files, or synchronize with your Rhapsody Library. If you needed to, you could pick and choose from your Library instead of copying the whole thing. Personally, mine is a giant “best of” collection, so it’s very convenient for me to connect it to my PC have it automatically sync up. Right now I’ve got around 600 tracks that I’ve chosen over the last year, and it takes up about 2.7GB.
  • The design is very nice. It’s shiny! And black. It’s not quite as compact or beautiful as the iPod, but… duh. As far as I can tell, Apple has kidnapped the best designers on the planet (minus Agent Hulagun), so nobody else can have such elegant-looking products. It’s the modern day equivalent of Ivan the Terrible poking out the eyes of Postnik Yakovlev after he built St. Basil’s Cathedral.
  • New batteries are only $20 from Sandisk, compared to $60 for iPods.


  • Like just about every other MP3 player I’ve read reviews on, the earbuds kinda suck. Sound quality is decent, they’re just these big round discs that don’t feel like they were designed to go in your ears. They’re too big for your ear canal (I think they’re more bellybutton sized), and I haven’t figure out a way to place them so they don’t feel like they’re about to fall out. I’m looking for a replacement, and have my eye on the Sennheiser PMX60 headphones. I’m pretty sure the larger drivers will drain the batteries faster, but at least they’ll be comfortable without messing up my incredible hair.
  • The voice recorder seems to record a high-pitched whine along with your voice. It’s annoying, so don’t expect to make any podcasts from it. And you have to speak into the mic, so I don’t think you can use it to record lectures. Of course, the mic hole is about 2mm in diameter, so it’s a wonder it works at all. At least you can pause and continue the recording.
  • When using the thumbwheel, your thumb rests on the left side of the wheel, which is not optimal. You scroll down, you’re turning counterclockwise, and the screen scrolls up. This is really an artifact of using a very compact device, and I don’t see a solution – that’s just where your thumb naturally rests. To make this more ergonomic you’d need to make it bigger, which nobody wants. I’m sure most compact MP3 players have this issue.
  • When connecting to my PC for transfer, the Rhapsody software needs to scan the device for tracks. This takes several minutes, and I only have about 600 tracks (“only” meaning it’s only 1/3 full). In “mass storage” mode, you can’t transfer subscription content, only drag and drop files. So it doesn’t scan your tracks when you connect, but when you disconnect it essentially reboots and does this “Refresh Database” thing that also takes a couple minutes. You can’t win.
  • The only way to recharge the battery is by hooking the device up to a USB port via the included cable. Not an issue – unless you want to travel with it. Luckily, there are many 3rd party Sansa accessories that solve this, and they’re even blessed by Sandisk. This includes USB charging ports for your car’s cigarette lighter, as well as wall chargers.
  • The LCD stays on when the device is connected to a PC. Since you connect to charge the battery, it seems dumb to be draining it by lighting up the screen.
  • Photos and videos can’t be placed on the microSD card.

I’m nitpicking a bit with the lows, but I’d rather be thorough in case one of them is a deal-breaker for you. Overall, I think the highs far outweigh them, and I’m quite happy with my purchase!

[1] And presumably Vista, but don’t hold me to that. I think it just needs Windows Media Player 10 or better.

[2] I’m afraid it’s gone now, but during the holidays they offered the to-go service for $8 month. I’d been paying $10/month for the Unlimited service, which doesn’t allow you to transfer to MP3 players, and the upgrade price was $15/month! I created another account, hoping to merge the two, but the best customer support could do was cancel the old one. I downloaded the entire library from my original account and then imported it from the new one, so I was able to save just about everything. After spending a year carefully selecting 600 tracks (out of several thousand), you don’t want to have to find them again!

Is Tower Falling?

Variety reports that Tower Records can’t pay its bills. So labels are holding off on sending it new stuff, which will probably make things worse, since new releases are typically the only CDs Tower sells at a reasonable price.

This is really about the death of the record store. I had been noticing the dwindling of the independent record store and small chains for years: Moby Disc, Penny Lane, Pyramid Music. (While I’m pointing out cool places, I see Poobah’s is still alive.)

And you know what? I’m to blame. Since subscribing to Rhapsody, I haven’t bought anything from a record store. Because when I step into a record store now, I feel nothing. No excitement, no sense of wonderment. Pretty much any music I want I can get on Rhapsody, and if I can’t get it, I’ll just browse and find something else I want. I took my first trip to Amoeba Music the other day, which in my college years would have been nothing short of a religious experience (just ask ZBalance). But I just looked around and thought, why bother? I can get all this stuff on-demand for my $10/month. Amoeba has a great DVD section, too, but I’ve got Netflix, so that does nothing for me, either.

Here’s the tricky part. As Rob Gordon might say, I’m a better “professional appreciator” because of it. I can find cool new things much easier, and explore them in much greater depth. When I find a band or artist I like, I generally listen to their whole catalog, especially if they’re a known influencer. If it’s something I might not like, I can just take a quick listen, fast forwarding and skipping through parts or tracks I don’t want to hear. I have become the audio equivalent of Galactus: Devourer of Discs, Eater of Albums.

So what replaces the cool record store? A so-called “lifestyle store”, with cool books, clothes, posters, toys, and other geegaws? Sounds almost like Urban Outfitters, now that I mention it. Still, it’s no Vintage Vinyl (which also appears to have passed on).

Rhapsody.com Review

On a lark, I subscribed to the Rhapsody Unlimited music subscription service, lured in the by their 14-day free trial ($10/month after that). I had fun with Pandora, but wanted to try something that gave me more control over what I listened to. In this case, complete control. Rhapsody has over 1.3M songs, and gives you the power to listen to any of them in any order. That sounds like a lot, and it is, but you’ll still run across missing albums, and occasionally missing artists. At least they have a button that reveals all of an artist’s missing albums.

Listening on the go

One of the benefits of the Unlimited service is Rhapsody To Go, which allows you to download tracks to a compatible portable device (the ones that say Subscription). There are 3 catches in that statement: 1) you are a current Rhapsody Unlimited subscriber, 2) your MP3 player is Janus/PlaysForSure compatible (iPods aren’t), and 3) you’re using Windows XP. And 4 catches if you include the fact that not all Rhapsody tracks are Subscription tracks, but in my experience almost all are. The quality of purchased and downloaded tracks is 128K, in WMA, AAC, or MP3.

Since I don’t see myself dropping the service anytime soon, I’m highly motivated to get a Subscription compatible player. Because I’d like an expandable player, I’m leaning towards the Sandisk e200 with a microSD slot, removable recharbable battery, FM tuner, and voice recorder, due out in March (happy birthday to me). [Attention Sandisk: when your marketing dept. launches a product at CES, without so much as a press release on your website, it’s time to fire them.]

Listening at home

You can listen two ways, through their web interface or their dedicated client. I usually use the client/jukebox software for its interface and convenience features. If you add a track to your library, it can download it so you can listen to it even when the site is down (which happens occasionally). Assuming you’re a current subscriber, of course, and are using Windows XP (I’m guessing it’s a DRM issue). You can purchase tracks for $.89 and albums for $7.99.

I don’t know how much music I listened to before, but I find with Rhapsody I listen to about 3 albums a night. It allows me to more thoroughly explore artists and genres. I find I’ll listen to classic rock musicians from past to present, until they start sucking (which happens pretty consistently as they approach the 1980s), and indie musicians from present to past, for pretty much the same reasons. I’m generalizing, but there’s definitely a pattern there, and it’s cool to see how the artists evolve (or devolve).

They also have several pre-programmed radio stations to help you explore new stuff, and allow you to create a station based on your tastes, like Pandora. I haven’t tried the custom station feature, and would be impressed if it was as good as Pandora, but I’ve been too busy albums to check.

Pandora: Your Personal Music Geek

When I was in college, I was a database of certain types of music. Mainly alternative, especially industrial. I’d actually keep handy a two page typed wishlist of albums to get, if I could find it cheap/used. If you mentioned bands or songs you liked, I’d be right there with, “well, if you liked that, give this a listen.” Since college, I’ve backed off a bit (and I have a theory that most people’s interest in music peaks when they’re in college). However, with a wide variety of net radio stations available (and working on a screenplay that involves, in part, the music industry), my interest is again rekindling, especially with indie music. So I could really use a music geek to advise me, based on stuff I know I like.

Enter Pandora, a web version of said geek, but without my endearing arrogance. Give it a song or an artist, and it creates a radio station filled with similar music. It’s powered by the Music Genome Project (I hadn’t heard of it, either), which catalogs musical attributes of songs and artists, so it can find similar ones. It also accepts your feedback to help sculpt the station; if you don’t like a song it plays, it’ll never play it again on that station (but it might show up on another). You can also combine artists/songs on one station to create hybrids. For instance, I’ve combined Elliot Smith and Jon Brion to form a station I call Pop Genius. For the record, I am not a genius. Just brilliant. Anyway, I also created a KMFDM station, which has so far played Static-X, NIN, and Rob Zombie. Hmm. I wonder if I can recreate AOL’s WB channel by entering the best tracks from the Smallville soundtracks. Uh, not that I’d want to… What? No, you’re gay!

The interface is Flash, and is quite smooth and intuitive. You can pause and skip tracks, but not rewind. The sound quality is excellent! I listen to a lot of net radio, and this is probably the clearest, cleanest feed I’ve heard, even though others are also listed as 128Kbs. I have a hunch that the ones I’m accessing through iTunes are streaming 128K MP3, whereas Pandora might be using a variable bitrate format utilized by Flash. It is currently commercial free, but they warn they’ll be ramping up the advertising. I don’t know if this means radio commercials or not, but they’ll give you an ad-free version for $36/year. That seems reasonable, and well under the $10/month Rhapsody/Listen.com charges (although you can directly choose songs and albums with those services, whereas Pandora you can only “steer” the selections with feedback).

The only issue is whether they’ll be able to keep up with cataloging new and old music. Obviously, if a song’s attributes haven’t been cataloged, the software can’t really recommend it. They claim they don’t pigeonhole artists, which is good considering the range some of them have (how I miss Leeb and Fulber, who created a new band for every variation of industrial they tried: Front Line Assembly, Delerium, Intermix, and a few others). However, their catalog is 10K artists, and 300K songs, so you’ll probably be good for quite a while.

Stay tuned, I plan to experiment with some software that may complement Pandora frighteningly well, as well as necessitate that MP3 player I’ve been eyeing for a while now…