As always Nullsoft Winamp less intrusive, obnoxious, and bloated than its major competitors. Now, as always, it continues to label itself "the world renown llama whipping high-fidelity media player" Release 5.03 is no exception to this rule. Winamp has never tried to install AOL on my computer or asked me to sign up for a trial subscription to the rip-off-of-the-day-club. However, while still orders of magnitude better than the competition, 5.03 has lost much of the alluring simplicity of earlier releases.
Earlier I did a review of Winamp Version 3.0d. Although I was very pleased with the overall product, I had two complaints.
1) There was not a “lite” version that came without the video player, web browser, and dozens of other “features.”
2) I had told it to use Latin as a language. I don’t know much Latin, so this made everything a bit harder.
Both of these have been remedied by Version 5.03. The second, which I can hardly blame Nullsoft for, I have corrected myself. The first, Nullsoft has taken care of. There is now a “lite” option includes only MP3 audio support, compatibility with Winamp 2 plug-ins, and support for classic skins. The best thing about this? It is a 630 KB download.
Another option is also available. Winamp Pro. For a small extra fee, you can purchase Winamp Pro which has full ripping and burning capabilities. The free version only has limited capabilities. Of course, there are occasional prompts to purchase the pro version, but they are far less intrusive than, say, “Why Go Pro? Click hear to upgrade to QuickTime Pro!” If I really needed a program to do the things Winamp Pro does (rip, burn, encode), $15 won’t break the bank—but Winamp is supposed to be free.
Because I covered many features, such as the Media Library, Crossfading, and Opacity in the earlier review, I will only go only over new features.
In the free version, CD ripping can only be done at 2x real time in AAC format. Because I have no desire for files ripped in AAC . Essentially, it takes 1 hour to rip a 30 minute CD and you can’t put it into an MP3 format. For the sake of fairness, I ripped one track from one CD. It worked fine. Still, unless you want to pay for Winamp Pro ($14.95), this is a fairly worthless feature. Windows Media player can do essentially the same thing (rip a CD into an undesired format) at a much faster speed. As far as I’m concerned, this is essentially a non-feature.
Another non-feature. Honestly, I didn’t even bother trying this one. Burn at 2x unless you buy Winamp Pro.
Only 1000 streams are listed at a time. Think of it as about 1000 low to medium quality radio stations, without advertisements to speak of. This is a very easy way to hear music you’ve never heard before, and likely will never hear again. The downside is that many stations are unreliable. Of a random ten stations, six worked fine, 2 servers were full, and 2 reported “error syncing to mpeg”. Still, 60% of thousands is a lot of radio stations.
This is a feature that hasn’t yet fully realized its potential. Someday internet TV will be very cool. Currently, it’s mediocre. In this sense, it’s kind of like Marco.org—lots of potential, but not a lot of content. Occasionally there’s might be a real gem, but there’s a lot of crap to sort through. Fortunately, most of the crap is clearly labeled. If you want a streaming Radiohead music video, this is a good place to look. As it so happens, I did want a streaming Radiohead music video. Unfortunately, bandwidth being what it is, it occasionally pauses to rebuffer. Thus, the music skips every so often. There are a few streams that promise things like the latest Simpson’s episode. Unfortunately, whenever something has real content, it gives the message “400 server full.” Beyond this, there it is just random people’s webcams, random people’s Half-life “frag movies”, videos of DJs playing music, and things I cannot properly classify because they are in Chinese. Perhaps this will be a worthwhile. Right now, it’s definitely not.
I didn’t really complain much about this in the previous version. However, the built in browser is very annoying. There may be a way to turn it off, but I haven’t found it yet. Theoretically, it should give you interesting information on whatever you’re watching or listening to. In practice, it tends to launch dead links or pop up windows you have to close. These are annoyances. Worse yet, it prompts me about scripting errors.
Ultimately, Winamp has been adding a lot of features. While undesired features are often obnoxious, Winamp gains some credit by being almost completely customizable. I haven’t fully explored all the options, but so far, with the exception of the annoying browser, it seems I can turn on or off whatever I need to. The “modern” skins allow you to customize more than the classic skins.
There's still a bug somewhere. As I complete this review, I told Winamp to play a random TV station. It was bad R&B, so I told it to stop. It did briefly. Then it gave me a pop-up that had a cartoon monkey on it that said, "I'm really annoying. Click here to shove a chair up my ass." (In all honesty, this was the best pop-up ad I've seen in a while. It had self-knowledge. It was also for ad-blocking software. It's still a pop-up, thus unforgivable.) Anyway, the music started again. Then I deleted the entry from the playlist and pressed "stop" again. It didn't work. Finally I turned down the volume. That seems to have done it. Turning it back up a while later, it has finally stopped. Anyway, not stopping when I tell it to is a bad problem. I wasn't enthusiastic about the "Internet TV" before. Add another degree of missing enthusiasm to that.