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Siren Jukebox by Sonic Foundry

MP3 & Media Manager and Jukebox for playing media files

Beat Mode gives Siren Jukebox an 8 star rating (originally a 9 - but see report below.)

Siren Jukebox Addendum 11-24-01

OK, here comes a few more swipes at Sonic Foundry Siren Jukebox, a program we originally raved about and praised... It's getting harder and harder to let it rest with the 8 of 10 rating we gave it... It started at 9 and dropped to 8. Perhaps it should drop to 7 or even less as we have some new gripes.

If you rip your CDs and like to have the artist info automatically entered into your library of tunes (database in Siren) then READ THIS CAREFULLY.

In the process of starting fresh with a new computer (P4 1.7 Ghz Win 98 SE) I had to move/reinstall Sonic Foundry Siren Jukebox and my huge library of tunes (MY MUSIC). It initially worked like a charm and all the database files retained the ever important track info, song ratings and playlists. 2 months and it served me well. But recently I have begun to get back into ripping my cd's to mp3s (actually mostly WMAs) with Siren and to say I am annoyed is an understatement...

What could be so annoying... Well, you can no longer get the CD track info automatically with Siren anymore. That means you have to hand enter the artist name, cd name and all the names of the tracks you want to rip. Try entering 15 song titles after a long day at work, a burger, a few bong hits and several glasses of wine. It is not fun stuff. Even straight - it is no fun to enter in the data by hand. I don't want to be a LIBRARIAN. I just wanna rip my tunes to my PC as painlessly as possible. It is no longer possible to do this with SIREN.

So I checked the Sonic Foundry site and indeed there was a new update. Siren Jukebox 2.0c build 249.

I read the release notes and it didn't mention the CDDB database or other named feature that will jump on the net and grab the disk info like it used to... I was suspicious, but I noticed that Siren now fixed a problem and has elimated the sorting problem with spaces after artist names and such (that has been a problem, resulting in multiple folders for otherwise exact named artists.) That originally took me a while to figure out there were spaces AFTER the name. Why 2 folders if the name appeared the same? It turned out 1 of the duplicate entries had a space at the end of the name. Ohh... In any event Sonic Foundry had fixed this in this update so I figured why not - let's go ahead and do it. That alone would be worth it.

Just Out

I downloaded the file and opened the installer. Unfortunately it would not allow me to pick my destination drive (which was E partition) and forced me to install it on the C drive (my system partition). The browse to selection box was disabled and C drive was greyed out. I tried custom, easy install. None of them would let me change it from C to E. That sucks.

Not only that, after installing the "update", now I have 2 versions of Siren on my computer. It did not UPDATE Siren Jukebox on E, it added another new one on C.

If that isn't bad enough, I had to move the registration key and run the wizard to get it to recognize my library of tunes (thank God it did), but then lost all the field customizations I had done. You know, important little things like adding fields for RATING, Last Date Played etc. It wiped that data and it was gone. So I once again added those fields and guess what... As I was ripping CDs everytime a new tune was added to the library it'd wipe out those added fields. Annoying.

So... I gave in and just did the hand entering thing with names etc. and hung it up for the night. The next morning I went to mp3.com and picked a STATION (streaming tunes) and as always it launches Siren to stream them. But guess what... It opened the OLDER version of Siren (not the new one) and I had to do the Wizard thing once again. And the added fields were again missing.

Now is it just me, or shouldn't we expect an UPDATE to UPDATE a program and keep all our settings intact and if needed remove or backup the older version it replaces??? Is it too much to expect that it will let you select the DRIVE instead of force it on the C Partition? And is it too much to ask of a JUKEBOX program that the CD INFO be available to auto fill in song titles and CD info??? Real Jukebox does it. Windows Media Player does it. Siren now does not.

In the documentation Sonic Foundry has a little statement that says "we no longer support the CD info feature". How come the competition does???

After investing so much time customizing & ripping my large library of tunes, this is a major disappointment. I could switch to the other programs, but I'm tied to Siren. Is that fair?

So before you get in bed with Siren and commit to it as your RIPPER/LIBRARIAN for mp3s and such, I highly suggest you consider the problems I have encountered. This isn't just little stuff, but rather major inconveniences. Unless they address these issues I will seriously consider moving to another program.

At the very least I have to delete one of the versions of Siren, most likely the "updated" version.

NOTE: We just figured out a workaround to rip songs. Use Windows Media Player instead of Siren Jukebox, as it will auto fill in the artist info and titles. Windows Media Player also seems to RIP FASTER than Siren and as far as we can tell the resulting WMA files sound just as good and the song title data is intact and represented properly.

Another plus to using windows Media Player to rip files is that in addition to all the album info, you can "get details" which includes reviews and commentary on the cd's. It was amazing to find the info available even for obscure cd's like Try Gun, Wishbone Ash, Simon Phillips and Tony Williams Lifetime. We haven't yet run into a disc that does not have the cd info or "details" available. Very cool.

There is an extra step involved when using Windows Media Player to RIP as you have to open up Siren and ADD the FILES to your LIBRARY manually, after ripping them in Windows Media Player. You can either do this by going into EXPLORE in Siren and finding and selecting the new files or just have Siren scan your drives. An extra hassle, but it sure beats HAND ENTERING the data. Kind of defeats the effectiveness of the "all in one" application Siren Jukebox as a JUKEBOX LIBRARIAN, but oh well... at least there is a workaround.

Geez... We hope Sonic Foundry fixes this oversight and pays attention to what the competition offers. We'll contact tech support and give them an opportunity to respond.

MORE older NIGGLES below.

__________________________________________________________

It's a shame... Sonic Foundry Siren Jukebox is such a cool and revolutionary product in so many ways. It can make your life easier and enhance your music listening experience in so many ways. If you've read our MusicUser's article linked below, you'll know just how much we liked it. BUT, if you have lost your hard work entering data and customizing playlists with your library of music files 3 times as we have, you can't help but have a sore spot for it. See our letter to tech support below. It took 4 days for a response, which considering it was sent on a holiday is ok, however 2 days would have been a better response time. Frustrating to say the least. The moral to this story is to BACK UP those damn database files (listed below), which we fortunately did (although 2 months ago). At least we were able to restore much of that lost data.

Please keep in mind we were HOT when we wrote the letter to tech support, however it is not unreasonable to expect a program to safeguard the data. Read on....

SONIC FOUNDRY'S RESPONSE is BELOW >>>

See our full Siren article - NAPSTER SIREN & THE INTERNET.

__________________________________________________________

Our Letter to Sonic Foundry Tech Support:

Sent: 9-2-01

Dear Sonic Foundry Tech Support,

Sonic Foundry Siren Jukebox version 2.0c (Build 249)

OK, this is the 3rd time this has happened. I have lost all the Siren database info - ratings, songs and playlist contents plus over 600 songs are now BACK in the the UNKOWN artist category, and I had painstaking went through all of them over many months and added artist info, ratings etc... This appears to be a regular occuring problem with Siren. My 3rd time in less than a year owning Siren Jukebox. The database is wiped out and all my hard work labeling and rating music, not to mention creating the custom PLAYLISTS is lost.

What happened to me this time: I was playing music on Siren at the same as using IE 5.5 (on a pII 450 192 MB RAM WIN 98) when I had a crash (computer froze). Before that it stuttered a bit now and then when an IE page would load (not uncommon, but seemed worse than usual).

After forcing a restart, it booted up to what seemed as normal. I was done for the night so after restarting, to be safe, I then ran Scan Disk on my E drive (system is on C, Siren application on D, Music Files on both D & E) and after repairing E for a LONG TIME (12 GB disk) it reported that it "found errors but did not fix them all", that's nice - thanks Windows for being so descriptive). Just in case I then ran scandisk on the C drive (system), and it reported no problems. I then used Norton Disk Doctor on the E drive. As this takes a long time I let it run overnight. It initially reported a bunch of little problems on unrelated files and I clicked ok to fix on them all (about 20 or so). I then let in run and checked on it every so often and it just kept running. SO I let it go overnight.

When I checked the computer in the morning the Norton application was not open (no report or anything?). I assumed it had done its thing and finished.

I then restarted the PC and when I opened Siren Jukebox NO SONGS WERE LISTED PERIOD (all music and other categories as well). Oddly enough the custom playlist titles were there listed in the media library, but when I clicked on them they were empty???

So I restarted and tried Siren again - still no info, and then decided to do the CONFIGURATION WIZARD thing in Siren - maybe it just needed to FIND the media - it located the media and added it to the library but still - no ratings, empty playlists and worst of all - now 603 + songs are listed as ARTIST UNKNOWN. Even songs that were correct originally were in the unknown category. This really sucks.

Here I am starting from scratch again. I'm tired of wasting time entering the data unnecessarily in Siren and then losing all my hard work labeling the music. 2 times may be a coincidence, but losing the Siren Database info agian a 3rd time is too much.

Yes, I should BACK UP - but what do you back up? What files can you BACK UP in the event this happens??? Is there a file that saves the RATINGS ARTIST NAMES PLAYLIST INFO etc.?Which files would restore the program? Maybe I DID back them up. There is no mention in the PDF manual or on your web site support area.

There is something wrong with Siren Jukebox.

There should be a Siren feature BACKUP DATABASE that keeps a safety copy of the db file or even automatically create like many other programs that utilize database files.

I will be publishing this info on BEAT MODE as a warning to consumers. Of course I'd be happy to include your reply and any suggestions. Let's see if you reply and how long it takes.

Too bad, I otherwise have raved about Siren in print. But this annoying flaw is too extreme to overlook.

Please advise.

Sonic Foundry's response on 9-6-01

Thanks for writing. I would suggest that you repair your IE 5.5
installation. You can do this by going to start>settings>control
panel>add/remove programs. You will need to have your Windows CD in the
drive. You can then select to either remove or repair the installation.
Select repair. I am only making this suggestion as you were using this
application as well as Siren when your computer crashed. Also I would seem
as though your computer is having some farther reaching problems than Siren
losing all of your information. By your own report your PC is crashing and
reporting errors on your drives. With any software application it is a
fairly common place thing to loose information in any open application when
your computer crashes. I can certainly understand your frustration however.
It would definitely be very disheartening to have to repeatedly put the same
information back into Siren for 600 + songs. There are files that you can
back up to prevent these types of problems. The files that you would want
to back up are sfsiren.jdb, sfsiren.jpl, sfsiren.dbv, and sfcdiddb.cdb.
These files contain all of the information that you have lost. Also you
certainly do have a good idea with the backup database function. I have
passed this along to the project manager for Siren. Hopefully we will see
this feature in the future.

_______

Our response: Repairing the IE as suggested is a risky proposition. I did this in the past and it went bad and delivered a PC that wouldn't function at all (blue screen of death). SO I am reluctant to do the IE repair as suggested. The suggestions for backing up those files mentioned is helpful.

Once again they are: sfsiren.jdb, sfsiren.jpl, sfsiren.dbv, and sfcdiddb.cdb.

Now it turns out that I did make a backup of those files 2 months ago. So at least some of the lost data has been restored.

If you too use Siren we suggest you find these files and regular back them up. They're small and should be located in the folder you point Siren at to store your music files. If you don't find them you can always use the FIND FILE command in the start menu.

_________

Links

Music Users Siren article - NAPSTER SIREN & THE INTERNET.

New! Native Instruments Absynth 1.2 for Mac OS review.

New! Arpeggiators - info and links.

New! Just in! Our review of Native Instruments Battery Software Drum Sampler

Absynth - addicted to sound - Full product description with MP3 sound examples at the NI site.

Rhizomatic Software's Absynth 1.0 review - old review from October 2000 at Sonic Control with short sound examples.

Native Instruments Absynth review - from CRMAV.com

Old Absynth review - TechTV

MacNN review of Absynth 1.02 - good description of what it's all about.

The Beat Mode rating scale:

0 to 1 star - SUCKS - BARELY USABLE - Not RECOMMENDED

2-4 stars - SOME REDEEMING VALUE, BUT NOT MUCH TO SHOUT ABOUT.

5-6 stars - DECENT - worthwhile for some applications.

7-8 stars - VERY GOOD product with many pluses, highly usable.

9-10 stars - INDISPENSABLE - must have - the cream of the crop!

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