Google Music

In Summer 2011 Google introduced their own version of iTunes
Match. In fact, I think they beat Apple to it with their version of cloud
storage for music. Anyway, I was immediately intrigued by the possibilities of
having a massive amount of my own music at my fingertips, depending on the quality of my
connection of course.
Subsequent investigations showed Google Beta was only open
to U.S. customers, which was a little annoying. Fast foward a couple months and
I stumbled across some VPN software (link at bottom of post) which allowed me to bambooze the Google servers
into thinking I was based in the U.S., which then allowed me to sign up and
download the Music Manager upload program for Google Music. Score!
The upload program itself is very simple. You choose whether
Music searches through your iTunes folder and playlists, or you can setup a
folder of your own for holding music. I opted for the latter approach, as
having 140GB+ of music I felt was pushing my luck, particularly when the limit
for uploading songs in 20,000 tracks and I’ve got considerably more.
There are some glitches with refreshing folders and such but
on the whole the Music Management works quite well, though perhaps not as well as
iTunes Match. This payable service matches the items in your collection with
tracks on their own database by analysing the meta-data contained in the music stored on
your computer and only uploading tracks where it can’t find a match in the
database. But, you only pay for the service if you’ve got stuff that isn’t on the database, so
those of you with obscure music collections might have to stump up £20 a year to store
your copy of Des O’Connor’s Greatest Hits. Such is life. Anyway, I digress,
back to the main story…
Where Google Music falls down is you have to upload the
music yourself, all of it…And let me tell you, it takes ages!
I did a test upload of around 15 tracks, which took
something like 5 minutes, even with the Music Manager on its fastest upload setting of
1MBps. Going for broke, I dumped…ahem…11,000 tracks @ 192kbps into the upload
folder – 66GB worth – and let Google work its magic…..
….10 days later – not continuously, mind you – Google finally
finished uploading my music. I think I clocked the upload at around 1000 songs in
any 12-hour period, so that would be something like 5.5 days continuously
uploading! Thank goodness for unlimited broadband, that’s all I can say!
Naturally the service doesn’t like DRM-protected files and
doesn’t appear to like
anything encoded under 128kbps, either, which was very
annoying when I tried to
upload the Harry Potter audiobooks which have been encoded
at 32kbps using iTunes’
own recommended setting for speech! Ah well.
Once the music is up, you’re presented with a fairly basic
web-based library. It’s functional enough but lacks the precision sheen of iTunes.
Hopefully this will be improved on at a later date but for now it does the job. You
can edit the details of the track, change artwork etc, so it’s not totally useless.
Where things improved considerably is with the interaction
with the stock Google
music app on Gingerbread and Honeycomb platforms. I’ll stick
with the Honeycomb
variant as that’s where I use the online service the most:
First things first, you need the updated version of the
Google Play Music app – the latest version is 4.1.513. Once you’ve got that, links at the bottom of this post, sign yourself in and marvel at how pretty the app is.
The recent additions Cover flow is excellent, as is the coaster-type
stacking of album covers in the artist folder – if they’ve got more than one
album in your library, that is. And onto the online content!
I don’t know how Google do it, but the music syncs to the
tablet to quickly, it’s almost like the music is on the tablet itself. It just works! It’s
fast, let down only by the loading time for the music stream, but than depends
on your distance from the router and plus, when you’re streaming music from the
cloud as opposed to LAN, then some delay is to be expected anyway. So there.
It even works very well on 3G so top marks for that. DSP
settings are carried over to the streamed music so everything sounds great, you can also
tell the app to play your music and the maximum bitrate it was originally uploaded,
which is also awesome. In short it’s a great utility. If your entire music
collection is less than 20,000 tracks and if you’re very patient, you can have
your whole library with you practically everywhere you go.
I’m very pleased to have finally got it working and am
hoping the service will be rolled out globally soon – the sky’s the limit with
this and the possibilities are endless. A few GUI tweaks here and there
wouldn’t go amiss but for now, it might not be pretty (online GUI), but it does
the job!
The most up-to-date version of the new Google Play Music app
is 4.1.513 and can be
found HERE.
The VPN service I used was Tunnelbear, which can be found
here: http://www.tunnelbear.com/

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