RealNetworks Takes a Turn For The Surreal?

I don’t think you have to look very far within the hallowed halls of the Sansa Forums to find whether I like Rhapsody.

Paired with the Sansa, the RealNetworks service is a breath of fresh air.  No problems with album art, audio transfer quality, transcoding, long searches for that song you can’t quite remember…

The Rhapsody Channels feature of the service is worth the price of admission in itself.  On the Sansa, one can load various “channels” that behave like radio- well, not quite like it, as you can zip back and forth between tracks in unique playlists.  If a song strikes your fancy, a single key press transfers access to the track as a permanent part of your device’s library.

For about $15 a month, you have what can best be described as “satellite or cable TV for your player”, with access to all the latest music, and the not-so-latest as well.  The library of music is thankfully huge.  With multiple daughters, I love not being surprised with monthly download bills.

This week, RealNetworks rolled out a new support scheme.  Well, let’s suffice to say that they rolled up the existing available support forums and left us with this, a brief announcement.  If you try the link, note that it doesn’t point directly to Rhapsody either; one must select the music tab to navigate to a knowledgebase page.

Rhapsody, I must assure you, is a great service.  It’s in servicing Rhapsody that things can get a bit hairy.  I’ve paid my dues in this respect, studying the Rhapsody 4 client in its various iterations, the Best Buy Digital Music Store (which is, incidentally, going the way of the Dodo as we speak), and the different co-branded clients.  Every now and again, I find myself tinkering with the RhapPFS platform of the Sansa when the music stops.

Through trial-and-error, and a bit of sleuthing, I’ve repaired the system on various Sansa devices, tiptoeing through corrupted license data, missing files, duplicated folders, subscription data, et cetera.  I’ve spent a lot of time maintaining the works via emails, chat, and telephone conversations with Real support.

Rhapsody’s client componentry is a complex web of code, developed to run as a standalone application on various operating systems, mind-melding with Windows Media Player and the Janus (DRM-10) system.  Hey, anything that can mind-meld with that hairball successfully can’t be all that bad, to be honest with you.

The latest announcement from Rhapsody was an email I received a week or so ago, announcing that The Best Buy Digital Music Store is becoming Rhapsody.  Go ahead and click on this handy link, and install the latest release of the Rhapsody client.

Let me preface this, as I bend your ear.  There are subtle differences between the various Rhapsody clients that must be remembered.  If you subscribed to Rhapsody through Best Buy, your client build is of a different series than the Comcast version, for example.  The client may come to a screeching halt, unless you remain within the co-branded build series.

No worries, Real has announced, just install the new version , and all will be well.  I pulled up the original email, in hopes that common sense would prevail.  You see, if they sent a BBDMS customer the link, the requisite series would be followed, perhaps a slightly different installation, allowing a smooth migration to the basic Rhapsody (version build.

So go the best laid plans of mice and men.  I now have two separate clients, with the new build fighting for pole position, not allowing me to log in to the service.  Being an engineer at heart, of course, I open the BBDMS branded client, and go to the login button.  The new client has zorched the old logins.  Brilliant!

Note, I have a gut feeling that I’m not the only Rhapsody customer to run into this issue, there are thousands of customers that have received the same link via e-mail. And, gentle listeners, they will all have a similar problem.

The simple solution?   Hey, let’s have some fun and go to the live chat.  I’d print that conversation for you, but it isn’t necessary.  There may be some readers here that have had recent gastric bypass surgery, and the resulting trauma as you fall over laughing may not be a good idea.  Let’s say that avenue isn’t a solution.

I went to an old standby, the RealNetworks support forums.  Behold!  Using the advanced search with the conflicting build numbers, and I have a posted solution in seconds.

If you have difficulty with your Best Buy Digital Music Store client, uninstall it, and open the downloaded new version.  Re-enter your sign-in data, and it will log in properly.  Uninstalling the client is not for the faint of heart, as all kinds of mayhem can result with that fragile DRM store on your PC.  Trust me, I have been there, running a clean uninstall (removing the DRM data and starting from scratch), and it’s a hairball.

What was I saying about our turn for the surreal?   Ah yes, I digress.  Good luck in finding help with the Real / Rhapsody forums, as they are no more.  Brilliant.  This makes me appreciate the SanDisk Sansa forums more than you will know.  For SanDisk to openly support the forums, allowing the negatives amidst the positives, I must express my heartfelt appreciation.

A knowledge base is a wonderful thing, especially if the solutions are, as we see here, tested in the field by users.  One simply must have both venues together as we do here.

[Update!  18 November]  How’s this for interesting?  A “required update” message appeared tonight while running Rhapsody, the Best Buy client.  As I like to taunt disaster, of course, I let the client pull the update, leaving the two installed versions in situ.  I could uninstall whichever version ceases to function.

The download took over the install, and is working fine!  I guess I owe someone at RealNetworks a beer or two.  Well done indeed.  Now, time to browse the new knowledge base…  They have been busy, and it looks like things are improving.  If you are currently a Best Buy Digital Music Store subscriber, here is an updatefor you.  It looks like the transition to Rhapsody just lost a few speedbumps.

Viva La Sansa!

Bob  :smileyvery-happy:

Message Edited by neutron_bob on 11-18-2009 09:19 PM

Message Edited by neutron_bob on 11-18-2009 09:24 PM