Playlists on the J3: FIGURED IT OUT!! Works perfectly!
In all honesty, all credit for this HUGE BREAKTHROUGH comes from the JetAudio forum and another poster who figured out how to do this on the S9 back in February 2009. But it turns out the technique works perfectly on the J3 as well.
In other words... PLAYLISTS ON THE J3 WORK TOTALLY AS ONE WOULD HOPE, although you must use Windows Explorer on the PC (rather than the J3 itself) to make and maintain them!!!
Story and final technique below.
First, I noticed that when looking down the general list of [Albums], [Artists], [Years], etc., that there was an item for [Playlists], although when I selected it there was nothing shown. But its mere presence suggested to me that there truly was some actual built-in support for something called [Playlists] buried somewhere in the J3's interface, if only it could be uncovered. I determined to figure out what it was.
For my first experiment, I tried using Winamp on the PC, creating one of its M3U playlists from a few tracks in a single album on the PC's hard drive. I then copied that M3U playlist over to the corresponding album folder on the J3's internal storage. Actually, putting the M3U file in that folder is really not significant, and I really could have just as easily have copied that M3U file into the J3's folder called "Playlists" or anywhere I wanted. But to keep things simple at first I decided just to work within one album folder for both source tracks and M3U playlist file for a few tracks from that album.
Anyway, after copying the file I then "safely removed" the J3 and booted it. I then browsed to the [Playlists] item and astonishingly saw that M3U file I had just copied there! This was VERY VERY ENCOURAGING. The J3's browse at boot had obviously detected an M3U file as a "playlist". So far, so good.
However... (1) it displayed as the fully qualified file name, including the .M3U extension... as if I were browsing [Folders] which I was not. I really just wanted to see the playlist name, minus the M3U extension.
But (2) more importantly, when I selected that playlist item I was then shown "No Files". So none of the tracks named in the M3U playlist were found... even though the M3U file itself was recognized as a "playlist".
Now to be honest, none of these problems is really surprising. The original tracks placed into the playlist by Winamp's playlist create function are from my D:\MP3 location on PC's hard drive, not on the tracks of the internal or external storage of the J3. I really shouldn't have expected this to work.
But the fact that the J3 even discovered the M3U file and considered it a "playlist"... well, that was very encouraging.
Next, I tried to see if building the playlist file pointing to the actual files on the J3 folder would make a difference. So I did the the very same thing after reconnecting the J3 via USB (so I could see the two drives of internal and external storage), but this time pointing to the folder on the J3 itself. Again, using Winamp, I created the very same M3U playlist I had just built from the D:\MP3 hard drive location but this time trying to use the J3's drive.
Unfortunately, same results as before. The M3U file name appeared in fully qualified form (with .M3U extension) in the [Playlists] list, but selecting it revealed "No files".
Next, I decided to try using Windows Explorer to create a playlist. Now as it turns out, this kind of a playlist is produced somewhat differently than with Winamp or any other standard MP3 "organizer" utility (that might build M3U or PLS, etc.). In fact, a Windows Explorer playlist (suitable for playing with Windows Media Player) has a PLA extension. And it is created simply by left-clicking on one or more MP3 files (holding CTRL down) and then right-clicking on the selected items to produce a popup menu, and then selecting "create playlist" from the popup menu. It will create a PLA (Windows playlist) file that you can name whatever you want. If you then right-click on that PLA file, select Properties, and look at the "References" tab, you'll see the names of all of the MP3 tracks you originally selected. Although the file appears to have a 0 byte length, it's real and legitimate and usable. And you can even drop additional MP3 files onto it using Explorer, and they will be added to the existing list.
At least, that's how it SHOULD work.
Well, when I tried that approach (again, pointing to the folder on the J3's storage) the right-click popup menu didn't actually contain the "create playlist" item! It had a different set of items on the menu (including PLAY, etc.), but not the "create playlist" item I was looking for.
Ok. At this point I took another side trip to do some further research on the J3 playlist subject, which was when I discovered the magic post from February 2009 on the JetAudio forum. So once again, "L0rd Luke" in his very first #1 post on that forum gets all the credit for the magic breakthrough discovery: FIRST PLACE THE PLAYER INTO MTP MODE!!!! That's the secret to getting Windows Explorer to produce the "create playlist" item... MTP mode!!!
By default, the J3 is set in MSC mode (set via Settings -> System -> USB mode -> MSC). As such, both internal and external storage appear as separate drive letters to Windows Explorer, and you also get the "safely remove hardware" icon in the System Tray which you need to click before unplugging the USB cable from the computer.
If instead, you place the J3 into MTP mode (again, set via Settings -> System -> USB mode -> MTP), when you then plug the USB cable into the computer the J3 will now appear as a "portable device". And if you go into Windows Explorer instead of two drive letters you will see a device named "Cowon J3" with a "+" next to it. If you click on the "+" it will expand into two items, "internal storage" and "external storage" (corresponding to the previous two drive letters in MSC mode).
And now, once in MTP mode which is the big magic secret, when you again use Windows Explorer and select the one or more MP3 files you want to build your playlist from, and then right click on those items, now you will get the sought after "create playlist" item on the popup menu and you can then save the playlist under whatever name you want wherever you want.
Now, just pull the USB cable from the computer (you can do that in MTP mode, since there is no "safely remove hardware" process or icon as is required with MSC mode). Then reboot the J3, browse to [Playlists], and now sure enough just as hoped for the playlist you just saved is there... but just its name. The .PLA extension is NOT shown.
Furthermore, if you select the playlist unlike with the M3U failure you will now see the names of all the tracks you put into that playlist! And sure enough, if you select a track it will begin playing and displaying album art exactly as is the case for any other [album] or [artist], etc.
===>> You can keep the J3 in MTP mode, rather than MSC mode. Or, if you like you can revert back to MSC mode. The PLA playlist file is retained just like any other file on the J3 and will still be accessible via the [Playlists] item.
In other words, MTP vs. MSC really only affects how Windows sees the internal and external storage, and how you can access it. My experience is that non-Microsoft file managers (e.g. Free Commander) will NOT see the "internal storage" and "external storage" of the J3 at all. Only Windows Explorer can access the J3 when in MTP mode. In contrast, in MSC mode (with the two drive letters generated) all file managers will work normally, along with Windows Explorer.
So... MSC mode seems more convenient for managing file transfers between PC and J3 (since Free Commander, Beyond Compare, etc., all work perfectly), while MTP mode is required for using Windows Explorer to create the PLA playlist files on the J3. Playback of [Playlists] works equally well whether in MSC or MTP mode.
NOTES, anomalies, and other issues:
(1) For some reason, the first time I got into MTP mode I actually DID see both "internal storage" and "external storage" from Windows Explorer. This means I would have been able to develop playlists using tracks from either location.
However after fooling around extensively (e.g. to make sure what I was writing above was accurate) and repeating my steps, for some reason I was only able to see "internal storage" no matter what I did.
This is inexplicable. After posting this I will re-boot Windows (this happens to be a WinXP Pro x86 machine) to see if the anomaly disappears (and/or if it then returns). When I get back home next week I will repeat this whole sequence on my Win7 Pro x64 machine and see if it even appears at all.
Nevertheless, it is certainly true that at this moment I'm unable to see "external storage" when I enter MTP mode, and that's not a good thing. Obviously you need to be able to access tracks from both storage locations when building playlists using Windows Explorer.
(2) I had expected you to be able to "drag/drop" additional tracks onto a PLA playlist file, thus adding additional tracks to an existing playlist. There's certainly a "X" (seen on the "References" tab from Properties) to delete items from an existing playlist, as well as to move items up and down in the list. Surely you should be able to add a new item to a list.
Well, it didn't work. No matter how I tried I could not add a new track to an existing PLA playlist.
Again, perhaps this is a WinXP problem which will not appear in Win7, or maybe not. Don't know. I will see if the same thing happens when working with PLA playlist files on the PC's hard drive, rather than on the portable device's drives.
In any case at the moment I cannot add additional tracks to a PLA file on the J3. Caveat emptor.
(3) "L0rd Luke" states that MTP mode has another downside (at least on the S9), namely that there is some negative impact of MTP mode and FLAC or WMA lossless files, and playlists. Honestly I didn't understand what he was trying to get at, but I don't have any of these files to experiment with.
He suggests it might be a firmware problem with the S9 (back in February 2009), so I don't know if it has any relevance on the current J3 and its firmware.
All I know is that after creating my PLA playlist I was able to then get to it and use it, no matter whether I left my J3 in MTP mode or reverted it back to MSC mode. But then I only have MP3 files in that playlist.
So, I would call this a HUGE BREAKTHROUGH!
No longer limited to only 250 tracks in "Favorites", although now that [Playlists] functionality is understood and the "secret code to making it work cracked" it means "Favorites" can truly be reserved for just those tracks which are truly "favorite" and which need to be put here, to be accessed directly from the "Favorites" item on the title bar of the J3. For the rest of our playlist needs, we obviously can have an unlimited number of playlists, each of which contains an unlimited number of tracks (not limited to 250).
Only requirements: (a) use Windows Explorer to create playlists on the J3, and (b) be in MTP mode during that playlist creation process. Playlist playback mode is supported by both MTP or MSC mode.
Also, I will probably use the actual "Playlists" folder on the J3's primary storage to hold PLA playlists for album folders on that drive. And I will create a "Playlists" folder on secondary storage (as I will create a "Music" folder), since it makes good sense to me to organize things that way. It makes no difference to the J3, as the boot scan of both primary and secondary storage scans everything in every folder looking for whatever it's looking for. Having files directly at the root or under a primary folder is really of no consequence to the J3... although it really does help humans when browsing (at least in my opinion).
Last edited by DSperber; 07-30-2010 at 03:55 AM.
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