VLC media player on Windows 8

VLC media player
VLC media player

When I upgraded to Windows 8 Pro I wanted to make sure that I could still play DVDs. Now that I have upgraded I’ve moved from using Windows Media Player to VLC media player. Here’s why.

Having read up a little about Windows 8’s support of various media I was fairly confident that if I installed the Windows Media Center then I would be able to continue to play DVDs in Windows Media Player, as I did in Windows 7. I was wrong.

Having bought the upgrade early (back in October 2012) I was offered a free upgrade to Windows Media Centre — woop! — which saved me a whole £6.99. However, as I discovered, it only enables DVD playback in Windows Media Centre, not Windows Media Player.

On my old Windows XP machine I used Cyberlink PowerDVD, which costs between £30-£70 depending; I got it free, bundled with my graphics card, if I remember correctly. It was fairly easy to use, and the controls were pretty intuitive. When I moved to Windows 7 I discovered that this version of the software wasn’t compatible with that version of Windows and I was reluctant to pay for an upgrade and so I started to use Windows Media Player, which had a really terrible, confusing interface but was free.

And so once again another Windows upgrade requires me to find another application that will enable me to watch DVDs on my PC. A quick Google search suggested that I try VLC media player.

VLC media player ticked both boxes: it’s free and it’s really easy to use. The interface is incredibly clear, much simpler than Windows Media Player 10 and 11, and it’s incredibly fast.

I also really like that the software is created by the VideoLAN organisation, “a project and a non-profit organization, composed of volunteers, developing and promoting free, open-source multimedia solutions.”

I definitely recommend VLC media player, if you are looking for a free, user-friendly replacement for Windows Media Player on Windows 8 (or, indeed, any version of Windows from XP SP2 onwards).

Winamp Global Hotkeys and Microsoft Digital Media Pro keyboard

I’ve just spent, on and off, about 2 hours trying to work out why the media keys on my Microsoft Digital Media Pro keyboard weren’t working properly with Winamp 5.541 Pro.  I’ve finally managed to solve the problem by rolling back to older keyboard drivers.

It appears that the Intellitype 6.3 drivers aren’t compatible with Winamp 5.541 Pro.

Intellitype 6.3

When I reinstalled Windows XP Professional a couple of weeks ago I did as I was supposed to: I installed the latest keyboard drivers (Intellitype Pro 6.3). But when it came to setting up Winamp I discovered that it didn’t work as expected.

Winamp has a Global Hotkeys setting within its preferences. As the explanatory text says:

Global Hotkeys are keyboard shortcuts that you can use from within any running application.

And here you can “enable default multimedia key support”. My keyboard (the Microsoft Digital Media Pro) has multimedia keys, so what could be more simple?

Global Hotkeys enabled

I ticked the option, both options in fact, and closed the preferences dialog box.

Pressing the Play/Pause button once started the MP3 track.  Pressing it again paused it.  Success!

But then I minimized Winamp, pressed Play/Pause again and Windows Media Player started.  Eh?!

Troubleshooting

I tried a variety of solutions on the Winamp forums. Tick one, close, stop itype.exe, restart Winamp, reselect the option, close Winamp, start itype.exe … all that jazz.  Nothing worked properly.

How frustrating!

Rollback to Intellitype 6.1

I know that it worked with the last Windows installation, and I knew that I’d used the Intellitype 6.1 drivers, so I uninstalled Intellitype 6.3, rebooted my PC and reinstalled version 6.1.

And do you know what?  It worked.

What I’ve had to do in the Intellitype options is disable the Play/Pause button (because enabled it was still opening Windows Media Player) but it didn’t have any effect on Winamp’s ability to recognise or use the key.

Now when I press Play/Pause, no matter whether Winamp is minimized or maximized it toggles play and pause.

What’s missing

Intellitype 6.3 appears to offer a few new features not present in 6.1, such as the ability to save keyboard profiles, but to be honest I don’t need such a facility.  So long as my keyboard shortcuts work and my multimedia keys control Winamp I’m a happy user.