Musings of a PC

Thoughts about Windows, TV and technology in general

SonicStage – Rescued by Windows Virtual PC

Not that long ago, Sony’s Network Walkmans – their portable music players – required a Sony application to manage the audio content of the devices. That application was SonicStage. Sony have now change their approach and newer models support the conventional Windows model of drag’n’drop or syncing with Media Player.

But that doesn’t help those of us with otherwise fully functional bits of hardware … and an application that isn’t supported in Windows 7.

Avrin, a contributor to the SonyInsider forums, has repackaged SonicStage 4.3 to try to eliminate some of the problems caused by the dropping of support from Sony and has released an “Ultimate” version.

Unfortunately, it is 32-bit only. I’m running Windows 7 64-bit in order to get the most out of the memory on my system and to avoid having to reinstall Windows when Adobe release their 64-bit CS suite.

Installing the Ultimate version onto Windows 7 64-bit – for me anyway – installs, can see the Sony player but transfers to the device have proved to be very problematic indeed. They would get part-way through and then stall completely, often trashing the device if I then unplugged it.

So I decided to give Windows Virtual PC a go. My original plan was to use Windows XP Mode so that SonicStage would operate as a standalone window within the Windows 7 environment but I don’t think I’m going to be able to get that to work, for reasons I’ll outline in a mo’.

The music and audio books that I want to be able to transfer onto my Sony device are stored on the host system so my first challenge was to understand how the guest OS is able to see that data. It turns out that the interface between the host and the guest is RDP and that drives off the host system are presented as if you had established a Remote Desktop connection to the guest. So far so good … except that those drives mapped off the host don’t get drive letters. Unfortunately, SonicStage will only index and catalogue files that it finds under drive letters.

The solution to that problem is, thankfully, reasonably straightforward. All of the host drives are accessible through \TSCLIENT<drive letter>. You can, therefore, set up a persistent mapping from a host drive to a drive letter on the guest, and this is what I did. That allowed SonicStage to catalogue my audio files, albeit very slowly.

This then leaves me with the final hurdle – transferring the audio files from the host, via the guest, to the device. The Sony device connects via USB. The problem is that SonicStage needs to see the USB device actually attached to the guest OS and not shared between the two. When you are running Virtual PC full size, that isn’t a problem really because you can control the USB devices and whether the guest or the host has them through a menu on the Virtual PC window.

As I was writing this paragraph, I fired up SonicStage from the host side (thanks to the automatic publishing of guest applications into the host Start menu). The window appears nicely and you’d struggle to know that it was running in a virtual environment except for the fact that the task bar icon is that of Virtual PC.

It was then that I discovered the solution … if you right-click on the Virtual PC icon on the task bar, you’ll see a menu like this:

image

Choosing Manage USB Devices then gives you a window like this:

image

from where I can select WALKMAN then click Attach and Windows XP gets exclusive access to the Sony hardware and SonicStage is able to transfer the audio files … albeit very slowly compared to handling this directly within the host but then that isn’t too surprising considering how the data is being thrown around.

The way that Microsoft have got Virtual PC to integrate into the Windows 7 environment is stunning. It probably isn’t without its problems but it has certainly allowed me to breathe more life into using my Sony player … at least until I can find a replacement that has the feature set I want.

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One response to “SonicStage – Rescued by Windows Virtual PC

  1. Chris February 16, 2010 at 4:56 am

    Thanks! Very useful, just exactly what I needed!

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