Sonos – suddenly unreliable

We’ve had our Sonos system, connected via wifi, for 5+ years and it’s been rock solid until late January. Suddenly, through no changes to our wifi (router, router firmware, or connected devices) or Sonos system, it started being completely unreliable. This seems to have coincided with the S2 v14 release on 2022-01-25 but that could have been coincidence.

Examples of problems:

  • Speakers would disappear from the controllers (macOS & Android apps).
  • Speakers would stop playing but show as playing in the controllers.
  • Speakers would be playing but show as stopped playing in the controllers.
  • Speakers would not respond to play/stop input from the controllers.
  • Different controllers would show different speakers available.

I did the usual things of restarting the wireless router & restarting the speakers. At the recommendation of Sonos support I changed the wireless channel on my router. All of these worked for 30 or so minutes and then things went sideways again.

Finally, fed up with it all, we plugged a speaker directly into the router instead of having it connect over the wireless thus forming its own separate wireless network. Everything has worked perfectly since then.

This isn’t exactly convenient given where the wireless router is, but our Sonos system is once again functional instead of being a collection of 6 very expensive paperweights.

Sonos, Plex, and “Unable to browse music” on artist search

It’s taken me several months to connect the dots, but I’ve finally figured out why sometimes Sonos is unable to browse music from Plex artist search results. And it’s all about having multiple libraries in Plex.

The problematic behavior is this scenario:

  1. In the Sonos app, search for an artist on Plex
  2. Sonos shows the results successfully
  3. Click on the artist
  4. Sonos returns “Unable to browse music”

If, instead, you search for an album you can click on the results, see the tracks, and play the music. Sometimes this seems to work, sometimes it doesn’t, and it’s taken me months to find the pattern.

The problem is that my Plex system has two libraries: mine and my husband’s. Overall Sonos handles this well and we can play whatever music from whatever library.

But while artist searches are scoped to all libraries in Plex, browsing artist results is only scoped to the current Plex library. If the current Plex library contains the artist you can browse the search results. If not, you get the “Unable to browse music”. If you change the Plex source to the library with the artist it will work again.

I’m not certain if this is a limitation in the API that Sonos is using to interact with Plex, or if this is a bug in how Sonos is using that API, but knowing what the problem and how to work around it is a start.

Casey’s 2021 Playlist

Time dilation during the pandemic has been a very real thing for me. 2021 feels like it’s lasted both 4.3 days and 43 thousand years. And somehow this year’s playlist was crafted during that window and yet is only 43 minutes long.

  1. To Live – Norah Jones
  2. Perfect to Me – Anne-Marie
  3. Good as Hell – Lizzo
  4. I’ll Be There – Jess Glynne
  5. Juice – Lizzo
  6. Walk Me Home – Pink
  7. Cups – Anna Kendrick
  8. Farther We Go (A Capella) – Walk off the Earth
  9. Happy Now – Pentatonix
  10. Better Days – Ant Clemons feat. Justin Timberlake
  11. Epiphany – Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross (from the Soul Soundtrack)
  12. Just Us – Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross (from the Soul Soundtrack)
  13. Fate – Rui Fujishiro
  14. Happiness Does Not Wait (2021 Version) – Ólafur Arnalds

Every year’s playlist ends with an instrumental track, but this year features 4 of them. Sometimes when I get really stressed out — which has happened a lot during the pandemic — I’ll go into a dark room, sit on the floor, play those 4 tracks, close my eyes, and just breathe.

You can listen to the songs on Spotify. As always, the order of the songs has been carefully curated. You may not be able to listen to them in order with the Spotify free account.

You can find prior year playlists under the mix cd tag (yes, they’ve been going on that long).

Casey’s 2020 Playlist

Wow, 2020. Is it over yet?

Music helped get me through this tumultuous year. Here’s this year’s playlist (or as they were tagged in prior years, mix cd).

Some bright spots were the releases by Norah Jones, The Chicks (formerly the Dixie Chicks), Meghan Trainor, and Pink! I enjoyed discovering some not-so-new but new-to-me songs from Ava Max and Alicia Keys — Underdog got some serious airtime for me in the pandemic (check out the music video). And being introduced to new queer artists Shea Diamond and Be Steadwell was fantastic — Be Steadwell’s song Sometimes is, to me, the perfect queer love song (bonus: the music video is both heartwarming and signed).

The Black Lives Matter movement influenced the list this year as I set out to find new artists of color and discovered Tobe Nwigwe and re-discovered Emeli Sandé. And it’s no coincidence that March March by The Chicks is on the list (I highly recommend watching the music video). I’ll say it again for those in the back: Black Lives Matter.

  1. Kings & Queens – Ava Max
  2. Evil Twin – Meghan Trainor
  3. So Am I – Ava Max
  4. I Am America – Shea Diamond
  5. Walk Me Home – Pink
  6. Texas Man – The Chicks
  7. Next To Me – Emeli Sandé
  8. Settlin’ – Sugarland
  9. Cowboy Take Me Away – Dixie Chicks
  10. Workin’ on It – Meghan Trainor
  11. Hurts to Be Alone – Norah Jones
  12. Underdog – Alicia Keys
  13. Sometimes – Be Steadwell
  14. Make It Home – Tobe Nwigwe
  15. March March – The Chicks
  16. I Am Woman – Helen Reddy
  17. The Scar – Carly Simon

Notice anything interesting about the list this year? I’ll give you a hint: take a read through the artist names and see if anything jumps out at you.

Not a straight white man in sight. I intentionally tried to seek out people of color, women, and LGBTQ+ artists this year. The list is still very (very) white and I continue to broaden my exposure to more artists of color.

You can listen to the songs on Spotify (except for the last track because it isn’t on Spotify). As always, the order of the songs have been carefully curated. You may not be able to listen to them in order with the Spotify free account.

Plex and Sonos

With the death of Google Play Music I needed another way of managing my music library and playing it through our Sonos system. We opted to go with Plex and in general it has been a good experience.

Plex

We have a Mac Mini hooked up to our TV for those times we want to watch something on YouTube or some other service that our not-very-smart TV doesn’t support. This was clearly the logical choice for the Plex server as it is always on and has worked really well.

I keep a copy of my music on my main laptop. Despite not using Music (formerly iTunes) to play music, I use it to manage my music on the filesystem. When I purchase music (now from Bandcamp or Amazon if I can’t find it there), I import it into Music and then run an rsync script to refresh the copy on the Mac Mini. Plex automatically picks up the changes and my music is ready for playing.

After some work I was able to import my playlists from Google Play Music (GPM) into Plex as well. See my GPM playlist reconstructor and Plex playlist importer gists for some python code to help get you going in the right direction.

Now I can access music, including all of my playlists, from my phone and any web browser.

Sonos

Being able to play my music through our Sonos system is one of my primary use cases and one of the reasons why YouTube Music is such a poor substitute for Google Play Music. Plex integrates nicely with Sonos without requiring a Plex Pass.

When I first got Plex and Sonos connected two months ago everything worked perfectly. Then a few weeks ago Sonos stopped reliably finding my music which was incredibly frustrating. When the Sonos couldn’t see the Plex library I was still able to access the library from the Plex mobile app and the web interface. Indeed, everything except Sonos seemed happy to talk to the library.

We did all of the usual things like rebooting the devices. I followed the Plex and Sonos troubleshooting docs both from Plex and from Sonos. I even tried upgrading the Sonos system from S1 to S2 to no avail.

Eventually I found this Plex on Sonos forum post which goes into a lot of details about the nuances of how the two devices connect. We had a 9-year-old Netgear WNDR4500 wireless router that in theory supported UPnP but it didn’t seem to be working to allow Sonos to reliably access the Plex library. I set up a manual port forward which seemed to make things slightly more reliable but didn’t fix the problem.

Eventually out of frustration I bought a brand new TP-Link AX1800 wireless router to replace the Netgear and suddenly everything just started working and has been rock-solid for a week now. No special configuration & no fuss.

So if you’re having trouble getting your Sonos to talk to your Plex library and are using an old wireless router, consider upgrading it.

YouTube Music is a poor replacement for Google Play Music

Google is replacing Google Play Music (GPM) with YouTube Music (YTM) starting this month and shutting down GPM entirely in December 2020. Google is touting YTM as a great replacement for GPM but are conveniently not revealing that YTM does not have feature parity without a YouTube Music Premium subscription.

With GPM I can listen to my music in the background on my Pixel. But with YTM you need a monthly subscription to do that.

With GPM I can listen to my music on my Sonos. But with YTM you need a monthly subscription to do that. Ars Technica reports that Google Home users will need a YTM subscription too, just in case you forked out money for Google-branded smart speakers.

And it doesn’t matter if this is music that you’ve uploaded or that you’ve purchased from Google. That’s the real kicker for me. I’ve been buying music from Google since 2013 — 669 songs to date, some of them via albums and some of them as individual songs. It’s hard to know exactly how much money I’ve paid to Google for music over the past 7 years, but at $1/song that would be just under ~$100/year. 

I don’t subscribe to music; I still purchase music. More over I’m not going to pay $12/month for YouTube Music Premium to be able to access the music I’ve already purchased. If I wanted a subscription service I would pay $10/month to Spotify. I realize that I am no longer Google’s target audience.

Instead I’ve downloaded my purchased music from Google and am trying out a Plex server. I can listen to music on my phone and Sonos without a subscription of any kind. So far it’s working out well.

Now I just need to figure out who to purchase music from that isn’t Amazon or Apple.

Casey’s 2019 Playlist

It’s December, which means it’s time to reveal this year’s playlist (aka: mix cd). Like every year, this playlist is a year in review.

Woman Up, Wannabe, and This Is Me is a shout-out to all the amazing women in my life. Thank you for being awesome just the way you are.

My friend Sam introduced me to Cowboy Bebop and the intro credits won me over. Sadly, the original Tank! by The Seatbelts isn’t available for digital purchase so I had to buy a CD and rip it. (The version on the Spotify list is a cover.)

At the beginning of the year I got to see Steve Grand in concert down in Puerto Vallarta, so he had to be on the list for sure. Pink and Norah Jones released new albums so they got a lot (and I mean a lot) of airtime. Yes, there are 4 Pink songs on the list this year — she’s just that amazing. And while Michael Buble’s new album was released in 2018, I didn’t discover it until the beginning of 2019.

From Pink’s 90 Days, which tears me up every time I hear it, I discovered Wrabel’s music. If you’re up for an emotional roller coaster about trans acceptance, watch his music video of The Village. Then feel a little better by telling all the conservatives assholes You Need To Calm Down. Finally, pay homage to the leader of the queer mafia himself: Elton John. His biopic Rocketman reminded me that yes, sometimes that’s really why they call it the blues.

And most importantly: I got married this year! Up’s Married Life seemed like the most perfect way to end the set.

  1. Tank! – The Seatbelts
  2. Woman Up – Meghan Trainor
  3. Wannabe – Spice Girls
  4. (Hey Why) Miss You Sometimes – Pink
  5. Hustle – Pink
  6. This Is Me – Keala Settle
  7. Wintertime – Norah Jones
  8. Help Me Make It Through The Night – Michael Buble
  9. You Need To Calm Down – Taylor Swift
  10. Walk Me Home – Pink
  11. 90 Days – Pink & Wrabel
  12. Stay – Steve Grand
  13. Walking – Steve Grand
  14. 11 Blocks – Wrabel
  15. The Village – Wrabel
  16. Easy Like Sunday Morning – Lionel Richie
  17. That’s Why They Call It The Blues – Elton John
  18. Your Song (instrumental) – Moulin Rouge Soundtrack, disc 2
  19. Married Life – Up! Soundtrack

You can listen to the songs on Spotify too (except for track 1 where you get a cover of Tank! and track 16 because Lionel Richie isn’t on Spotify). As always, the order of the songs have been carefully curated. You may not be able to listen to them in order with the Spotify free account.

A Grand Time

On Tuesday night we saw Steve Grand perform at ACT II down here in Puerto Vallarta. And I can’t tell you how moving it was to hear a man sing about love for another man on stage.

Steve Grand is probably best known for his 2013 breakout country music video All-American Boy about one guy’s unrequited love for another man. As someone who grew up listening to country music, I remember being in awe that we finally, finally, had a country love song by a gay man. Then, admittedly, I lost track of Steve and what he was up to until this week.

On Saturday evening we bought tickets for his Tuesday show, where he performs covers as well as his own work, almost on a lark. Of the four of us going to the show, two of us remembered his music video and the other two were game to be dragged along. It’s very common in PV for performers to walk around the beaches handing out cards marketing their shows, and Steve was no exception. Except Steve one-upped all the rest of them by walking around in a bright blue speedo and a blockbuster smile. And to say that he is incredibly handsome would be like saying that the ocean is merely damp. We were all excited to see him perform after that!

The show was good — really good. He’s an excellent performer and has a great stage presence. What surprised me the most was that, oddly, I knew several of his own songs without knowing they were his! It didn’t take me long to figure out that his song Stay was on Sean’s 2013 mix CD and his song Walking was on Sean’s 2017 mix CD (and somehow I knew his song We Are The Night too, although I haven’t figured out how). These CDs live in my ancient car that only has a CD player and the CDs get a lot of air time so I’ve listened to them, and these two songs, many many times. Enough that I could have sung along.

I never knew they were about another guy and knowing that changed everything about them.

I’ve been raised in such a heteronormative culture that when I hear a guy singing about someone else I assume it’s about a girl. Because it’s almost always true. And to have that preconception totally dismantled about songs that I love by this handsome guy on stage who wrote them was mind-blowing.

Stay with me, we don’t never have to leave
You my southern king, we live it for the daydreams
So don’t get mad—what’s past is in the past
And we can make this last
if you just give me that chance
So when my old man’s out of town but a couple days
I think that you should…

Stay with me
all summer
Stay with me
under the covers
Stay with me
Be my lover

He’s singing about another guy, folks!

We talk about the importance of representation all the time, and I guess I never thought about how that might apply to me in music. I’m ecstatic to have relearned the lesson in such a fantastic way.

I’m certain that my newly-purchased Steve Grand albums will get a lot of air time when I get back from vacation next week. If you identify as a gay man and have the opportunity to hear him in person, I highly recommend it!

Casey’s 2018 Mix CD

2018 has been a hard year for many of us. Between the shit-show that is the GOP administration to #metoo, my community has really struggled. And this year’s mix CD playlist reflects it. (See the mix cd tag to see prior years.)

Pink’s Barbies and Better Life reminds us of simpler, arguably better, times as does Ben Rector’s Old Friends. I discovered Fire Drills by Dessa and Rescue by Yuna which are great reminders of the underlying struggle women face in this country as well as their strength and perseverance through it. This year I became estranged from some formerly-close people, bringing Somebody That I Use To Know to the forefront of my mind; because really: Take Me or Leave Me.

But this year wasn’t without (musical) redemption as I found Girl Blue’s song Fire Under Water (from a touching Las Vegas tourism advertisement of all places). Sam Hunt’s song House Party and Your Song by Rita Ora always makes me want to scoot-a-boot. Daniel and I heard orchestral performances of Billy Joel’s And So It Goes and Simon & Garfunkel’s The Sound of Silence by the Seattle Symphony this year too. The former was an instrumental arrangement for strings that was simply astounding and I’ve been unable to find a recording of it anywhere.

Also, did you know that Dolly Parton is a huge advocate of childhood literacy and her Imagination Library celebrated delivering their 100 millionth book to kids this year? That’s worth a little 9 to 5 for sure.

So without further ado, this is my 2018 Mix CD:

  1. And So It Goes – Billy Joel
  2. The Sound of Silence – Simon & Garfunkel
  3. Barbies – Pink
  4. Somebody That I Use To Know – Walk Off the Earth
  5. 9 to 5 – Dolly Parton
  6. Your Song – Rita Ora
  7. Rescue – Yuna
  8. Take Me or Leave Me – Jonathan Larson (from RENT)
  9. Fire Drills – Dessa
  10. Fire Under Water – Girl Blue
  11. House Party – Sam Hunt
  12. All Night Long – Lionel Richie
  13. You Can Call Me Al – Paul Simon
  14. Better Life – Pink
  15. Old Friends – Ben Rector
  16. 2 Places at 1 Time – Zac Brown Band
  17. Ladies in Lavender – Joshua Bell

You can listen to the songs on Spotify too. Note the order of the songs have been carefully curated as well, although I don’t think Spotify will let you listen to them in order on the free account.

Casey’s 2017 Mix CD

In 2011 I started creating mix CDs1, one a year, of songs that resonated with me to share with friends. In January I create an empty playlist and add to it over the course of a year. Then in November I tweak, tune, and adjust it before sharing it with friends.

This year saw new music by Caro Emerald & P!nk (two of my favorite artists), new-to-me music by Meghan Trainor (who quickly became a favorite, although I think it makes me a bad gay to have just now found her), and a slew of oldies that just hit the spot.

Speaking of spot, this year you can listen to the playlist on Spotify. Long live mix tapes mix CDs digital playlists!

  1. Exotic Flu – Caro Emerald
  2. Brave – Sara Bareilles (this is a repeat from last year for good reason)
  3. Big Yellow Taxi – Amy Grant
  4. If I had $1,000,000 – Barenaked Ladies
  5. Curious Thing – Amy Grant
  6. I Just Called To Say I Love You – Stevie Wonder
  7. Perfect Picture – Carlos Bertonatti
  8. Rather Be – Glee Cast (for Daniel)
  9. Whatchugot – Caro Emerald
  10. 455 Rocket – Kathy Mattea (for Mr. Moore)
  11. Me Too – Meghan Trainor
  12. What About Us – P!nk (for all of us being shafted since the election)
  13. I Won’t Let You Down – Meghan Trainor
  14. I Am Here – P!nk
  15. Champagne Problems – Meghan Trainor
  16. Once Upon A December – David Newman
  17. The Dark – Caro Emerald

1 Anyone remember mix tapes? No? Just me? Damn I feel old.