Wow, that's a big wish list!
Let me start by saying that the developers are aware of many of the things on your list, and are planning to fix/implement at least some of them.
Some of the features you're looking for can already be found on another one of their products: The Empeg/Rio Car player. The Rio Receiver is designed to be a simpler device that's more "mass-market", and as such, it tends to be less feature-rich.
I'll go through some of the relevant ones...
Sort by track #.
That's one they know about and I'm pretty sure they're planning to do something about it.
I have some .mp3s that are viewable by Artist, but not by category, somethings missing them.
Please be more specific. Are you saying that they cannot be viewed by Genre?
The first thing to check is to see if they have both an ID3v1 tag as well as an ID3v2 tag. If they have both, then I'd bet that there's a difference between the two tag types. The latest version of WinAmp will show you both tags. The software is probably getting confused as to which of the two tags it's supposed to be using.
There's a relevant FAQ entry
on the Empeg Car BBS regarding how its software deals with tags. I'm not certain, but I think the same code applies to the Rio Receiver. Check it out
and let me know if it appears to be the same issue.
Support of lots of tracks: I have 8000 tracks and growing. (...) View by track would be completely unusable, but that doesn't really matter, because it crashes and reboots if I try anyway!
The fact that its database can't handle large numbers of tracks is a number one priority for them to fix.
As far as being able to categorize and search amongst a track collection that large, the best way to handle it is to create your own playlists, and navigate using those. Then the categorization becomes completely up to you.
Better sound quality. I don't know if that's the hardware, software or a limitation of .mp3s.
The Rio Receiver has great sound quality. Can you be more specific about the sound quality problems you're hearing?
True, MP3s have some inherent sound quality limitations, but if you've recorded them at a decent bit rate with a good encoder, they should sound essentially identical to CDs. Did you make these yourself, or did you get them all from the 'net? Generally, the ones off the net are going to be low bit-rate and probably done with a bad encoder, or at least with the wrong settings on the encoder (speed instead of quality for example). If you made them yourself, what encoder/settings were you using?
But provided that the MP3s are decent, the Receiver itself should sound great. I'm sending mine into a pair of $400.00 Polk Audio speakers and it's fantastic. My only gripe is that I can't fine-EQ the sound to my specific speakers and room, but the actual clarity and definition of the output sounds perfect to me.
I'd love an SDK! Some of this is probably from the empeg publicly available source, why not make all of it available?
Because, as a company, their software is their bread and butter. Certain parts of their software code base is open source because it has to be: Their modifications to the Linux kernel, for example. But most companies don't make money by giving away their intellectual property for free.
They are discussing the possibility of making a plug-in API for the Empeg Car, but even that is a long ways down the road, and I don't foresee that happening for the Receiver.
Still, you should know that someone has already done some hacking to the Receiver software. As I recall, Frank Van Gestel has been able to hack a version of his Displayserver software to run on the Rio Receiver, so third-party development can be done if you're particularly clever and good with Linux.
It'd be nice to have the remote control line-out volume
But most home stereo components don't have controllable line-out volumes. Still, I see your point. If you're using self-powered speakers, for example, it would be nice.
The remote's pretty much unusable to find new music with that many tracks. I don't know how to fix it, but play, stop, skip forward and skip backward are about the only buttons that I use.
The Empeg Car has a fantastic alphanumeric search interface. I'd love to see that feature ported to the Receiver. I'm not sure if we're going to see that, as the searching UI is complicated and it sort of goes outside the bounds of keeping the Receiver simple.
You make an interesting point, though: It's hard to easily find one item in a list of 8000. This counts for anything, whether it's MP3s, names and addresses, phone numbers, recipies, whatever. If you've got a big display and a keyboard (AKA a full size computer), it makes it easier. But a tiny display and a limited number of remote-control buttons means that your searching mechanisms are more difficult. And other non-electronic mediums (such as a telephone book) resort to alphabetical listings, which the Receiver already does by default.
Some mechanism to get the server to syncronize receivers (if desired).
I think I actually brought this one up earlier on the BBS. They had already discussed the idea. I don't know if they're going to implement it or not.
I have 4 of these things, 1 in the bedroom, 1 in the living room, 1 in the basement play area and 1 scheduled for the hot tub area.
COOL! Someday I would like to have that many! Right now, I have one receiver driving two sets of speakers: One set in the diningroom/den, and one set out over the hot tub. I run it through a Radio Shack speaker selector switch. Eventually I'd like to do as you're planning and have a separate one for the hot tub.
A "Delete" key to flag an MP3.
This will be implemented in the next release of the Car player software, but I don't know how they'd be able to implement it on the Receiver as there's no way for its server interface to communicate this information back to the operator at this time.
It's been implemented in the car player because they know that you can't delete files while you're driving. In the home, I guess it's assumed that if you hear something you don't like, you can get off your lazy ass and walk over to the server to delete the file.
I do see what you mean, though. I know that I certainly wouldn't want to get out of the hot tub just to delete a file.
Similarly, some sort of preferences thing could be really cool. It could keep track of when I skipped a song. After enough times, it could offer that song less often. If I hit back to listen to a song again it could mark the song and offer it more often.
The Car player will be implementing a similar feature in the next release, it's possible that the technology may trickle down into the Receiver someday, but I haven't heard it specifically mentioned yet.
Make it check for new music automagically
Yes, they are aware of this one, and I think they said something about wanting to work on it.
Something about the UI messes with my head. It took me a bit to get use to the menu and select buttons. If I want new music, I press select for every key press, except the first one, which is silly.
This is interesting, I have the same problem. I tend to press Select when I meant to press Menu and vice-versa (even after quite a bit of practice). I thought it was because I had gotten used to the Car player's UI, but you're a Receiver-only user and you have the same problem. Interesting. Empeg guys, you listening?___________