What I think I'm finding difficult to deal with here is that Rockbox specifically claims to be playlist oriented but makes managing playlists so unintuitive.
In what sense? Anytime you click on a folder or database query, you get a playlist made for you. You can then edit it, save it, or do whatever. IMO its intuitive enough that you probably didn't realize you were even making playlists when you used it, which is pretty impressive IMO.
First, I should probably apologise if the tone of my last came over as unduly negative. I have -- as you have been careful NOT to point out -- always the choice to remove it again. If I choose not to do so -- and I HAVE chosen not to do so -- it can't be because I hate it.
Having said that, I stand by much of what I've said on this issue. There are places where I've made errors that I wouldn't have made if I'd read the documentation more thoroughly, but on this specific point, the subject of playlists is NOT covered in anything like enough detail. And while it's undoubtedly impressive that Rockbox manufactures playlists on the fly as you describe, the fact that there's a playlist there at all is effectively an architectural issue: it makes a list of things to do then works through the list, exactly as the user would hope. It's only important to ME that it's playlist-oriented if I can mess about with those playlists as I please: otherwise, you might as well tell me what programming language it was written in as if it was likely to make me prefer it over an alternative.
To that extent, then, the point is perhaps the difficulty in creating custom playlists where there's no logical link beyond "this song fits" in the user's mind. And no MP3 player I've ever used can do better than "add to current", so I guess the issue isn't quite as Rockbox-centric as all that anyway. It's just that the headline phrase caused me to have vague expectations that may not have been reasonable or maybe even that well-thought.
The database ought to be the focus of MOST activities
I don't agree with this. Most people don't use the database and don't really want to, so I don't think it makes sense to make it "the focus". Instead, we should allow people to use the software however they want, not force them to use it in one particular way.
A question of paradigm, then. In my view, most people don't much care what the file's called, once it's on the player, they just care what it IS. So if the database contains album, artist, track details culled from the tags embedded in the file then it seems to me sensible to make navigating that the central focus of an MP3 player. And from inside the database, it strikes me that it ought to be almost trivially simple to make a "make me a list of every track and shuffle it" command, whereas from a file list you might also be handling (and having to exclude) album art jpgs and thumbs.db files and various other detritus that the PC's music player might have left lying around.
but the fact that you can't get an "all" playlist, shuffled or otherwise, out of it seems an odd omission.The database queries are actually fully customizable. I think by default theres only an option to randomize by artist, album or genre but you can change that if you really want. I don't really think thats all that useful though, since you'll end up with things like untagged files, microphone recordings and podcasts in your random playlist when really what you want is probably just music in it.
My other MP3 player is an old Creative Zen V+. That's probably responsible for many of my views of these things, because mostly I like the way it works. Menus can be customised, entries added, removed, repositioned, it's completely database-centric, and there's a "Random Play All" function that does exactly what I've been struggling to get the Rockboxed Sansa to do. I use it when I can't be bothered to make a decision about what I want to listen to, and when it throws up a podcast I just hit Next. It's particularly handy in the car because I can get to the top of the front screen menu (where I put the function) and hit the select button without looking at the screen.
I wanted to get close to being able to replicate that in Rockbox. From what you say, I can't.
You say that the database queries are fully customisable. Have I missed something else in the manual?
The volume +/- keys are actually used to move the curser, so you don't have to do that.
I'm also a little weirded out that there's a build of Doom in there that just doesn't work. I'm completely unsurprised that it doesn't work -- pretty sure the screen won't even be close to usable even if it rendered the graphics as intended -- but it does rather suggest that the project has suffered a little from feeping creaturitis!
It actually does work, but since the screen can't do grayscale, its almost useless. Removing it has been discussed, but enough people complained that it was left in.
Now there's a response. Just out of interest, is the "almost" in the phrase a diplomatic way to say "completely" or is there some function it can perform that somebody actually has a genuine use for?