Tag Archives: iTunes

I’m Going to Miss the iPod Click Wheel

Fifth generation iPodAs I moved our iTunes library last week, I worried that the new system might not be able to sync with the old iPod, but relaxed when I saw that Apple still sold the click-wheel iPod Classic. They discontinued it a few days later, but fortunately we were able to sync the old devices.

Why do I prefer the older iPods with physical buttons and tiny screens?

Because I listen to music in the car, and a touch screen is a terrible interface for quick actions while driving.

While touch screens are better for menus, searches, finding albums, playlists, artists, and just about anything else, they’re actually dangerous for driving. A physical control of some sort is best for any action you might have to take while behind the wheel of a moving car.

Pause/Play, Skip and Volume. Those are the key things you want to be able to do with music without thinking too much about where you’re reaching, or taking your eyes off the road. (Especially if you have a mix of quiet and loud songs.) Volume’s on the dashboard, but it’s so much easier — and safer — to hit an actual button for pause/play or skip than to jab at the touch screen until you get it right.

Trouble: Moving Your iTunes Library from Mac to Windows

Fifth generation iPodI finally got around to transferring our music library from an old Macintosh (so old it’s a PowerPC) to our new Windows 8.1 system. It worked, but it wasn’t quite as smooth — or as automatic — as I’d hoped it would be.

In theory it’s easy: Copy the iTunes folder from the old system to the new one, whether over the network or using an external drive. Make sure you include the iTunes Library.itl file to keep your playlists, ratings, etc. And if your library is scattered around the drive, be sure to consolidate it first.

Problem 1: Different folder structure. This probably has more to do with which version of iTunes you started with than which platform, but the old system had all its songs in iTunes/Music and the new system had its small collection in iTunes/iTunes Media/Music. So it couldn’t

Problem 2: Illegal characters. The Mac version of iTunes will (or at least used to) use characters in filenames and directories that aren’t allowed on Windows, like question marks and quotation marks. Even after pointing it to the right folder, it was still missing about 70 songs, which I had to manually locate.

Fortunately, iTunes marked the songs that were missing with an exclamation mark in a circle next to the track number. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t sort or filter on it. That meant I needed to page through the entire library looking for those symbols.

Another complication was with albums and artists that didn’t end up lining up correctly in the filesystem: Spamalot, for instance, had each singer listed per song, and one version of iTunes had split it across about 10 folders.

Problem 3: iPod drivers/resync. You have to wipe and re-sync your old iPod. I was expecting this. The problem I had was that Windows set up the drivers…and then that was it. Neither iTunes nor Windows gave any indication that they knew the iPod was there, even though the iPod was showing its “Do not disconnect” message. Well, no indication until iTunes suddenly stopped responding entirely….

Finally I just unplugged the iPod (which rather upset the three-year-old, because it was telling us not to but we did it anyway!), at which point iTunes closed. But the system started responding again, and iTunes came right back up when I opened it. When I plugged it back in (after rebooting the iPod, just to be on the safe side), iTunes recognized it right away and offered to reformat it. It synced without any further complaints!

Explicitly Tainted Tracks

I’m listening to The Bird and the Bee right now. Every single track on the album is labeled as [Explicit] because of the song called “F——ing Boyfriend,” even though that’s the only song that actually has any explicit lyrics.

Both iTunes and Amazon have two versions of the album. One is marked explicit on every single track. The other has edited the one song, and isn’t marked.

I suppose that might have made sense in the old days when an album was only ever sold as a complete unit (with maybe a single or two)…but in today’s digital market, the base unit isn’t the album. It’s the song. If the song itself isn’t explicit, it shouldn’t be labeled as such. That would be like giving Spider-Man an R rating because Sam Raimi also directed Evil Dead.

Some consequences:

  • On my playlist, 9 out of 10 songs from this album are labeled [Explicit], but aren’t. They’re perfectly suitable to play around children and people with sensitive ears, but are labeled as if they’re offensive.
  • Anyone searching iTunes or Apple for an individual song will see at least two versions, one of which says it’s explicit (but isn’t) and one of which doesn’t — even though they’re the exact same recording. Confusing your customer is bad for business.

Hazards of DRM on Music (or video, or any other media)

Mark Pilgrim, in The Day the Music Died, points out what happens when DRM meets market failure.

On August 31, Microsoft will turn off the servers that validate their “PlaysForSure” DRM system (this predates the system they use for the Zune). This means that anyone who has bought music that uses PlaysForSure will not be able to transfer it when they upgrade or replace their computer, or get a new music player.

It won’t be an instantaneous death like DIVX was, or like a subscription system, because it doesn’t phone home whenever you try to play a track. But it’ll be a lot faster than simple technological obsolescence. I can still play my old VHS tapes until my VCR breaks down (and then I could probably still get it fixed if I really wanted to), even though I don’t think I’ve seen a pre-recorded tape in a store in years.

This is also why I prefer to check Amazon’s MP3 store first, before going onto the iTunes Music Store, and then prefer DRM-free iTunes Plus to standard iTunes tracks. Given their current position, Apple isn’t likely to get rid of iTunes anytime soon, but if they ever did, I’d be in the same boat as people who purchased PlaysForSure tracks. (Though I’m hoping they’ll move the entire catalog away from DRM long before that happens.) Whereas since Amazon’s tracks are plain, ordinary MP3s, they could abandon the business tomorrow and I’d still be able to play the tracks for as long as I can find software that plays MP3s.

(via ma.tt)