Nits List - iTunes Edition

I love iTunes, usually. It's a great app and one that is always open in my dock. It does have its issues. Most of them are minor. Here's my nit list:

  • iPod syncing isn't as good as it could be. It needs the same interface you get when building smart playlists. For example, I might want to sync the 3 newest unwatched episodes of some shows, but the 3 oldest unwatched shows of others if I'm catching up on a season. I could do this by generating the playlists first and then syncing those, but why should I clutter my library with playlists only meant for the mobile device? Update: Ehh, maybe I just talked myself out of this one. I could just make an iPod sync lists folder to hide all of the playlist mucking.

  • You should be able to drag a TV Show directly into the TV Shows library source. As it is, you have to add it to movies and then go set the type to TV Show. Yuck.

  • Music videos are a video type, but they aren't a type in the library. Movies and TV Shows are, why not Music Videos?

  • The iTunes store needs a wishlist in the store so it can follow me across the computers I log into.

  • iTunes needs a "look again goofball" function for when it forgets where half of you library lives, even though the place it thinks the files live is the very place that they are. If anyone has a script to auto-fix (not auto-delete) the !'d tracks, let me know.

  • The albums list on iPods needs to have a threshold applied. 1 track off of an album is not an album! I have a couple hundred actual albums loaded in my library. Unfortunately, I'll have many times that amount in the Albums list when browsing the iPod. This forces me to flood my playlists with playlists that are the real albums in my library.

  • Building on the last one, they finally added folders to the library list. This makes it nicer to organize the albums in my playlists, but my iPod doesn't respect the folders, so it is of little use to me as most of my listening is on the iPod.

  • I want to remove an item from my library within a playlist. At the least, give me a "Show in Library" right next to the "Show in Finder".

  • Don't stop background syncs because a dialog has been popped up. I don't know if this is still an issue, but many times I've cursed at the not-updating podcasts on the Apple TV only to go find some message box in iTunes that had halted all downloads and syncing. I shouldn't have to check-in with iTunes every day to keep the related systems running.

Edit: Jason reminded me of the one that irks me the most (message boxes stop syncing). I have added it.


Spread the Sync

This is not a MacBook Air post. Trust me, you'd know if it was. That said, one of the complaints I've read about the MacBook Air is that the 80GB harddrive is too small. One reason folks think it is too small is that today's iTunes libraries would suck up at least half of that. You know what? They're right...if that's your main machine and keeper of your iTunes library.

Me, I wouldn't consider a MacBook Air a primary machine, but this isn't a MacBook Air post :) The meat of this is that the MacBook Air and every other secondary machine could make due with an 80GB drive just fine if iTunes had a new feature. Well, not a new feature, a feature that's been around since 2001. The feature I'm talking about is the ability to sync a subset of your iTunes library to a device, usually an iPod. I want my MacBook to act like an iPod to my main iTunes library. I want to use Smart Playlists to keep it popping with fresh content. I want my ratings, last played times, and playcounts to sync back to my main library. I want new content that shows up in iTunes on the MacBook to sync back to my main library.

With this feature, I can take 20GB of content on the go, and still have full access to all of my content using shared libraries when I'm back on my home network. The MacBook can wireless sync and I don't even have to know it happened. It would be great!


.Moonlit Snowflakes

I have posted a new iMix called .Moonlit Snowflakes.

I'd describe the music as quiet, pingy, elegant, and emotional. iTunes is stupid and can't manage to make a complete iMix using songs that you didn't buy from the iTunes Store, even though those songs are available on the iTunes Store. Therefore, the link to the iMix won't give you all of the songs. Here is the playlist as I intended it.

  1. Lemongrass - Polar Nights

  2. Boards of Canada - A Moment of Clarity

  3. UNKLE - Twilight

  4. Milosh - Push

  5. Booka Shade - Lost High

  6. Circlesquare - Fight Sounds Pt. 2d

  7. BT - Good Morning Kaia

  8. Underworld - To Heal

  9. Lemongrass - Eclipse of the Sun

  10. Trentemoller - Miss You

  11. Underworld - Good Morning Cockerel

  12. Chicane - Arizona, Pt. 1

Let me know if you like it or let me know if you hate it.

Previous iMixes
.Sunrise Skyline, .Dust and Rain, and .Slushy Streets.


Netflix Stats and iTunes Rentals

For years I've wanted to know some basic stats about my Netflix usage. How many movies am I churning through each month? How many movies have I watched total? How many movies have I watched in the best month? How many in the worst month? Netflix doesn't give you these stats directly, but you can get your full rental history and figure it out yourself. Shove the data through a Perl script and let Numbers draw some pretty pictures.

If you can't tell from the graphics, min month is 3. Max month is 16 (wow). Average is nearly 10 movies a month. In the 7 years I have been a Netflix customer, I have watched 831 movies (again wow). I guess my DVD player has earned its keep. I always figured we were going through 6-7 movies a month. That appears to have been true early on, but certainly not overall.

Other interesting items:

  • We watched a lot of movies in 2005 and 2006.

  • May seems to be a bad month for movies. I'm hoping this means that sprint was in the air and I was out on my bicycle, rather than watching movies.

  • November looks like a great movie month. I guess that makes sense. The weather is cold and there are holidays and late year vacations for movie watching. Most of the summer blockbusters are out by then too, so there's lots to choose from.

  • We rarely have two slow months back to back. This could be a product of shipping windows, or just catching up.

I was finally motivated to do this based on the rumored iTunes rentals coming at next week's MacWorld. From my prediction post, I stated $2.99 for 48 hours. If the rumored $3.99 for 24 hours comes true, Apple isn't going to see much of my movie rental money. With tax, Netflix is getting ~$17 a month. If I'm watching ~10 movies per month, I'm at $1.70 a movie and that's me watching when I want and returning it when I want. I'll have movies that are out of the mailbox and back in within 2 hours. Others will sit around for a week before they get watched. I really enjoy that. Assuming the movies from Apple won't be streaming, it will take an hour or hours to download the movie before you can watch it. If it then expires 24 hours after downloading, that would suck. It would be like those impotence commercials on TV. Once you pop that pill, the clock starts ticking.

Worse yet is the cost. $4 is pretty steep. That's as much as the local brick and mortars charge, at least I think so. I haven't been in a rental shop in over 7 years. You wouldn't have to spend time and money to drive to the store, but if the quality is sub-DVD Apple won't hear the end of the complaining. For me, the $4 doesn't match up well with the $1.70 I'm paying Netflix. I can see paying to watch something I just have to see now, or something that is stuck on Very Long Wait with Netflix, but overall, I can find something to watch while I wait a couple of days for a movie to arrive. Obviously the economics change if Netflix raises their price or my monthly totals go down. Luckily I know have the tools to help me track that! :)

I'm very interested in iTunes movie rentals. I have an Apple TV and love it. I watch a lot of movies, and I have a broadband connection. If iTunes and Apple TV are the vehicles for the content, Apple is well on their way to a winning product. Cost and quality will be the kickers for me. There are so many pricing options that I don't want to state a flat dollar amount, but to me $4 for 24 hours would be disappointing. Quality must also be near-DVD.

I think I'll go watch a movie now.


Cue It

A big thanks to Matt for leaving a comment on my old Chaptify post. To answer Matt's question, yes I did spend some time working on some code to convert .cue files to ChapterTool input. However, it isn't anything I'm all that proud of, at least not yet. This might make me dust it off and work some more.

Until then, check out Matt's online utility to do the .cue->XML conversion. I threw some .cue files at it and it seems to work well.


5 of the Now

  • Silversun Pickups - Lazy Eye Silversun Pickups - Carnavas - Lazy Eye
    I keep a "next 5otn" list going at all times and post when I get up to 5. Sometimes I have more than 5 and hold one over for the next post. Lazy Eye was waiting patiently for awhile and funny enough, I heard it play while out shopping on Saturday. Apparently these guys are more popular than I thought. I can't decide if I like the original or the Jason Bentley Remix better. You can also check the iTunes Live Session version.

  • Gui Boratto - Terminal
    Gui Boratto has really been tearing it up for me lately. He's only made it into one previous 5otn, but I've been digging plenty of his other stuff. You can buy this from Beatport, but I can't seem to make a link at the moment.

  • Chromeo - Bonafied Lovin' (Jori Hulkkonen Remix) Chromeo - Bonafied Lovin' - EP - Bonafied Lovin' (Jori Hulkkonen Remix)
    The original is so cheesy and so awesome. Jori really flips the vibe in the remix. It's a little darker and for that reason I hated the "ohh ohh ohh o"s in the mix. I've since listened to the track over a dozen times and I'm fine with it :) [Myspace] [Video on YouTube]

  • Gui Boratto - Beautiful LifeGui Boratto - This Is... - Beautiful Life
    Just some more Gui Boratto that hooked me

  • Sia - The Girl You Lost to CocaineSia - Some People Have Real Problems - The Girl You Lost to Cocaine
    You're probably used to tracks in my 5otn being being 6 minutes or longer. Well this one isn't even 3 minutes long, so be sure to listen to it three times in a row. You may know Sia from Zero 7's Destiny. This one is a lot more fun and you gotta dig that voice. You should also go read her myspace profile. The YouTube embed is a live performance of the track.

Bonus - Hustler from Simian Mobile Disco was in a previous 5otn. You can get the Skatebard Remix for free from RCRD LBL.

Did I put enough links in this post?

I made good use of the recent iTunes gift card deal at Best Buy and I'm feeling generous so I'm again gifting one of these tracks to the person that leaves the comment I like best. A buck is up for grabs. Fight it out!


No, I Don't See

The bad pun title is the kick-off for the we don't need no stinkin' optical drives post.

I considered putting this in my original Macworld Predictions post, but since Thaddeus asked, I'm going to answer.

Do you think we're to the point where people don't care at all about physical discs? What about reinstalls?

No, I don't think we're to that point, at least not generally. However, an ultraportable laptop is not the machine that the average user buys. Usually ultraportable laptops are sold at a premium. Joe User would rather have more memory and a bigger screen to go along with a cheaper price. They're more likely to buy the machine in the Best Buy ad, than seek out a Japanese import. So, I don't think optical drives are necessary in ultraportable machines.

I think optical drives are still essential for any computer other than an ultraportable, but even that is fading. People still want to rip music from their CDs. People still want to install software they buy off the shelf. People want to feel safe that they can pop in any CDROM someone gives them.
Ultraportables on the other hand are for folks that are using them as second machines. These are power portables. Size must be a minimum. Weight is not allowed. Durability keeps you working when you're travelling. Heck, even a $50 savings for not including the optical drive is welcome on machines that hover around $2000.

Further blows against optical drives come with most software being available for purchase, download, and installation over the web. CD drives were replacements for the old floppy drives. These were needed to boot the machine. Many OSes support booting from flash drives and certainly from externally connected drives. OS loading is a concern, but not a deal killer. For the folks that assume they'll be stranded with a computer that won't connect to the projector and would need to burn their presentation to CD, I say spend $10 for a flash drive that fits on your keychain. That will be faster and cheaper than carrying around blank CDRs for doomsday. For me personally, I've only used my optical drive in my MacBook to install Leopard and to watch DVDs while travelling.

If and when Apple releases an ultraportable notebook without an optical drive, I think they'll ship an external drive with it. At worst, they'll offer one for purchase for $79.

My final advice, mainly for the folks that say Apple would be stupid to not include an optical drive, is that if you think you need an optical drive, buy a computer that includes one. You won't see Apple dropping them from MacBooks and MacBook Pros anytime soon, at least not at 13, 15, and 17" sizes.


Kindle and O'Reilly

The Amazon Kindle is very interesting to me. I'm probably not a big enough reader to have one for home, but I would like one for work. Having technical documentation on a nice eBook reader is attractive to me for many reasons.

  • Portable, flowing screen. In other words, I can stick it on my desk wherever I need it to be, just like I do with a reference book, but without needing a stapler to hold the pages down. Sure, I could have another monitor just for reference text, but I don't always need reference text at a quick glance and there are just interactions with book-like info that you can't do easily with a monitor. You can't easily hold your finger on an API reference that you want to refer back to. You can't lay handwritten notes right up next to things on a page. You can't take that screen with you to the couch, on the bus, or the bathroom for that matter.

  • Space - I don't know about you, but my cube is small and packed. 20 linear feet of books doesn't help things.

  • Searching - How's that go? You can't grep dead trees. Exactly.

  • Available offline - Accessing documentation online is great until your connection goes down or their connection goes down.

I'm a big O'Reilly fan. The picture to the right is the portion of my personal collection that isn't currently at work. The problem is that O'Reilly content isn't directly available on the Kindle. I was delighted to find that Tim O'Reilly himself posted some comments about why...
We aren't currently planning to offer books for sale directly on the kindle, but that could change if the device really takes off.
We really aren't interested in producing books in more and more formats. There's a real maintenance nightmare, as you have to update across the set every time you make a change.
Even supporting HTML and PDF/print is a hassle. So we'll add kindle when we know there's a significant market for it.

Why no O'Reilly books on the kindle? Well, Amazon has chosen to use a proprietary format, with a conversion cost of a couple of hundred dollars per title to that format. Multiply that by 500+ O'Reilly books, and it would cost us $100,000 to have a strong presence on that new, unproven platform.

I guess I can buy that. There are further comments in the thread where it seems Tim (and O'Reilly readers) would be happy with PDF support that wasn't experimental as Amazon currently classifies it.

PDF support is important because O'Reilly currently offers many of their titles as PDF downloads for purchase, even by chapter. I found a sample chapter in PDF and it looks good, but then again, I don't have a Kindle either :)

The problem with good PDF support is that it bypasses Amazon's revenue model. They could help that with store relationships with sites like ORA's Safari. Tim mentions that too...
We'd also love to experiment with models in which people who are Safari subscribers could access that content on the kindle. We'd be very eager to have a reseller relationship with Amazon, such that they resell safari subscriptions on the kindle.

I guess I'll wait to see how things develop over the next few months. Books won't die, but I wouldn't mind burying a few reference titles in an eBook.