Hatin’ on the 8

September 16th, 2008 by Editor B

Next to my web browser, I guess iTunes is the most-used application on my system. Come to think of it, I may actually use iTunes more than my web browser. I use it to play music, at work and at home, all day and all night.

I’m happy with it, but I view each new version with a mix of trepidation and excitement. Maybe they’ll come out with some killer new feature. Yet I fear that, sooner or later, Apple is bound to screw this good thing up.

I’m especially nervous/excited about major releases. You know, the ones with a whole new version number.

I am mightily unimpressed with iTunes 8.

It’s got a new visualizer. OK, that’s some nice eye candy. Grid view? Basically more eye candy. I guess iTunes 8 does something new with HD video, but I don’t use iTunes to watch anything.

The big new feature that caught my interest was Genius. Hell, it’s the only new feature of interest. And it’s a bust.

Genius (unfortunate name!) is supposed to generate playlists from your collection based on any given song you select. It’s also supposed to supply recommendations of music you might like from the iTunes Music Store. It’s similar to what Pandora or last.fm have been doing for years. The problem is that Genius only seems to derive it’s associations from the iTunes Music Store, and that’s somewhat limiting.

For example, right now I’m listening to “Dariya Da Makiya” by Umaru Sanda. Genius can’t do anything with this track. No playlist, no recommendations. By way of comparison, last.fm can at least recommend two similar artists. What’s more, last.fm will usually let me play music similar to a given artist for free — though to be fair, even last.fm seems to choke on Umaru Sanda.

It seems most of the music in my library is Genius-proof. But even when Genius has recommendations, I’m not interested, because I never use the iTunes Music Store. When I buy music I use Amazon or some other vendor that doesn’t encumber their wares with that Digital Rights Management crap. I turned off the iTMS years ago because of the DRM.

Of course Apple is interested in driving people to their store, which is why I’m convinced they’ll screw up this app some day. Lending support to this idea is another new “feature” in iTunes 8. There are little arrows next to every song and album title, every artist name and musical genre. Click the arrow and it takes you to the appropriate page on the iTunes Music Store. Mind you, that’s not new. The little arrows have been around for quite some time. I turned them off long ago. What’s new in iTunes 8 is that Apple has removed the ability to turn the arrows off. It was an option in the preferences, and now it’s gone, and the arrows are on by default. They’re ugly and useless. How annoying is that? At least there’s a command-line workaround:

defaults write com.apple.iTunes show-store-arrow-links -bool FALSE

So, though it’s not a deal-killer, I find iTunes 8 to be a disappointment. And worse than a disappointment: an annoyance. Too bad, because there are plenty of improvements I would have liked to see.

6 Responses to “Hatin’ on the 8”

  1. mike Says:

    amen, brother!

    The missing feature for me is centralized music storage – I want every copy of iTunes in my control to write to and read from ONE storage device and database and I also want the app to clean up the duplicates without my having to go through and edit each one of the several thousand dupes have showed up over the years as I have brute force combined the disparate libraries here and there around my digital ZOC. or ZO lack of C.

    I would be happy to have itunes provide digital film playback, but they implemented that feature in such a way that it’s just a pain in the ass to add any video content to it EXCEPT iTMS content, and so there’s no reason for me to bother. I rip DVDs i buy to an outboard HD on a creaky old Mini and run the playback through a creaky old eyeHome I bought cheap years ago. In the video library are quite a few ROX eps, fwiw.

  2. rcs Says:

    Per this tip I have my arrows set up to jump to the artist/album within my Library. Option-click takes me to the Apple Store.

    defaults write com.apple.iTunes invertStoreLinks -bool YES

  3. Sean Says:

    There has never been a simple way (to my knowledge) to share the same xml library data file over a network that references all the music files. If two users use the same external drive for storing music, and my lovely lady adds a music file to that drive I wouldn’t know, cause my library wouldn’t be refreshed…

    Mike, if you’ve already got dups in merged folders maybe you could use something like Dupin. I dunno, but it sounds like you don’t have the options you want checked in the itunes preferences.

    Also you can use terminal to merge folders without creating duplicates: cp -R -n ./source_folder/ ./destination_folder/

    Command descriptions here: http://developer.apple.com/documentation/Darwin/Reference/ManPages/man1/cp.1.html

    Or if you don’t like terminal you could use an app like ChronoSync which I used to use for nightly backups at work. Good for scheduled backups, in addition to merging files etc.

  4. Kent Says:

    I’m terribly disappointed with 8 as well! There’s no subtlety to “Genius.” Pandora analyses the music for stylistic accents, and chooses pieces of similar complexity or simplicity, melodic undertones, etc. It’s pretty impressive!

    Not iTunes! Don’t waste your time with classical music, as it doesn’t know it exists. I choose an underground 70s British rock band, it either hasn’t heard of them (that is, it’s not on the iTunes store) or it chooses a random collection of music from the early 70s (which can be a pretty frightening thing.)

    It does okay on unsophisticated and less challenging music, the more recent the better – not much you would own, I think.

    One can hope it will improve, as it accumulates data from user playlists and works with that. The more data it accumulates, the better it will do. But an algorithm designed by musicians, and not computer programmers, based on musical elements and not user trends, may have worked better. I can’t know, but I have a hard time believing musicians were seriously consulted.

  5. matter Says:

    Way back when, there was a program called SoundJam. It was fast, easy to use, and did exactly what was needed: play the MP3 files without a hassle or any kludged-up klunkiness.

    Then Apple bought SoundJam, turned it into iTunes, and Sucked™ it up big-time. Why is it that when you advance songs via the keyboard (command-arrow) SoundJam was instantaneous, while iTunes takes nearly a second? A major pain when trying to fast-forward. And don’t get me started on the way that highlighting a track and hitting “enter” in Soundjam would play the track, while in fucking iTunes it highlights the name.

    Fuck you, dickalicious Apple.

    Oh yeah: NEVER download the latest and greatest from Apple. Especially a .0 version! Doom and teeth-gnashing await.

  6. PJ Says:

    I wouldn’t use the genius tool because I know how those things bog a system down to pass data while i’m trying to use my computer do real work. and then they say that the genius tool will be more effective the more people use it. and then more people won’t use it because it bogs down their system.

    it’s so similar to the mini store and just as obvious. i shut that down the minute i first saw it and haven’t missed it one bit.

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