Posted Saturday, June 07, 2003

iTunes Sharing Returns and Ken Burns Becomes Optional: An iLife Week in Review

It was a hectic week -- I'll explain why next week, and you'll like the reason. But the downside is that I didn't have a moment to post any dispatches here.

Let's catch up. There's news to report on two iLife fronts: iTunes and iMovie.

iTunes 4 Internet Sharing Returns. First it's here, then it's gone. Now it's back again: you can share your iTunes library over the Internet, even if you've upgraded to iTunes 4.0.1.

And you can thank James Speth, who gave us Internet-sharing features for iTunes before Apple did. Last year, Speth released iCommune, a free program that made it possible to share an iTunes library over a network or the Internet.

Speth promptly received some iCommunication from Apple's legal department, which claimed he violated the terms of a software licensing agreement. iCommune was shut down. iCommune has since returned in a version 2 update -- Speth rewrote the software to bypass Apple's legal complaint.

But what brings Internet sharing back to iTunes 4.0.1 isn't iCommune -- it's another James Speth production called 401(ok).

According to the 401(ok) documentation, the program operates as an "application-level proxy for the iTunes sharing protocol. The proxy allows your iTunes applications to communicate just as though they were sitting next to each other on a [network]."

The documentation also admits that the current version is "inefficient, ugly, and poorly written." I tried it, and it is indeed flakey. But by and large, it does work: I was able to access a remote music library using iTunes 4.0.1.

Before you music pirates start to drool, you should know that 401(ok) is not a getaway car for music theft. It doesn't, for example, enable you to access the shared libraries of people who haven't upgraded to version 4.0.1.

But if Speth refines the program, 401(ok) may be a good solution for honest folks who simply want to listen to their home-based music library while at work.

iMovie 3.0.3: Ken Burns Becomes Optional. On Tuesday, Apple released an update to iMovie 3. Version 3.0.3 is faster and fixes some bugs. Those two developments alone should thrill iMovie 3 users who have had problems with performance and reliability.

iMovie 3.0.3 ScreenBut there's more: A new check box lets you control whether iMovie applies its Ken Burns pan-zoom effect to photos that you import. Previous versions of iMovie 3 automatically applied the Ken Burns effect unless you went through some extra machinations (described on pages 127 and 148 of The Macintosh iLife).

With version 3.0.3, if you want to import a photo without applying the Ken Burns effect, simply uncheck the Ken Burns Effect box before dragging the photo to the timeline or clip viewer.

And here's a nice twist: You can zoom in on a portion of a photo, effectively cropping it, without applying panning or zooming motion. With the Ken Burns Effect box unchecked, select a photo in the iPhoto browser and then drag the zoom slider and the photo's preview until the photo appears as you want it. Finally, click Apply or drag from the iPhoto browser to the timeline. You'll get a static photo, but zoomed in and cropped.

And does iMovie 3.0.3 successfully address the problems of its predecessors? It's a big improvement. The Ken Burns feature yields smoother pans and zooms, too.

Get the upgrade.