Saturday, May 03, 2003
Posted 1:15 PM
Tips for Listening to Shared Music Over the Internet
Follow-up on the post below: I've been experimenting with listening to iTunes-shared music over the Internet, and I've found a few techniques that can help improve playback reliability. (For background on the following streaming jargon, see pages 40 and 41 of "The Macintosh iLife.")
Increase the buffer size. A larger streaming buffer yields more-reliable playback, particularly with music encoded at high bitrates and with slower connections. Choose Preferences from the iTunes menu, click Advanced, and choose Large from the Streaming Buffer Size pop-up menu.
Listen within your means. Don't expect uninterrupted playback when listening to a song encoded at a higher bit rate than your Internet connection provides. For example, if you have a 200kbps DSL connection, songs encoded at 256kbps probably won't play back smoothly. (The large streaming buffer trick can help, though.)
Display the Bit Rate column. iTunes can display the bit rate for a song: just point to a column heading in the iTunes window, press the Control key, and choose Bit Rate from the shortcut menu that appears. To sort the music library by bit rate, click the Bit Rate column heading. Now you can quickly spot the tunes that are most likely to play, given the speed of your Internet connection.
Remember, Your Mileage May Vary. Other factors can result in interrupted playback: the connection speed of the user who's doing the sharing, Internet congestion, and more. But following the tips above will help improve reliability.
Posted 11:18 AM
Cool Tool for iTunes 4 Sharing
Another one of the magnificent new features in iTunes 4 is the ability to share your music library with other computers on a network or with other people on the Internet. No, this isn't Napster-style sharing: Shared songs are delivered via streaming -- you can't download them to your hard drive.
One of the very best things about iTunes music sharing is that you can "publish" your music library -- or just selected songs or playlists -- so that other users can listen in. It's a fun way to share your musical tastes with people in your neighborhood or elsewhere on the planet.
iTunes is great at finding shared music libraries elsewhere on your network. But how can you find libraries over the Internet? That's where the cool tool comes in: a little freeware program named ServerStore allows you to view a list of publicly shared iTunes libraries. In my tests, some of the libraries weren't accessible, but many were. Seeing other users' music libraries and playlists appear in my own iTunes window was a real kick.
ServerStore is from the folks at The Little App Factory. Give it a try, and let me know how it works for you. (Note: To share your music library over the Internet, you definitely need a fast connection -- a DSL line or better.)
Friday, May 02, 2003
Posted 8:55 AM
Old iPods Finally Get Left Behind
One of the jillion things I've always liked about the iPod is its ability to be upgraded. Each time Apple has added significant features to its new iPods -- the ability to store contact and calendar information, for example -- it has released a software updater that adds the identical capabilities to older models, too.
Alas, this parity has come to an end. The newest iPods -- the ones Steve Jobs unveiled last week -- have capabilities that aren't available to older iPods, not even after you install the iPod 1.3 updater.
Apple has documented the differences between iPod software 1.3 and 2.0 in a Knowledge Base article named iPod 2.0 and 1.3: Software Version Comparison.
Time to buy a new iPod? Maybe not. The 1.3 updater adds the ability to play AAC audio files purchased from the iTunes Music Store. Only a few of the features in iPod software 2.0 (used by the newest iPods) have anything to do with music. So if your iPod primarily does duty as a music machine, don't feel obligated to run out and replace it.
I'll be getting a new iPod soon -- check back next week for reports. And remember, you can write to me with questions and comments that I'll address here.
Thursday, May 01, 2003
Posted 6:32 PM
Just an Observation from Kinko's
So I'm back at the local Kinko's, downloading QuickTime 6.2 and iPod Updater 1.3 before heading back to my slow, on-the-road modem connection.
Next to me here at Kinko's is a gentleman with a PowerBook G4. And what's he doing while he waits for his documents to print? Downloading tunes via LimeWire.
It's ironic and maybe a bit telling: while I download software that will allow me to buy music, someone next to me is stealing it.
Just an observation.
Posted 10:49 AM
MyMac.com Reviews "The Macintosh iLife"
I've always liked Tim Robertson's informative MyMac.com site, which has been publishing about the Mac since 1995.
I like the site even more now. :-)
MyMac.com has published a review of my book/DVD, "The Macintosh iLife." Reviewer David Weeks gives the book/DVD five MacMice out of 5, and calls it "a screaming deal."
I couldn't agree more, but it's nice to see it nonetheless. My thanks to David and Tim and MyMac.com!
Wednesday, April 30, 2003
Posted 4:18 PM
Upgrade to QuickTime 6.2 Before Using Purchased Music in iMovie or iPhoto
A reader writes with an interesting question: "I've downloaded a few songs from the music store and am impressed with the sound. Is there a way, or will there soon be a way to import these AAC files into iMovie? My iMovie doesn't seem to recognize them."
I tried importing some of the tunes I've bought into iMovie -- and had no luck. iTunes 4's Purchased Music playlist appears in iMovie's audio browser, but an error message appeared when I tried to play or import an AAC track.
Curious, I moved over to iPhoto, where I encountered the same behavior: purchased music shows up, but it doesn't work in slideshows or when exporting to a QuickTime movie.
The solution is to upgrade to QuickTime 6.2. This new update doesn't yet show up in Mac OS X's Software Update mechanism, so you must download it manually from the Apple Web site.
At first, I feared that the inability to use purchased music in iMovie or iPhoto was due to the copy protection built into AAC tracks. It's good to see this isn't the case, and that the music you buy through iTunes can be used in your other iLife endeavors.
Posted 8:43 AM
A Report from the iTunes Music Store
Yesterday afternoon, I found temporary relief from my slow, on-the-road modem connection at a local Kinko's. I plugged my Titanium into the Kinko's network, fired up iTunes 4, and headed into the iTunes Music Store.
And I bought and bought and bought.
I'll admit it: I was skeptical of the entire idea of an Apple-operated music service -- not because I didn't think Apple could pull it off, but because music theft is so prevalent that I didn't think people would bother with a fee-based service.
I'm a believer now. The iTunes Music Store makes buying music easier than stealing it. And it lacks the most restrictive limitations of other commercial music-download services -- you can move your songs between Macs and burn them to CDs.
Apple has done a great job of rolling Internet services into iTunes. Rather than using a Web browser to shop for music, you use iTunes itself. The Source area of the iTunes window -- that portion of the window where your playlists are listed -- has a new item, Music Store. Click it, and the right-hand side of the iTunes window changes to show the store's home page, where Apple hawks a variety of artists and albums.
The real fun begins when you search or browse the music store. Apple has adapted iTunes' browse feature to online music shopping: select a genre, and a list of artists appears in the adjacent box. Select a name in the artist box, a list of albums and songs appears to its right (below).
There are a couple of songs from Lee Ritenour's "Festival" album that I always liked but didn't have in digital form. By browsing, I was able to home in on them with a few seconds. I could play a short sample to verify they were they songs I wanted, and then buy them for 99 cents apiece.
This has long been the promise of online music services: the ability to buy just the tracks you want instead of having to shell out $15 or more for an entire CD. The industry has been harping about this for years now; Apple has made it a reality.
Late last night, when I returned to my 28.8 modem connection, I tried buying another song. Alas, the download took place way too slowly -- with the Kinko's broadband connection, tunes were downloading in a minute or so. With my on-the-road modem connection, I was looking at a good 30 minutes or more.
I cancelled the download, figuring I'd rather be out the 99 cents than postpone my beauty sleep. This morning, I thought I'd try again. iTunes was smart enough to know that I'd already bought the song, and encouraged me to choose the Check for Purchased Music command from the Advanced menu. I did, and the song began downloading. Very nice. (Update: this Apple Knowledge Base article describes how iTunes handles interrupted downloads.)
I haven't yet transferred my purchases to another computer or to an iPod. I still have more tunes to buy.
Check back soon for more tales from the iTunes 4 test track. And write to me with your own experiences and questions.
Tuesday, April 29, 2003
Posted 10:21 AM
Music by Modem: Improving Preview Performance with Slow Connections
Following up on the post below: If you're saddled with a slow Internet connection, you can improve music previewing by tweaking iTunes' preferences.
Choose Preferences from the iTunes menu, click the Store button, and then check the box labeled "Load complete preview before playing."
When this box is checked, iTunes loads the entire preview before playing it. You'll wait longer to hear the preview, but at least it won't be interrupted constantly.
Oh, how I miss my fast connection at home.
Posted 8:07 AM
New iTunes, New iPod, New Music
Yesterday was a big day in the iLife world. Apple introduced iTunes version 4, redesigned iPods, and a downloadable music store called the iTunes Music Store.
I've been playing with the new iTunes, and will be posting some updates, tips, and observations as this week progresses.
And here's my first observation: Don't even think about using the iTunes Music Store if you have a slow modem connection. I'm on the road all week, saddled with a connection that rarely goes above 26.4kbps. And with a connection like that, the music tempo is s-l-o-w. I've been unable to preview songs without frequent interruptions (technically, rebuffering).
That isn't surprising, and indeed, Apple recommends a broadband connection for music browsing and buying. But from where I sit, it's a requirement.