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“Perfect” iTunes EQ Setting Revised

A revised version of of the Merlin Mann / Mac OS X Hints classic:

perfect itunes

I’ve changed the layout so that the highest setting sits on 0, instead of boosting frequencies. This leads to a more even sound and less distortion of the high end. Everyone’s ears a little different, so your mileage may vary. Experimentation is encouraged.

Of course, what you’re listening through will make a difference. I heartily recommend these over-the-ear cans from Audio-Technica, or if you’re looking to spend under $50, I don’t think you can do better than the Sennheiser HD-202s. If you buy either of them from that link, I get a small kickback.

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Creating A Personal Radio Station With iTunes Smart Playlists

This is a recipe for using iTunes Smart Playlists to create a personal radio station from your music library, which will play old favorites, new jams, and obscure stuff in ratios which you can tune yourself. The purpose of this isn’t to tell you how to handle your music, but rather to help you get more of out it. As such, consider every single rule to be a suggestion based on what works for me. This is also slightly involved for the iTunes novice, but shouldn’t take you more than 15 minutes, and what is 15 minutes weighed against a new life of constantly rocking the fuck out?

The first thing we have to do is create several source playlists which we’ll use to funnel the proscribed ratios of classics, newness, and weirdness into your earholes.

Parts Is Parts

These are the bits and bobs which will, when combined, make your music-listening experience much better. I suggest making a new folder called Radio to hold these playlists, so they won’t clutter your sidebar.

  • Radio Core

    • Match All of the Following
    • Media Kind: Music
    • Last Skipped is not in the last 15 days
    • Special exemptions for stuff you don’t want to show up in the radio (e.g. live shows, or your own music)
    • No limit on size
  • Radio Most Played

    • Match All of the Following
    • Playlist is Radio Core
    • Limited to 1 GB
    • Ordered by Most Played
  • Radio Neglected

    • Match All of the Following
    • Playlist is Radio Core
    • Last played is not in the last 1 month
    • Limit to 500 MB
    • Order by random
  • Radio New

    • Match All of the Following
    • Playlist is Radio Core
    • Date Added is in the last 1 month
    • Limit 500 MB
    • Order by random
  • Radio Top Rated

    • Match All of the Following
    • Playlist is Radio Core
    • Rating is Greater Than 3 stars
    • Limit 1 GB
    • Order by Random
  • Radio Sprinkler

    • Match All of the Following
    • Playlist is Radio Core
    • Playlist is NOT Radio New
    • Playlist is NOT Radio Neglected
    • Playlist is NOT Radio Most Played
    • Playlist is NOT Radio Top Rated
    • Limit 500 MB
    • Order by random

The most important part of the above source playlists is the “Limit” field. We’re using it to tune just how much of each playlist gets into our overall radio playlist. Want to hear more of your favorites? Increase the limit. Now that we’ve got our source playlists set up, we can pour them into our main Radio playlist.

And Finally, Your Radio Station

This is your proper Radio playlist, the one you’ll click “play” on and listen to until it is time for bed.

  • Radio [Whatever!]
    • Match Any of the Following
    • Playlist is Radio New
    • Playlist is Radio Neglected
    • Playlist is Radio Most Played
    • Playlist is Radio Top Rated
    • Playlist is Sprinkler
    • No limit
    • Click the “Shuffle” button

This is the setup we use here at EFHQ North, and it works swimmingly. My own iTunes Radio just played Just Can’t Get Enough by Yaz, followed by Arlo Guthrie’s Los Angeles and R.E.M.’s Crazy. That is awesome. Comments and suggestions go to the usual place.

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Status Of My Predictions For The Sept 1st 2010 Apple Event

iPod Touch

Wrong on the capacity, it tops out at 64gb. Right about FaceTime cameras and everything else. This one was a gimme. If you look at the Apple Store you will see that, despite it’s absence from the Keynote, they still sell iPod Classics with 160gb hard drives. It’s just a matter of time, though. I don’t think Apple is THAT sentimental. Apparently the Classic does serves a market big enough to keep it around for now. My guess? They won’t bury it on stage like they did Mac OS9.

iPod Shuffle & Nano

Wrong and extra wrong. Not only is the shuffle still around, but they added the buttons back. It’s a fine gateway drug into the world of Apple/iTunes at the $49 price point. The Nano sticks at $149, loses it’s hardware buttons, loses the camera, and gains a multitouch display. It looks like it lost the ability to play video, too. The Nano replacing the shuffle was by far the wackiest of my predictions. No surprises.

AppleTV

Wrong about switching the name of iTV, and glad to be wrong. Wrong about announcing a developer program. It does run iOS, though. Right about $0.99 TV show rentals (streaming, no less!).

Other

Right about streaming content to iOS devices to AppleTV.

Predictions are a lot less fun once you know the truth.

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Google, Verizon, Net Neutrality, and iTunes Cloud

Google: Makes money by selling ads. Has a smartphone OS that helps them sell ads on search results, apps, etc. Upset with Apple’s foray into advertising. Starting to feel the pinch of a possible iPhone for Verizon, their most visible Android partner.

Verizon: Makes money by selling bits. Sells dozens of phones with dozens of different operating systems from dozens of different manufacturers. Has sunk some money into Droid, but isn’t married to the platform. Will go with whichever benefits their bottom line most.

Apple: Makes money selling software, and some bits. Just got into the ad space with iAds. Their iPhone sells its own bits and sells its own ads. Doesn’t like making concessions to wireless carriers, and will call them out in public. If they launch a version of their iPhone for Verizon, Verizon isn’t likely to get a cut of their App, Music, Video, or Ad market. Those are all bits that Verizon wants to charge extra for.

iTunes Cloud: Live streaming of a user’s purchased iTunes tracks to any supported device. Only likely supported phone platform? iOS, the iPhone’s operating system. No phone carrier is going to get a cut of tracks purchased for this service.

Net Neutrality: Means that carriers aren’t allowed to slow down certain kinds of internet traffic to help their business goals. Means that iTunes Cloud can stream as many tracks as the user is willing to buy bandwidth for. Means Verizon doesn’t get a cut aside from their 3G bandwidth spectrum pricing, which is getting cheaper all the time despite their (recent) complaining about capacity problems.

Dots: Partially connected.

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Adam Lisagor: iPad TV

The Sandwich has some thoughts on the iPad, TV, and the rumored new Apple TV. I like what he’s thinking:

Could it be that Apple has chosen to separate our video content and store it temporarily in this ghetto because there is something new and awesome on the horizon? Here’s what I think: Soon enough, that placeholder app called Videos will go away, to replaced by a new app called Apple TV.

The current iPad videos app is a real turd in the iPad’s otherwise beautiful punchbowl. This makes a lot of sense.

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F*****M From Porn

WFMU’s Benjamen Walker on Apple’s terrible text auto-censorship in iTunes.

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Music Publishers Want Royalties For 30 Second Song Samples

Not a story from the Onion. I don’t know where to start on this, I really don’t.

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Preliminary Notes on Apple’s Recent “It’s Only Rock and Roll” Music Event

In no particular order:

  • App recommendations: Wholly necessary, but we aren’t out of the woods yet regarding App Store curation. I bet there’s a good deal of money to be made just doing that: Curating collections of apps. Boing Boing got huge during the blog boom for curating other blogs, why wouldn’t it work for applications on a still-new platform? Someone’s going to get rich digging down on serious Touch applications.

  • iPod Touch No camera, no mention of 3GS-type speed bump. Kinda got the shaft. I can’t think of a single good reason for not including a camera that doesn’t involve trying to trick people into buying a Nano. Surely they aren’t afraid a (not that great) camera is going to steer fence-sitters from the iPhone to the Touch? Update: It’s now come out that the 8gb ($199) iPod Touch has the older, slightly slower, hardware, and all the others in the Touch line have the upgraded “3GS” innards. You’ll notice on the “Compare iPod Models” page on Apple’s site, the 8gb is sectioned off from his higher-capcity and speedier brothers.

  • iTunes 9 Now with more bloat and cumbersome, non-portable, versions of the extra features that people who illegally download albums already get in more useful formats. Still a 32-bit Carbon app. Gruber was right about WebKit.

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Apple Blocks Palm Pre iTunes Syncing

Very expected, but sooner than I thought. What are the odds on an Apple/Palm legal showdown over iTunes lockout? Seems like Palm would have a good chance.

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Why Palm’s WebOS ‘Media Sync’ iTunes Integration Can’t Be Legit

John Gruber on the new Pre’s integration with iTunes. He’s, as usual, pretty right. The real crime here, though, is that Apple doesn’t provide a good way for third party devices to do this without this kind of chicanery.

There’s another thing here, too: maybe Palm is using their position to force Apple’s hand? Obviously, the market that Palm is gunning for is going to have a lot of iTunes users, and for many (including me, if I owned a Pre) easy, smooth, syncing with iTunes isn’t just a feature, it is an essential.

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iPhone Anthology Fiction

Warren Ellis’s recent postings about Papernet and my always-on interest in Print-On-Demand gave me this idea, which I’m jotting down here in case I never get to do it.

So you’ve got your iPhone, and they sell tons of old books and comics and even new eBooks. Why not magazines? I’m not talking about Better Homes and Gardens, really, but new, modern, magazine-like content.

I think there’s definitely room for, as example, a monthly sci-fi ‘zine posted on the iTunes store or available as a PDF download for the same, reasonable, price or just post the plain text for free. You could commission new work and pull from the Public Domain or Creative Commons licensed works to fill the thing out, perhaps make each issue themed, with some art for each story. I’m talking Weird Tales or the like. Short stories to read on the ride home. Sell it for a buck or two.

You could even give the thing away, and just sell art prints or print-on-demand copies or shirts or, every 6 months, a nice perfect-bound edition of the previous 6 issues.

All you’d really need is a cover artist and enough time to lash the thing together each month.

Yes, it seems to me like you could make some very interesting iPhone Anthology Fiction…

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App Store Customers Are Neither Bad Nor Good by Default

Garret Murray’s most recent post on his blog, the land where posts do not have titles, is about what happened last week with his (lovely) application, Ego. In it, he basically vents about being a single developer caught between a rock (customers angry that something stopped working) and a hard place (Apple’s arcane approvals process). His frustration is completely understandable with regards to Apple, but I think his larger concern is wrong. In the post, he says this:

This kind of thing continually reinforces something I’ve thought about a lot since the App store was released, which sounds horrible to say but it might be true: Apple is creating an ecosystem of the kind of customers I don’t want.

John Gruber thought it important enough to link to the post using that link as illustration, with the title “Are App Store Customers Good Customers?” This time, though, I think the question is already answered: No, not realy. But the App Store doesn’t create Good or Bad Customers, either. Sturgeon’s Law just as well here as anywhere. What the App Store does do is make it very easy for a user to complain when the mood strikes them.

It’s hard not be frustrated when you have to wait for something beyond your control, but the simple facts are these:

  1. Garrett charged money for an application.

  2. The amount of money is irrelevant.

  3. The application sold Google Analytics support in the same breath as support for other applications that have solid developer APIs

  4. In doing so created an expectation that GA support was “stable” and “not likely to break at the whims of Google with no warning.”

  5. You cannot blame any customer for being angry when that happened.

Do I agree that the users leaving many of these comments are probably huge assholes? Yes. Could Apple do more to mitigate the costs for Developers when something goes wrong? Yes. But the frustration that made Mr. Murray write his blog post is the very same kind of frustration that made those customers, assholes or not, write their negative reviews.

More users means more sales means more assholes.

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O’Reilly’s Round-up of iPhone Application Statistics

Lots of interesting data. As a commenter notes, the “ratings” metric should be taken with a grain of salt. Instead of defaulting to “no” stars (and possibly prompting the user to choose a rating if they’ve not done so) the App Store defaults to 1 star. Since it doesn’t require you to select a star, there are a lot of positive-to-middling reviews with 1 star ratings.

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iTunes Price Changes Hurt Some Rankings

Glenn Peoples, writing for Billboard:

On Wednesday, one day after the price increase, the iTunes Top 100 chart had 40 songs priced at $1.29 and 60 with the original $0.99 price point. The $1.29 songs lost an average of 5.3 places on the chart while the $0.99 songs gained an average of 2.5 chart positions.

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Presenting Software Features and Understanding User Unrest

Adding features to applications is a constant trade-off between opposing forces. Sometimes adding to or changing software can be a hinderance both to the user and the developer in several ways.

Ego, Garrett Murray’s excellent iPhone application, was blocked by Google Analytics yesterday. Since support for GA is one of Ego’s advertised features, paying users are understandably upset. Garrett is a good developer, and I’ve been using his software for years (his application xPad was one of the first non-Apple bits of Mac software I ever purchased) but I think much of the user reaction to this issue was predictable and preventable.

Unlike many of the other stat-tracking widgets used in Ego, Google Analytics does not have an official API with which developers can retrieve data for use in applications. This means that to get the data at all, Ego has to use what I’d (not at all disdainfully) classify as a “hack”; Getting at useful information in an unsupported way. The problem with this is that the average user has no reason to suspect that Google Analytics portion of his $2 iPhone application may stop working without any prior warning. This is a case of the classic “stopped working for no reason” that developers hear all the time. There is a reason, and it’s a pretty simple one, but the user has no frame of reference for it. What’s more,the user has absolutely no reason to know the reason. It’s not their job. They just saw a feature list and clicked buy.

Here’s a screen shot of the features section of the Ego application page on the iTunes store:

ego-features

You can see here that the Google Analytics feature is listed right next to services with officially supported APIs, such as Feedburner and Twitter.

What this says to the user is “these features are equal, and just as likely to work” which we now know isn’t the case. A lot of applications do things like this, and the intent isn’t malicious- the average user just genuinely doesn’t know and doesn’t need to know what an API is, or what has one and what doesn’t.

Since there is no “official” way to include Google Analytics data, the GA widget is a trade-off between feature set and usability. Unofficial means that it’s more likely to stop working “for no reason.” Unofficial means that Google can change whatever they like whenever they like, and you just have to eat it, like Garrett is doing now.

He’s is obviously a smart guy, and I’m sure he weighed the pros and cons of including support for Google Analytics in the first place, but I’m also pretty sure he’s second guessing that decision at least a little bit today. This isn’t to say that he made the wrong one- I don’t think he did- but that the way in which application features are presented to users create expectations for those features that may have unintended consequences for developers.

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How To Back Up Your iTunes Music With rsync On Mac OS X

Update: This is confirmed as working on 10.5 (Leopard) & 10.6 (Snow Leopard).

The average Mac user probably doesn’t mess much with the powerful (but almost entirely un-friendly) Unix underpinnings of OS X, nor do they generally need to. Sometimes, though, the tools provided in the shell are so useful, that it’s worth taking the plunge. Keeping a good backup of your iTunes music folder is, in my opinion, one of these times. To do it, we’re going to use one single line of code, and a unix command-line tool that is built-in to OS X: rsync.

This tutorial makes a couple of assumptions. Firstly, this might work on versions of OS X before 10.4 Tiger. I haven’t tested it, so I really don’t know. So we’re going to assume you’re using 10.4 or newer. Secondly, I’m going to pretend that you’ve kept iTunes at it’s default setting, and it is keeping all of your music files where it usually does (in /Users/yourusername/Music/iTunes Music). Third, I’m going to proceed as if you want to back up your music from one drive to a second drive. It doesn’t matter if it’s external or internal, beefy firewire enclosure or USB thumbstick. So long as it has enough space. For simplicity sake, I’m going to call them Main Drive and Backup Drive. Let’s go.

Step 1: Set Up Your Directory

The first thing we need to do is make a directory on your Backup Drive to keep your backed-up music in. Open the Finder, and click on your backup drive in the sources list, on the left. The sources list looks something like this:

Sources List in 10.4

Click on whichever drive you want to use as a backup, and create a new folder there (command+shift+n, or click File and New Folder in the Finder menu). Call it “Music Backup”.

Step 2: The Cool Stuff

Now we’re going to use the Terminal. Open the Finder, and navigate to Applications -> Utilities and then double-click the Terminal application. It’ll open up and give you a nice blank screen. I’m going to show you the command we’ll be using, and then I’m going to explain it. It won’t take long. Here’s the command:

rsync -rvv /Users/yourusername/Music/iTunes /Volumes/Backup\ Drive/Music/

We’re calling the command rsync, here, a very quick and powerful synchronization tool. The -rvv tells rsync to recursively go through directories, and be very verbose. Very verbose means it’s going to tells us what it’s doing for every single file it goes through, so we can make sure it’s running smoothly this first time. The next time you run this, you can safely omit the vv part without worry.

Here’s how we build the command: In your terminal, type in rsync -rvv. The space after -rvv is important. Now, open up your Finder window, and click on the Music icon in the lower left. This will bring you to your music folder. There should be a folder here called iTunes. Click on the iTunes folder, and drag it on top of your terminal window, and release. OS X is so clever that it automatically copies the directory’s path into the terminal window for you. In your terminal window, put a space after the directory name that’s just been added, then, using the Finder again, navigate to the Music Backup folder we made in step one, and click and drag it onto the terminal window in the same way. It should, again, look something like this:

rsync -rvv /Users/yourusername/Music/iTunes /Volumes/Backup\ Drive/Music/

Take a second look to make sure your terminal looks like that, and then hit he return key. If it works, you’ll see rsync dumping it’s output onto the screen very quickly, and you probably won’t be able to read it. If you’ve got a lot of music, this could take many minutes. A beer may be in order. When it’s done, it will say something like this, and stop scrolling:

sent 5743531756 bytes received 11640 bytes 15976476.76 bytes/sec

total size is 61611466477 speedup is 10.73

What the actual numbers say isn’t important for our purposes. That just means it’s done. To make sure everything worked out okay, you can open your Music Backup folder in the finder. It should have all sorts of stuff in it, now. If all went well, your music is backed up, and you can close the terminal application.

That’s It

Yep. Simple, eh? The coolest part is, each time you run it from now on, it only copies the files that have been changed, drastically reducing the time it takes to back things up. rsync also has the capability to back things up from remote servers (like a web site, or another computer of yours), which you can learn all about in the documentation. For now, though, you can just enjoy the security of knowing that the odds of losing your entire David Bowie collection are effectively halved.