Tech Post 3 – iTunes

BOC Correspondent # 3
BOC Correspondent # 3

I will hit iTunes Match first because my beef there is fairly short and the end of my rant against the new version of iTunes segues directly into the next post on iOS.

iTunes Match proports to provide several services that aroused my interest. It could provide higher quality versions of songs you possess and in many cases fix glitchy, skippy type errors found in older degraded files. It would make all your content available on all your devices. This is a feature available through the link between the iTunes Store and the iCloud for content you had purchased via the iTunes Store. But the iTunes Match system is supposed to be a bit more elegant, easier to use, and provides that service for all your content regardless of its origin. The process of adding your mixed origin content to the cloud also provides you with a true backup of that content.

My experience with iTunes Match was basically the exact opposite of the description. None of my damaged songs got fixed, despite downloading fresh copies after completing the initial sync/match/upload. Many songs, around 75, were no longer available on my iPhone. The reasons seemed to be that Cloud Tunes could not figure out which version of these songs i actually had. This did not happen with obscure stuff. Most of the less well known bands’ music behaved with no issues. I had the problem with Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and The Rolling Stones to name a few. Cloud Tunes can’t figure it out, grays out the songs, and adds a tiny icon you can hit for “more information”. This icon leads to a really tiny dropdown window that has six instances of the song title but no other information presented in the very very minuscule resolution window. What i am supposed to do? Guess which of these six instances of the same song title correspond to my album – at random since there is no other information available to me? Click one and hope for the best? Repeat this process for the next 74 tracks? Or just get used to no longer being able to listen to songs I own that are already on my device but that I am no longer allowed to hear? I bailed.

The good news. Because i bailed early, within 5 days of ordering the service, i contacted Apple and got a full refund.

I really do not like the new iTunes (anything past 10.7). Usually I will give new tech a few days and try to get to know the new features and see what the developers were trying to do. I did not do this for this version of iTunes. It did not last more than an hour before I hit the boards to find out how to revert to the previous version. Why?

The things that I use iTunes for became harder to find (more clicks) and harder for me to see/use. I like lists. I like “list view” wherever available. The classic iTunes layout worked well for my needs. On the left I can easily click between media types (music, movies, tv shows, audiobooks, and podcasts) or perform the primary activity that brings me there – click a playlist and jam out. I do not mind that Apple changed things. I assume that they had a reason and were either responding to customer feedback or projecting a probable course users would enjoy. What does bother me is that they made it impossible to retain or revert to previous viewing methods.

An example highlights the pre and post Steve Jobs attitude in this regard. I do not care for coverflow. Is it neat? Sure. Is it a cool bit of coding? Sure. But it is not useful for me. Coverflow came out in the Jobs era. When coverflow came to iTunes I was happy for my more visually inclined friends while also being grateful to Apple that instead of limiting our choices, they accommodated multiple perspectives. If you are a word/list guy like me rather than a cover/image guy, you were not forced to use coverflow. You could continue to use the lists as you had from the beginning of iTunes.

The new version of iTunes does not provide any options for viewing your data in the old way. It is a complete redesign. This is a very un-Apple approach to design and “innovation”. Throughout the 90s when i was still a Windows user, my Apple friends would tell me about some of the great features in Apple systems. One oft touted feature was that the menus are always the same. If you want to see what options are available to tweak a program, those options are always found under “preferences” and you can always access preferences in the exact same place for every single program on the system. This highlighted a huge difference between Apple and Windows systems. Not only did it make it easier to get things done, you felt like someone who designed the software might actually use it and want you to be able to use it also. As I got serious about switching my company and client computers from Windows to Apple, and began researching not only what I might need to know, but how I could teach other long-term Windows users to use Apple computers, I came across the same advice time and again – if you can use iTunes you can use a Mac. Not only did that prove true, it was great advice and I made it step one in prepping all my tech support clients for the switch.

This redesign of iTunes, requires you to give up your previous ways of organizing and interacting with content, most of which you probably own. I have been using this system since it came out for Windows in 2003. Innovation is fine. Forcing your user base to abandon a decade of effective methodology is just plain weird and frustrating. If they were fixing a problem, maybe I could see this move. If they were providing additional functionality, I would not like the approach, but I could understand it. As far as I can tell from experience and research, neither of these things are the case.

What this feels like, what this really reminds me of – major updates and/or new releases of Windows. Nothing really works better. Some things do not work as well as they used to. But we did move everything from where you expect it be to a new place, and we gave some old operations and processes new nomenclature. I must tell you, few things in the tech world make me as crazy as Apple acting like Microsoft.

My suspicion is that the main impetus behind making these kinds of changes is the continued drive to synergize the experience between the OS and the iOS. I don’t have a problem with that idea. I do have a problem with this aspect of the implementation. I will get into this more in the next post, but for me, they are taking the worst parts of the changes in iOS iTunes and importing them to the parent OS version.

If you also have a Mac and miss the old iTunes, let me know and I will send you some instructions on how to revert to an older version.

Next Up: iOS

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