iTunes and Me

If this is a rant then it's a rant about my own inadequacies and inability to move on. Since I got Boggy (the name of my iPod Touch), I've been using iTunes as the player, downloader and so on. Before iTunes, if I wanted music, I'd nearly always borrow it from someone, think it's good and then get the album. I'd then burn the album onto my PC to listen to when doing Icar stuff or leave it in the car. Most of my CDs live in a Case Logic thing and never see the light of day. There's an iPod dock for the stereo downstairs and Fish got me an FM transmitter thing for the car. I plug the iPod into my computer at work so I can listen to my music while I work and it never runs out of charge.

Those are all things that are extensions to the technology I use anyway. There is nothing there that I couldn't do without CDs. However, there is often a song or two I want to get hold of and just can't find it anywhere. Sultan's of Ping's album Casual Sex In the Cineplex is an excellent example. I have it on vinyl and it's genius but I can't for the life of my buy it anywhere. Except on iTunes. There it is. For £7. But I don't get a CD with it. I just get the music. No physical thing.

Hang on, I don't like that.

I've got so used to buying music on a piece of carbon fibre that I can go purely digital. It feels weird. What if the data is lost somehow? What if I lose everything, I can't reburn! I can't reburn my Carter USM 30 Something CD because it's worn out and warped. I can't reburn my White Pony CD because I can't find the bastard. When was the last time I lost a hard drive (literally or through corruption) and the data on it? 1998. When I dropped my PC. I still have the first website I ever wrote (Bodge World in 1995) on hard disc because storage is so cheap. I just move it onto a new drive each year. Same with a lot of the old Icar stuff.

But then there's the case of buying the album that's mostly rubbish and you don't know it yet. You listen to the one or two songs you like and that's it. The rest is pap. A World Without Dave by Carter USM suffers from that. So, I've got this disc that has only a couple of songs on it that I like, which I'm going to put on my MP3 player and still store the disc. That sounds like a much worse proposition.

HYPOCRACY! I accuse myself of hypocracy. I bought the excellent Half Life 2 Orange Box online. Never saw a CD. I bought an empty box for BF2142:Northern Strike. An empty box with a key in it. Had to download it. So, it's alright for me to spend a lot of cash on software (far more expensive than a few tunes) and to not have anything physical but it's not ok for me to do this with music. Idiocy.

I'm having trouble. Love or hate being tied into things, iTunes is here and it solves so much. And dammit, it does it so well. If you use it for all it's features, then it has to be admired for how easy it is. If you're a power user, you might find it annoying at times but I've had so few problems with it that it should be admired.

Podcasts. I have been getting into RPG podcasts recently, learning how to make Icar and the way I run it better. Before iTunes, I used my Google Reader to tell me when there's a new one so I could go to the side, hunt for it, download it and then listen. You tell iTunes you like a podcast and it downloads automatically. Videocasts are the same. I can even get it to synchronize automatically with Boggy (I don't because I listen to them while I work, so I select specific things for Boggy).

Then there's the big thing: buying music. I wanted to get that tune off the MFI advert. I wanted it because Kate pulls a funny face and does this weird elbow driven dance when we hear it. Like a Pavlovian response. I hunted on Google for the name of it, plugged it into iTunes and it turned up a load of results. So, which one? The iTunes shop has a 30 second preview so you can check it's the right one. I downloaded it, put it onto Boggy and played it to Kate on the stereo that very night. I had to admit, very slick.

So, what about other music. I searched for Carter USM. There were two I didn't have: "Twin Tub with Guitar", a load of covers that sounded old school and cool and "You Fat Bastard", which I knew I could get from Amazon. Now, do I get it? Does that mean I should get Sultans of Ping FC too? I don't have to buy it all at once, at 80p a song, I could get it in bits.

But then, what about that other song I heard on Pandora before it got shut off? Or that recommendation I heard on Last.FM? For just 80p I could get those. No need to buy the album. No physical thing. Damn.

I'm in a pickle. A paradigm shift is incoming.



baron's picture

It's an inappropriate name. Meet Diomedes, my Toyota Yaris or what about Spartacus, my 1.0 Rover Metro.

brainwipe's picture

Do you name everything?

baron's picture

With itunes do you have the option to redownload it if you loose it like you would with bf2142 digital version and steam based games?

Evilmatt's picture

There's no guarantee, but in practice Apple will allow you to re-download. You have to ask though; it's not as simple as clicking a button.

One of two reasons I avoid iTunes downloads. The other being that if I'm paying (close to) full price, I want my music in full CD-quality, thank you.

AggroBoy's picture

I thought about the CD quality thing. I don't think I'd ever hear the difference. Not the sort of music I download and the volume I play it at.

brainwipe's picture

I've noticed the poorer quality on a few tracks... I only buy stuff on iTunes that I really stand bugger all chance of getting on CD. The work of Mr P.I.P. being a prime example.

I quite like it TBH, it's frighteningly easy to use.


Nibbles's picture

You lack of ability to move on explains why your still wearing Velco shoes. :P

I still perfer CD's but seeing as most of mine were stolen a few years back I'm stuck with a combination of MP3's and CD's. I just perfer to have something that I can hold for my money, I also have no portable MP3' player so maybe its time I caught up and got one.

Dwain's picture

May I recomend the iPod? Lovely players. ;)

Nibbles's picture

I was thinking about the Iphone, you may noticed another thread about it. But you want to be careful about recommending Apple products as they are the spawn of Satan.

Dwain's picture

Don't post needlessly antagonistic posts mate. If I could trust my judgenet at the moment I would have deleted that off the cuff.

Don't go round to other threads bitching just because people don't agree with you. Even (as this clearly is) in jest, because that's not how people will read it.

byrn's picture

Sorry Byrn but you need to chill dude. My last post here is clearly in jest if anyone is reading it seriously they even haven't met me or are stupid, and seeing as noone on here is stupid then and we've all meet each other then there's no problem is there?

Dwain's picture

I said, if I could trust my judgement. I feel like absolute shit, so I can't

Even here, that is what emoticons are for. People don't always use them purely for the hell of it. They are a simple way to say that what you posed is in jest. Use them and even when I'm ill and incredibly irritable I won;'t be having a go.

byrn's picture

Do we have cool emots or am I stuck with text based ones?

Next you'll be wanting me to use puncuation properly and get my there and theirs right. :P

Dwain's picture

No idea ;P

Nah, punctuation is fine.

byrn's picture

Simpson was taking the piss...and sterling work it was too. I'm pretty certain I've already barraged him for submitting to iSheep.

babychaos's picture

I'm just posting my findings. Take it or leave it, posted with best intentions.

brainwipe's picture

I did try to get on with iTunes, as several people advised me that it was good software for general MP3 playback on a PC. I've always voiced skepticism about combining hardware and data, and I still firmly believe in hardcopy backups (hence why I initially went down the minidisc route rather than the MP3 player route). MP3 players (as with many other portable items) I see as disposable technology...they are there to be used and abused, and undoubtedly there will be something better along next year anyway for the same price. I still haven't gone over to buying music online, and to be honest theres not much stuff out there right now that I like that I don't already have.

I ultimately gave up on iTunes when I found that the single most time-consuming task I did was re-tagging MP3 tracks (which becomes far more important when you are playing back from a player rather than a PC). iTunes had an incomplete toolset to do this, as did pretty much every other chunk of software out there. I eventually found out that MusicMatch had the most comprehensive tagging tools, and went over to that. Now I use Winamp, mainly as it has the smallest installation footprint (if you choose not to install all the crap). The fact that when iTunes installs a gun is placed against your head, and Quicktime comes along for the ride doesn't exactly endear me to it either.

The MP3 player I currently use is a Creative Zen Stone. Its cheap, small, damage resistant (no moving parts), has a decent armband and doesn't have any shitty DRM upload crap, simple drag'n'drop all the way, allowing me to swap music wherever there is a PC. It also has a radio built-in, so if I'm ever completely strapped for something to listen to there is a back-up. Hardware wise I still prefer the small Sony player I used to have, as the battery life of 35+ hours was great, and the playback quality was the best I've heard, but a combination of stubborn software and crappy accessories (armbands, I'm looking at you) forced my hand into swapping over to a different brand. I suppose ultimately playback quality isn't a major factor, as its only as good as the headphones you wear, and headphone choice for me is based on practicality over quality (i.e. no Sennheiser headclamps, rather Phillips earhooks)...not that the Stone is bad at playback, but when I use speakers the Sony was better...

I'd never get another large MP3 player. Its something I tried, but ultimately found to be superflous. Its not that I don't have the volume of media required to utilize the space, its more that the size, mass, delicacy of the internal HDD and utterly excessive features that I'd simply never use (so why pay for them?) mean it ends up sitting in a cupboard gathering dust.

/added - just proofread this and realised the first paragraph is all over the shop...I cover four different points in as many sentences. Perhaps I should have bullet-pointed that section?

babychaos's picture

Having tried Itunes once it wasn't the most pleasing experiance, its moved about all my mp3s brilliant, and put all the ones it couldnt reconigise into one big folder, if anyone can tell me how I can sort that out I'll be most relived. I must add I properly agreed to some kind of okay prompt, I wouldn't have minded but it wasn't even for my Ipod.

Dwain's picture

I have indeed already received a "Pete-ing" for my iPod purchase! I really like mine, mainly 'cos it is an absolute piece of piss to use. The main issue I had was with the frighteningly shitty headphones they provide with them, easily solved with posh sony noise reducing ones.

Never had an issue with the tagging. It just imports the CD tags the songs automatically. I appreciate they are overpriced for what they are but I'm willing to pay a premium for the ease of use. If I had to get another MP3 tomorrow it would definitely be an iPod warts and all.

Nibbles's picture

The issue I have with tagging is from older MP3's I have. A quick check of the HDD dedicated to MP3's shows just over 5,500 files on there, of which probably half or so were ripped using old tag formats, or *cough* I no longer have the CD. The most vital omission is often the track number (the file is correctly labelled, but the tags themselves are not), meaning that its often upto alphabetical sequence what gets played when (and many bands, very selfishly, do not sequence the songs on an album alphanumerically....bastards).

Not wishing to belabour a point but if I believe that you've only ever had an do you know its the easiest to use? There are certainly better software alternatives that iTunes...

babychaos's picture

I really don't, but it is very easy for me to use. I fear change. When the time come for me to get another MP3 I'll probably have a look around but there would have to be something significantly better for me to not just plumb for another pod.

Nibbles's picture

"There are certainly better software alternatives that iTunes..."

Such as? It depends on requirements, surely. If you require something that fits what iTunes gives you, surely it's the best? If you want a player that organised music, syncs with your media player, downloads RSS feed driven podcasts, allow you to buy tunes online, view videos and search an enormous index of free/paid for music, what is the alternative?

brainwipe's picture

Winamp will do all of that bar the buy tracks thing and it has a couple of new features like the winamp remote widget that I don't believe itunes has. I've not tried it's media player auto sync features but I use it to organise and play my MP3s at work as well as the occasional video and I have it setup to automagically download podcasts from their rss feed when new ones are issued.

As you say it's largely down to requirements and winamp being extendible with a somewhat open platform people can add almost any functionality it lacks. It doesn't have the access to the music library you can buy from but then that gives you the freedom to choose which of those services you might want to use rather than tying you to their own.

Disclaimer: I've never used iTunes since I use windows and don't own an ipod so there has never been any reason to.

Evilmatt's picture

I shall give winamp, with plugins, a go and see if its any cheaper. used Winamp loads before, since version 1 but I didnt realise it had become so feature rich. Thanks for the tip!

brainwipe's picture

iTunes is one of the biggest resouce hogs I've seen. It takes up a huge amount of memory when running, and also likes to leave lots of services running even when its not. It also occasionally spends inordinate amounts of time deciding to try and work out gapless playback information from your library (which seems to effectively freeze it when you go over about 2,000 tracks). Its mini player is less than great. Its tagging functionality is mediocre at best. Winamp I can set off, and then minimise it to the system tray...job done. I also don't have to install pointless features (Quicktime, visualisations etc etc)

I don't do podcasts, and I don't use a music store, so as I initially posted my requirements are;

  • Small footprint
  • Tagging tools
  • Play music

Winamp seems to sync with anything, even the Stone with it's non-DRM design (probably as Matt said, if someone needed it they wrote it).

I did actually try the iTunes store last night, as I was looking for a couple of tracks by Tribe of Toffs. For some reason it didn't load up. I checked through a third party eventually and there was nothing on there for them anyway, but not exactly a great first useage (no other online store had them either, apart from as part of a football chants compilation?!)

babychaos's picture