Category Archives: iPod

iPod and other MP3 players

iTunes not up to date

Downloaded the latest iTunes 9.2.1.

Installed using the less-bloat method (for people like me who just want to use it to manage an iPod):

Extract the components from the iTunes setup EXE…

AppleApplicationSupport.msi /passive
Quicktime.msi /passive
iTunes.msi /passive

All good! All up to date!

I decided to fire up Quicktime and make sure none of its stupid tray icons were configured to run all the time, wasting my memory and CPU. What do I find?

Quicktime out of date

Quicktime is out of date — it tells me. It’s only 7.6.6, and you should be running 7.6.7.

Oh, bravo Apple — can’t even keep their own software up to date.

iPad thoughts

Some thoughts on the iPad.

It looks like a giant iPhone. Having no lid to cover up the screen seems odd.

Some are ripping into its faults, including no iBook feature outside the USA (at least initially), no camera, no USB port, no memory card reader, no Flash support, no multitasking. Yikes.

But I do love the comments about the screen being bigger than an iPod/iPhone, like this is some revelation nobody thought of before.

“A larger screen means that games can be more immersive, as well as allowing for higher detail and bigger animations,” said Peters.

A bigger screen! Amazing!

You mean… just like every other notebook or desktop computer out there?

But hey, it does look pretty nice. I bet lots of people buy them.

I bet it could be almost as successful as the Apple Newton. *grin*

I’d be annoyed

WTF? While iPhone users get their free upgrade to OS 3.0, iPod touch users have to pay US$9.95 for it?!

I’d be a tad annoyed about that.

Via Graham Cluley, who points out that it might have been nice if Apple had made the 46 fixed vulnerabilities available for free, even if you still had to pay for the other stuff.

iTunes with less bloat

(Part of my project to re-install my main home PC.)

I’ve been re-installing my main home PC, and trying to avoid putting junk on it.

iTunes 8 has blown out to a 70Mb download, up from about 20Mb just a couple of years ago with version 4, 33Mb for version 5, 35Mb for version 6, and 49Mb for version 7.

Part of the reason is that they bundle in a bunch of stuff: Quicktime, Bonjour (for networking), Apple Mobile Device Support (for iPhone and iPod Touch), MobileMe (for syncing with the service previously known as .Mac) and Apple Software Update (automatic updates, but includes shovelling in more stuff you don’t want).

The very intelligent Ed Bott investigated and found the following solution to cutting out the crap.

Download the iTunes setup. Then open it with an archive program such as 7-Zip or WinZip or WinRAR.

For people like me who have only old iPods, Nanos and Minis in the house, all you need is iTunes itself, and Quicktime. So extract and run the following:

Quicktime.msi /passive

iTunes.msi /passive
(For 64-bit: iTunes64.msi /passive )

…and that’s it. Done.

More details from Ed Bott — including what to do if you have an iTunes Touch or iPhone.

Copying your iPod MP3 collection onto a Windows PC via the iPod

I wanted an instant music collection at work, without installing iTunes or anything else, and without individually ripping the CDs. Fortunately all my CDs had been ripped to MP3 on my iPod, so I just took it into work and plugged it in.

Of course you don’t want to use iTunes, as that will mess it up completely, but as long as you can browse around the iPod’s files (eg you’ve switched-on Enable Disk Use), look into the \iPod_Control\Music directory (it’s hidden, so switch Explorer to view hidden files) and you’ll see iTunes has helpfully given random meaningless names to the MP3 files, such as F00\AJUR.mp3

No matter. Copy them to the new PC, and then drag them to Windows Media Player’s media library. It looks at the MP3 tags, which do match the actual artists and track names, and displays those in its library.

Done.

I knew there was a reason I encoded all my songs as MP3 instead of AAC. While there are hacks to get WMP to play AACs, officially it can’t — making it awkward to do on a corporate PC. I figured when I ripped them that MP3s are more widely supported, and perhaps more futureproof.

Saw a guy on the train with an old-style portable CD player. ‘Cos, you know, digital music from real CDs have a warmth that MP3/AAC on iPods just can’t match…

Bloody iTunes

WTF is wrong with iTunes? Why does it have so much trouble using a network drive as its Library? (Or it may be not so much it being on a network drive, as me daring not to put the library in My Music.)

It's continually telling me that it's lost some songs (apparently chosen at random that day, as it'll loose a few tracks off each album), or giving me an error along the lines of:

The required folder cannot be found.

Oh, brilliant. WHICH FREAKING FOLDER ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT? At least give me a clue so I can go looking for what the problem is.

Oh yeah, the problem is actually at Apple; their Windows team just can't get this right.

Ejecting and re-connecting the iPod temporarily fixes it, but it took three or four goes of this to get the sync finished. Very annoying.

iTunes goes DRM-free

According to the AU iTunes store, for AU iTunes users, the cost to convert your existing iTunes purchases to “iTunes Plus” DRM-free 256kbps AAC is:

  • $0.50 (inc GST) per song
  • 30% of the current album price
  • $1.00 per music video (same quality)

From the looks of it, not all music is yet available in the iTunes Plus format.

Thanks to Apple's reluctance to specifically show the iTunes software version on the download page, it's not clear to me if everyone needs to upgrade, or if recent versions can skip upgrading. (I'm running 8.0.1.11 — it appears to be sufficient?) It may also mean problems for people with moderately old (pre-OS X 10.4) Macs.

Bigpond selling MP3s

This should be welcome to Aussies who can't buy DRM-free music from Amazon, who want to be free of Apple's iTunes DRM and don't want to delve into the shadowy world of AllOfMP3(*): Telstra's Bigpond Music has started selling DRM-free MP3-format music. It only covers certain artists at the moment, but here's hoping it expands rapidly, as they appear to have lined-up deals with most of the major labels:

The agreements will see BigPond offer music from record labels Sony BMG, Universal Music, Warner Music and EMI, as well as leading Australian independent record labels and distributors including MGM, Inertia, Liberation, IODA, and AmpHea

d.

Tracks are A$1.69 (the same as iTunes); albums are A$16.50 (slightly cheaper) — or A$15 for Bigpond broadband subscribers.

(*) I don't know for sure if AllOfMP3 is legit or not, but I do know this — for the amount of money they're charging, no way is any money getting back to the artist.

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Nathan's iPhone review

Nathan's gone and bought an iPhone. Reposted with permission from his Melbourne Reviewer blog, here's his review of it.

Okay, so here's my review of the 3g Iphone. Probably showing a tad of bias but stay with me anyway, also I go on a bit, so sorry about that. Also it's not technically Melbourne, but plenty of Melbournians lined up just like me on Friday morning!

I was always an “Apple Hater” and I resisted getting an ipod for a long time, (I had Creative MP3 Players for ages). I couldn't understand using a Mac and thought all those people were nuts.

Now (it's even a shock to me) I figure there is space in the world for both. I've used the Macs that belong to friends. I doubt I'd ever get used to one, but hey if that's what they want to spend their money on then good for them. Anyway last year I got my first Ipod 80gb Video which was great, then switched to an 8gb Nano earlier this year. But Once I saw a first Gen Iphone and played with it, I knew I had to have one.

Was it worth standing for almost three hours in the cold? Well probably not really, considering the very next day I saw them on a shelf of one particular Apple related shop (albeit they are the dealer of a different carrier to my preferred one).

And of course it depends who you are and what you plan on doing with it. For me this is (almost) the perfect device.

The iphone has a lot of strengths, but also a number of weaknesses and annoyances as well.

Strengths. The interface. It is simply a joy to use. The touch screen defines touch screens. I've had two previous Touchscreen PDA's (imate JAMin and Imate JAM), and they are nothing compared to this, and no stylus is required. I was worried about the onscreen keyboard… I needn't have been. It does take a bit of getting used to but after about three days I have no issues with it. Sure, I'm not going to be writing essays or ultra long emails, but it's more than useable, and just as good (if not better) than the touch screen keyboards on other pda's that require a stylus.

Mobile Safari. Internet Browsing is great on the iphone due to two things: The screen size, which lets you see just a little bit more of a real website, and the ability to easily change orientation of the screen from portrait to landscape thanks to the built in accelerometer. You are easily able to view full web pages (not just the mobile versions), pan around them if necessary, and zoom in and out thanks to the two fingers “pinch” gesture.

Safari lets you view PDF's, Excel and Word Documents (up to and including Office 2007). So if someone emails you a PDF, or even a link to one, it is actually readable. All the same rules apply, zoom in, out, scroll up and down, left and right.

Annoyance: Safari doesn't appear to remember logins for forums, websites etc.
Also, famously, it doesn't (yet) support Flash. This was a sore point in the first gen iphone and it's pretty silly that they haven't included it this time round. There are rumours of an iphone version of flash coming out shortly (hopefully).

Safari has full bookmarking capabilities, and complete history capabilities as well, which are easy to use and understand.

There is a feature with like a “lineup” of recently viewed websites with thumbnails of that site, choose the one you want and it loads it up again for you.

Also, bookmarks can be set as icons on the home screen, for instance I use Tram Tracker, and the Mobile Age.

Your Homescreen can have up to 9 separate pages of icons, so you can easily set up your most visited mobile sites for ready access when you are out and about. It's a simple matter of scrolling left and right on the homescreen to access the other available screens. If you want to move icons around or between the home screens, you hold down an icon and then they “jiggle”, letting you move them all around, however you want.

Email. You are able to easily setup an Exchange account (assuming your exchange server/IT area supports the device. I'm perfectly happy not having access to work emails however). Also Gmail works beautifully via IMAP. You can of course use standard POP accounts and the new MobileMe service from Apple (though at $119 a year, you'd need to think seriously before wanting that I think). YahooMail is another option.

When reading emails all the same scrolling rules apply. Weblinks, PDF's and Excel/Word documents all open up as viewable (but not editable). I predict some sort of iphone version of Office if Microsoft can swallow it's pride, or maybe openoffice? Haven't read anything about this but it makes sense.

When composing emails, if you start to enter in a name of someone who has an email registered in your contacts, it's like outlook and automatically suggests a name without having to type in the entire address.

It has a perfectly good Calculator, which in portrait mode is just a standard calculator, and in landscape mode is a fully fledged scientific calculator for those that want one.

The camera is great for happy snaps. Some people complain that a lot of other phones have better cameras, more megapixels etc (the iphone is only 2.0 megapixels). I'm of the view that if you want to take real photos, buy a real camera. This is for happy snaps, and taking photos of people for your contacts (which works well), and if Aliens happen to land, you can take a shot of that too, though people will probably think it's 'shopped.

Google Maps and the A-GPS. This is simply AWESOME, works beautifully. However, it CHEWS through the data, as all data is pulled down from Google's server. If you aren't connected via some free wifi, be careful. Although it can be used for tracking you as you drive/walk etc, this would very easily eat through various available 3G data plans. Be warned, or risk appearing on Today Tonight with a second mortgage, depending on who your carrier is. It's probably best used sparingly for finding simple directions and local businesses etc in whatever area you are in. The A-GPS works great and you

have your position very, very quickly, far better than any other GPS I've used before. I'm hoping for an iphone version of Tom tom or similar, which is rumoured to be in the works.

The Appstore. This is the highlight so far of the iphone 3G. The Appstore was released on the same day and looks very promising. This isn't just a phone, or a PDA… this is a portable touchscreen computer.

There are a number of free apps, some of them good, some of them bad. Some of them are just geekily awesome for those that are into such things.

Some free ones I've downloaded: Phonesaber (also available for N95). Search your feelings, Obiwan! Shazam: Hold your iphone up to a song playing on the radio… it will tell you what the song is, and point you to a link where you can buy it on itunes. Requires data connection, but it actually works.There are Facebook, Twitter and Myspace clients that access cutdown versions of those sites. I've only tried facebook but it seems to work well and you don't get alot of the superfluous stuff that clutters facebook up.

There are heaps of others, and lots and lots of games. I've only tried one or two of the free games (imaze, ball bearing rolling around inside a maze). The reviews I read of the pay games are good though and apparently put other mobile gaming platforms to shame, as far as graphics and sound goes anyway. I'm still to be convinced on controlling games as the game genres seem limited to racing type games where you use the accelerometer to steer.It's obviously early days for the appstore, but I would say we've only scratched the surface of what the device can do.

Ipod… well, not much to say here. You've got all your standard ipod functionality, coverflow is great and very pretty. The headphones have a microphone built in for handsfree phone calls, and the microphone is also a button. one click pauses music, two clicks moves onto the next track. When the phone rings your music fades out and you can then click to answer.
Watching video's is great. Again, the iphone doesn't support divx (come on apple… even xbox360 supports it now). You can however use something like the free “videora” converter to get divx files playable on your iphone. And they are great to watch on the wide screen.

Phone functionality. Well, it is the iPHONE, though reading what I've said so far you'd almost forget you could make calls on it.

It works well, with 3G the calls are of great quality. There is speakerphone functionality as well. you can browse to contacts, make notes, even browse the web while in a call. Finding contacts is easy, contacts have a myriad of fields and options, you can assign separate ringtones to separate contacts. When syncing with itunes on the same PC as Outlook you are able to import all your contacts from there. You can also, for instance, sync all your contacts at work, and then sync your music separately at home.

You can also set up a list of favourite contacts for fast dialling, this is as close as the phone gets to speed dialling.

For those who use it, there is currently no voice dialling. doesn't bother me, but it might bother some.

You can't change SMS/Alert tones. There are some to choose from, but the choice is limited. Hopefully jailbreaking (as I right this, it's due out any moment from what I'm reading) will workaround this.

Ringtones. The Apple way is to buy ringtones from itunes. You can't by default use any of your own music/sounds. But there is a very simple process to create your own ringtones which I won't go into here, but a quick google search should find it online.

No clipboard… no task switching. If you click on a link in email, it opens safari. You then have to go out of safari, and back into email to get back to your message. This has been a sore point among many, but from what I've read it's a fundamental of the operating system that it doesn't do task switching (well, properly anyway).

You can however listen to music and do other things at the same time, so there is at least some multitasking.

The physical unit. Fingerprint city. I got the white one, which doesn't show prints or greasy stains as easily as the black one. But I went straight out and bought myself a skin because I know I'm going to drop it at some point and i want it protected. Also I got a screen protector with the skin. Reading online, lots of people say that you shouldn't need one since the screen is glass, but I'd prefer to have one anyway, it is still easily cleanable. You understand why they give you the cleaning cloth only a few minutes after you first pick the thing up.

You can load copies of photos through itunes from your PC taken with other cameras onto the iphone for backup purposes or to show off pics of babies, cats, tin dogs to your friends when out and about.

It shows up as a camera in Windows Explorer so you can easily import photos to your PC, but like other ipods it does NOT show as mass storage device. Also, syncing (loading of music) is fairly slow.

I won't discuss the merits of all the various plan offerings, as that's a veritable minefield of information. I will just say that you should DEFINITELY do you research on all of the available offerings, and then make up your mind based on what you think your usage will involve. Good luck!

Anyway that's probably about it. Am I happy with the device? Mostly, with one or two little niggles as mentioned. I wanted something where I could use the web (easily) when out and about. I had a Nokia 6120 and it's just not that great at it.

Several of my previous phones have had music players, but none of them were very good. It's great having my music and some videos and my phone in the one unit.

Some people don't want or need all this functionality, and if that's the case, then the iphone isn't for you. Is it overhyped? Of course. But you've got to give it to Apple, I don't think I've seen any ads for iphone on TV but they all lined up on Friday morning anyway. And I've just read that one million units sold since Friday world wide. I guess I'm not the only insane one :)

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Apple pushes Safari

Watch out, Windows iTunes users: Apple is pushing, via its security updates feature, Safari 3.1 onto Windows users. You can opt-out of it, but if people just click OK on the default, they'll get it. Ed Bott rants about it here. (Amusingly the report, at least for me, is accompanied by an Apple adve

rt.)

I've got IE7 and FF on my PCs already. I don't need or want another web browser. It was rude enough that Apple insisted Quicktime be bundled with iTunes… no wonder the size blew out from 19Mb to 33Mb.

But now they're pushing Safari onto people as well?! No thanks.

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iTunes and 64bit support

A little update to my previous entry on purchasing a iPod Touch.

Apple surprised me by releasing a 64bit version of iTunes 7.6 with little or no fanfare on the 15th January 2008. I actually didn't get the update until the following week and it was only by chance I noticed a 64bit version.

I'm very happy

to say that I've been using 7.6 on my primary 64bit box and have been extremely happy with it, i've even moved over my iTunes music collection from my temporary home (a 32bit Windows 2000 installation in VMWare (thanks Josh for the tip)).

As I write this I'm still hunting down Album covers for music that iTunes can't find and removing all duplicates from my library, but it's fun :)

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