Archive for the 'iTunes/iPod' Category

More good iOS games

Saturday, May 25th, 2013

Inspired by this post from last year by Mike Lee, here’s a list of the best games from my iOS app library.

Many games are excluded, for any of these reasons:

  • Games on this list must not be violent (e.g., I excluded Carmageddon and even Bastion, Sonic 2, and Sonic 4)
  • Games on this list must not be Zynga-tastic (e.g., I excluded Draw Something)
  • Games on this list must not be on last year’s list (see Mike’s post)

Also, I’ve restricted myself to iOS games. Some of the games below are available on multiple platforms, but all of the links are to the iOS App Store.

The games

(Enigmo violates the “not on Mike’s list” requirement, but I gave it a pass for two reasons: because I linked to both the iPhone and iPad versions, and because I linked to the sequel.)

iOS device user guides on the iBookstore

Sunday, October 16th, 2011

Apple has user guides for their three iOS devices (not counting the TV, in which iOS is an implementation detail), for both iOS 4.3 and 5, free on the iBookstore:

iOS 4.3

iOS 5

An iTunes imagine spot

Thursday, June 10th, 2010

Nik Fletcher writes:

If you’re an iPhone developer, you’ve probably been using AppViz, AppFigures or AppSales Mobile to download an process your iTunes sales reports. Today, however, Apple have released a new app of their own: iTunes Connect Mobile (iTunes Store Link)..

Wouldn’t it be cool if they released a version of iTunes Connect that could upload music and movies as well as view app statistics?

Imagine, for example, a moviemaker recording a movie on their iPhone 4, editing it in iMovie on their iPhone 4, and uploading it to iTunes from their iPhone 4.

Useful iTunes smart playlists

Thursday, May 20th, 2010

All of these are “All” (logical and/set intersection) playlists.

Music only

  • Playlist is Music (Library)
  • Kind does not contain “URL”
  • Kind does not contain “stream”
  • Kind does not contain “ideo” [sic]
  • Kind does not contain “PDF document”
  • Genre does not contain “Comedy”
  • Genre does not contain “Spoken Word”
  • Genre does not contain “Podcast”

Never played (music queue)

  • Playlist is “Music only”
  • Play Count is 0

≥ 3.5 stars

  • Playlist is “Music only”
  • Rating is greater than ★★★ · ·


The goal of this playlist is a balance between churn (so that I keep hearing music I haven’t heard in awhile) and quality (so that a bad or mediocre song does not take up space on my iPod that could have gone to a great song).

  • Playlist is “Music only”
  • Skip Count is less than 3
  • Playlist is “≥ 3.5 stars”
  • Time is less than 25 minutes (25:00)
  • Limit to 6 GB selected by least recently played

Customize standards and limit to your requirements.

Classical music (mostly excluded from this playlist by the Time criterion) enters my iPod through a separate playlist: a smart playlist selecting 12 hours of least-recently-played material from my “Programming music” dumb playlist.

Often-played but unrated music

If you’re like me, you have a lot of music that has racked up more than a few plays, but that you never rated. Most of this predates my installation of I Love Stars, with which I’ve rated nearly all of the music I’ve added since then.

By listening to this playlist with I Love Stars running, I’ll be able to rate all of these songs and so give the good-to-great ones a shot at being on my iPod. (I used to have “Play count ≥ 5” in the iPod smart playlist, but not everything that I have that has 5 or more plays merits inclusion on my iPod.)

  • Playlist is “Music only”
  • Play Count is greater than 4
  • Rating is · · · · ·

Lazy Finder

Tuesday, January 19th, 2010

This is an expansion of a reply I wrote to a tweet by Daniel Jalkut. He wrote:

Imagine if the iPhone home screen showed a matrix of “generic” icons before filling in real ones. Mac Finder is a disgrace.

He’s referring to behavior introduced in Snow Leopard: When you visit a folder for the first time in a session, the Finder shows every symbolic link and alias with the kUnknownFSObject icon ( this one ), every application with the generic application icon, every file with the generic document icon, and every folder with the generic folder icon, before displaying the item’s real icon and then its Quick Look thumbnail.

Compare the environment of SpringBoard (on a non-jailbroken device) to that of Finder:

iPhone Mac OS X

Every item is of one kind: Application.

Items are of any of three kinds: File, folder, and bundle. The Finder must handle each kind differently.

Everything is on one iPhone’s worth of flash memory.

Files may be distributed over any number of volumes, local and remote; however, the general case is all files on one hard disk, which is the startup disk.

Because the iPhone doesn’t allow background processes, it’s the only app running, with only a few built-in, light-on-file-system-access exceptions (the heaviest of which is probably Mail).

Any number of applications may be running, and they may be accessing files on the same volume you’re browsing.

Accessing any file in flash memory is as quick as accessing any other file (random access).

Disks are not so predictable: Accessing one file and then another can incur milliseconds of seek time. Doing this repeatedly for dozens or hundreds of files (possibly in multiple Finder windows at different scroll positions) may cause the disk to thrash. You can hope that the OS can put the requests into a favorable order, but you can’t rely on it, and there’s only so much it can do.

Flash memory is always active.

Most users aren’t using flash memory. Hard disks may be spun down to conserve power. If this is the case, the disk will need to be spun up, which can take seconds.

All files (that is, all applications) are local.

Some volumes may be on remote machines, across a local network or the internet; depending on throughput and latency, every access to such a volume can take tenths of a second.

All applications are in one place, making caching of icons or their filenames easy.

Applications aren’t the only user-visible bundles, and any bundle can be anywhere.

Compare also how SpringBoard and Finder obtain icons*:

iPhone Mac OS X

Assuming that the icons themselves aren’t cached:

  1. Look up the application’s icon filename in the bundle’s Info.plist (or a cache of icon filenames).

  2. Load the icon from the indicated file.

(All of this may happen inside NSWorkspace and/or Icon Services.)

  1. If the item is a symbolic link or alias, find the original file. If it still exists, start over with it from this step. If it does not exist, jump to step 7.

  2. Get the item’s custom-icon bit.
  3. If the custom icon bit is set, open the resource fork (or, for folders and bundles, the resource fork of the “Icon\r”** file) and search for icon resources of ID -16455. (This step probably happens in Icon Services.)

    If this step succeeds, we have the icon.

  4. If the item is a bundle, look up the application’s icon filename in the bundle’s Info.plist.

  5. Load the icon from the indicated file.

    If this step succeeds, we have the icon.

  6. Identify the item’s HFS file type (if available) or its filename extension. For bundles, the file type may be in Info.plist. For bundles and packages, the file type and creator may be in a PkgInfo file inside the item, which would be yet another file open+read.

  7. Look up the icon for the file types (probably using Icon Services). For anything but a document of an installed application, this will be a generic icon (such as the generic application icon). If the icon does come from an installed application, it will need to be read from a file inside that application bundle.

SpringBoard hasn’t much to do, it’s in a straightforward environment, and the task and environment provide a couple of obvious caching strategies. The iPhone doesn’t have as much processing power, but what it has is enough—it can just get and display the icon without being lazy about it.

In fact, SpringBoard probably doesn’t even need to be asynchronous about it; all it needs to do is keep three pages of icons (current, next, and previous) in short-term memory. When the user flips one page, drop the farthest page out of the short-term memory cache and load the next one into it.

Meanwhile, on the Mac, getting an icon is not straightforward, and the environment can throw a monkey wrench into the works at any point. Every icon can take dozens, hundreds, or thousands of milliseconds to display, and more icons mean more opportunities for a stall. The solution is to load and show the icons asynchronously and in parallel—but then, what to show in the meantime?

Thus, for the Finder, lazy loading makes sense. The Finder can show you what it has (filenames and other basic metadata) immediately. You can work with those files, scroll to other files, or move through the folder hierarchy without having to wait for icons. And while you do that, the Finder has all the time it needs to asynchronously fetch the icons and, if it’s still appropriate, display them.

It’s a feature, not a bug.

* I’m speculating, since I don’t have the source code to either. These steps are how I would implement each one if I were imitating the current stock behavior.
** “\r” here means, as it does in C, the carriage-return character (U+000D).

The iPod Radio Remote and Griffin Navigate

Saturday, January 9th, 2010

Some of you know that I use a second-generation iPod nano (the best iPod ever) with an iPod Radio Remote. There are two generations of iPod Remote; here they are side by side:

iPod Remote and iPod Radio Remote

The original is on the left. It was for the 2G iPod (that’s what I had, anyway) and possibly some other models. That remote didn’t have a radio tuner in it. The one on the right, the one that has a Dock connector and looks like a 2G iPod shuffle, is the iPod Radio Remote.

The iPod Radio Remote never did work with the iPhone and iPod touch. Every introduction of a new iPhone or iPod touch model (including the originals) made clearer that they’d either make a third generation or kill it. Sometime around the time when they introduced the new Apple Remote, they chose the latter.

At some point, Griffin Technology introduced their Navigate. I spotted one today at Walmart for $20 on clearance and snapped it up. Walmart normally sells it for $50, and MSRP is $60.

Not only does the Navigate work with my 1G iPod touch, it adds a display showing the current track. The iPod Radio Remote never had this! The picture on Griffin’s website doesn’t do it justice; it actually looks much better, as shown in this video:

(If you want to really see how good it looks, click through to the YouTube page and watch it there.)

Like the Radio Remote, the Navigate has a clip. Unlike the Radio Remote, it’s not a moving part; it’s just a fixed, flexible (but not too flexible, but not too stiff, either) bit of plastic. Time will tell how easy it is to break.

True to its name, you can even use it to navigate your music: It will let you pick a playlist, artist, or album to listen to, and change the shuffle setting. However, it does not let you go straight to a specific song, which makes that feature useless for me. I understand why that limitation exists, though: It would be much more difficult to scroll to it with the Navigate’s buttons than with the iPod’s own click wheel or touch screen.

Navigating the FM band isn’t exactly easy. When moving along the frequency band itself, next and previous move one frequency-stop at a time. You can set presets, but only four of them. It’s not at all obvious how to set and use them; I’ll leave it to the manual to explain it. Ameliorating this problem is that it remembers the last station you had tuned, so it’s not like you’re going to have to deal with the preset menu every time you turn on the radio.

I do have a couple of significant problems with it.

The first is that it doesn’t remember your volume setting. (The Navigate has its own volume setting, separate from the iPod’s; the iPod’s volume setting has no effect on audio through the Navigate. This is another difference from the Radio Remote, which had no volume of its own.) The Navigate doesn’t have a battery; it relies on the iPod for power, so it goes dead when you unplug it. Then, when you plug it back in or plug it into a different iPod, it’s back to the default volume, which is quite loud for me. This will probably grate on me a bit.

The other problem is that it doesn’t fit in my iPod touch’s Dock connector with its SeeThru hard case on it. My iPod nano doesn’t have a case on it, so I don’t have that problem with that iPod. If you don’t have a case on your iPhone or iPod touch (or other iPod), or you use a different case that won’t conflict with Griffin’s Dock connector, then this won’t be a problem for you.

I hope a future version of the Navigate will remember the volume setting and have a slightly thinner Dock connector so that it isn’t blocked by my iPod touch’s case. Even now, though, I consider the Navigate a worthy successor to the iPod Radio Remote, primarily because of the display, secondarily because of the iPod touch (and iPhone) compatibility.

Free music round-up 2009

Friday, January 1st, 2010

At the end of March of last year, I predicted that I would download more than 11,000 free songs in that year.

The final tallies are in.

I downloaded and added 11,466 free songs within 2009. At the stroke of midnight, I was still catching up on my backlog of Chromewaves; once I’d finished, I had a total of 11,554 free songs that had been published in 2009.

Either way, I met my prediction: I downloaded and added more than 11,000 songs, approximately doubling-and-a-half my library from its size at the start of 2009, for free. (I did buy some music as well, easing my conscience.)

I’ve refined my stable of sources over the past year. Here’s my current list of subscriptions:

Naturally, I also download all of the free songs on iTunes and free songs on Amazon every Tuesday.

For those of you who’d like to follow these sources in your feed reader:

File: Music sources.opml.bz2 Music-sources.opml.bz2

An OPML file of all of the RSS feeds of these sources (except iTunes, Amazon, and Spinner). In Vienna, choose “Import Subscriptions” from the File menu.

UPDATE 2010-01-16: Added New Weird Australia to the list.

Free song follow-up

Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

In the first three months of this year, I’ve downloaded 2927 free songs. That’s not including the recent label samplers from the Amazon MP3 Store, nor the thousand-song influx that is the SXSW 2009 torrents.

From this, I estimate that I will download over 11,000 songs in this year alone.

My library right now, including everything I’ve ever bought, is 10,626 songs. Subtracting the 2927 mentioned above, I have 7699 songs that I didn’t get this year, or didn’t get for free. This means that this year’s free music will have multiplied the size of my library by about 250%.

I say this not to brag, but because my mind is blown. I’m going to more than double my library this year, for free. Legally. Without pirating a single song.


There’s no reason for anyone to pirate music anymore. Music DRM is dead, so the “moral” argument is gone, and you can get as much music as you can listen to without having to spend one red cent. If you have a specific song in mind, you usually can buy it from iTunes or Amazon—and if you don’t have the money to do that, why are you pirating music instead of looking for a job?

I do worry that this could backfire on artists. I barely have enough time to listen to everything I get for free, so I never listen to the rest of the songs on the album, which means I never buy the album. If enough people did what I do, the music economy would collapse.

You might say “why not just donate money to the artists?”. The main reason is, again, my limited time. Getting, tagging, and listening to all this free music takes up more spare time than I’d like already; now you’re proposing that I spend more time just to spend some money. I don’t feel guilty enough.

Two other reasons are that I don’t like donating money in exchange for nothing (the song was free), nor paying for things I already have. I’d rather buy the album, because then, I’m buying something I don’t already have.

Radio Paradise works well here. I hear songs that I like and must buy to have, and I buy them. This way actually makes money for artists.

But Radio Paradise isn’t perfect. The main problem, yet again, is that time issue: I no longer have much time at my computer when I’m not listening to fresh free music, and when such time does arrive, I usually use it to listen to what I already have (a rare break from the endless stream of new stuff). Radio Paradise loses badly in my schedule.

I take comfort in the possibility that I’m an outlier: the only one actually gathering as many of these songs as I do, while everyone else is content to only tap a few sources (e.g., iTunes + Amazon) and make up the rest with purchases. The artists get their due compensation, and I get my free music.

Still, I can’t shake the feeling that there must be some better way.

Here’s something an artist could try: Set up a combination player and online store on your website. Let me listen to the entire album for free. Let me download any, say, two songs for free. If I want more than that, I have to pony up for the whole thing.

Another way would be something more like iTunes and Amazon, but with a much longer preview—let’s say half the song. I don’t know about you, but I find 30 seconds useless. With half-song previews, I could get a good sense of the song and whether I want it in my library, but it wouldn’t be worth just downloading the preview and adding that, since it’s only half the song.

The problem with both these solutions is that they, too, compete for time. I’m not sure I’d find it worth it for one artist. Perhaps a record label or independent online music store (like Insound) would be willing to try it.

The best solution I can think of would combine one of the above solutions with a streaming internet-radio player. I could open a browser window (or SSB) upon the player, and leave it running in the background. If I hear something I like, I could bookmark it, so that I could come back to it later to listen to it again, listen to the album (the whole thing, straight through), buy the song, buy the album, recommend the song on Twitter, or dismiss it.

What do you think? Am I inadvertently screwing over artists in these ideas? Should I stop looking the gift horses in the mouth and just take my free music? Are there better solutions than what I’ve suggested?

UPDATE 12:07 PDT: Just found this by random encounter: Amie Street, an experimental new music store. Its twist is that every song starts out “free or very cheap”, and goes up in price as more people buy it. Talk about demand-driven. I haven’t tried it, though—if any of you have, please speak up.

Free stuff on iTunes: Death Cab for Cutie inside an iPhone app

Thursday, January 29th, 2009

I normally hate the advertisement apps that several companies have created for the iPhone, but in this case, I’ll make an exception.

The newest advertisement app is the one for Death Cab for Cutie. As you can guess, it’s free.

The reason I like this one is because it actually includes ten (as of 1.0—eight as of 1.1) DCfC songs at medium quality (AAC, 96 kbps). Good enough for me—certainly good enough for free.

You don’t need an iPhone to use this app. You can easily extract the music from the app bundle and then dispose of what’s left.

After downloading the app, here’s what you have to do.

  1. Switch to the Applications section of iTunes.

  2. Right-click on the DCfC app and click Show in Finder.

    Screenshot of the contextual menu hanging open, with the mouse cursor over the “Show in Finder” command.

  3. You’ll see the .ipa file. Open this in an unzipper application such as Archive Utility, StuffIt Expander, or BetterZip. (BetterZip will let you go straight to the .app bundle, so you should use that if you have it.)

    Screenshot of a Finder window showing the contents of the Mobile Applications folder in the iTunes library folder, with the “DCfC 1.0.ipa” file selected.

  4. In the unzipped folder, find the actual app bundle. (It’ll have a prohibitory sign on it because it’s an iPhone app.)

    Screenshot of a Finder window showing the contents of the Payload folder in the unzipped .ipa folder, with the “” bundle selected.

    Right-click on it, then choose Show Package Contents.

  5. You haven’t far to look, since iPhone apps are old-style flat bundles, not new-style hierarchical bundles.

    In version 1.0, the m4a files were right there. Since version 1.1, they’re not; the app streams them on demand. Open the file in your favorite text editor, copy each http://[…].m4a URL, and paste it into your browser’s Downloads window.

  6. If you don’t want any of the other features of the app (e.g., its discography or tour dates), delete the app in iTunes.

If you enjoy filling out the Lyrics tab in iTunes and reading along in TuneTagger, you may also want to write a program to read the discography.xml file (also in the app bundle) and copy the lyrics into iTunes. If you write such a program, feel free to link to it in a comment.

UPDATE 2009-02-06: Updated instructions for version 1.1, wherein they stopped bundling the .m4a files in the application.

Sources of free music

Tuesday, November 25th, 2008

By which I mean, sources that you can check periodically or subscribe to to receive a steady stream of free music.

For music podcasts, use a regular RSS reader (or a dedicated podcatcher, if you have one), not iTunes. I’ve had problems convincing iTunes to accept files into its Music library that I’d downloaded through its podcatcher.

These are some sites that I don’t personally subscribe to, but am aware of and occasionally benefit from indirectly (e.g., when Largehearted Boy posts a link to a Team Love track):

  • A site called RCRD LBL has a blog called RCRD SELECTOR, which provides a few free songs per day. The feed doesn’t use enclosure tags, which makes podcatching difficult, but I’m listing it anyway in case you’re OK with that.

  • You Ain’t No Picasso is primarily a music blog, although it has the occasional non-music-related post. Not every post has MP3s on it, but most do. Has a feed, but no enclosure tags. (Added 2008-12-17; thanks to Mike Krieger for linking to one of their posts on Twitter, and Colin for retweeting that link)

  • The Hype Machine aggregates a lot of MP3 blogs, including the aforementioned Stereogum. Has a feed, but no enclosure tags. (Added 2008-12-17; thanks to Colin for suggesting it on Twitter)

  • Team Love is a record label that gives away songs on their Library page. There’s no dedicated Library feed, so you’ll have to check back periodically (Tuesdays?).

    One thing you’ll notice is that the front page says in one paragraph that the Library is “open to the public 24/7”, and then in the next paragraph that you’ll need to open an account. There is some open-to-the-public access on the right side of the page (“Artists” and “Featured MP3s”); I don’t know what an account gets you.

    Added 2008-12-17. Thanks to Matt Morrell, who is a musician himself (with at least one song of his own available for free) and sent me the link on Twitter.

  • KRCW’s Today’s Top Tune podcast is another weekdaily rock-music podcast (with, of course, a a podcast feed). Note that not every episode is a song; for example, right now, the oldest of the three episodes in the feed is an interview with Tony Hawk. Note also that the song files have borked tags, with the artist in the title tag and the song title nowhere; you’ll have to fix these yourself.

    KCRW has other shows, but it looks like Today’s Top Tune is the only one you can stock your music library from. (Corrections welcome.)

    Thanks to Steven for linking to Today’s Top Tune in a comment.

If you know of other, similar sources, I invite you to link to them in the comments.

UPDATE 2009-03-26: Segregated sites I don’t subscribe to into their own list, and added Largehearted Boy, NME, and Spinner.
UPDATE 2009-04-06: Demoted KCRW to the sources-I-don’t-subscribe-to list. I get enough music from other sources now that I don’t care about it enough to deal with its broken tagging scheme.

iTunes smart playlist: Music only

Sunday, November 23rd, 2008

A smart playlist selecting items that are not podcasts, whose Kind does not contain “URL”, [v]“ideo”, or “movie”, that are not in the Audiobooks special playlist, and whose Genre does not contain “Comedy” or “Spoken Word”.

Some explanation:

  • Kind does not contain URL: Excludes streams
  • Kind does not contain ideo: Excludes music videos
  • Genre does not contain Comedy or Spoken Word: Excludes anything that isn’t actually music

iTunes’ new worst alert box?

Sunday, October 19th, 2008

I believe Apple added this alert box in version 8:

“Applications cannot be purchased with Shopping Cart. Your Preferences are currently set to buy using Shopping Cart. Application purchases cannot be placed in Shopping Cart; they must be purchased by 1-Click. Select Buy if you'd like to purchase Virtual Zippo® Lighter by using 1-Click and your credit card will be charged immediately.

Let’s enumerate the fail, shall we?

  • Applications cannot be purchased with Shopping Cart.

    Yes, they can. You just won’t let me.

  • Your preferences are currently set to buy using Shopping Cart.

    Because that’s what I want to do.

  • Application purchases cannot be placed in Shopping Cart; they must be purchased by 1-Click.

    Passive voice is great, isn’t it? It allows the subject to not take responsibility for their own actions.

    This is not some law of nature, like gravity meaning that you cannot fly. Apple prevents you from buying applications using a Shopping Cart. The message should just say that.

  • Select Buy if you’d like to purchase application by using 1-Click …

    I wouldn’t, but since iTunes won’t let me do what I really want, I have to either buy it the way iTunes wants me to, or not buy it at all.

  • … and your credit card will be charged immediately.

    No, it won’t, because I don’t have a credit card on my iTunes account. If it did charge my credit card, I would be alarmed.

Now, let’s rewrite the alert’s message to be more accurate.

You may not purchase applications with Shopping Cart.

Regardless of the fact that you have chosen to buy from iTunes using a Shopping Cart, we have chosen to not allow you to buy applications using a Shopping Cart. Instead, we require you to buy using 1-Click. Select Buy if you accept this limitation, and we will deduct the money from your store credit immediately.

I have filed two bugs:

Requirements for a proper iPhone sudoku app

Saturday, July 12th, 2008
  • A sudoku generator. The game should not cap me at x-hundred or x-thousand puzzles. Give me all the sudoku the iPhone OS’ PRNG can create for me.

  • Proper sudoku puzzles, not Number Place puzzles. The difference is that a sudoku puzzle is rotationally symmetric: if you turn the puzzle 180°, it still looks the same.

    Starting with a proper sudoku puzzle, → 180° → rotation gets you the same layout of starting numbers.

    Many sudoku generators actually generate Number Place puzzles, which don’t have this constraint. (In particular, all the Will Shortz puzzles are like this.)

  • Obvious input method. A row of numbers at the bottom doesn’t work because I can’t tell whether the game is prefix (tap number first, then cell) or postfix (tap cell first, then number). I could get used to either way, but a good interface doesn’t make me guess.

    • Ambrosia’s Mr. Sudoku uses handwriting recognition.

    • Platinum Sudoku is clearly postfix, because its input method is a ring of numbers around whatever cell you tap on.

  • The ability to set pencilmarks, to keep track of what numbers are viable for a cell (helping to avoid wrong numbers, especially at higher difficulty levels).

  • Simple, usable interface. This means two things:

    • No excessive artwork like Big Bang Sudoku has. I only have 16 GB of flash memory—don’t waste it!

    • No garish colors. If your sudoku game is in CGA, then I don’t want to look at it, which means I don’t want to play it, which means I don’t want to buy it.

Free stuff on iTunes: Cable TV

Tuesday, June 17th, 2008

From the podcast directory, some free cable TV talk shows. All of these carry (what appear to be) full episodes:

Note: I don’t endorse any of these shows, and purposefully listed them in alphabetical order.

Starbucks iTunes Store from your computer

Tuesday, January 15th, 2008

Quoth the Kbase:

When you enter a participating Starbucks with an iPod touch, an iPhone, or a computer running the latest version of iTunes, you can access the iTunes Store and the Starbucks Now Playing content.

Emphasis added.

I don’t remember that being part of the announcement in the keynote.

The iPhone flashlight

Thursday, December 13th, 2007

If you should have an urgent need for a flashlight, but have only an iPhone or an iPod touch with you, fear not. Now you have an iPhone flashlight.

Cool new feature in iPod Touch Software 1.1.2

Thursday, November 15th, 2007

Your iPod touch's row in iTunes' source list now has an icon that indicates your battery status and whether the battery is charging.

Apple Easter eggs are not dead

Sunday, September 30th, 2007

From QA1420:

A screenshot of an open menu, with the items “Mini”, “Nano”, and “Piqueño”.

(In case you don’t get it, here’s the reference.)

I am now an Amazon customer

Saturday, September 29th, 2007

They finally started selling something that I want to buy.

Almost since the iTunes Music Store first opened, I’ve been a customer of the iTunes Store. 99¢ a song is fine by me, and I love paying by the song. There are few albums so consistently good that I’ll buy the whole thing.

Then iTunes Plus started, and I immediately switched over. Sure, it’s 30¢ extra, but I pay that 30¢ as a statement against DRM.

Then came the Amazon MP3 Store.

Amazon sells plain old MP3s, at roughly 256 kbps VBR (in order that nobody can complain about the encoding quality). Since they’re plain old MP3s, there’s no DRM.

Even better, Amazon beats iTunes’ prices: 89–99¢ per song. iTunes charges $1.29 (remember, no DRM, so the proper comparison is to iTunes Plus rather than to non-Plus).

So, in short:

  • The encoding is almost as good as or better than iTunes.
  • The price is the same as or less than iTunes.
  • Amazon’s MP3s are never DRMed, whereas iTunes’ MPEG-4s are usually DRMed.

Like Simone, I shall buy from Amazon first from now on. (I haven’t switched away from iTunes; they’ll continue to get my business for songs that Amazon doesn’t carry. But, unfortunately for Apple, I expect that set to diminish.) Take notice of this, Apple—get the record labels to let you lower your prices, or you will lose serious market share to Amazon.

Just in case you’re wondering…

The Amazon MP3 Store works by downloading a file in a special format: .amz. This is a document for the Amazon MP3 Downloader application. (In case you’re wondering, the contents are some binary data, which may just be ciphertext of some sort, encoded in base64.)

The reason they do this is so that it can download the MP3s into a subfolder of your Music folder, rather than your usual Downloads folder (normally your Desktop). That’s good, but it has two downsides:

  1. You need a Windows or Mac OS X PC to download MP3s from Amazon, even though the MP3s themselves will play anywhere.
  2. If your browser is set not to auto-open files, or doesn’t trust the Amazon MP3 Downloader, then you may be sitting there for a moment wondering why the Downloader is not doing anything.

My suggestion to Amazon would be to switch to a custom URL scheme, rather than a custom file format. I don’t know about Windows, but this would certainly make it much easier on the Mac, since the custom URL scheme will always work. (It won’t help the non-Mac non-Windows users, though, since you still need the Amazon MP3 Downloader to handle the custom URL.)

Commercial Success

Tuesday, September 18th, 2007

Now on iTunes: An endcap with various songs from commercials. They’ve done this before, but this time, the first four tracks are from recent Apple commercials, including the one from the iPhone commercials.