The hardest part about switching to a Mac was the serious hoops it would have taken me to retain Winamp as my music player. The Mac adds a third inevitability to fans of music with local libraries: Death, taxes, and iTunes. iTunes has been a bulky mess for years, especially when compared to a minimal Winamp installation. Sure, there are some alternatives out there for the Mac, but iTunes generally works better.
Today is the day I no longer hate iTunes. iTunes 11 has slimmed down, is easier to move around in, is more functional as a mini-player, and it is fast. (The last part is super-important on a mid-2009 Mac.) I live and die by my local music library (I’m not the only one), so it’s awfully nice that it got some attention.
iTunes 11 is a much-needed win for Apple on the software front, too — they’ve taken a beating with Maps and iOS 6 in general. And if this is where their software design is going, I think I’m OK with that. (Though the use of Helvetica Neue is this decade’s brushed metal look.)
So if the music companies are selling over 90 percent of their music DRM-free, what benefits do they get from selling the remaining small percentage of their music encumbered with a DRM system? There appear to be none. If anything, the technical expertise and overhead required to create, operate and update a DRM system has limited the number of participants selling DRM protected music. If such requirements were removed, the music industry might experience an influx of new companies willing to invest in innovative new stores and players. This can only be seen as a positive by the music companies.
Read the whole thing. It’s among one of the best reads yet on the constant DRM battle, and I hope some record execs take note of this. Steve Jobs and his company have been among the best at knowing what consumers want in the last five years, especially when it comes to music. The RIAA would do well to take note of his thoughts.
In addition to fawning over Office 2007, I’ve had a few other things going on that are worth noting. Here’s two more nerd items and then some general real life things…
I’m now running Windows Vista Business Gold, build 6000, at work. The differences between RC2 and Gold are mainly visual in nature, but things also seem much smoother just in general operation. It doesn’t really handle like a beta anymore, which is pretty fantastic. In fact, I’d venture to say that it’s faster than XP about some things, and that says a lot. I’ll have more of a full review in the coming days, as the driver situation begins to shake out a bit more. I was also able to install the newly-minted gold version of Office 2007 Enterprise Edition as well. Performance is much improved. Office 2007 is one of the best software packages to ever find its way out of Redmond, and they managed to keep it small enough to fit on a CD, to boot.
This weekend I decided to switch back to using iTunes 7 for sending files to my iPod versus Winamp’s functionality. It seemed Winamp had totally mislabeled the songs from Ryan Farish’s Beautiful album, so listening to a song from Beautiful was certainly an act of mystery, as I had no clue what I was going to get. After firing up iTunes, it prompted me to upgrade my first-generation Nano to software version 1.3. Bug fixes, better standby times…hey, why not? I proceeded with the installation. Things got off to a fairly inauspicious start, with the whole downloading of the software from the Apple servers and the like going smoothly. iTunes told me that it was going to initiate the installation, and that the iPod would restart a couple times. Then, an endless progress bar. I gave it a few minutes, and then got frustrated. I hit The Google™ and promptly found instructions to unplug the Nano, give it five seconds, and re-plug it in, and the update would resume. So, that’s what I did…and the upgrade proceeded. Sweet, I thought, until the Nano restarted and my system promptly started locking up, unable to recognize the device as an iPod. Greaaaaaaaaaat. Sure enough, after fighting with Windows to let me remove the device safely, I checked out the iPod and promptly saw that my playlists, tracks, etc. were, erm, gone. Lovely. Upon plugging it back in, the Nano rebooted again. This became a fairly common occurrence. So, once again I hit The Google™ and stumbled on this thread at PlanetAMD64, which turned out to be solid gold. After sticking the iPod in recovery mode as per the instructions, I was able to format the damn thing, restore the software to a properly working state, and get on with my day, restoring my files…in Winamp. :P Winamp 5.3 fixed a few things with iPod support, I think, because it’s working a lot better now. So, yet again, screw iTunes. :) I’ve got a bit more of an eclectic mix on there now (didn’t include all three CDs of Trammell Starks’s Music For Local Forecast this time around) and I quite like it. The software improvements in version 1.3 are nice, too, with a maximum volume limiter, improvements to battery life, and better responsiveness coming from standby. Too bad it was such a bitch to install, though. I’ve got to redo my playlists but that’s a task for Thanksgiving.
Microsoft seems to have fixed a very annoying issue in one of its recent patches (likely the MSXML patch): I was freaking out for a month because it seemed like every few clicks, it would register as a double-click, sometimes really fouling things up for me. Thanks, MS.
The forecast for the rest of the week: Crappy, icky, terrible cold rain. I absolutely abhor this type of weather, especially around Thanksgiving. I can’t remember having a rainy Thanksgiving in forever. Stupid coastal low, “sou’easter”, whatever. I heard rumors this morning that there would be some snow this weekend but I can’t find anything that suggests we even have a chance at that. Maybe in the mountains…who knows. It most definitely won’t be here.
I’ve been digging back into Ryan Farish’s back catalog recently, with an opportunity to hear some of his rare works from his mp3.com days. There are so many songs that are out there that he should repackage and sell in a Selected Works Super-Duper XPanded release. “Healer” is most definitely one of those tracks that needs to live on. Pure Farish musical goodness in that one.
Catch you guys during the day tomorrow…I’m sure I’ll find something to harp on. :)