You may still want to use FlickrExport

One of the first things I thought when seeing that iPhoto ’09 supports Flickr out of the box is “Oh, there goes FlickrExport.” Apple has a history of eating its children.

Turns out that iPhoto ’09’s support for Flickr is limited enough to still give room for plugins like FlickrExport. Frasier Spiers, Flickrexport’s developer, takes a look at iPhoto 09’s Flickr support and makes the case well.

There is no support for editing your iPhoto metadata before uploading: the descriptions, tags and title that you enter in iPhoto will appear on Flickr. I know that a lot of Flickr users want to have a different tag set on their own computer than on Flickr. One particular use case is photos of children. It makes a lot of sense to tag photos of your children with their name – it helps with searching and remembering who’s who as they grow up – but do you want your child’s full name on Flickr? iPhoto doesn’t give you that control.

Spiers also states that iPhoto wants to make a Flickr set for basically everything you’ll ever upload. Thing is, one of the reasons I think Flickr is losing ground to Facebook is that it limits its basic accounts to 3 sets. Until they lift that I don’t understand how that behavior would be desirable at all.

Making a “Favorites” Folder In Logic Pro 8

Once in a while I write Logic tutorials on this site. Lately I’ve been thinking of doing some videos. This video takes a look at how to quickly create a Favorites folder for setting aside your favorite Audio Instrument presets. Reason has a great way to do this – you just drag and drop to a list in the file browser. Until Apple comes up with a way to do something like that, consider this method.


Logic Pro 8 – Saving Your Favorite Software Instruments on Vimeo.

For other Logic tutorials, I highly recommend SFLogicNinja’s videos on Youtube. Where other videos go through basic concepts (like how to make a marker) to try to sell video sets, SFLogicNinja goes through some more advanced topics and doesn’t try to sell you anything.

Maybe the labels just haven’t re-encoded it…

The iTunes Producer About Window

Have you ever wondered why one of your favorite albums you purchased on iTunes isn’t offered at 256kbps AAC with iTunes Plus? The reason could simply be that the label hasn’t re-encoded it.

As a publisher on iTunes, one of the tools you use to send your music to Apple is a piece of software called iTunes Producer. With iTunes Producer you import your music (through the original, mastered audio files or through a CD), encode it, and upload it directly to iTunes. iTunes Producer manages the library of submitted music through playlists for compilations, albums, and other collected works.

The latest version was released shortly after iTunes Plus was unveiled. The Readme includes this note:

What’s new in iTunes Producer 1.6 With iTunes Producer 1.6, you can now re-encode and resend your music for iTunes Plus. If you imported your music using iTunes Producer 1.2 or earlier, your audio is encoded at 128 kbps and not eligible for our new premium offering. iTunes Producer 1.6 will indicate which playlists need to be re-encoded and resent to iTunes.

One of the questions I’ve always had about iTunes Plus is how do we know if Apple isn’t simply transcoding their original 128k files to 256k? This answers that question.

Surely the publisher could do that – but at least Apple does not. And the publisher would need to work a little harder to do that: iTunes Producer will not accept MP3s or AACs. In fact, it seems that Apple has provided strict guidelines for sending them music – right down to how big the album art should be.

What’s also interesting to note is the information about the music that you can provide to Apple, but just simply isn’t being used yet (maybe because it’s so extensive that it’s a bunch of work that publishers just aren’t doing?). iTunes Producer includes fields for:

  • Liner Notes
  • Lyrics
  • Beats per minute
  • Credits for remixer, producer, engineers, and other performers
  • Where the album was recorded

If you can’t get an album in iTunes Plus from a label that’s already selling iTunes Plus music it’s likely that the label just hasn’t gone through the process of re-importing the music and sending it to Apple. I hope Apple has some information on how much better iTunes Plus music sells than the regular 128k music – I assume the answer is “much better.”

Oh, and by the way, iTunes Producer sends the music to Apple as Apple Lossless files.

Sound Design In Software (The Windows Song, and Why The OSX Song Sucks)

Remember when the video of an instrumental came out featuring only Windows sounds? It was a video of a scrolling tracker, each lane dedicated to a Windows timbre.

Here it is in case you missed it:

I remember thinking “Hey, where’s the Mac one? Mac users are so much more creative than Windows users – they have Garageband right out of the box. Surely there’s something out there like this for OSX.”

Shortly after that – this came out.

I don’t think you need me to tell you that the Windows version is better, hands down.

But why? Apart from the plain skill differences between someone using a tracker and somebody copying and pasting AIFF files into Garageband, I think there are 2 reasons that echo the ease of OSX’s usability.

There Aren’t Many OSX notification sounds to choose from

Mac OSX doesn’t make a sound when the operating system starts. Macs do, however, chime when turned on. But when Macs are turned off – nothing. The only thing you’ll hear is your hard drive spin down.

Compare that to how often a sound occurs while using Windows. Here are some examples:

  • Startup
  • Shut down
  • Critical Stops
  • Low battery
  • Minimize (if you want)
  • Notification (pops, etc)
  • New mail

For just that selection from Windows, Mac OSX users have 2.

OSX sounds have no tonality

Play through the OSX sounds in the sound prefpane. Can you detect a pitch on any of them? Maybe 3 – Basso, Funk and Ping.

I think this was a conscious decision made by the Mac OS team – the pitch of the notification sounds clash with any audio being played and could confuse users. How to fix that problem? Simple – pops and tinks.

Here’s another example of smart sound design in software: iChat. Go through iChat’s sounds and compare them with AOL’s instant messenger client. iChat has sounds like wooshes and more pops. AOL IM – Loud doors opening and closing, bell cues (plus a different one if you receive your first IM)…

One of the first things I do after installing (or reinstalling) Adium? Make sure I’m using the iChat sounds.

I don’t mean to discount the amount of talent that goes into making music out of Windows sounds, but things would probably be a lot worse for Mac users if OSX had a large palette of timbres to choose from.

And the fact this never really gets talked about means that the sound designers did their jobs just right.

Party Shuffle: A Test In Scrolling

Feedback I submitted to Apple about the following:

iTunes Party Shuffle

I use playlist folders to help sort through the various static and smart playlists I have. Party Shuffle is a great iTunes feature that doesn’t use these folders to its advantage, in my opinion. When picking a party shuffle source, users with a folder setup like mine get a long drop down list of iTunes folders and the playlists they contain – mine takes up more than the entire height of my 1680×1050 display. Why not treat these like bookmarks in Safari? Safari doesn’t show me every bookmark I have in the folder until I hover my cursor over that folder. If that was implemented in iTunes’ Party Shuffle it would be more efficient than the current method and simplify picking a playlist as the Party shuffle source.

I used to never use Party Shuffle – but when I started using Quicksilver to navigate through iTunes (I’ve moved on to Coversutra, but I digress) I saw how this is much like how I used to listen to music 10 years ago, queuing up a few CDs and running through them – and I still like to do that.

Even with iTunes’ new Grid View that brings back album love, I still find it more convenient to pick out something I want to listen to now and follow it with something I think I’d like to listen to an hour from now.

Lovin’ The Amazon MP3 Store: The AAC/MP3 Fidelity Argument

MP3 vs AAC

I’ve been getting upset that AAC hasn’t gotten as much support as MP3, but the more I think about it the more I realize that MP3 is the smarter choices for these stores. I prefer AAC, but MP3 has wider compatibility and has much larger recognition behind it. MP3 is synonymous with digital music.

The other part of wanting AAC over MP3 is the encoding quality, but things have changed. The codec used to matter when bitrates hovered around 128-192kbps. Now that everything is basically 256kbps it’s a wash. It doesn’t matter anymore.

The file sizes are the same and you’ll have a hard time telling the difference between AAC and MP3 at these bitrates. Don’t even try. Stop worrying about codecs and start listening to more of the music you love.

Lovin’ The Amazon MP3 Store: Intro

Amazon MP3

I’m finding myself eating my own words on the Amazon MP3 store. About a year ago I wrote:

I’d like to see more details on the pricing, but from what the early indications are there is nothing unique about what Amazon is doing.

Meanwhile, I’ve probably used the Amazon MP3 store more in the past year than I’ve used the iTunes Music Store since Apple launched it.

So why the change? What does Amazon have over iTunes? I’ll write about my reasons in the next few posts.

The iTunes “Last Chance” Playlist

If you’ve read the iTunes Zero article you’ll know that I’m very meticulous about everything in my iTunes library – and chances are you probably do the same things.

One of the other problems you may be facing is that there’s SO MUCH STUFF in your iTunes library. How do you handle it all?

Here’s what works for me – the “Last Chance” Playlist.

The Process

Here’s the method I use when I add new music to iTunes and homogenize it into the library:

  1. Everything new goes into a static Process playlist. It’s a holding cell for me to verify the metadata before I’m comfortable unleashing it into the wild. Consider it the GTD inbox for iTunes.
  2. Music that hasn’t been listened to shows up in the Playcount = 0 smart playlist.
  3. 3 months after that first listen, music shows up again in the Only 1 Listen playlist. This is my opportunity to make sure that the assigned rating is what I want it be, because after that it’s banished into the iTunes abyss, until the special day when it arrives in the…
  4. Last Chance playlist.

You’re Up For Review, Tune

Why do this?

The purpose of the Last Chance playlist is to listen to tracks in shuffle mode, out of context, in order to rate each track on its own. Let’s take a look at its properties.

lastchanceplaylist.gif

The Last Chance smart playlist is the last hurrah of a misfit song. If after two years I still don’t like the song enough to give it a 4-star or higher rating, in it goes to the huge library, likely to be skipped over and ignored for the rest of eternity.

But, there’s the chance that after 2 years I’ll suddenly realize the genius in a song, and grant it a 4-star or higher rating and save it from the 82 gig (as of this writing) Rancor pit.

Rancor

And with a 4-star or higher rating, the track enters regular rotation in smart playlists that rely on ratings.

This works for me for the following reasons:

  1. Anything I’ve already rated on the extremes (2 stars or less, or 4 stars or more) doesn’t really change for me – but I’ve still got my eye on those 4-star rated tracks.
  2. 3 listens should be enough for me to know if I like a song or not.
  3. 2 years (or 1 year) is far enough out for a song to be removed from the popular culture of the time to realize I like a song because it’s a good song, and not because it’s in a car insurance commercial or something.

This is what works for me. Storage is cheap these days, so if you set up a system with this and other smart playlists you can keep only the good stuff on your iPod and regular playlist (or Party Shuffle sources) and not have to delete anything based on the idea that you might like it years from now.

Mail.app and Attachments – An Obvious Mistake

It’s always a little weird when you realize that something that seems obvious is also something that isn’t implemented well in an Apple app.

<

p>For example: Using mail.app to send attachments.

Twitter Search of Mail.app and Attachments

Try attaching something to an email in mail.app. There’s nothing that tells you that your file is attached. I think I never noticed this before because I hardly use email to send files anymore.

It’s Not The Platform; It’s The Software

Microsoft is launching it’s counter-offensive (or defensive?) to Apple’s “Get A Mac” Ad campaign. They’ve started out with The Mojave Experiment.

The Mojave Experiment is basically the Pepsi Challenge for Windows.

What do people think of Windows Vista® when they don’t know it’s Windows Vista? We disguised Windows Vista as codename “Mojave,” the “next Microsoft OS,” so regular people who’ve never used Windows Vista could see what it can do – and decide for themselves.

The campaign aims to dispel all the FUD about Windows Vista, of which there is plenty. For most tasks, it’s fine. Sure, it’s kind of a resource hog – the latest OS always is – and I’ve had some frustrations with it, but how much that’s attributed to me being a Mac user or me not really taking the time to familiarize myself with Vista I’m not sure.

But I won’t be switching from Macs.

In this Mac vs. PC debate is something that many PC users fail to understand. They think Mac users fall in love with their Macs because of the design. They think Mac users think the Mac OS is rock solid compared to anything Microsoft. They think Mac users distrust anything Microsoft and that’s why they pick Macs.

Continue reading “It’s Not The Platform; It’s The Software”

Adium on the iPhone and iPod Touch

Adium DMG screen

I don’t think I’ll buy an iPhone, but I will be tempted to grab the next revision of the iPod Touch if it has a speaker on it. And it’s all because of the app store.

And since the iPhone is more of a complete communication device than phone, It’s no wonder that Mac users want to have their favorite messaging app with them: Adium. However, it would appear that the Adium iPhone development may not be until Apple changes their position on iPhone development.

A thread on Cocoaforge states that, because Apple’s iPhone developer agreements don’t allow developers to release source code, every project built with GPL software licenses would violate GPL terms if was developed for the iPhone. If a developer chooses to align with the GPL it would mean breaking Apple’s terms on the iPhone and potentially feeling the wrath of Cupertino.

Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. In short, your favorite open-source apps may not find their way to the iPhone.

Preview of The Last.FM iPhone App

The Pandora app is getting some buzz right now, but this preview of the Last.fm iPhone/iPod Touch app looks pretty cool.

Looks like you can:

<ul>
    <li>Listen to radio</li>
<li>View your charts</li>
<li>Love and ban tracks</li>
<li>Send recommendations to last.fm friends and anyone in your address book</li>
<li>Buy right from the Mobile iTunes store</li>


Last.fm iPhone Demo from Toby on Vimeo.

Using The Best Tools Is Half The Battle

Teamwork

I keep thinking about this presentation at C4 from Panic’s Cabel Sasser.

The one thing that has stuck with me about it is how Coda is one of my favorite OSX apps, but there’s really not that much originality in it. Sasser discusses how there were already these great tools on OSX for the tasks that they wanted to do in Coda.

Rather than creating something from scratch, Coda was developed with the intention of simply integrating the best tools already available.

Along the way Panic had to make compromises (their arrangement with CSS Edit didn’t work out, and O’Reilly wanted an amount in royalties from licenses that Panic didn’t agree with), but they found solutions either by coming up with them internally or going someplace else.

I think there’s something to learn in that. Next time you find yourself building something completely from nothing, ask yourself if someone has already done it – and then copy/steal/learn from that idea. You may come up with something better than you set out for – and faster.

How I Wish Leopard’s Quick Look Worked for Logic Pro

What it looks like now:

What a Logic project looks like with Quick Look

Just a big icon which doesn’t fulfill the purpose of Quick Look.

How I wish it worked:

Forgive the amateur compositing.

The Logic Quicklook Proposal

What’s the proposal?

  • Arrange view right in quick look window
  • Play button and progress bar just like if you were viewing a media file so you can confirm if this is the right project
  • Bonus points if the song position line would move along with the progress bar

Do you agree? Let Apple know.