Posts Tagged mac

iTunes Match

Two nights ago, I finally decided to take the plunge and give iTunes Match a try.20130124-171511.jpg

I’ve held off for this long mostly because it didn’t seem to offer much value to me. I’m not much of an audiophile, so the upgrade to 256-bit wasn’t very tempting. My iOS devices have plenty of memory and my music library isn’t all that large, so having my music in the cloud hasn’t been compelling.

The features that ended up luring me were cloud-syncing of playlists, star ratings and newly ripped CDs. The feature that *should* have been compelling but that I hadn’t even considered was syncing between multiple computers. Pre-iTunes Match, syncing new music between my iMac and my MBP has been fairly easy via Home Sharing. (Music not bought via iTunes that is — iTunes purchases were automatically downloaded.) Syncing meta data changes, on the other hand, was nigh impossible. Finally, syncing to my computer at work — on which I just installed iTunes today — is what really makes it all worthwhile.

So, how did my iTunes Match migration go?

Pretty well, I’d say, mostly because I was prepared.

I did quite a bit of research ahead of time so that I wouldn’t be surprised. This is key as there are certainly things about the process that might be very disconcerting if they were unexpected. In particular, it seems that a lot of people expect that after a track is matched it will have its meta data normalized with the iTunes Store data. That is not the case. I can understand that many people may not want their custom metadata overwritten, but it seems like there should be some method of updating to Apple’s curated data.

Years ago, I ripped a bunch of CDs in Linux and ended up with track_names_like_this, often including the album and/or artist in the name of the track. I’ve cleaned up most of these in the intervening years, but had a handful of CDs, mostly my wife’s, that still have this. I was concerned that this might affect matching, though I don’t think that’s actually true. Even so, I preferred to clean this up beforehand. I manually fixed one or two CD’s worth and then decided to simply re-rip the rest. In the end, I’m not sure if this was the best decision. I ended up editing the names of many of the re-ripped tracks anyway as iTunes added prefixes that I didn’t like to those tracks.

Also worth noting, I had recently verified that all of my tracks had album artwork.

With my preparations done, I took the plunge. Of 2546 tracks, 347 (14%) were purchased from iTunes and thus already in the cloud and 1855 (73%) were successfully matched. Combined, that’s a bit over 86% success. All of the remaining 344 were uploaded, so arguably that’s 100% success, depending on how you measure success. Of those 344, 143 are Beatles songs, most of which are from the Mono box set that is not available in iTunes. I wouldn’t have wanted these to match the stereo versions, so that’s fine. Another 34 are from narrow distribution albums that I’m not surprised are not available in the iTunes store. Also, 4 tracks are custom recordings and 1 is a 4-second CD intro.

I looked through the final 162 tracks and nothing really jumped out at me. I know I have some songs that were acquired from a select-your-tracks CD burner vending machine, but I don’t recall which songs those were. Counting only these 162 as “maybe should have matched”, gives a 6.4% match failure rate. Not bad.

Living with iTunes Match

20130124-171822.jpgHaving fully populated iCloud with my music, the next step was to enable it on my iOS devices. Also, I knew I was going to need some new playlists as my previous go-to playlists are not supported by iTunes Match. Specifically, smart playlists that reference other playlists don’t work. While iTunes was processing my library, I worked on creating new playlists and I’m actually happier with my new playlists than my old ones.

With tracks and new playlists in iCloud and devices synced with “all music” to have all of the newest metadata (and re-ripped tracks) pre-loaded to avoid needless download, I flipped the switch on my iPhone to enable iTunes Match. As expected, my list playlists changed but my tracks were available. What I hadn’t expected was that most of my album artwork vanished. Worse, two days later and it’s still mostly missing with no obvious sign of progress. Hmm.

Perhaps ten hours later, I also flipped the switch on my iPad. Oddly, while the album artwork did appear to disappear briefly, it very obviously started repopulating and seemed to finish pretty quickly. Certainly it wasn’t missing any artwork when I more thoroughly checked it hours later.20130124-171900.jpg

I’ve tried turning iTunes Match off and back on on my iPhone, but that didn’t help.

What’s next?

I have yet to replace my matched tracks with their higher quality versions from iTunes. I feel like I need to do some level of verification that the songs are the same.

I may delete all of the tracks from my iPhone and then let them download from iTunes to see if that fixes the artwork issue. I expect it will.

Will I re-up my subscription in a year? It’s too early to tell. If I stick with listening to music at work via my computer, rather than my iPad as I’ve been doing (or my iPhone before that), then having the automatic sync between disparate devices is probably worth $2.09 per month.

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iMultiply?

I started to Tweet this but was doubting I could really fit it into 140 characters. It then occurred to me that this would be as good a time as any to actually write something here again. I had expected my first post back to be about my new Prius, but that will have to wait.

As cool as it looks, and as much as I’d like to have one, I simply didn’t see how a MacBook Air would fit into my life. For most things I think I’d use it for, it seems I can use my iPad. Still, the gears turn…

Our single Mac is the MacBook Pro we acquired about 2 1/2 years ago. The MBP mostly stays in the family room on a laptop table. From time to time I’ve toyed with the idea of getting an iMac for the study. The Windows XP system that was technically replaced by the MBP is still in the study and gets primarily used by the kids for schoolwork. It fills this need adequately, leaving very little motivation for making a change. The only real motivation left is to improve my photo (and video, theoretically) editing process with a faster system and (much) larger display(s). In the end, it wasn’t enough motivation, at least for now.

Earlier today, I had another idea. I could move the MBP to the study, along with a new large monitor for improved photo editing, and replace it in the family room with a MacBook Air. This is an expansion of a scenario I had already considered, which was just to get a large monitor for photo editing, but only move the MBP to the study on demand. It is mobile, after all. With the pricing of Apple’s displays versus the iMacs, and with the ability to use an iMac as a second display for the MBP, this idea didn’t really go anywhere. Mostly, it was stopped by the fact that I’d really want the MBP and iMac to work together as a multiprocessing system when connected, which they wouldn’t do.

It should be readily apparent by now, if it wasn’t at the start, that I’m really just trying to come up with a justification to by a MacBook Air. So, here we go!

What if, instead of moving the MBP to the study I sold the MBP and replaced it with an iMac and a MacBook Air? Doesn’t that sound good? I wonder what an early-2008 17″ MBP is worth?

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iMac / MacBook Pro Co-op

imacAs you may or may not know, Apple recently released new iMacs (along with some other things). One of the new features of the high-end 27″ iMac is that it has a display port so that you can use it as the display for another device. In particular, you can connect a MacBook or MacBook Pro to it to use the nice large screen.

While I think this is a great idea, it immediately strikes me as being not quite enough. What I’d really like would be the ability to connect a MacBook to it and then be able to make use of the iMac’s computing resources (hard drives, CPUs, GPUs, etc.). And, vice-versa, of course — have the iMac make use of the MacBook’s resources. Basically, I’d want to be able to choose which system is the master and have the other systems resources be available.

Of course, the hard drive is presumably already available via the network, so what I’m really looking for is just the coprocessing capabilities. I want my image and video editing to be able to make use of the memory and processing capabilities of both systems.

Am I asking for too much? As things stand, it’s relatively unlikely that I’ll be purchasing an iMac. But if this additional functionality were offered, that would be a different story entirely!

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New Laptop Table

I ordered a laptop table the other day and it arrived today. This is a table designed to extend over a chair (or bed) with a laptop. It can also tilt to improve the angle of the laptop.

Prior to this, I was using a combination of a lapdesk and a TV tray (floor-standing). The laptop was always on the lapdesk and the lapdesk was usually on the TV tray and then sometimes on my lap. When I was only casually using the laptop (reading a new email, perhaps), I would not bother putting it in my lap. However, I would often find myself leaving it on the TV tray even when I was typing or browsing for longer periods of time. This was not the least bit comfortable. On the other hand, even with the lapdesk between my lap and the laptop, my legs still got quite warm.

With the new laptop table, the situation is very much improved, though it is far from perfect. Keeping everything off of my lap is great, and the tilt provides a much better combination of typing and viewing angles. The problems are several. The arm is not long enough for my chair, so I cannot actually have the laptop directly in front of me. If I’m watching TV, this isn’t an issue as it would probably block my view of the television anyway. Of course, that is at least partly due to another problem — the table is height-adjustable, but the lowest selection is still too high. I guess the higher selections are for using a laptop while standing. I can get it lower than the lowest selection, but then the table rotates freely (which is actually how I’m using it now). When using one of the notched heights, the notch prevents the table from rotating. When using without a notch, and therefore “all the way down”, it doesn’t take much pressure on the tilted surface to cause it to rotate away from me. So far, it seems manageable though, and better than having the laptop too high.

Another issue is really the fault of my MacBook Pro. The screen simply doesn’t tilt back as far as I would like, which limits how far forward I can have the table tilted and still have a good angle for the screen. Moreover, if I decide to live with the screen tilted slightly toward me, the resistance of the laptop hinge is not quite strong enough and the force of gravity slowly (at first) causes the laptop lid to close. Oh, and it’s a good think I don’t use an external mouse as there’s simply no room for one with my 17″ laptop — I doubt there’s really room for one with a 15″ laptop either. If I placed the table on the other side of my chair (not at all feasible here) then I could use the secondary surface for the mouse, but I’m not sure how realistic that is. Without tilting the secondary surface (which does tilt), the mouse would be too high, and if it is tilted then the mouse would not stay in place.

For $73.44 (including shipping), I think it’s a pretty good table. Assembly was quite straight-forward. Amazon link: Mobile Laptop Desk (Mahogany/Silver) (30″ to 47″H x 32″W x 17″D)

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The Long Way Home….

Well, I finally took the plunge and ordered a Mac. It’s been 23 years in the making but forestalled along the way by an Amiga, OS/2 and Linux. Our first computer when I was growing up was an Apple, but an Apple II+, not a Mac.

I ended up ordering a Mac Book Pro and a Time Capsule online because the Apple store doesn’t carry the configuration I wanted (MacBook Pro 17-inch Hi-Resolution Glossy LED Widescreen Display), so I won’t actually have the Mac in my hands until sometime next week.

What pushed me over the edge was my frustration with trying to edit the AVCHD videos from my HD Camcorder. I tried both Sony Vegas and Ulead VideoStudio. I didn’t really like either of them very much and they were both simply too slow. Admittedly, this could be due to my system, which is a 2.8GHz P4, but even when I went through the pain of converting the videos to a smaller format that alleviated most of the speed problems, I still found the experience frustrating.

In contrast, when I took my camcorder into the Apple store and plugged it into the Mac Book Pro to pull of some video, I had no such troubles. iMovie was so much more pleasant to use and there were no performance issues at all. Of course, I didn’t do any real editing, so perhaps it will turn out to be less pleasant. Time will tell….

I’m looking forward to again having an Apple computer — it’s been a long time.

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HD Video Editing

Not too long ago I purchased a Sony HDR-SR7 with which I am reasonably happy (it is light years better than the SVHS Panasonic from the early ’90s that we were using). I experimented with Ulead VideoStudio 11 Plus and Sony Vegas Movie Studio Platinum 8.0 (the two main products that currently support the AVCHD format used by this camcorder).

I used them each a couple of times during the first week or two of the 30-day trial, but then other things came up and the trial ended before I made a decision between the two. Separately, I’ve been toying for a while with the idea of getting a Mac. It appears that the new version of iMovie does have AVCHD support (and specifically, support for this camcorder), but I’ve yet to see any reviews of this particular support. Too bad I can’t feasibly have a 30-day trial of iMovie. 🙂

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