The iTunes problem


Now 15 years old, Apple’s iTunes is like The Borrow in Harry Potter. As the Weasley family grew, new floors, rooms and wings were added, one on top of the other, resulting in a confounding structure that only its builders understand.

Today, “The world’s best and easiest to use jukebox software” is anything but.

Just this morning I sat at my desk and launched iTunes. My goal was to put the Monument Valley soundtrack on repeat. If only I were a wizard.

Let’s play, “How do I make an album repeat in iTunes 12.3?” Well, here’s Play and Shuffle, but no repeat:

Screen Shot 2016-05-06 at 9.19.10 AM


Perhaps it’s up here. There’s shuffle again, but no repeat:

Screen Shot 2016-05-06 at 9.19.25 AM


Weird. Maybe if I minimize the window a button will reveal itself. Nope.

Screen Shot 2016-05-06 at 9.19.50 AM

One last try. Maybe the menu bar? Oh, there it is!

Screen Shot 2016-05-06 at 9.20.26 AM

No keyboard shortcut, no button, no option in the app’s preferences to make it a button. “Repeat” is not an obscure function that most people won’t use. I shouldn’t have to spend two minutes digging to find it.

I want to love iTunes but it’s at the point where it needs to be scrapped completely and re-worked. I should’t need the Marauder’s Map to find basic functions.

iTunes was released 12 years ago today

Steve Jobs introduced iTunes 1.0 at Macworld Expo in San Francisco on January 9, 2001. Here’s a video of the keynote presentation. There’s so much that’s interesting about this:

  1. Look at the devices on the screen behind Steve as the video begins. A Rio Mp3 player (I had one of those), a portable CD player, digital camera and a video camera, a Palm device, a Power Mac G4 and whatever that is on the bottom (DVD player?). Four of those items don’t exist anymore, largely because of what Steve’s about to announce.
  2. Steve describes “digital music on computers” to “those not participating in [it].” He then explains what it means to “rip a CD.”
  3. Steve talks about burning CDs. “Everyone is doing it.”
  4. The iPod, still several months away at that point, is conspicuous in its absence. Today, iTunes and Apple’s mobile devices are inextricable.

Lastly, in reference to the digital music revolution as a whole, Steve says, “We’re late to this party but we’re about to do a leapfrog.”

Understatement of the decade.

How to buy iTunes gift cards from Facebook

Facebook finally released Facebook Gifts for many users [1. One reader reports that Facebook Gifts are unavailable in Australia. Could be US only at this point.]. This feature lets you buy and ship a gift to another Facebook user, including iTunes gift cards. iTunes gift cards are more versatile than some people realize. They can be used towards purchases in the iTunes Store, App Store, iBookstore, and Mac App Store. Here’s how to send someone an iTunes gift card via Facebook.

First, find your lucky recipient’s timeline and follow these steps:

  1. On their timeline, click the new gift icon.
  2. Three suggestions appear. Click More Gifts.
  3. A window appears. It’s really annoying that you can’t search gifts by name. To find iTunes gift cards, click the category drop-down menu and select Fun.
  4. Click the gift cards.
  5. Choose $10, $15, $25 or $50.
  6. Click Next in the lower right-hand corner.
  7. Select a card and add a message.
  8. Click Next.
  9. Add your payment details and you’re all set.

Your recipient will receive the “card” you made with our message and iTunes card.

Use iTunes 11 ‘Up Next’ to create an on-the-fly playlist – Update

Update: David Chartier points out @chucker‘s instructions for adding a track to an Up Next playlist with a keyboard shortcut. Huzzah!

Apple has released iTunes 11, which offers a major redesign of the decade-old media player/store. Alongside the visual changes are some clever features, including Up Next. Up Next lets you create an on-the-fly playlist, determining which song follows which during playback.

There are several ways to add to and re-arrange an Up Next playlist. Here’s how to work with Up Next playlists in iTunes 11.

Continue reading →

Create an iPhone ringtone from a Voice Memo recording

A friend recently asked me if it’s possible to make an iPhone ringtone from a Voice Memo recording. The answer is yes, of course! This article describes how, step by step. You might want to do this for several reasons. Humor is one, of course, but why not have a few friends, the kids or a relative use the Voice Memos app to record themselves saying, “It’s me,” then use that as a custom tone for those contacts? It’s fun and easy. Here’s how to do it.

Recording the voice memo

Apple’s Voice Memos app reminds me of businessmen in movies from the 1980’s who were always reciting important tidbits into pocket-sized tape recorders. Today, Voice Memos lets you do something very similar, minus the cassettes and the DeLorean. To make a recording, follow these steps:

  1. Tap the Voice Memos app.
  2. The main window appears. To begin your recording, tap the red Record/Pause button on the left.
  3. A “ding” signifies the start of a recording. When you’re finished, tap the Stop button in the lower right (another “ding” signifies the recording’s conclusion).
  4. The list view appears and your newly-recorded message plays back.

That’s it! You’ve made a recording. If you’re satisfied with it, great. If not, tap Done in the upper right-hand corner and try again. Before we move on to the next section, I’ll offer a couple of notes. First, watch the needle while you’re recording. If it’s spending a lot of time in the red, your source is too loud. Back away or reduce the volume if you can. Also, you can trim a recording if you’ve got some unwanted sound at the beginning or end. Here’s how.

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My favorite free audio dramas in iTunes

I love hearing a story. Maybe it’s some pre-adolescent hang-up from when I was read to, but I enjoy hearing a story even more than reading one. A good audio book mimics the experience of being read to, and a full-on audio drama builds upon that to create a fantastic experience.

Fortunately, there are many wonderful, free audio dramas in iTunes. From zombie horror to creative short fiction, I listen to all of it. Here’s a list of my favorite audio dramas. But first, a brief history.

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Stanford adds class discussions to iTunes U

Very cool. The Atlantic:

“Now available on the iTunes platform is a Stanford class, ‘App Development for the iPhone and iPad ,’ which allows, for the first time, interactive class discussions. The class — to date, the most popular among Stanford’s many iTunes U offerings — will employ the course discussion infrastructure of Piazza, which Stanford has already been using as an online supplement to its in-person discussions. Students in the class — which is still free to take — will get to interact with each other, asking questions and working through problems.”

Fantastic. I learn best when I can ask questions and collaborate with other students. That’s been the one piece missing from iTunes U for me. It’s great to see Stanford address it.

Apple will reportedly kill Ping this fall

AllThingsD is reporting that Apple will kill Ping, its iTunes-based social network, this fall. It’s suggested the next major release of iTunes will see the end of Ping as Apple builds upon its relationships with Twitter and Facebook. John Paczkowski writes:

“Why not leave the social stuff to the social people who are good at it? Apple might be great at software and hardware, but its skills in creating a social network are sorely lacking.

In the end, Ping was a social network that was focused far too much on enabling commerce, and far too little on enabling social interaction. It wasn’t easy to find and connect with people on Ping. And that didn’t resonate with Apple’s customers all. Apple CEO Tim Cook said as much at D10. ‘We tried Ping, and I think the customer voted and said ‘This isn’t something that I want to put a lot of energy into,” Cook said.”

Makes sense.