Enjoying the hell out of iTunes Radio

iTunes Radio is a revelation to me. Not that I didn’t know what it was going to be like, I mean, intellectually. I’ve used Pandora, after all. But Pandora was annoying, browser-based, finicky, and I never used it very long. When I first tried iTunes Radio yesterday, while trying to write, I picked some of their pre-programmed “stations” and was all, meh. Their “iTunes Top 100: Alternative” has too much Killers in it. Which is to say, any Killers is too much. My taste is definitely Alt, but I like my alt more eclectic than that. And that Fallout Boy song (Alone Together) sounds like Rihanna in drag.

But today I made my own “station” based on a song in heavy rotation in our house, Little Brass Bear by Rachel Goodrich.

And it turns out, basically, that iTunes Radio is like Genius, but with the entire iTunes catalog as your library. Which is freaking awesome.

Of course, it also turns out that iTunes Radio is just like Pandora, Rdio, etc., but without the hassle of using something added on to my ecosystem. I am, as stated elsewhere, fully entrenched in the Apple ecosystem, and in here I am as happy as a bug that is snug in a rug.

My playlist so far:

Jaymay (one of my favorite songs, Gray or Blue!)
Woody Guthrie
Matthew and the Atlas
Kimya Dawson
Langhorne Slim
Laura Veirs
Lindsey Ray
The Colorful Quiet
Malvina Reynolds
Lucy Wainwricht Roche (dang there are a lot of Wainwrights, no?)
Cast Spells
Rachel Goodrich

I’ve heard of… six of those artists. I own one of the songs I have heard so far. New music! Which is what makes this so awesome.

iTunes Match Airport Wall Wart

Delightful name, no?

I would like Apple to build a wall wart1 that connects to my iTunes Match account (nee, my iCloud account) to stream music.

It should be very much like an Airport Express, being wall-wartish, and having an audio out option, but it should be purpose built to connect to my music in my Apple ecosystem. I would set it up via my Apple i(OS)X device, connect to my WiFi, log in to iCloud, save my credentials, and it would be ready to go.

This magic wart would then let me listen to my music, via iTunes Match, without a computer or a copy of iTunes running. I wouldn’t have to plug my iPhone in anywhere, or use minutes/battery to stream music. I wouldn’t have to “Start iTunes, Honey, so we can listen to music.” I could still use Remote (or iTunes on OSX?) to skip, pick a playlist, etc.

How sweet would that be?

Really sweet.

Bonus, it would be ready for iRadio, or whatever Apple calls their eventual streaming music service.

Yes, I know this is very specific to the Apple ecosystem. And it would be fab if Apple would let you connect it to Pandora/Rdio/Spotify/whatnot, but Apple would never do that. On the other side, Apple would never allow a third party wall wart to connect to iTunes Match, so. I am, in my circumstances, stuck with Apple. I can live with that.

But I can’t live without this thing. Build it, Apple!

  1. wall wart (n): electronic nubbin with plug prongs on the back that you plug into the wall where it sits like a parasitic lump, doing “something.” 

Dear Apple, do you hate my family?

Just “watched” Apple’s latest from their Worldwide Developers Conference, and they announced a lot of cool things, but they have left me, in the end, worried.

In a nutshell, Apple hates me (us).

Right now, we have one Mac, two iPhones and an iPad in the family (with another iPad on the way, we expect). We have music, movies, games, apps, etc. on all of these devices. (Note, “device” now includes Macs, as per Apple’s new nomenclature.) We have one happy Apple ID, and that Apple ID is tied to our service contracts for our hardware, our music purchases, our app purchases, and our device profiles. With so many devices, you’d think we’d pay a fortune buying songs for each one!

But Apple (or the old Apple, at least) was nice about this. Using our one Apple ID on all of our devices, we could buy an app once, or a song once, and use it on all our devices. They all connected to one account (on iTunes on the Mac) and if I didn’t want the iPad (which the kids use a lot) to have certain songs, or certain apps, then I could choose to leave them off. On subsequent connections, iTunes remembered that the iPad doesn’t get Cee Lo’s original recording, that my iPhone doesn’t get Sesame Street Live, and that my wife’s iPhone doesn’t get Solomon’s Keep.

Apple loved me and my family.

But now, I am not so sure.

Everything they just described today seems tied directly to your Apple ID. When I get a new iPhone, all I have to do is enter my Apple ID and my password, and whoosh, all my stuff is dropped in from the iCloud. And when I get a new iPad, whoosh! And when my wife gets a new iPhone, whoo..ait a minute. Does she have to have her own Apple ID? If she uses mine (ours) does she get all my (our) stuff? What if she doesn’t want that music, or those apps? What if I don’t want her (or the kids) to have that? Does all my mail show up on her phone? If we use the new iMessage (also tied to Apple ID, I think) are we just talking to ourselves?

No problem, you say, Apple IDs are free! She can get her own. And one for each of the kids, too! (And the dogs!) Okay, but then, does she have to buy all her own apps? Her own music? Has the gravy train come to a screeching halt?

Cause if that’s the case, you better betcha iCloud is free, buddy, since I’ll be spending beaucoup bucks catching all my “devices” up to where they were before the magic happened.

Here’s hoping they didn’t show us some kind of profile feature in iCloud.

24 hours is not enough to watch a digital movie rental

Okay, I touched on this in my Macworld coverage, but it deserves its own post.

We have a TiVo Series 3 that connects to the Internet. I can see us owning an Apple TV at some point in the future. We are members of Netflix. All three of these allow for some form of digital movie rentals. The TiVo uses Amazon’s Unbox service. Apple TV uses iTunes. And Netflix uses… well, you can only watch their movies on a PC, so screw ’em.

The other two have a pretty consistent policy. Order a rental and you have thirty days to start watching it before it is erased. Once you start to watch it, you have 24 hours to finish it, watch it again, etc., before it is erased. And therein lies the problem.

My wife and I love the idea of digital rentals. No movie store, little delay, prices are okay (if a little expensive). But we can only watch movies at night, after the boys are in bed. That means we start about 8:30 pm or so. And we have small boys. Small boys who wear us out. It is not impossible that we might be too tired to finish watching our movie. If we fail to finish our movie, we must finish it before 8:30 the next night, or we are out of luck. Our 24 hour window will be closed.

That doesn’t work for us. I’m surprised that it would work for anyone with a regular job, kids, or a life. Which doesn’t say much about the executives at TiVo or Apple (you hearin’ me, Steve?). 24 hours does not work. It is a number made up in a boardroom.

The solution is simple. Make the watching window 36 hours. No big deal. I’d even accept 30 hours. Hell, I would gratefully take 26 hours. But please make it more then 24. Thank you.

The Master Home Computing Plan gets a wifi remote (updated)

You may or may not have read the Master Home Computing Plan, a post where I outlined how and what my perfect home computing plan was. That post is under review right now, but a crucial element has just been introduced by a company called iospirit.

Enter Remote Buddy. Originally, this was software you installed on your Mac to enable new functions in your Apple Remote and/or your Wii remote. But now, they have added your iPhone or iPod Touch as a remote. New functions? Well, among others, the ability to control iTunes via Wifi. And not just control. All the bells and whistles are there.

Check out the movie of Remote Buddy at work on an iPod Touch. As a frustrated remote iTunes user, this is simply awesome.

Our music setup is pretty cool. We have all our music residing on an Infrant NAS. iTunes on our iMac connects to that music, and sends it out via AirTunes to an Airport Express. That is, in turn, connected to a hobby-built FM transmitter that sends the signal out over 98.5 FM, and we listen to it all over the house on our radios.

Until now, we had no way to remotely change the music. We had to fire up a laptop to run one of any number of mediocre remote itunes controllers. Or run downstairs and change it on the iMac. Hard to do gracefully when you forgot to take Mr. Hankey out of the Christmas Music Mix before family came over.

Of course, we still don’t have a way to remotely change our music, as we don’t own an iPod Touch. But the future is coming.

Thanks to bbum for finding this first.

Update: bbum has come through again, this time downloading and reviewing Apple’s own free iTunes remote for iPhone and iPod touch. He loves it.