Monday, 20 October 2008

In the matter of; Ipod Infuriation!

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The iPod is a beautifully crafted device as all owners will know.  Beauty in this case is derived from clean cut design, an intuitive interface and the ability to carry around music, photos and films in your pocket.  At least that is the idea.

I had abstained from owning an iPod since having the 4 Gigabyte Nano model circa 2005.
This was what I consider now a "transition" type of device.  Neither here nor there, it was a stop gap whilst Apple developed more storage and better features.  It actually turned me off owning another iPod such was the limited capacity, the ease at which it scratched even with a suitable protective cover and questionable battery life.  

Additionally, and this is the point of the post, I was stunned at how such a prominent piece of technology - that was insanely popular to the masses and used by so many day in day out - had such an abysmal piece of accompanying software;  iTunes.

It was abysmal 3 years ago when I first encountered it.  It is as bad now.  Truly awful; and having googled tirelessly in order to sort various problems I have suffered I have discovered that I am not alone.  A fair proportion of iPod users simply do not use iTunes.  Fascinating it is when you consider that they are not abandoning the program in the vein that Internet Explorer users jumped to Firefox.  Indeed, iTunes is forcing them to an alternative through its sheer uselessness.  IE is useful and does what it says on the tin after-all.  iTunes...well it defies explanation almost.

My re-introduction to iTunes came about in August.  I was fortunate enough to receive an iPod Classic as a birthday gift.  Again it is a shiny, lovely, sexy way to carry around 80 Gigabytes of my favourite digital media.  This time around I noted iTunes at least ran on my machine.  Perhaps all the additional purchases of RAM were not wasted after-all.  However, (and I realise that iTunes runs better on Macs) it is slow.  Slow to the extent where it is unresponsive for at least the first 5 minutes.  Sometimes the interface popped up and synced for this time.  Other times I knew it was there but it was slow to appear.  Ridiculous, on a decent spec machine under a year old.  Next came the 'Library' management.  Terrible is the only way to describe it.  Sometimes it added new files, other times not.  A re-scan of your directory only serves to produce duplicated files!  These duplicated files can be shown, but not removed easily!  So unless you source some third party software you have to stare at your Library twice over, just so your iPod can pick up new files!  Frustrating to say the least.

This has led me on a quest to find something that actually works.  I have trawled forums, blogs etc to try and find something that will manage my music effectively. All I want is a Library that syncs my media to the damn iPod accurately and with relative ease. 

I first thought back to the alternative I used for my old Nano - a small program called vPod.  It seems that they have been hit hard by a firmware upgrade by Apple which renders it useless on any iTunes 7.3+ compatible iPod.  Furthermore, my needs have moved on whereas the program has remained relatively lightweight.  Whilst that is its purpose, and one it performs well, I needed to look elsewhere.  I would certainly recommend this program for anyone looking for the basic transferring of music files to their iPod though.

Next I came across 'Songbird'.  This app is powered by Mozilla, the clever gentlefolk who brought us Firefox.  This could well be the next big program and it is currently up to version 0.7.  Now, this program promises much in terms of integrating everything together but it just does not perform.  I read amazing reviews raving, bordering on a mass orgy of love for this program.  Endless pages of Songbird loving.  Truth be told it has some great features, but it hangs on large libraries, and is riddled with bugs.  Every time I thought I was getting somewhere the program froze and hard crashed.  It just could not handle my 8000 or so tracks.  A mere search would result in its premature death.  iTunes, once it loads, searches your music (that which it chooses to show you) with ease.  Mark 'Songbird' down as one for the future, but for me right now, it was incapable of doing much.  So much so I'd suggest taking a look only if you're into that sort of thing, but make a wide berth should you be a solely end user type.

My recommended and currently used program for managing my iPod is Media Monkey Gold 3.0.  I came across it whilst trying to address Songbird problems I was encountering.  An excited Songbird "lover" was desperately trying to convert people, to no avail as it is a program very much still in the making.  However, I did catch onto the repeated references to Media Monkey.  A company like Apple should hang its head in shame that it has the nerve to produce an app like iTunes and actually release it considering Media Monkey.  Songbird has much to improve to even consider itself a competitor.  As a media manager, I give Media Monkey 5*****, logical interface and it just gets on with it.  A program loaded with features you want, that work.  In my opinion this should not be hard to deliver but it is to my amazement that this is the only one I can find.  Super quick searches of my library (finally!), album artwork correct! (iTunes users, have you tried iArt?) and a quick load time!  My only real gripe is the synchronisation process.  Now, I know what you're thinking.  It takes a while to sync.  But, when it's done, it is correct.  Its competition is erroneous and unpredictable in iTunes and Songbird.  Media Monkey seems to work, through taking a bit of time doing it, and producing the desired end result.

In summation.  Burn your copy of iTunes, not to a disk, but in the fiery pits of Mount Doom.

News in short:

And whilst I am on the subject of technology etc.  Google Chrome.  It is a great browser.  I like it.  There is a problem however, it is absolutely no different from Mozilla Firefox.  It looks great, it is quick...but other than the fact I was interested for the sake of interest, I just do not see the point of another browser.  Still it is healthy competition I suppose, but it is hardly groundbreaking.  A point of consideration:  Google used to be the market creator/innovator.  Now it is resorting to the mid 90's Microsoft tactics of doing things that their competitors have been for years and using their brand awareness to promote its new products.  Would Chrome have even been looked at if Google hadn't thrown its immense weight behind it.  Say I released a browser tomorrow, who would care?  What would be different about my browser?  

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