Previous Issue | Search TidBITS | TidBITS Home Page | Next Issue
Apple held a one-year anniversary party for the iTunes Music Store last week, announcing sales of 70 million songs and releasing iTunes 4.5. Adam has his ear to the Apple speaker and reports on new features such as Party Shuffle, iMix, and more. Jeff Carlson looks at the latest Zire handhelds from PalmOne, and we note the releases of Palm Desktop 4.2.1, iMovie 4.0.1, Path Finder 3.2, and Security Update 2004-05-03. Lastly, learn how to get free MacDesign conference exhibit passes from Peachpit.
Copyright 2004 TidBITS: Reuse governed by Creative Commons license
<http://www.tidbits.com/terms/> Contact: <firstname.lastname@example.org>
This issue of TidBITS sponsored in part by:
Make friends and influence people by sponsoring TidBITS!
Put your company and products in front of tens of thousands of
savvy, committed Macintosh users who actually buy stuff.
For more information and rates, email <email@example.com>.
READERS LIKE YOU! Help keep TidBITS great via our voluntary
contribution program. Special thanks this week to Rolf Heller,
Judy Cunning, and Daniel Richardson for their generous support!
SMALL DOG ELECTRONICS: PowerBooks On Sale!
PB 15" G4/1 GHz 512 MB RAM, SuperDrive Only $1839! 15" G4/1 GHz
with Combo drive $1669! PowerBook 12" G4/867 SuperDrive $1329!
Visit: <http://www.smalldog.com/tb/> 802-496-7171
FETCH SOFTWORKS: With FTP, Fetch does it all! Upload,
download, mirror, and manage your web site. Fetch works
with Mac OS X, Mac OS 9, Mac OS 8, and even System 7!
Get your free trial version at <http://fetchsoftworks.com/>!
Dr. Bott, LLC: We got into this business because we love
computer stuff. We now have the chance - the DUTY - to sit and
geek out with technology every day under the guise of "work."
And if it's cool enough, we sell it. <http://www.drbott.com/>
Web Crossing: Free _Web Crossing Express_ now adds discussions &
plug-ins (low-volume) to the unlimited Web/FTP/email server.
Plug-ins add blogs, wikis, RSS, & more. Perfect for small biz,
families or clubs. Try it! <http://www.webcrossing.com/tb-304>
Available in anodized Aluminum, White Aluminum, Black Aluminum,
and Basic Black, Laptop Armor cases keep your PowerBook or
iBook safe and looking great. Its patented cushioning system
has been drop-tested from 10 feet! <http://laptoparmor.com/>
Security Update 2004-05-03 Released -- Apple seems to enjoy releasing security updates on Monday afternoons. This week, the company unveiled Security Update 2004-05-03, a 4.2 MB package that updates the AFP Server, CoreFoundation, and IPSec components of the operating system, and includes the components of the earlier Security Update 2004-04-05. For owners of Mac OS X 10.2 Jaguar, the update provides the same new components, but in a 9.8 MB download. No other details were available at press time. Both updates are available via Software Update; standalone downloads will likely be available by the time you read this. [JLC]
iMovie 4.0.1 Improves Performance -- Apple has released iMovie 4.0.1, which improves performance in long projects and fixes a few bugs in the video editing application. The update corrects problems when launching the program and adding titles to the timeline, and better handles projects that used third-party plug-ins which are no longer present. It also includes fixes for pixelated video, corrupted Ken Burns (pan and zoom) clips, and audio loss after emptying the trash. Apple recommends upgrading to QuickTime 6.5.1 and, if you use an iSight as your video input source, iSight 1.0.2. The iMovie 4.0.1 update is a 1.2 MB download, and is also available in Software Update. [JLC]
Beating a Path to Path Finder 3.2 -- The folks at Cocoatech have released version 3.2 of their flagship Finder replacement, Path Finder. With Path Finder, you can navigate your hard disks, see invisible items, sort in many ways (including "smart" sorting, which distinguishes applications, folders, and packages from normal files), make a new file or folder (without its jumping around the window!), list files into a text file, copy a pathname, accumulate files from many locations to be moved or copied to a single location (the "Drop Stack"), get extensive information about items on disk, and loads of other things you wish you could do from the Finder. There are also many power user features: you can examine files in hex, get a class dump or symbol table of an application, sample (profile) a running application, launch multiple instances of an application, launch as root, access the command line, and so forth. In addition to numerous bug fixes, this version augments the "Swiss Army Knife" quality of Path Finder, adding the capability to burn a CD, take a screen shot, connect to remote servers, and more. Many popular utilities, such as LaunchBar, DragThing, and Zinng, support Path Finder. Try it; you might never bother with the Finder again. Path Finder 3.2 is a free update for registered users of version 3.0. It is a $10 upgrade from earlier versions. Otherwise it costs $35. It requires Mac OS X 10.3 Panther. A feature-complete 21-day demo is available. [MAN]
Free MacDesign Exhibit Passes -- Our friends at Peachpit Press are giving away passes to the upcoming MacDesign Conference and Expo in Chicago, 02-Jun-04 through 04-Jun-04. The exhibit-only passes are good for 03-Jun-04 only, and are valued at $40. To get a pair of tickets, send your name and postal address in an email to <firstname.lastname@example.org> before 21-May-04. The passes are first-come, first-served, so act quickly before Peachpit runs out. And if you plan to attend the sessions (a full conference pass is $500) at MacDesign as well, be sure to check out Adam's talks on Friday, 04-Jun-04 about iPhoto and electronic book design. [JLC]
by Jeff Carlson <email@example.com>
PalmOne last week introduced two new color models of its consumer handhelds, the Zire 31 and Zire 72, along with a long-awaited maintenance update to its Mac desktop software, Palm Desktop 4.2.1.
Zire 31 -- When the company released its first Zire handheld in 2002, it appeared to be a step backwards (see "Palm Offers Low-price, No-frills Zire Handheld" in TidBITS-652). While other personal organizers were gaining faster processors, color screens, and improved networking capabilities, the Zire arrived with specifications akin to the original Pilot, such as 2 MB of memory and a monochrome screen (with no backlight). To everyone's surprise (except for Palm), the Zire was a hit, tapping into the fact that many people primarily use their handhelds to keep track of contacts and calendars. The fact that the Zire (and later, the slightly upgraded Zire 21) cost only $100 was also instrumental in its success.
Now, PalmOne believes that even cost-conscious users are willing to pay a little more for a better handheld, while keeping the Zire's streamlined feature set. For $150, the Zire 31 features a color screen capable of displaying thousands of colors, 16 MB of memory, Palm OS 5.2.8, an expansion slot that accepts MultiMediaCard/SD cards, and the 5-way Navigator control (which replaces the scroll-up and scroll-down buttons) found on the company's other recent handhelds. The Zire 31 also includes a rechargeable lithium ion polymer battery, a fairly speedy 200 MHz Intel ARM-based processor, and a stereo headphone jack to use the device as an MP3 audio player. Like previous Zire models, this one uses a standard mini-USB cable to synchronize with the computer, versus the Universal Connector port found on the Tungsten line of devices.
Zire 72 -- If it weren't for a similar physical design, you might wonder how the Zire 72 can be legitimately grouped with the Zire 31. For $300, the Zire 72 is PalmOne's consumer multimedia handheld. It features a high-resolution color screen (16-bit color in a 320 by 320 pixel area), 32 MB of memory, a 312 MHz Intel PXA270 processor, Palm OS 5.2.8, headphone jack, expansion slot, rechargeable battery, and mini-USB HotSync cable. Unlike the Zire 71, which it replaces, the Zire 72 includes built-in Bluetooth wireless networking (which I use almost exclusively to synchronize the data on my Tungsten T and PowerBook G4 - one less cable to carry around!), and a built-in voice recorder.
The Zire 72 will also appeal to the image conscious: not because it's attractively designed (it is), but because it includes an integrated 1.2 megapixel digital camera capable of taking images at 1280 by 960 pixels. (The camera also boasts a 2x digital zoom, but in my experience digital zoom serves only to make otherwise decent images blurry.) The camera can also capture video at 320 by 240 pixels; however, currently the video is saved in ASF format, and can't be played back on a Mac without a third-party utility such as MPlayer.
Palm Desktop 4.2.1 -- Many Palm users who upgraded to Mac OS X 10.3 Panther discovered that Palm Desktop refused to work properly. After several months, a new version of Palm Desktop is available that fixes the permissions issue that caused the problem. The download also includes version 3.1 of the Send to Handheld droplet, which facilitates the transfer of image and audio files from the Mac to the handheld. Palm Desktop 4.2.1 is a free 12.1 MB download, but unfortunately you need to fill out a form, receive an email from PalmOne containing a URL to click, and agree to a legal form that appears in a pop-up window in order to download the installer. Or, if you have trouble getting the email from PalmOne, just use the second link below.
PalmOne has also released a separate utility for users of Mac OS X 10.2 or 10.3 who ran into an Access Denied error after installing iSync 2.1. The PalmOne Permission Fixer, a 20K download, corrects the permissions of the folders that contain the HotSync conduit files (which dictate how data is synchronized between the Mac and the handheld's expansion card).
Continued Support for the Mac -- Lastly, PalmOne expressed its ongoing support of the Mac platform when the new Zire handhelds were released. In an interview with MacCentral, Stéphane Maes, PalmOne's senior product line manager for handhelds reiterated support for the Mac platform for future PalmOne devices, saying, "We will continue to meet Mac users' needs regardless of what OS we're running."
In February 2004, PalmSource (the spin-off company that now handles Palm OS development) demonstrated Palm OS Cobalt, the next version of the handheld operating system and let slip that Mac synchronization would no longer be supported. Independent Mac developer Mark/Space took advantage of the news and announced that the next version of its Missing Sync utility would provide that synchronization and more (see "PalmSource to Drop Mac Support in Palm OS Cobalt" in TidBITS-717).
It's not yet clear if that support will come in the form of updated Palm Desktop software, the licensing of Missing Sync, or some entirely new solution, but it is heartening to hear that the Mac community won't be left out in the cold as the Palm platform advances.
by Adam C. Engst <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Apple last week celebrated the first anniversary of the iTunes Music Store with the release of iTunes 4.5 and a slew of new features in the iTunes Music Store itself. Although the update doesn't warrant a full version number jump, it's not at all insignificant.
New iTunes Features -- Whether or not you buy music from the iTunes Music Store, iTunes 4.5 offers a number of useful new features. A new dedicated Party Shuffle playlist selects a random list of songs to play from one of your playlists (or your entire Library), but unlike simply shuffling through a normal playlist, you can see what just played, see what's coming up, change the order of songs on the fly, or add new songs. It's essentially a temporary, malleable playlist that you can modify without fear of messing something up. If you perform a fair amount of ordering and deleting songs, you can save your efforts by dragging the contents of Party Shuffle to the playlist pane to create a normal playlist with those selections.
Also highly welcome is the new capability of smart playlists to exclude the contents of other playlists. That means you could, for instance, have a smart playlist that includes all your music except for the songs in a Christmas Music playlist that might sound rather jarring in July.
iTunes has enabled users of networked Macs on the same subnet to share music for some time, and although the short-lived Internet sharing feature hasn't reappeared, multiple users of the same Mac can now share music in exactly the same way. The sharing settings look exactly the same as in earlier versions; however, as long as the user whose music is being shared is logged in, all other users who log in via Fast User Switching can play the shared music.
Amusingly, if a user called Fred is playing music in iTunes and then another user, Guido, logs in via Fast User Switching, Fred's music continues to play and Guido can't stop or control it in any way. And if Guido starts playing music in iTunes as well, the two songs play simultaneously. It's not exactly a bug, since Apple is aware of the behavior, but in my mind, Fred's music should continue to play only until Guido starts playing music in iTunes as well. In many cases, multiple accounts are used for testing or troubleshooting, and not having to restart iTunes on every user switch is welcome. But in other cases, it's truly annoying for one user to have to listen to the other's music.
For those who burn CDs, iTunes can now print song lists using a variety of templates, along with jewel case inserts that include album artwork, if available. And if you're printing a jewel case insert for a CD that contains songs from multiple albums, iTunes arranges the artwork from multiple albums in a mosaic pattern.
Lastly, to ensure the highest possible sound quality, you can rip original audio CDs using a new Apple Lossless Encoder. Its lossless compression method reduces file size by approximately 2:1 (as opposed to 10:1 or more for MP3 or AAC) without compromising quality at all. Audiophiles will undoubtedly appreciate the option to store original quality music in half the space. (Audiophiles will note that the Apple Lossless Encoder is an Apple home-brewed solution, and not based on other lossless encoding schemes such as FLAC (Free Lossless Audio Encoder).) Music encoded with the Apple Lossless Encoder is compatible with only dock-connector iPods and the iPod mini, and only then after applying the just-released iPod Update 2004-04-28.
iTunes Music Store Numbers -- Included in last week's announcement was news from Apple on how the iTunes Music Store fared in its first year. Apple has sold more than 70 million songs so far, and the current run rate is 2.7 million songs per week, which points toward Apple doubling its per-year sales in the second year to 140 million songs. Apple also says that the iTunes Music Store now contains over 700,000 songs from the five major record labels and over 450 independent labels.
Those numbers are impressive, and although the general consensus is that Apple doesn't make much, if any, money on the iTunes Music Store, the overall strategy would seem to have helped iPod sales, which exceeded 800,000 in Apple's last fiscal quarter.
Less heartening was the news from CNET's News.com about the promotion from Apple and Pepsi to give away 100 million free songs with specially marked bottles of soda. Odds of winning were supposed to be 1 in 3, although apparently tilting the bottles at a specific angle could reveal whether or not any given bottle contained a song code. Unfortunately, it appears that Apple gave away only 5 million of the 100 million free songs. Late delivery and spotty distribution of some of the special bottles may have reduced the numbers somewhat, but it's still disappointing (and a bit surprising) that only 5 percent of the free songs were redeemed.
For another chance at free music, U.S. readers who go to Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream Web site and agree to vote in the upcoming presidential election can receive a code to download a free song. The first 50,000 people will get the music, but anyone who fills out the form before 31-Oct-04 can win a free iPod, a 20" iMac, and a trip to the company in Vermont to spend the day as an "honorary Flavor Guru." If I win, I plan to suggest "Blueberry iMac," which would be blueberry and vanilla ice cream with macadamia nuts. Mmm...
If that's still not enough free music for you, Apple is now giving away a free song each week. It's a way for Apple to increase traffic to the store, and also for listeners to sample artists that they might otherwise ignore. Although no other details are available, it wouldn't surprise me if Apple is able to charge the record labels a fee for this type of preferred placement on the store, since it's great publicity for a band. (Apple also gave away a free song each day for eight days following the unveiling of iTunes 4.5.)
New iTunes Music Store Features -- A number of the new features in iTunes 4.5 enhance usage of the iTunes Music Store. QuickLinks (the little encircled arrows next to artist and album names in iTunes Music Store listings) now appear next to track, artist, and album names for all your music in iTunes; clicking one takes you right to the song, artist, or album listing in the iTunes Music Store; Option-clicking displays the song in your library along with the other songs from its album. Although the addition of all the QuickLinks muddies the display somewhat, it's nice to be able to look for music from artists whose work you already own without performing a search.
You can also now drag the 30-second previews from an iTunes Music Store listing to a playlist; all that's saved is a link to the preview, but it's a good way to create wishlists. In the past, I used the shopping cart instead of 1-Click purchasing to collect songs I wanted to run by Tonya before buying. One slight advantage to that approach is that it's not tied to a particular computer, so I could add songs to the shopping cart from my desktop Mac or my PowerBook. Unfortunately, even when you have a playlist wishlist, iTunes won't move from one song to another, something I've found truly annoying, since I usually want to listen to all the previews for an album before I'll buy anything, and double-clicking each one separately is a pain. AppleScript to the rescue! Download the iTunes Music Store Player, one of many scripts for iTunes written by Doug Adams, to play all song previews currently showing.
Many people will enjoy the iTunes Music Store's new listing of what's playing on over 1,000 radio stations around the U.S. because it simplifies identifying and buying the song you just heard on the radio. Unfortunately, it's hard to tell how Apple's lists correspond to when specific songs are played on the radio. For those who have noticed that "over 1,000" radio stations sounds suspiciously similar to the "approximately 1,200" radio stations owned by Clear Channel Communications (an international radio/television/event behemoth), I have confirmed that the two lists are independent; Apple's list contains both stations that are and are not owned by Clear Channel. Unfortunately, none of the Ithaca radio stations, particularly WVBR (independent, but run by Cornell students) and WICB (Ithaca College's student station), are listed. Perhaps Apple will enable such stations to join the list given that college students are smack dab in the middle of the target market for the iTunes Music Store.
Unchanged in iTunes 4.5 is handling of streaming radio stations; one nice addition would be to parse the current song and artist and provide links to the iTunes Music Store.
For those who think Apple might at some point move into video with the iTunes Music Store, notice that it now includes top-level links to more music videos (which are great, since they include entire songs rather than the truncated 30-second previews) as well as movie trailers that you can view within iTunes. Both are sales tools, of course, and you can easily purchase the song related to a video or the soundtrack to a movie whose trailer you've just seen.
iMix, You Mix, Meow Mix -- Perhaps the most interesting new feature of the iTunes Music Store, however, is iMix, the capability for iTunes users to publish their playlists (up to 250 items) to the iTunes Music Store and inform friends about them. The iMix playlists are linked to the included artists, and the publishing users can add descriptions (theoretically only 1,024 characters, although in my testing, iTunes wouldn't even take that many). Other users can play the 30-second clips for the songs in the playlist, rate iMix playlists, and buy the songs.
It's a fascinating way of sharing musical tastes. I've found that I appreciate the Listeners Also Bought links within the iTunes Music Store, and the iMix playlists extend that linking of related music, enabling users to say explicitly, "I like all this music, and if you like some of it, perhaps you'll like other tracks I include as well." I'm less sure of how well the ratings will work, since it's not clear to me whether other users will rate the playlist as an interesting collection of music (as I think should happen), rather than rating the playlist on the perceived merits of the songs it contains. The latter makes relatively little sense to me, since it would imply that a playlist containing a single hit song could have a high rating because everyone likes the song, despite the fact that it's an utterly pointless playlist.
You can take a look a couple of playlists I've generated, in fact; one contains some of my favorite songs, and a larger one includes songs whose lyrics particularly speak to me. Take a listen, give them a rating, and please send me your iMix playlists as well. I imagine it will take me some time to work through the deluge of playlists, but hey, it's a great way for me to find out a bit more about all of you - you all know way more about me than I do about you.
When you publish a playlist, you may be, as I was, somewhat disappointed in the number of tracks that don't exist in the iTunes Music Store. My favorites playlist contains 71 songs but the iTunes Music Store contained only 35 of them. And my Ultimate Lyrics playlist has 128 tracks, of which only 80 appear in the iTunes Music Store. Apple could do a better job of matching; for instance, "Superman's Song" from the Crash Test Dummies is in the iTunes Music Store, but since I have it from their album "The Ghosts That Haunt Me" and the iTunes Music Store has it on the compilation "Upfront! Canadians Live from Mountain Stage," it didn't make it into my published iMix playlist.
More to the point, however, I'd like to see Apple consider the songs that iMix playlists contain, but which aren't yet in the iTunes Music Store, as requests. There's no telling if this is feasible, but if lots of iMix playlists contain a particular song, album, or artist, I'd hope that Apple would notice and increase efforts to add the appropriate items to the iTunes Music Store.
A less noticeable new way to share your musical tastes is a new Tell a Friend link that appears with every album that you view in the store. Clicking the link takes you to a form where you can enter friends' email addresses and an optional note; the email they receive includes a link to the album plus a thumbnail of the album's artwork.
Sturm and DRM -- Along with these modifications to the iTunes Music Store, Apple made two changes to the digital rights management (DRM) aspects of purchased music.
On the plus side, Apple increased the number of Macs you can authorize to play purchased music from three to five. This is a welcome change - Tonya and I have been occasionally irritated by the limitation, since we each have a desktop and a laptop Mac, and an old iBook plays music from iTunes through our stereo as well.
On the minus side, Apple reduced the number of times you can burn the same playlist to CD from ten times to seven; this may annoy people who regularly burn CDs of music for friends, although my impression is that it's fairly trivial to change the playlist to work around the limitation if it's a problem. That's fine, since the goal of the limitation is to prove to the music industry that iTunes can't be used to mass-produce music CDs easily.
Doing Windows -- iTunes 4.5 is also available for Windows, where it has essentially the same feature set as the Mac version, with the addition of the capability to convert unprotected WMA files to AAC, letting iTunes take over for all music a Windows user might have, short of purchased songs from other online music services.
Download Details -- iTunes 4.5 is a 10 MB download available directly or via Software Update; it requires Mac OS X 10.1.5 or later, with current versions of Mac OS X and QuickTime 6.5.1 (also available via Software Update or directly) recommended for best results.
by TidBITS Staff <email@example.com>
As before, the second URL below each thread description points to the discussion on our Web Crossing server, which will be much faster, though it doesn't yet use our preferred design.
iTunes 4.5 -- Readers pass on their opinions of the new release of iTunes. (3 messages)
Spam's effect on overall email utility -- Is the increasing level of spam threatening to make email useless? Our readers also look at Web-based alternatives, especially for company feedback mechanisms. (16 messages)
AirPort Extreme Base Station and Wireless Software Updates -- In addition to the recent release of AirPort 3.4, Apple briefly released a pair of management tools but then removed the link. However, the tools are still publicly available. (2 messages)
Mac Anti-Virus Programs -- Sparked by the recent news of a theoretical Mac virus, readers continue to discuss the usefulness of anti-virus software on the Mac. (30 messages)
Non-profit, non-commercial publications and Web sites may reprint or link to articles if full credit is given. Others please contact us. We do not guarantee accuracy of articles. Caveat lector. Publication, product, and company names may be registered trademarks of their companies. TidBITS ISSN 1090-7017.
Previous Issue | Search TidBITS | TidBITS Home Page | Next Issue