iTunes Match

What is it?

iTunes Match is a new service from Apple. iTunes Match makes your digital library of music available in the Cloud. It facilitates easy sharing between all of your computers and devices.

How does it work?

Once you turn it on, iTunes will scan your library. If your music is available on iTunes then it will immediately be available to you. If some of your music is not on iTunes, iTunes Match will upload it to the Cloud.

Why should I care?

You should care for several reasons. iTunes Match is the first, easy to use, backup plan for iTunes. Many of us have several hundred gigabytes of music with no back ups. If you have ever lost your music library and had to re-rip all of your CDs or had to re-purchase your music you will be all over this!

Another great feature is iTunes will match your music with higher bit rate, DRM-free[1] versions. If your library consists of illegally downloaded copies you can replace them with clean copies. It is a little bit of work but who cares.[2] It is so worth it if you have crackly versions of songs that don’t sound great.

That’s all great but how much does it cost?

Of course, Apple is not giving this away. In Canada it costs $27.99 per year to have iTunes Match active. I think it is a great value for the money even as a backup tool. Plus it is a completely passive system, in that it requires nothing from you except the initial act of turning it on and then paying your money. If your computer crashes you can then download everything you own again.

So how do I get it?

It is so easy to turn it on. Open iTunes and go to the iTunes store and go to the ‘store’ menu. Then select turn on iTunes Match. It is that easy!

If you have questions put them in the comments and I will do my best to answer them!


[1] DRM=Digital Rights Management – this is the system that limits what you can do with your music like only burning it 5 times etc.

[2] Essentially you have to ferret out those songs, delete them, and then re-download them.

Apple TV – Review

Apple TV

Deb gave me an Apple TV for Christmas 2009. First off, I must say that I ♥ my Apple TV. I use it almost daily. I have found many different shows to watch than I would normally. If you are not sure you will like a show you can download an episode or two for usually a $1.99*. Not a big investment if you decide you don’t like the show. You can also rent and buy movies to play on the Apple TV.

There is some confusion around what Apple TV (ATV) is and what it is not. First, it is not a TV. I am not sure why the used TV in the name as it is a misnomer. ATV is an iPod for your TV. You download content and you sync it with ATV in exactly the same way you do with music and your iPod. My ATV has a capacity of 144.63 GB. It is a decent size and allows you to story quite a collection of media to watch. The ATV will also play music and photographs. You can also connect to YouTube through it. Data is transmitted wirelessly and it was very easy to set up.

Unfortunately, ATV is buggy. I have had shows just stop in a random spot and kick you out to the top menu which means you have to drill down to get back to the show you were watching. You don’t miss anything but it is annoying. Sometimes it will just cease operation and you have to reset by unplugging the power. Again nothing is lost but it is annoying.

The worst bug that I have found so far happens when one tries to sync rented movies to the ATV. Rented movies sync differently than all of the other content. For some reason you have to ‘move’ the movie from the rented movies box to the ATV box. The picture below show what it looks like. I do not have any rented movies that need to be moved right now.

Screenshot from iTunes

The problem comes when you try to move the movie to the other box. Sometimes the movie will not transfer. I have determined so far that if the screen saver activates the transfer stops. Other times it seems that iTunes or the ATV is frozen. Today, for example, I tried to get Food Inc. to go over about 10 times today. Finally, I restarted the computer, the Airport Extreme and the ATV.

Another issue that has come up for me is corrupted downloads. For some reason it happens with my episodes of 24. I had three episodes I had not watched and none of them would play. A quick email to iTunes Support solved the problem within about 12 hours. They re-queue the content for you to download again. They are also pretty liberal with the credits if they think you are at all upset. I once got 5 free songs because I could not download ringtones in iTunes from Canada. Apparently they are only available in the US.

Even with all of the bugs I would still recommend an ATV if you like to watch a lot of TV. I must say though that it is an expensive beast to feed. I am constantly on the look out for iTunes cards priced lower than their actual value. At Christmas I was able to get several $50 cards at $10 off! It was insane! Costco also has cards that are about $91 for $100 worth of iTunes credit. The iTunes store is also very quick to assist with any problems. When I first got the ATV, I accidentally downloaded season 7 of 24. I did not mean to do this and no box came up asking me if I wanted to download it. They refunded the purchase. I still have the files but I have not watched them. If the iTunes store was not as prompt in handling issues I would probably feel different about the ATV experience. Even though there are bugs with the ATV, I still prefer it over renting videos and watching them on a DVD player. The quality is great and it is so much more convenient.

*Some shows are $2.49. There is also a rumour that Apple is in negotiations with CBS that might see their shows sell for $.99 an episode!

Tech Stuff

I am constantly amazed at how my life is enhanced by computer addiction. I love my computer – we are one. Think of the borg and you will get it. So, I thought I would share what things, tech-wise, I am really digging these days:

1. Facebook – I am not a big fan of the remake of facebook yet again. However, I love how much more interactive it has become. Commenting on friends’ status updates and having long conversations going has become the highlight of my day. I am spending way more time on facebook then I ever did before. I especially like seeing the little red notifications number in the double-digits. I know, I have no life.
2. Google Chrome – after reading several articles on Mashable about Google Chrome I decided to make the switch. Mostly I was getting annoyed at how slow Firefox seemed to have become. I am opening up the same number of tabs in Chrome yet it loads in about a quarter of the time. There are other features I really like as well. You can re-order the tabs1/. When you open and close tabs in Chrome, it automatically re-sizes them to take up about the same amount of space. I like that the bookmarks menu is right under the new tab icon – very good design feature. When you open a new tab, thumbnails of sites you have been to recently are there and you can select them. Oh, and I love that you can search in the address bar. I had become so tired of opening another tab to get to search. I am not one to embrace change when it comes to computer programs2. In fact, the only reason I switched to Firefox was because I did not want to leave myself open to viruses.
3. Gmail – I continue to love Gmail. I have even converted my mother to Gmail because she has 2 houses and she could never figure out where her emails were. She wanted one email in Radium and the other in Calgary. She was making me crazy. I kept explaining what the problem was and she finally got it. Now, the big test will be whether she will figure out how to access her Gmail in Tuscany! I love the labs feature in Gmail and enjoy trying new things out.
4. Google Calendar – I love google calendar. I have now managed to sync my 2 google calendars (home and work) with my blackberry seamlessly. I make a change now and it propagates through the system in about an hour. I also love the ‘desktop’ calendar that you can use on the Windows or Google sidebar.
5. Google Reader – still in love with Google Reader. What more is there to say?
6. Yet another google product – Picasa. I love how all the photos in my computer are organized and easily viewable. I came across some photos yesterday that I had not seen in a while. Picasa saves you the hassle of going through all the folders. Plus you can tag and caption them. I am sure there are more features and I intend to explore them.
7. iTunes DJ – I have been using this feature a lot lately. Basically what it does is cue up music for you to listen to in a random fashion. I am horrible for buying music, only listening to a couple of songs and ignoring the rest. Sometimes I am just not in a mood to appreciate new music. This feature allows me to discover ‘new’ songs I had missed.

1Which in my OCD world is very important. I like to have everything in the same order all the time. There were times I would actually shut down Firefox only to re-open it so the tabs were in the correct order. Now, with Google Chrome, if I accidentally close a tab I can re-open it and put it where I want it.
2I am still highly annoyed about MS Office 2007 and it has been out for 2 years. Way too much change there!

Tech Stuff

As I have mentioned before, I have a love of keyboards and mice. I am always on the lookout for the newest and best I can find. We were at Future Shop the other day and I saw this gorgeous keyboard. It had a lovely design and all the features I like – especially the ability to flip through songs and pause from the keyboard. I like to play games and I don’t want to have to go to iTunes to change the song. The first thing I noticed was that the keys for controlling music did not work with iTunes. In order to get it to work it meant that I had to use the mini-player and always have it active. It was annoying but I could deal with it. The next thing I noticed was the deal-breaker. I don’t know if any of you noticed but that keyboard is lacking something. Can you see it? The freaking keyboard didn’t have a number pad! I simply cannot live without a number pad. So, it goes back.

The newest thing I have tried using is the Genius feature in iTunes. It is very simple to use and it allows you to (re)discover music in your iTunes library. I have over 3000 songs and sometimes I don’t listen to all of the tracks on a new disc I download. Basically, you pick a song in your library and click the ‘Genius’ button which will pick similar songs. In the last 2 weeks I have discovered songs I never listened to and rediscovered songs I have not listened to in years. I am loving this feature and I urge everyone to try it out.

Google, ahhh, google! I love Google. I use Gmail, Google Reader, Google calendar and Google docs on occassion. I have things set up so that my personal calendar and my work calendar all sync, automatically, with my blackberry. I have also been using a desktop calendar in the Windows sidebar which shows upcoming appointments. It completely rocks!

New iTunes iPod Touch Software Update

So, I paid the $9.99 for the new iPod Touch software update. For some reason they won’t let you use iTunes Store credit to purchase this update but I digress. Anyway, it fixed the problem I had with my iPod Touch where it played the same song continuously. I am happy, even though I had to pay to get it fixed. I will have to explore what else this new software does for the iPod Touch.