TV Rotation Technique, Update 2

26 July 2007

Just a further thought about my TV Rotation Technique. This only applies if you want to use my hiatus feature.

If you’ve got a lot of TV shows, you might take a while to get through a complete series. That means when you hit the end and increase the Play Count value in the smart playlist for a particular show, you will immediately get a batch of episodes from the start of the show. Once I’ve gotten through a complete show, I want to concentrate on other shows and don’t want this. My hiatus feature, while a good idea, only works on the basis of the Last Played Date of the last episode. You really want to base it on the first episode. You need to add the hiatus period (I suggest 2 months) to the amount of time that has elapsed between the Last Played Date of the first and last episodes.

Here’s the logic: I just watched seasons 1-8 of Seinfeld. I want to take a break from Seinfeld for 2 months, then I want to start again from season 1, episode 1. I watched the first episode in August 2006, therefore it took 11 months to watch all of them. Add 11 months to the hiatus period of 2 months and I get 13 months. Put this figure in the field for Last Played Date is not in the last x months, increase the Play Count by 1 and I won’t see Seinfeld for 2 months from now.

This is another factor I can’t see automating, the other being the incrementing of the Play Count. Wouldn’t it be great if Apple added an interface where you could configure each TV show separately and automate all of this technique? I think I’ll suggest it.


I Want an iPhone Nano

15 July 2007

I know that recent flurry was a hoax, but it doesn’t mean the idea is stupid. I was walking around this weekend, Nano around the neck as per usual, and it struck me that a phone about that size (undoubtedly a bit bigger, but still less than the iPhone) would be no less convenient than the Nano itself. I’ve got one of each class of iPod, and even though I play my 5.5-Gen 80Gb iPod for a full work day, the Nano is the one that I carry the most and use on the move. I’ve always got it at any time while I’m out.

I often say that I’m not “a phone guy”. I don’t blather to a bevy of friends on a regular basis. I rarely carry my phone because its battery isn’t good. I use it so infrequently that it’s not even viable to replace. However, if the phone were incorporated with the iPod, it would definitely be the iPhone for me.

“They did that with the iPhone–that’s what the iPhone is,” I hear you say. Well, that’s true, but as far as video goes, I would much prefer a dedicated widescreen iPod with a large hard drive (hoping for at least 100Gb). I don’t care about wireless nor internet. We can’t get the iPhone in Australia, and a big reason for that is the integration with AT&T. A simpler phone without internet nor Visual Voicemail (merely a phone) could possibly be easier to release internationally, and perhaps even be unlocked.

I’m talking about simplicity of features, probably with a different interface if it’s not powerful enough to run a touchscreen. I don’t really mind if it’s got a scrollwheel and I have to either select a synced number or enter a number manually with a phone dial. I picture it as usable by holding it up to your ear without headphones but also with a modified Nano lanyard with a microphone in one of the leads. A call would come in, the audio would stop, you would lift up the phone to see the caller and answer. Talk through the microphone with both earphones in.

I would be more than happy with the poor man’s iPhone. What do you think?

The Importance of Feedback

12 July 2007

If there’s a bug or something you don’t like about iTunes, the iPod or Apple TV, you should report it to Apple. If enough of you give feedback about a particular issue, it will be changed. Here are the links to the feedback pages. Report every time you think of something:

How to Split Your iTunes Library

10 July 2007

I am aware that I have a configuration optimised for my own particular computer system, which sometimes makes me shortsighted, and that others’ systems vary widely, but sometimes viewing another’s system really brings home the point.

I have a friend who has three 300Gb drives, but they aren’t RAIDed. He has a space problem that prevents him from moving all that data temporarily while he RAIDs the drives, which was the original plan. I gave him some video for iTunes that he couldn’t fit on his current iTunes drive. He has a huge iTunes library but it’s mostly music, with little video in it.

I have to credit him with the idea that enabled him to split his library. Instead of putting all iTunes content on the one drive, he realised that he could turn off iTunes’ “Copy files to iTunes Music folder when adding to library” option. This means that he can put the videos on a different volume, then add them without copying. iTunes simply writes the path in its database. In summary, here is his set up:

  • iTunes library folder (consists of database, support folders and files): drive 1
  • Music (in iTunes folder): drive 1
  • Video: drive 2

What can be a little confusing is the location of your support files and the media files themselves, as they can be different. A library means a folder containing your database and any support folders/files, such as Artwork, iPod Games, etc. Your media is by default also in this folder but you can scatter any media to your heart’s content, and with the copy option turned off (as covered above), iTunes will track it all. It is advisable to keep everything together, but not essential.

This technique has ramifications for laptop users. Laptops have smaller drives than desktops. With the default preferences, CDs you rip to your library will go into your iTunes Music folder on your laptop. To add video, which makes sense to keep off your laptop due to file sizes, put it somewhere, then add it to the library and iTunes will write pointers to those files. When you want to play them, attach the external drive or mount the network volume and go.

There is a caveat, which is a disadvantage to this system. The volume where the media is has to be mounted to work. It is best to mount it before you launch iTunes, or at least before you interact with any offline files. If you are using network volumes, it is wise to mount them on startup so you don’t have to think about it. On the Mac, you can add any currently mounted volumes to your startup items in System Preferences > Accounts. They will then mount automatically every time you log in.

This is a good solution for those with limited space.

Future-Proofing Your Video for Upcoming iPod Video

5 July 2007

With the iPhone released, it’s pretty obvious that this is the future of the iPod. Video fans are expecting the next iPod to be essentially the same as the iPhone, only just the iPod part. I’m not going to speculate beyond that, but it’s also what I believe, and that it will be released this iPod Season (Sep./Oct. this year).

So what about all the work you’re putting into ripping of your DVDs? What standard do you adopt? Do you stick with the iPod and iTunes standard or do you tweak it higher? Well, it’s pretty obvious that the next-generation iPod should have more video power (I’m guessing that iPhone does, but its official supported video specs are the same as the iPod’s), but without published specs, it’s pointless trying to guess.

Personally, I’ve decided not to watch TV shows on my iPod. I really like the full-resolution versions that I’m watching on Apple TV. I only watch 30-45 minutes of video on my iPod per day and that’s the perfect time to catch up on a number of video podcasts. I like to watch music videos sometimes at work and am therefore still interested in producing iPod-compatible music videos. Here’s the summary of my situation:

  • Movies: Apple TV only, not iPod
  • TV Shows: Apple TV only, not iPod (one or two exceptions, which are strictly from EyeTV, not DVD)
  • Music Videos: iPod-optimised, also for Apple TV.

It’s only 2 months (minimum) to iPod Season, so my feeling is if you want to produce files compatible with it, either make them iPod compatible now or just wait until we see the new specs. If you’re a quality hound, you will probably want to wait.

Apple TV 1.1 Now Respects Audio Bookmarks

4 July 2007

I’ve just noticed that the 1.1 update for the Apple TV now respects audio bookmarks. With the previous version, if you played some of a bookmarkable file, like a podcast or audiobook, and you backed up to the main menu, the file would stop playing and if you went back to it, it would start playing from the beginning. Now it behaves properly, picking up where it left off, just like an iPod.

Making Sense of TV Show Sequences

3 July 2007

I’ve recently been grappling with the sequence of a particular show, Blackadder, as it relates to my TV Rotation Technique. Each season was named differently, which is unique as far as I’m aware. The Blackadder, Blackadder II, Blackadder the Third and Blackadder Goes Forth. In iTunes, these equate to Album names (Show is just Blackadder). As you can see, if you alphabetise the album names, you get a mess, in the season sequence 1, 4, 2, 3.

This would be immaterial if you could select a number of items by Show order in Smart Playlists, but you can’t. Choosing Album order works only if the show has logically named albums such as Seinfeld, Season 1, Seinfeld, Season 2, etc. So it messes up my Rotation Technique.

To compound the problem is the need to work specials such as The Cavalier Years and Blackadder: Back and Forth into the sequence. I tried organising them as a completely separate “show” called The Blackadder Specials but these episodes slot into history in two points, after series 2 and 4, respectively, so it seemed a pity to keep them separate. I made The Cavalier Years the seventh episode of series 2 and Blackadder: Back and Forth one episode in a fifth series.

Blackadder Smart Playlist

I limited my Smart Playlist to 6 items selected by least recently added, because, as covered above, selected by album doesn’t work and selected by show is not an option. I still got a mess because when I had originally copied the batches of files into iTunes, the order in which they were copied didn’t exactly match the episode order. I had to delete them all from iTunes, then add them back, one at a time in correct sequence, in order to get this to work. I’ve since realised that selected by least recently played could also be used, if you’ve played all episodes strictly in sequence. I’ve told Apple that they should add a selected by show option.

Luckily, you normally won’t have this much trouble, but this is my current handling for those uniquely named shows.