iTunes 8 Subtleties

15 September 2008

As I was skimming through albums in Grid view, by Artist, it struck me that the grid art was always the first title in alphabetical sequence. I wondered if I could change this to another cover as in iPhoto, by pressing the spacebar when hovering over a cover. Being iTunes, this of course started playing the first song from the first album for that artist. However, I found that if you skim to the cover that you want to represent the artist, right-click and select Set Default Grid Artwork, this will have the desired effect:

There’s a new Description tag in the Video tab:

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You can use this to tag either audio or video. Note that while you can enter a huge amount of characters in this field, analysis with Lostify reveals that this is the short description, and anything over 256 characters is truncated when written to the file. If you import the file into another iTunes library, the description will be truncated.

In the Options tab, you can set whether an audio file is Music or an Audiobook:

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or if a video file is a Movie, TV Show or Music Video

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These are contextual based on file type and the tag is written to the file, not just the database, which is what earlier iTunes versions did. This is a good thing when transferring files to other iTunes libraries. Note that all these and more (Ringtone, etc.) are taggable in Lostify.

Nice new tagging options, but I’m going to stick with Lostify, as it still can access more tags than iTunes 8.

4th-Gen Nano Features

11 September 2008

I want to set the record straight: the Nano does not have a “wide screen”. It’s 4:3, 2 inches, 320 x 240 pixels, 204ppi–identical to the 3rd-Gen’s. The screen only seems wide because the tall screen in portrait orientation is striking. It seems roomier, and it is for lists.

I noticed something unusual regarding language. If you set the language to English (UK), the Videos menu changes subtly. Movies becomes Films and TV Shows becomes TV Programmes.

Spoken Menus is utterly awesome, not just for blind users, but think about how you could navigate the iPod in the car without looking at it. With this setting on, the iPod announces every menu it’s in, plus the names of the artists, albums, songs, etc., that you highlight. iTunes generates all the spoken words that the Nano will need, then copies these across on sync. It doesn’t take very long. You can use any voice that you can set in the Speech system preference.

Another accessibility feature allows you to make the font in lists bigger. It looks like you only lose one line on the display when set.

With every new iPod, you have to get used to its physicality. This one is very light and like holding a very blunt blade. The scroll wheel is not flat–it curves very slightly to match the curvature of the body. Similarly, the select button is no longer helpfully indented, but is also curved to match the body. It will take a little getting used to, especially after using the squat 3rd-Gen for a year.

The new included maze game uses the accelerometer to move a ball around. Notably, this game can be played in either portrait or landscape modes. The two other Apple games, Klondike and Vortex, appear to have been updated as they offer some degree of portrait/landscape mode. Klondike can be portrait-oriented until you go to the game board. Vortex can be played in either portrait or landscape modes. This is particularly nice. Third-party games are played in landscape mode, with the scroll wheel on either side. You can change this at any time. No nice rotation effect, just a simple swap here. On launching third-party games, the Nano helpfully announces that the button assignments have changed with a screen showing the new mappings, prior to the game loading.

The lanyard snafu is a small blemish on what is a good evolution in Nano design. I’ll be really happy when this puppy is swinging round my neck.

Update: The standard iPhone headphones cause a Voice Notes menu to appear in the main menu. The microphone works perfectly. A nice touch is the file format used: Apple Lossless, not WAV, so you get the same quality in approx. half the size. Voice Notes are automatically synced back to iTunes and placed in their own playlist.

The radio remote works perfectly in all functions.

Podcast Management Now a Lot Simpler

11 September 2008

Big breath of relief here. My whole complicated management system has just become defunct with the introduction of management on a podcast-by-podcast basis in iTunes 8.

Click the Podcasts library, then click the Settings… button at the bottom. The settings for each podcast are quite granular. This is amazingly good. No longer will I have to juggle two playlists and Do Not Delete settings to achieve the same effect.

Lanyard for 4th-Gen Nano

11 September 2008

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The ride is over. Neither the 1st-gen nor 2nd-gen Nano lanyard fits the new 4th-gen Nano. I’m pissed about this. It’s because the cross section doesn’t allow enough room for the port and the headphone jack to be as far apart as on previous models. I’m going to have to resort to modifying an existing lanyard.