Technology Wars

October 02, 2006

There's been much hubbub on the Apple message boards and on blogs regarding the bugginess of the new release of itunes.

Blog mentions for "itunes + 7 + bug" as reported by Technorati

We installed it a couple of weeks ago, and Mrs. theskinnyonbenny did get frustrated with some problems that it had. Most annoyingly, it tried to re-download everything that we had ever purchased from the itunes store. Presumably, thousands of users were simultaneously trying to download everything, so the connection timed out from time to time. The Mrs. just wanted a couple of files, but she couldn't get those to come from all of the timing out over music files that we already had.

I monkeyed with the user interface, and found a way to prioritize the downloads so that the desirable files would come first. Then, I logged in to a different computer, and let it go through the motions of downloading the rest of that junk. That way, I didn't tie up my main computer with the downloads, and all of the repeat junk wouldn't hose up any changes I had made to the file tags after their initial download.

(I'm geeking out right now.)

My main complaint is regarding the format wars going on with downloaded music. The Itunes store provides music in a format that allows you to play it only through itunes and on an IPOD. More restrictive yet, you can only play it on a computer where Itunes is registered with YOU. So I can't let you download one of my files and think that you would be able to play them.

The only way around this restriction is to burn my files to a CD, and let you have the CD. It's an annoying work around.

The other services are similarly restrictive. Files that you buy from most of them will work fine on windows media player and on most MP3 players that you can buy, but don't bother trying to play them on an IPOD. Most of the other services post a work around, but it requires modifying settings in some way that is a little much to ask from the average doofus who just wants to listen to the Paul Anka CD that he just downloaded.

The whole format war is reminiscent of Beta vs. VHS back in the early days of VCR. Beta was a technologically superior format, but Sony had the patent and wouldn't let the other VCR makers license the rights to make beta VCRs. Look what happened there. But this time, everyone wants to be Sony.

The VHS equivalent for today is the good old MP3 format. Everyone can play them. Yet these companies force us to buy their proprietary formats to pigeonhole us into brand loyalty. The whole thing stinks.

There's a similar format debate for high-def DVDs. HD-DVD and blu-ray compete to be the format of choice for high-def video for your television. I'm not well-read enough to know which is the better technology (if one is indeed better). But it's interesting to note that Sony is once again one of the players -- it has the patent for blu-ray. Will it repeat its Beta mistake, or openly license its technology? Time will tell.

I guess the worst thing about this corporate pissing matches is that the consumer can't get to the new goods. Who wants to shell out a lot of money for a HD-DVD player when it might be obsolete in a few years? So everyone waits, and no one is seeing their DVDs in high def, save the real audio/visual geeks who go ahead and drop huge money on one side or the other.

Getting back to itunes, I really like the updated version, now that I'm over the bug hump. It does a much better job segragating different types of content, so you don't inadvertantly get a television episode in the middle of your music playlist. I notice too that my new IPOD has a search feature, which will probably be very useful.

There's one feature that I'm waiting for with the IPOD. When I select an artist, it gives me a list of their albums as a sub-selection. I want that list to be ordered chronologically rather than alphabetically. Any long-time album collector will have to agree with me in spades.