Category Archives: iPod

Stupid iTunes Trick

I just loaded a couple of days worth of songs from SXSW into iTunes this weekend. I was careful to add them all to a playlist so I could find them again.

Now I’m trying to sync my iPod and it’s complained there isn’t enough room. So, what I’d like to do is uncheck all the songs in the playlist and tell iTunes only to sych checked songs, but as far as I can tell, there is no damn way to check or uncheck items in bulk.

Dumb, Apple. I guess I need to buy a bigger iPod, or not.

Update: Problem solved. I just have to open the help file, find the keyboard shortcuts, scan the list, and discover that control-clicking will do what I want.


I stumbled upon the following while looking for discussion on the iPod photo on technorati:

Most agree Apple passed on crushing online music competition and devastating WMA by not announcing/implementing AAC Plus, but there is reason we did not see AAC Plus today…


What is this AAC Plus of which he speaks? Why didn’t Apple deploy it to forcefully crush all comers?

Um, maybe because its pretty irrelevant on the iPod. Following the links in the post, I learn that AAC Plus improves compression by about 30% over standard AAC at the same quality level. That’s pretty cool, but then I considered that I’m already having trouble filling my old 10GB iPod — i’m not sure more efficient encoding is that important to me, and from Apple’s point of view, they are already running into challenges about how to motivate people to upgrade as the storage capacity on iPods starts to outstrip more and more People’s music collections. Besides, I’d guess that the people with the largest collections have downloaded most of it, and those downloads are already compressed in MP3 format, so reencoding is going to be completely undesirable.

More importantly, looking at the quality graphs, it looks like the perceived quality of AAC Plus vs Regular AAC probably convergest somewhere between 48kbps and the 128kbps default used by iTunes, so its not even clear there would be any clear advantage over AAC either space or quality-wise in the domain most iPod users exist.

AAC Plus seems to be targeted at the mobile wireless music market, where bit-efficiency is important from a bandwidth rather than a storage perspective. The iPod doesn’t connect to cellular networks, end of story.

The mystery is, why make a big deal about the lact of AAC Plus support in the new iPod? And why am I even bothering to ask that question?

iPod Photo & the idea of a video iPod

The new photo iPod is interesting.

40GB is more than I’d need for my music collection, so new features to make use of the storage would certainly be welcome.

I even like the idea of being able to easily carry and display my collection of digital photos anywhere I take my iPod. As it is in the past week, I’ve pulled out my camera to show two different people two different sets of photos I still have on it. I’ve also pulled out my camera once or twice in the past week to kill a few minutes while waiting (in line, on elevator, in traffic) by looking at the photos I’ve taken lately.

That said, the pricing on this thing sucks. It’s $100 more than an ordinary 40GB iPod, which is itself $100 more than the 20GB model which has pretty much all the storage I can imagine wanting for at least the next couple of years.

By my estimate, as $/GB for small hard disks continues dropping, adding features that leverage that cheaper storage are going to be necessary to keep people buying and upgrading at the existing pricepoints. Expecting people to buy in at a higher pricepoint seems foolish.

Which brings me to the idea of a Video iPod. I thought the idea was stupid — audio is pervasive, people have radios on all day. Sure, some people have the TV on all day, but most of the time, they are using it like a a radio tuned to a talk station. I doubt they are going to bother loading a bunch of video onto a portable player whose battery life suffers dramatically when playing video and listen to it with headphones just to watch the few minutes of video that catches their interest. Steve Jobs said the same thing, and so of course, I felt validated.

I’m not so sure any more. Russell Beattie thinks that Jobs is being myopic because of his association with the movie industry. He also notes that people are thrilled to see the low quality video of Finding Nemo he has on his smartphone, and that crummy expensive mobile video is drawing interest and some revenue in the mobile phone business.

I’m not sure the 150,000 people paying sprint $10/month extra for their video service really counts as the beginnings of a mass market. I think the novelty factor has to be pretty high and is going to pass. On the other hand, I think their is a market for novelty with respect to video. Think about all the vid clips you see linked from blogs. They are the sort of thing someone might want to look at to amuse themselves while waiting in line somewhere, and they are the sort of thing you might want to pull out and show a friend over coffee or a colleage at the water cooler.

My gut feeling is that this could be a bigger deal than podcasting. I see a lot more links to interesting video than to interesting audio.

The real question is what is a reasonable price for video capability. As I said above, I think in the long run, video is just going to be a way to sell higher storage capacities and drive upgrades. In the short run, it can command a premium, but Apple would be wise to set that premium low enough that it can leverage its dominant audio marketshare into dominant video marketshare. Pricing photo support at a level near where competitors are offering video support seems completely foolish.

Cool iPod trick for long files

I happily break from my ongoing criticism of the Bush administration to draw attention to a cool iPod feature I just learned about.

If you are listening to an audio book on your iPod and you pause and listen to something else, the iPod will remember your previous position in the audio book the next time you play it and you can pick up where you left off.

What’s cool is that you can make the iPod treat any AAC encoded file as an audiobook by changing its file extention to .m4b. I don’t know of a way to do the same with .mp3s, but if worse comes to worse, you can always load the .mp3 into iTunes and then have iTunes convert it into an AAC file first.

Combine this with a smart playlist set up to only play files in a custom category once, and you could start programming your own personal radio show made up of interviews and other content found on the web.

public virtual MemoryStream: DotNetRocks iPod tip

What I want

I want to be able to set up “subscriptions” that will automatically download new audio content and que it on my iPod. I want my iPod to have playlists that will mirror these subscriptions, automatically noting the items I’ve listened to so I don’t hear them again and purging and/or archiving the files i have listened to.

Most of the pieces are in place.

1. The playcount attribute in a smartplaylist will allow me to set things up to only listen to a piece once. I’m not sure though if I have to resync for things to drop off the playlist.

2. iTunes automation should make it possible to script addition of files and creation of new smart playlists.

3. MP3 blog aggregators should simplify content capture. Unfortunately most of the stuff I want probably isn’t in MP3 format ( ie NPR ), nor is it presented in an RSS feed (though strangely searching for RSS on NPRs site brings up terms and conditions pages that mention their RSS feeds).

Solving these problems could be a fun “learn python” project for me, but the audio conversion piece is going to be kludgy, which turns me off. I’ll have to try to script Streambox VCR (which hopefully has command line options) to pull down the streaming feed and then automate (if possible) Streambox ripper to convert it. Since both of these are unsupported and hard to find software, its not exactly something I could hope to find wide adoption.

Maybe someone else has solved these problems for me. Time to start looking.

Update: It’s 2006, doesn’t this post seem quaint now?


I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me earlier, but because apple is appearantly using a microdrive in a CF (compact flash) style package, they could easily offer an all solid-state version of the iPod Mini if the market demanded a 100% solidstate player for absolute skip protection or longer battery life.