Tuesday, June 05, 2007

My Eye Strays From PC

Well, I was quite impressed with an iPhone commercial I saw. Since I'm classically a guy who drags his feet with cell phone technology, my only previous knowledge of the thing came from a cat. What I gather is that it's the typical (more advanced than mine) cell phone combined with an iPod, another piece of technology I have no experience with.
When I want to listen to mp3s, I use my PSP. To get mp3s, I download them from a free website that freely offers free downloads. If I don't feel like using the PSP browser, I use the stone age method of drag and drop to copy them over while my PSP's in USB mode. So, in short, I've never used iTunes to sync up my toaster with my laptop, or however that works out.

Anyway, I've done some preliminary surfing, and it'd be convenient if you could answer a few quick questions, rather than me spend too much work time trying to infer features from vague product descriptions. Did find out that they've got a 2-year exclusive contract with Cingular, and fortuitously, my family plan's on Cingular, so that's one big barrier that's not currently in my way to getting one of these gizmos if I decide on it.

1. Music sorting: Am I going to be limited to sorting by album, artist, and so forth? That's one thing that always annoys me about a lot of mp3-playing aspects of the various things I handle that weren't designed with mp3s as the priority, namely my Sony stuff. Can I just create my own folders? Found out about playlists. Jukeboxes I tried on my various computers just had a sort of RAM playlist. Either that, or they just had a really sloppy organizational method that wouldn't let me just double click to play a song by itself.

2. Should I be worried about overzealous anti-pirating stuff? I'd hate it if every time I logged on, iTunes would go into red alert if some of the free, legal music I've downloaded doesn't check out in every way.

3. Just how much of a preview am I typically allowed before committing to buying a 99 cent song?

4. When I use Mac products (a relatively rare experience), I often get the feeling that Steve Jobs is leading me by my hand. I get that with Windows, too, but at least when Bill Gates falls off a cliff, I know enough that I can pull him back up. Any of that I should be aware of with iTunes?

I may wind up thinking of other questions to ask. I'll see how far I can get with some of the faqs out there during my lunch break.

22 comments:

Stogoe said...

My biggest hurdle to flipping over to Mac is the whole 'hipster jerkwad' image they're cultivating. I identify more with the 'PC' guy than with the disengenous emo-boy.

My second biggest hurdle is the one-button mouse.

My third biggest hurdle is my feeling that Mac is quickly becoming a 'cool but expensive peripherals' company and abandoning the OS, thus (theoretically) stranding me if and when I would make the jump.

Bronze Dog said...

Actually, I'm going to be sticking with my PC computers and just potentially getting a Mac peripheral, assuming there aren't any hideous problems with the Windows version of iTunes.

I hate the Mac/PC commercials. Experience has taught me that while PCs aren't faultless, at least it gives you a chance at fixing any faults. All the Macs I've been on give vague numbered errors and don't attempt to help you.

My brother relayed one anecdote of a Mac chauvinist who mocked him whenever his PC crashed. He was able to fix it himself, or do so with a phone call to my dad.

When the Mac eventually crashed, it was as good as dead. "Why don't you start it up in BIOS, DOS, or safe mode? Oh, wait, that's right: You can't!"

I saw a Mac mouse with two buttons... a few months ago. It's really annoying to have to do so many option-ctrl-loopy thing clicks when you don't have that other button.

Rev. BigDumbChimp said...

I personally can not stand iTunes. It's bloatware to the extreme.

The thing about iTunes songs (unless you buy the new no DRM version that costs more) is that you can not play them on almost any other portable player. The DRM crap really ties your hands.

But I really like to be able control everything and have freedom to play any file type I have so I use a program like jRiver Media Center for my media box at home. I had an iPod for a while and I did like it in some aspects but refused to use iTunes. I just moved over the 70+ gigs of music I already had and played those. Plus Ipods don't play lossless file types like FLAC which is what I tend to rip everything into. So I'm still looking for a good portable that does what i want.

I know that iTunes used to be fine with your mp3s that weren't downloaded from iTunes. I haven't used it in about a year though so i can't say for sure.

Bronze Dog said...

I'm not too worried about other portable players, yet, since the only one I have is my PSP, since I'm presuming that my laptop doesn't count.

Rev. BigDumbChimp said...

Yeah. Well if you're sold on the iPhone for other reasons then you'll have to use iTunes. I'm pretty particular and all of the iPod units sold have some bearing on how easy and popular it is.

I think you should be fine with your other mp3s on the iPhone.

I think you get about 20 seconds per song of preview also.

Rev. BigDumbChimp said...

That should read, I'm pretty particular but all of the ...

Mechalith said...

iTunes doesn't bitch about hving non-DRM music added to it. Apple (supposedly) wanted to go DRM free for a while, but has only just recently managed to partially get away with it.

Macs do actually have a BIOS, safe mode AND text only mode for troubleshooting. You just have to know how to get to/use them.

The only issues I have with iTunes on the PC are:

1) I hate making playlists. This isn't iTunes' fault, I just don't like the concept in general. Usually I cue up what I want to listen to at that moment and call it good.

2) A fair number of the really cool features don't work as well in a Windows environment as they do on a Mac. Things like managing the files on your HD with it are a little trickier than they would be othewise. (DONT let it manage your files unless you want it to re-sort every music file it touches.)

That said, the DRM on iTunes is laughably easy to bypass if you really want to.

Akusai said...

I hate the Mac/PC commercials. Experience has taught me that while PCs aren't faultless, at least it gives you a chance at fixing any faults. All the Macs I've been on give vague numbered errors and don't attempt to help you.

Oh, but Macs don't get errors. And they don't get viruses, either!

What I love about that claim is the unspoken part: Macs don't get viruses because nobody gives enough of a shit about Macs to make them.

Then there's that whole "Macs are fun!" image they're going for. Yeah, fucking photo albums are so much more fun than computer games.

Side note: does it creep anybody out when PC does segments on The Daily Show.

More to the point: I've never bought any songs from iTunes because its marketplace can kiss my ass, but the automatic downloads of all my podcasts is nice, and the organization is okay. So far it hasn't seemed to care about any of the MP3s I have on the system, all of which were acquired totally legally. Yeah, it's bloatware filled with pointless DRM, but for my money the iPod itself is convenient enough that it's worth it, and it's not like you have to buy anything with it.

Bronze Dog said...

Something I find annoying a lot of the time: "But Macs are better at graphics applications!"

Adobe Photoshop is Adobe Photoshop is Adobe Photoshop. All that's different between Mac and PC versions I've been able to see is different button + click combinations.

You know, I once had a Mac crash, called a techie, but afterwards, they denied that anything happened. (Okay, not really.)

Mechalith said...

Honestly, I like Macs. And they /do/ have fewer problems with the system than a PC does as far as I can tell. (I work Tech support for Mac and PCs)

There are reasons for it though, and when a Mac /does/ have a major problem it tends to be a real pain in the ass to fix.

Also, Macs did have an edge in graphics processing vs. number crunching for a long time. Now the differences are pretty minimal.

I just wish that the annoying hipster thing didn't drive so many people away. They really are nice computers if you can afford them. (I can't, and thusly build my own PCs from scratch instead)

Bronze Dog said...

What I love about that claim is the unspoken part: Macs don't get viruses because nobody gives enough of a shit about Macs to make them.

You might not want to say that to a Linux user, though. :)

Tom Foss said...

I dislike Macs. I used to hate them, but I ended up with a begrudging relationship with several iMacs when I worked on the campus newspaper. Some of the interface is just plain retarded...why the hell am I dragging my CD to the trash to eject it? Why isn't there just a damn eject button?

See, Macs take "user-friendly" to a fault. They automate and visualize so much of the interface that you really have to jump over hurdles to do anything manually. And I'm the sort of person who likes to do things manually.

And I can't friggin' stand iTunes. No, I don't want you to automatically add the CD in my drive to my library, because when I play music, I don't want it to hit 20 songs that don't exist on the hard drive.

That being said, I finally broke down and bought an iPod today. I dig the features, especially for the price, and as much as I hate iTunes, I hear that MusicMatch and other programs are far, far worse. And there's no way in Hell that I'll ever be buying a Zune. I like my music to stick around longer than 3 days.

From prior experience and current dinking around, I know that you can import just about anything to the iPod, and it doesn't seem to have any nasty effects. Most of my music has been acquired less than particularly legally, but it seems to be transferring just fine. But I keep all my stuff on mp3s, so I'm not running into the same problems as the Reverend.

Side note: does it creep anybody out when PC does segments on The Daily Show.

No, but it weirds me out when I see Resident Expert John Hodgman playing a PC.

Ribozyme said...

iTunes and the iPod (and surely the iPhone)do handle a lossless format called Apple Lossless Audio. Check this.

I've always been a Windows person, but I learned to use Mac OS X at work. They are not all that different in ease of use. And MACS DO CRASH often enough. I think the reason Windows machines crash more often is because the software you can use has such dissimilar origins. Mac software, on the other hand is designed mostly integrated with the OS. That, to me is only circumstantial, not a matter of difference of essence. And the Macs are so much more expensive than the equivalent Windows machine! You pay the premium for the prettier one. Only that now that Windows Vista came out, it's actually quite prettier than any Mac OS X so far.

I have an iPod and am very happy with it. No qualms whatsoever with iTunes. To me, it's easy enough to use. Anyway, you can substitute the iPod's OS with Linux and do everything with Linux if you hate so much the original software (this is for the complainers, as it would be indeed very hard to do the same thing with the iPhone, at least for the moment).

Most of the functions in the iPhone will be software, not hardware base (hence my comment about, about using Linux instead) so, even if it's a little rough at the edges at the beginning, it could be easily fixed by updating it, the way you do with the iPod. I say, go for it!

Rev. BigDumbChimp said...

iTunes and the iPod (and surely the iPhone)do handle a lossless format called Apple Lossless Audio.

Yeah I've actually tried it out but part of the FLAC call for me is its wide use by artists that allow live recordings of their concerts then have sites set up for download. Almost every one (that I've come across) offer them as FLAC. And the whole unconverting reconverting or just plain converting (if there is a FLAC to ALAC converter) thing doesn't appeal to me on many levels.

And this conversation is interesting because....

I went to unload the washing machine yesterday and got down to the bottom of the machine and to my joy and surprise.... there was my cell phone.

So I'm now also in the market for a new phone and I'm on cingular.

If I got one (which I doubt wiull happen) I'd have to avoid iTunes like the plague. jRiver MediaCenter allows file transfers to iPods.

But to reiterate BD, other than iTunes and my particulars on file compatibility, the iPods are really nice and cool. I think you'll be happy even with iTunes issues.

Joshua said...

/me shrugs

I don't get "lolol Macs r sux... but Linux rools!" (Not that this thread is down at that level, but I'm just exaggerating for the sake of illustration.)

I mean, OSX is built on BSD. It's highly, highly customised, but the core is still very *nix-like. If I really feel like it, I can pop open a terminal and hit the su and start messing with the files in /etc/ or whatever. And there are lots of neat tools provided by the Darwin project. And basically any *nix app can run on a Mac; I've heard some criticism of Apple's X11 server, but at least it's there. (I just found a command-line utility last night called "ncutil" that allows viewing or modifying any network setting or from either a psuedo-shell or a script. And there's a built-in tool called "scutil" that lets you watch for changes to network settings as well.)

AppleScript is also way better than anything provided with Windows. I mean, well... Windows doesn't provide any kind of interface even remotely like it. You can even script UI actions to control apps that don't have built-in AppleScript interfaces. (But many of them do.)

It also comes with Xcode on the install disk, but last I checked MS doesn't bundle Visual Studio with Windows.

So I have to agree with everybody saying the hipster image hurts Apple, because frankly there's a lot for power users to like as well. I've got a lot of programmer friends, and pretty much all of them now have Macs as second or third machines after being dedicated Windows/Linux guys for a decade or more.

Seriously, Mac haters are starting to sound just as rabid as the Mac zealots used to. It's just not pretty. Cf.: Tyler DiPietro's post that I saw (but can't link to, because his blog honestly isn't one of my usual stops) bitching about how Mac users should put a bag over their laptops or something, because clearly their use of -- GOD FORBID! -- laptops at a coffee shop is precisely calculated to personally offend him. Especially if they're using a word processor rather than programming 3D apps or some shit.

Holy wars suck. Can't we just admit that different OSes offer different features that appeal to different people?

I mean, if I wanted to, I could mention Vista, ok? But I won't, because I'm nicer than that.

Bronze Dog said...

My understanding of the situation is that Linux and the like are far more willing to let users get into the 'guts' of the OS to fix problems, while Mac OSes tend to assume the user isn't smart enough to mess around with that stuff.

Mechalith said...

"My understanding of the situation is that Linux and the like are far more willing to let users get into the 'guts' of the OS to fix problems, while Mac OSes tend to assume the user isn't smart enough to mess around with that stuff."

That isn't really true anymore. The way things are laid out is different, but you have as much access as Windows users do. I think that gripe (which I used to make myself) comes from the fact that most of the people making it are PC users who don't understand the OS and expect it to work like windows. For instance, there IS no registry in Mac OS, so you can't access it.

Arguably you actually have better access because of the terminal and it's associated functions. As an example I can use a kill process command to immediately stop any function on the system without the dozen tries it usually takes Task Manager to dd the same thing.

Tom Foss said...

As an example I can use a kill process command to immediately stop any function on the system without the dozen tries it usually takes Task Manager to dd the same thing.

I'll admit, when I worked on Macs, I loved that feature.

Unfortunately, it often had the same effect that old-school Task Manager had: locking everything up and necessitating an unplugging. But I think that's more because our iMacs were excessively old than anything.

Rev. BigDumbChimp said...

Arguably you actually have better access because of the terminal and it's associated functions. As an example I can use a kill process command to immediately stop any function on the system without the dozen tries it usually takes Task Manager to dd the same thing.


Thats the BSD at the core. Killproc is a *nix baby.

Rhoadan said...

Did I ever mention just how much I hate the Windows registry? Transparent it ain't. *sigh*

So, anyone here have a recommendation for a Linux distro I can install on my PC? I did make the acquaintance of BSD over 20 years ago, but I haven't really used it since, other than a brush with MAC OSX at work, and I didn't get past the GUI there. Maybe I should try Free BSD? Suggestions anyone?

Michael said...

"Stogoe said...

My biggest hurdle to flipping over to Mac is the whole 'hipster jerkwad' image they're cultivating. I identify more with the 'PC' guy than with the disengenous emo-boy.

My second biggest hurdle is the one-button mouse.

My third biggest hurdle is my feeling that Mac is quickly becoming a 'cool but expensive peripherals' company and abandoning the OS, thus (theoretically) stranding me if and when I would make the jump."


1. So what? Relevance to quality of actual product = 0.

2. Dude, you've been able to use any mouse you want with a Mac for about a decade now. And, all desktop Macs have been shipping with 3-button scroll mice for quite some time. 3-button (and 4, and 5, and trackballs, and pen pads, and whatever else) mice are fully supported by the OS.

3. Apple has released 3 major upgrades to their OS in the time that Microsoft released 1 (XP to Vista). For example, OS X has had a vector-based windowing system with 3d acceleration for years (if you don't know what this means, you might want to do a little research on how XP has to ask every application to redraw itself every time you move a window), which MS just now implemented in Vista. Also, Mac is not a company.

So, what other "PC Woo" do you believe in?

Daniel said...

Rhoadan: if you're looking to try out Linux, you could do a lot worse than Ubuntu.. The latest version is fast, flexible, and rock solid in my experience, and very user-friendly, lots of community support (and even pro support if you're willing to pay for it).

If you're used to a Mac-like interface, use Ubuntu, if you'd rather stick with a more Windows-like interface, use Kubuntu instead, that's the one I use, personally.

As for the topic itself, I run Linux mostly, but dual boot into Windows for games.. and, sadly, for iTunes. You *can* manage an iPod (I've got one of the new 2ng Gen 8GB black Nanos) from Linux just fine (amaroK rocks), but I listen to a lot of podcasts, and I couldn't find a Linux app that would properly put my downloaded podcasts into the iPod's 'Podcast' section, so.. for that reason alone, I reboot into Windows every morning to download my podcasts and sync up the iPod. That said, though, the sync process itself is pretty damn smooth and easy. You shouldn't run across many major problems, I don't think.