I knew I was out of the loop while we were away on holiday, but I didn’t realize I was so far out of the loop that I missed this:

“CUPERTINO, California–April 2, 2007–Apple® today announced that EMI Music’s entire digital catalog of music will be available for purchase DRM-free (without digital rights management) from the iTunes® Store ( worldwide in May. DRM-free tracks from EMI will be offered at higher quality 256 kbps AAC encoding, resulting in audio quality indistinguishable from the original recording, for just $1.29 per song. In addition, iTunes customers will be able to easily upgrade their entire library of all previously purchased EMI content to the higher quality DRM-free versions for just 30 cents a song.”

It’s the logical follow-up to Steve Jobs’ open letter to the music industry from back in February, but I hadn’t expected it to happen quite so soon.

Er, yay!

Now if only Apple would get some video content into the Store for us folks outside the USA, everything would be peachy. See, I’ve just got myself a new 80GB iPod, and I’m suddenly alive to the idea of small, portable video. Which leads to thoughts of converting our DVD collection to H.264 and using iTunes on our Mac Mini as a full-fledged media library, rather than using VLC and distantDVD to play ripped VIDEO_TS folders. And suddenly the whole Apple TV thing makes sense, too. (If only they’d make the video content available, yada yada.)

Man, I feel so behind the times. This is what I get for not keeping up with BoingBoing every day.

(One prediction, though: given that us poor Windows users need Photoshop Elements or Adobe album in order to show their photos via Apple TV, but that we can sync our photos to an iPod with iTunes alone, I don’t think it will be long before iTunes gains some form of photo album capability.)

Unwrapping the iPod

I’ve had my iPod (4G, 20GB) for a year now, and it has proved to be a fabulous purchase. I love music, and the combination of iPod and has had me listening to more music than ever. It has got me listening to podcasts, too, although I haven’t found many that I like, and that have stayed enjoyable over time. (I mostly tune in to diggnation, Ebert & Roeper’s movie reviews, and The Movie Blog (although their move to a near-daily schedule has–curiously–meant that I listen to it less often).

Via podcasts I’ve checked out a few video podcasts, and it’s these little slices of video that have convinced me that mobile video is actually pretty cool. I never used to think that I’d enjoy–or even use–a mobile video device, mostly because I had only been thinking about watching films on a portable device. For me, a film is something that I take time out for to sit down and watch, either at home or at the cinema. But video podcasts (vodcasts, vlogs, whatever) and TV shows are things that I am happy squeezing into whatever niche my day provides–usually in the background while I’m doing other stuff in the evening.

So when the video iPod appeared last month, I was rather excited. They’re gorgeous things, and I would easily choose one over the PSP, which, despite having a better and large screen, suffers from a lack of storage, and doesn’t have the small and sexy form factor of the iPod.

Seeing the new iPods, and drooling over their clean lines and smooth surfaces, made me think about the iPod that I have right now. Although its tactile nature was one of the reasons I bought it, I had actually been carring it in a bulky protective plastic case for most of the year. The case did a great job of protecting the iPod from the bumps and grinds of daily life, but it also took away the sensual pleasure of just holding the thing. I had been so concerned about keeping it pristine that I had lost sight of why I had bought an iPod instead of any other MP3 player: because I simply loved its design.

iPod naked
With case

iPod in its case
Without case

I’ve been using it without the case for a month or so now, and although it has gathered a bunch of scuff marks, it still looks great. And it feels great. I’ve rediscovered the sheer joy of picking it up and twirling my thumb around the clickwheel to change the track or playlist.

The other effect that unwrapping my iPod has had, is that my craving for one of the new 5G video iPods has (mostly) disappeared. I wouldn’t kick it out of bed for eating crackers, but I don’t need one. The extra capacity of a 60GB model would be nice, but now that I’ve got a strategy for managing my playlists, I’m managing fine with 20GB. Photos and video would both be fun, but the main reason I have and use an iPod is for listening to music, and even with a new model, I don’t think that would change. Basically, I’m happy now with the one I have.

(That doesn’t mean I’m taking it off my wish list, any more than I’m scrapping the idea of buying a Porsche…just that it remains in the “wish” category instead of “need to buy this next time I’m down the shops.” If we win the lottery, you’ll know where to find me.)

New Apple gear

  • New iMac, with built-in iSight camera, media centre features, and a remote control. Yum.
  • iTunes 6, with video store. Buy music videos, films, and TV shows–presumably all at an iPod-appropriate resolution (320 x 240). (Can it rip DVDs, though, is the big question? I’m in the process of installing now to find out…) Whatever–yum.
  • New iPods WITH VIDEO. 30GB and 60GB models. YUM YUM YUM.

new iPod with video

I’ve had my Mac Mini for a month now, and I’m liking it enough to say that I could definitely see myself buying another Mac in the future. But the iPod video? HOLY CRAP I WANT ONE NOW.

(Probably not, though, with my birthday and Christmas not too far away. Hi, Abi! I love you honey!)

Updates 12 Oct at 20:57 :

  • It looks like the UK iTunes Music Store is lagging somewhat behind the US one…the selection of music videos on offer for purchase is slim, and there appear to be no TV shows on offer–yet.
  • Music videos also appear to be more expensive in the UK vis-a-vis the American store, as compared to music tracks. (£1.89 / $1.99 for a music video as opposed to £0.79 / $0.99 for a song.)
  • You need Quicktime 7.0.3 to play purchased tracks, but Apple hasn’t made this available from their Software Update site yet. (It’s there now.)
  • I can’t see any option to rip DVD movies directly into iTunes, and thence onto the iPod. (Maybe this will be available with QT 7.0.3? Or will you need something like Quicktime Pro to do the encoding? Hmm. Seems like they’re missing an integration trick here.)

Just cruisin’

Not doing much work on the Mac Mini right now. I’m mostly doing some much-needed maintenance on my archive files and backups: reorganizing folders, deleting duplicates, burning DVDs, that sort of thing. Boring, but it’s laying the groundwork for sharing my iTunes and iPhoto libraries between Mac and PC, and that automatic nightly backups will run smoothly. Gotta have the backups.

I’ve also been playing a little Ratchet & Clank 3. I never finished the game last year, and with R&ampC 4 due out soon, that’s an oversight that just has to be remedied. I haven’t done much gaing in ages, and I’m finding it a nice break from incessantly worrying away at the computers.

Mac Switching update, Wed 28 Sep

  • I’ve started using Cyberduck as my FTP client. It looks decent, and it’s free. I’m used to FTP clients that hold the source and destination in the same window, though, so it might take me a while to get used to Cyberduck’s target-only view. I suspect I’d be happier with the canonical OS X FTP program, Transmit, but I’m feeling reluctant to spend money on software at this point. I think I’ve got the switching jitters
  • I have now got the Mac and PC networked together over a firewire cable. It wasn’t quite as simple as just plugging in the cables and assigning IP addresses, because OS X wouldn’t update the IP address when I pressed the “Apply Now” button. The new address only took effect once I unplugged and re-plugged the cable. But the speed of network transfers between machines is much nicer now. (Curiously, though, Remote Desktop Connection doesn’t appear to work appreciably faster.)
  • The downside of having the two machines networked together over Firewire is that argue over who has ownership of the external Firewire disk. The PC has two ports. The external disk (a Maxtor OneTouch 250GB) is plugged in to one of them, and the other one holds the cable that leads to the Mac. When I first plugged the PC and Mac together, the Mac instantly grabbed mounted the Firewire drive, leaving the PC with a “huh? where’d my disk go?” feeling. (And an abundance of dreaded “Delayed disk write” messages.) I hadn’t known that Firewire worked like that–in a kind of automatic hub mode. Fortunately, the disk has a USB 2 interface as well, so I’ll probably use that instead to clear up the confusion.
  • The .keylayout XML file I created works fine, except when OS X pops up a dialog window, at which point it seems to require something more fundamental, and it automatically switches to one of the built-in keyboard layouts. And doesn’t switch back afterwards. VERY ANNOYING. If anyone knows how to stop this, please let me know.
  • The “Do you want to save changes…” dialog in Textwrangler doesn’t appear to have a keyboard option for “Don’t Save”. I can “Save” with the enter key, and “Cancel” with Escape, but I can’t use the Tab key to move between buttons, and no keyboard action seems to activate the “Don’t Save” button. Also VERY ANNOYING. When I’m in full flow on the keyboard, I hate having to grab the mouse. UPDATE (6 Oct 2005): The “Don’t Save” button can be activated with the Apple+D key combination, provided that I’m not using the custom .keylayout xml file.
  • Thunderbird is so much sloooooower on the Mac. I should probably give a try, but I’m reluctant to do so just when I’ve got the hang of Thunderbird’s cross-platform portability. It’s my escape hatch, in case I decide to move back to the PC.
  • I don’t like the way that Safari (and Opera) hold a little “close” button inside each browser tab. It makes choosing a tab a much more delicate experience, because not only is the mouse target area reduced (Fitts’ law), but it also multiplies the number of button areas that are targets for irrevocable actions. Can you ctrl-Z to bring back a window you’ve just closed? Nope. Even if you really, really didn’t want to close it, because you were half-way through writing a long blog entry in that window? Tough luck, bub. And the more browser tabs you have open, the worse this problem gets: the “close window” cross doesn’t shrink down with the rest of the text in the tab, and thus it becomes proportionately bigger with each tab you open. This alone may be reason enough for me to abandon Safari.

I’m coming to the point now where I’ve got the hardware set up the way I want it, and I’ve got most of the basic software up and running in a configuration I’m happy (ish) with. The next step is figuring out what I’m going to do with all of my files. I know I’m still going to be working on the PC, so I need them to be available from both the Mac and PC. But then I’ve got a whole bunch of Mac-specific stuff sitting in my shiny new home directory. There’ll be a whole lot of PC stuff that will make no sense on the Mac, too.

And most importantly, I’ll need a sensible backup strategy for the lot of it.

This may well be the trickiest part of the whole switching thing: living a dual life with my data. It’s actually making me feel kind of twitchy.

Mac Switching update, Mon 26 Sep

Well, one of my major goals in working with the Mac Mini has now been achieved: I have a working local version of Movable Type up and running. My httpd.conf file is not as clean as it probably should be, and I’ve got permissions on my site and archive folders set to 777 because installing suexec or cgiwrap felt like a step too far at this point…but it’s there. Archives and indexes are building.


  • I’m using Safari more and more, and getting to like it better. One thing I don’t like is that it uses the Apple+R keystroke to reload a page, rather than the IE/Firefox F5. I don’t like this because I’ve got Apple+R bound to Quicksilver, so I have to use the mouse to reload pages.
  • TextWrangler is turning into my default text editor. I like it.