On the iTunes library, revisited

June 7, 2019

First, read the original post if you haven’t already, then read the news. tl;dr: Earlier this week as I write this, Apple finally laid iTunes to rest with the next macOS release. Mostly. It’s now split into its individual parts, with sync becoming a Finder function—that makes so much sense and I hate that I didn’t think of it—and, while it remains mystic right now, it seems as though the libraries are also being split up.

Problem is, the problem remains. You, the user, still have poor options for your source of truth, the home of your library. Apple still wants it to be either your Mac, or iCloud (which is really more like having no library). Your iPhone or iPad is still not an option as long as you have a Mac; and, thus, your library across multiple devices is still going to be prone to not having any real synchronization or symmetry or symbiosis.

Sure, I’ll admit that I—at my ripe old age of fucking 30—am an old fogey who still likes the idea of possessing my own copies of music files, and even occasionally a physical disc. I can’t just live automagically in the cloud and give up control, not when iTunes-soon-just-Apple-Music has middling to abysmal album art and little to no knowledge of all my obscure imported Foo Fighters single CDs, or rare recordings of Foo Fighters shows, or leaks of little-known Foo Fighters sessions, or…

Point being, you know what would be really cool and automagical? If the library directory lived in the cloud and played coordinator. But Apple hasn’t been led to that particular water dish yet.

On the humble code editor

September 26, 2018

I love Coda. Coda got me to switch to Mac a decade ago. But I don’t think it works for me anymore.

80% of the time I open it I’m working on something locally. I don’t need a terminal. I don’t even need FTP.

It feels like an app of an era left behind…perhaps because it is.

I’m trying VS Code because a) the Framer people shoved it in my face, b) it had good recommendations from one of my former coworkers at Philosophie, and c) Sublime Text is $80 and I could spend that on a place to stay this weekend instead. It’s a code editor. It has syntax highlighting and a bunch of shortcuts and one of those document preview maps in the corner and, because developers, you’re encouraged to edit settings directly in the JSON. But mostly it just stays out of your way.

If Coda launched as quickly, revealed its other features—even site presets/bundles—only as you needed and wanted them, had first-party support for the myriad new languages and subsets en vogue right now, and made a handful of other changes, it would immediately be competitive again.

Maybe it’s just Dark Mode in Mojave, but right now seems like a good time to try new things.

Eight months after writing this, Panic announced a replacement for Coda that aims to address these issues.

On the iTunes library

April 7, 2018

When mobile devices began proliferating a couple decades ago, the arrangement made sense: Everything lives on your desktop, and your PDA, phone, or MP3 player syncs with it. The desktop was just more computer, and most importantly it had more storage.

iTunes and its library management comes from this legacy. The first iPods famously held “1,000 songs.” Four years later, the largest capacity iPods could hold all but the largest libraries in completion with room to spare; yet the newest and most popular models, the flash storage-based iPod nano and iPod shuffle, were designed with subset sync in mind.

Today we have iPhones with 256GB and iPads with 512GB. We have Apple Music and Spotify. We have Netflix and Hulu and every major broadcaster offering some form of first-party streaming. iOS devices don’t rely on a host Mac to get software updates and haven’t for years. Still, for all the independence they’ve gained, if you have your own files, you still have to sync. And it’s as much of a slow, buggy pain in the ass as it always was.

My situation is more complicated. For seven years since 2010, my iTunes library lived on network storage—a WD MyBook World.1 To get to my library on a Mac, I need to 1) be on the same network; 2) be logged in on the network drive; 3) if necessary, open iTunes with a hotkey so I can choose the correct library. It’s great to have more local storage and nothing dangling from my MacBook, but it’s not exactly seamless.

It’s also a bit nonsensical when my iPhone, an iPhone 7 with 128GB, can hold my whole library. Why can’t my library…live on my iPhone instead? Why can’t I open iTunes and see all my music on my iPhone—not by going to the device and viewing the songs individually, but in a completely seamless fashion as if it’s my local library, or on the cloud, or who really cares where it is?

Apple Music makes the current situation worse. It and all of its library merge features are all but glommed onto the existing infrastructure, and it’s created no shortage of frustration from “owners” like me from day one. I love Apple Music as a streaming solution that lets me discover music more easily and have access to stuff I don’t necessarily want to buy or have locally; but when I really love an album I want to buy it and have unfettered access to it. I also don’t want it to interfere with everything else I own, a large part of which comes from CDs I’ve purchased, ripped, and painstakingly organized and set metadata to myself.

I have a loose idea of what the architecture and flow of this newer, less centralized library would be, but as with all of these foolish prognostication posts I’m hoping to have some discussion. Hopefully this is already a problem that Apple recognizes, along with the ludicrously monolithic nature of iTunes, and I can soon stop crossing my fingers for the app to be broken up into lighter-weight and more focused pieces with decentralized libraries. Or something.

On personal value

February 6, 2018

This might be dangerous to my prospects, but it’s important.

I’ve struggled more with my self-worth in the last two years than ever before. A job I had high hopes for didn’t work out at all; 18 months of unemployment and counting followed. A snapshot of my life last year would show a flurry of job applications, then weeks or months of despondency from being ignored and rejected, combined with the stress of bills continuing to pile up and the guilt every time I dared to do something that wasn’t job search-related.

Then, at the end of the year, to quote a song, my solid ground turned to quicksand; and I was handed even more reasons to doubt my value.

I’m going to skip the history lesson on Vincent Van Gogh and his brother Theo, but you might want to read a bit on their relationship. They wrote a lot of letters to each other. In one dated around January 25, 1885, Vincent wrote:

If I make better work later, I still won’t work otherwise than now; I mean it will be the same apple only riper — I myself won’t turn from what I’ve thought from the start. And this is why I say for my part, if I’m no good now, I won’t be any good later either — but if later, then now too. For wheat is wheat, even if it looks like grass at first to townsfolk — and the other way round too.

Somehow, that got morphed into the following apocryphal quote:

If I’m worth anything later, I’m worth something now; for wheat is wheat, even if people think it is a grass in the beginning.

Who knows how that happened. And yet, it’s the popular version of the quote that got me last night.

In both my professional life and my personal life, both the original and the apocryphal apply. I refuse to believe I’m worthless anymore just because I’m struggling; and I refuse to let other people make me feel that way anymore. This won’t last forever; I will grow; but my inherent value as a human is as high as anyone else’s.

On performing at my high school commencement

July 27, 2017

If I haven’t already told you the story of how I almost performed “Times Like These” (with lead guitarist Barry Belmont and violinist Brandon Summers) at my high school commencement, here’s the TL;DR: We auditioned; we got the gig; we rehearsed; we performed again a couple of times for staff; the principal already wasn’t feeling it; I got sick and another classmate was subbed in on vocals; we didn’t gel and the principal pulled the plug with a week left.

I’ve spent the last 11 years pissed off to varying degrees, because I put two years’ worth of planning and practicing into that moment and we got yanked at the last minute.

Eleven years later, I woke up this morning and, out of the blue, realized I had another option: Gather with Barry and Brandon. Keep rehearsing. Have our parents bring our instruments to the ceremony. When everyone’s gathering outside of Orleans Arena afterwards, play anyway. We didn’t need the fucking stage. We should’ve played anyway.

That’s ambition.