New iPods!

Keynote over, some quick thoughts.

* iPhone ringtones for $0.99 for 30 seconds. What a rip-off! I’ve always thought that about ringtone companies but I’m used to just using an mp3 as my ringtone. To charge for this is pretty cheeky in my book.
* iPod Nano. Ugly. Proportionally it just looks wrong. Probably need to see one in the flesh but I’m unconvinced by this. It’s gone from sleek and slender to looking like a bastard child of the iPod.
* iPod Classic. New name for the iPod. Nice and gentle re-design, new controls including coverflow but big news was price – £159 for 80GB! £229 for 160GB. I think those are great prices.
* iPod Touch. Big announcement. Same form factor as iPhone so includes touchscreen and coverflow. Also has WiFi and includes Safari and YouTube. £199 for 8GB, £269 for 16GB. The size of the memory was the biggest disappointment for me. If they announced a thicker iPod Touch with 80GB of space then I would have bought one tonight. As it stands I’ll stick to the iPod and pick up an iPhone when it’s released. They are great looking devices especially if you have a small music library or don’t mind picking and choosing music you want to sync with the device. Just not for me.
* Ignoring Starbucks and WiFi iTunes Store I was pleased to see a $200 drop in the price of the iPhone and a scrapping of the 4GB version. No doubt there will be some angry early adopters in America. However, early adopters are always stung, especially by Apple, so they shouldn’t be surprised. They were also quite willing to pay $599 for the iPhone – if they thought it was overpriced they shouldn’t have bought it. Saying that, I’d be pretty pissed if it had happened to me.

A mixed keynote for me but I think it’s cleared up what I’m buying next…although cost and 3G could still be deal breakers. My trusty 6G iPod, only just a year old, will be with me a good bit longer.

EMI and Apple...sitting in a tree

So, the big announcement today wasn’t Beatles on iTunes but something far bigger. Firstly all EMI music singles will be available DRM free for £0.99. Not only that it will be encoded at a higher bit rate of 256kbps. All EMI albums will be available DRM free and at the higher bit rate. £0.79 EMI singles at 128kbps will still be available too along with the DRM that is currently employed. You can upgrade any EMI DRM’d music that you’ve previously purchased on iTunes to the new format for £0.20. All this will be available in May.

About time!

I hate buying music from iTunes and not having it available on the 360 or other devices. The jump in quality is also a nice bonus. Well done to EMI for stepping forward and finally providing DRM free music. I don’t believe that 90% of consumers really said they wanted DRM free music at a better quality and higher price but it suits me. Hopefully some of the other music labels will follow in the coming year(s). So how many people thought it was all marketing when Jobs released his open letter regarding DRM in Feb this year? Ho ho.

and that was 2006

Happy 2007 folks. I was going to do a ‘best of 2006’ but to be honest I can’t be arsed and there’s not a lot of Wii time left. So, some things you should have watched, played heard in 2006 were…

Thom Yorke, Life on Mars, Planet Earth, Arctic Monkeys, Dr Kawashima’s Brain Training, United 93, Low Winter Sun, 24, Bodies, Children of Men, Snow Patrol, Prime Suspect, Razorlight, Gears of War, Battlestar Galactica.

Time to look forward – no resolutions but some goals which I’ll keep private for the moment. Gives me a bit of leeway for failure 😉

I've Moved

It took a long time to deliver but I’m finally there – I’ve moved to Mac. They say a picture is worth a thousand words…

iMac up and running

I’ve posted a full Flickr set of the unboxing of the iMac and iPod – not too many pics as it’s been done already. It’s too early to feel settled with OS X although I’ve so far managed to do everything I’ve wanted to, including an almighty struggle to get my iTunes library over to the mac from the pc. I ended up hacking the library xml file to get it to work. However the iMac hardware is stunning. Quiet, fast and bright – in fact too bright much like when you view a TV in a store and it’s set to 100%. I ended up reducing the brightness to just over half to make it easy on the eyes. Even then it was brighter than my last LCD. Still can’t get used to using the Apple key for cut, copy, paste and there are obviously lots of oddities that will take time to understand. Expose is stunning though and makes managing multiple windows a painless task – windows could learn a lot and that still hasn’t been addressed in Vista which is an issue as more people move to larger and larger desktops.

The iPod is as impressive as ever. Screen is bright, video’s look sharp although I still think it’s too small to watch TV episodes and movies on. Most noticeable are the new earbuds – comfy and sound good. Gapless playback is also welcome…at last.

Downsides. Only one at the moment – the Mighty Mouse. It is OK but not a patch on my old Logitech which will be pressed back into service. The virtual right mouse button is awkward and the side buttons require a lot of pressure to activate. Not for me and it defies logic as to why Apple couldn’t design something better.

Seeing as I’ve spent only a day with the iMac I’m surprised how easy it is to perform basic tasks although I do feel vulnerable due to my lack of knowledge. If something went wrong I would probably struggle badly. With Windows I felt comfortable that no matter what I did I could rectify the situation – it will take a while to get that feeling with the Mac. Hardware has also worked like a dream, both new and old. Joy of joys – I don’t have any dead pixels (well none that are obvious and although I’ve scanned a few times and can’t see any I ain’t going hunting). Thoroughly delighted that I finally made the move. It will be interesting to see how the next few weeks go as I scratch beneath the surface. To be honest I can’t wait.

Craving

I need a new iPod. It’s almost three years since I picked up my 30Gig iPod and I’ve only a few hundred meg free. I’ve been toying with the idea of dropping some of the music that I never listen to…those album fillers that are usually skipped but every so often I’ll listen to a track that I’ve previously dismissed and it clicks. So I’m keeping all the music in my ever growing library. Therefore 60Gig is a must.

I’m also listening to more and more podcasts. I treat it as my radio station where I can choose what ramblings to listen to. Still a bit hit and miss but quality is ever increasing.

I’m also anal with regards album art. All my mp3’s have embedded album art images which makes playing on various players and devices a joy as I recognise and remember so much not just from the sound but also the covers. Sad I know. Talking of other players I’ve had a peek round the market in case there is an iPod killer out there that meets my needs. Despite it’s shortcomings nothing appeals as much as the iPod in combination with iTunes.

So it’s a no brainer – order a 60Gig iPod. Well…..not quite. There’s lots of fanboy rumours that April 1st (or there abouts) will see a new video iPod so I’ll hang back and see whats coming. I love the way Apple launch their goods on an unsuspecting market but I would hate to buy one of their products only to see a new version that’s faster, better, same priced and launched a couple of weeks later. I can see me giving in soon though – the force is weakening.

iTunes Signature Maker

Shamelessly copied from elsewhere I present my iTunes signature – itsm.mp3 (2 Meg download). The program that generated the file can be found on at Jason Freeman’s site. It has a few options and will generate your own signature based on this. The only requirements are that you use iTunes and can run Java apps on your pc.

So can you name all the tracks in my signature? I couldn’t but the app creates a list of the tracks used….

1 – So I Begin – Galleon – I Believe
2 – Love Will Come Through – Travis – 12 Memories
3 – Landed – Ben Folds – Songs For Silverman
4 – Whatever, Whenever – Groove Armada – Vertigo
5 – Kiss This Thing Goodbye – Del Amitri – Waking Hours
6 – Fix You – Coldplay – X&Y
7 – 1 Thing – Amerie – Touch
8 – Don’t want to Fall in Love – Chris Issac – Chris Issac
9 – All I Need – Air – Moon Safari
10 – Toca’s Miracle – Fragma – Dogs Balearics Disc 2
11 – Creep – Radiohead – Pablo Honey
12 – Bad Day – Daniel Powter – Daniel Powter
13 – Are You Gonna Be My Girl – Jet – Get Born
14 – Vertigo – U2 – How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb
15 – El Salvador – Athlete – Vehicles and Animals
16 – Somewhere Only We Know – Keane – Hopes And Fears
17 – I Can’t Be With You – Cranberries – No Need To Argue
18 – Shiver – Coldplay – Parachutes
19 – Further – Longview – Mercury
20 – Fake plastic trees – Radiohead – The Bends
21 – Drop The Pressure – Mylo – Destroy Rock ‘n’ Roll
22 – Give It Away – Red Hot Chili Peppers – Greatest Hits
23 – Oh My Gosh – Basement Jaxx – The Singles
24 – Amsterdam – Coldplay – A Rush Of Blood To The Head
25 – Go – Moby – 3 for 1
26 – Electric Mistress – Jamiroquai – Dynamite
27 – ’95 aka Make Things Right – Lemon Jelly – ’64-’95
28 – Catch – Kosheen – Catch
29 – Free – Estelle – RnB Essential Spring 2005 CD2
30 – Mr. Brightside – The Killers – Hot Fuss
31 – Between Angels And Insects – Papa Roach – Infest
32 – Run – Snow Patrol – Final Straw
33 – American Idiot – Green Day – American Idiot
34 – Girls – Prodigy – Always Outnumbered Never Outgunned
35 – You’re Beautiful – James Blunt – Back to Bedlam
36 – Leave home – Chemical Brothers – Exit Planet Dust
37 – What Sound – Lamb – What Sound
38 – Any Day Now – Elbow – Asleep in the Back
39 – Feel Good Inc – Gorillaz – Demon Days
40 – Hush – LL Cool J feat. 7 Aurelius – Now 60
41 – Black And White Town – Doves – Some Cities
42 – TwoMonthsOff – Underworld – AHundredDaysOff
43 – The Blower’s Daughter – Damien Rice – O

Worthwhile playing around with the settings to see what different sigs can be created.

iTunes 5.0

New iTunes version 5.0 with a new look and some new features even for old iPod users. Playlists within folders, contact and calender synch with Outlook, far better search (allegedly like spotlight in OS X), shuffle options (woo), parental controls (woo – this is irony by the way) and album reviews in the music store. Was that really worth an update to a version 5.0.

On installing it seemed to update my whole library. On syncing with the iPod it’s refreshing ALL the tracks. That’s 22 gigs it’s writing back to the iPod. Strange. Even odder – some tracks won’t write to the iPod – they did yesterday. I updated the iPod firmware and all seems well by going from version 2.2 to 2.3.

The new search is great – fast and accurate. Folders are also nice as the parent folder will display a sum of all the child playlists. Not convinced on the new look which is better than the old brushed metal but seems to have an odd double pixel around the left and right window border.

Live 8...was OK

I would love to say it was great so keeping the message that was endlessly played throughout yesterdays concert (Live 8. G8. Be great.) but it wasn’t. Like the original Live Aid no doubt in a few years time people will look back and say it was amazing but for me it’s all about what happens over the coming week. Already it looks like debt relief for the poorest nations has been secured and that aid will be doubled. The third key measure is fair trade. The amount of money the US and Europe (in particular) subsidise their local producers is amazing. They also force developing nations to open up their markets while at the same time ensuring their own are protected. This has to stop.

Key for me also is the government in Africa. Many countries which are poor also have a concentration of wealth and armies fighting over small strips of land which leads to questions of “why should I donate”. I’m not sure how this should be solved – I definitely don’t support the idea of regime change where the west takes over the running of some of the worst countries. Maybe a half way house is required where aid,debt relief and trade rules are introduced only if key UN advisor’s placed in each African country can see that the money is being used wisely and that the poor really are getting the help they need. But to think that all countries in Africa are like this is naive – I was surprised at the amount of calls that yesterday was an ego trip for most taking part and it will make no difference. Even if this turns out to be true and not one thing will change surely people have got to try in the hope that their efforts, particularly in Edinburgh, will make a difference.

Finally – concert highlights – Coldplay & Richard Ashcroft even though their timing was way off, Madonna proving she’s still got it even in her 60’s, Travis who actually got the whole crowding moving, The Killers who were robbed and got to play only one track, Velvet Revolver…rooooooooooock and Robbie – Come On!! Lowlights – Elton, Dido, Mariah Carey – fuck off with your mike stand requests and Pink Floyd – yawn. Over 60 and don’t we all know it.

All in all an OK concert – hopefully by Friday we can say it was great.