Over the past several years many have told me they are confused with iTunes; most of them are non-Macintosh users. So I decide to write this post in hope of giving, the many whom I have yet to speak to about this topic, some guidance. To understand how to work with iTunes you will first need to understand the terminologies associate with iTunes.

Definitions

The music management application installed on your computer is called "iTunes". Within the application you have access to the "iTunes Store", where you can purchase apps for iOS devices, and depending on the country you live in, you may be able to purchase music tracks, rent or purchase movies and TV shows.

To access your iTunes Store account you will need an Apple ID. An Apple ID is initially created to be the same as your account's primary email address. Although you cannot change your Apple ID after it has been created, you can change the "Primary Email Address" for your Apple ID account as many times as you want. You can also add additional "Alternative Email Addresses" to your account after you have associated a "Primary Email Address".

If you do not know whether you have an Apple ID or if you want to create a new Apple ID, you can use Apple's web page to accomplish this. This is also one of the many places where you can change the "Primary Email Address" and default mailing address.

The Details

In the past music tracks purchased through iTunes are copy protected using Apple's own digital rights management (DRM) software, FairPlay. This DRM protection is enforced by the record labels rather than Apple. It is fortunate that Apple and the record labels were able to come to an agreement, which Apple announced on January 6, 2009, where they will no longer apply DRM protection to music tracks purchased from iTunes Store.

This DRM requirement is similar to the thinking record labels have behind restrictions place on Apple to prevent them from selling the same music tracks on all iTunes Stores around the world. Unfortunately the agreement Apple has with the record labels in 2009 does not remove the geographic restrictions on selling music tracks. That is why some iTunes Stores do not have a music section. The movie studios and TV networks also have similar geographic restrictions on Apple, therefore some iTunes Stores do not have movie and TV show sections.

Even though Apple removed DRM protection from their tracks sold through iTunes Store, if you did not upgrade your music tracks to the higher quality (192bits) AAC format of these tracks purchased prior to January 6, 2009, they will still be DRM protected. So to allow these tracks to be played on computers or one of the associated iOS devices, the copy of iTunes installed on the computer needs to be Authorized by the Apple ID from which the music tracks were purchased with. This requirement also applies to any purchases of iOS apps and movies.

Fortunately, iTunes allows itself to be "authorized" by multiple Apple IDs, and "authorizing" the iTunes on a computer is not the same as logging into an iTunes Store account, these are separate actions and doing either should not effect the other. It is also important to remember that the actual Apple ID of an account may be different from the "Primary Email Address".

The concept of Apple ID, iTunes and iTunes Store can be executed much better. It is definitely not one of Apple's best implementations. I hope this post becomes a start to help those working with their iTunes and accompany media.

Posted
AuthorVinko
CategoriesApple Inc-

Here are several aesthetic changes and new functionality in the latest version of iTunes application. The first thing you will notice with this latest version of iTunes is that the icons on the left panel has all lost their 3D/colour effects. Many critics have complain that the change is ugly, this may be true, but I think the new design places the focus back on to the content: music tracks, videos, apps and the iTunes Store.

The problem seem to be the inconsistent applications of these 3D effects. Some controls have gain the latest Apple aluminum hardware look but others has the Aperture styling. These inconsistencies make the application feel unfinished, and continues the theory that iTunes is Apple's platform for experimenting with OS X UI designs.

One such OS X experiment is the controls of the window; which most refer to as the "traffic light" controls. For some reason Apple had rotated the set of controls 90° without any functional benefit except when the window is minimized. Hack to show users how to return these "traffic light" controls back to the pre-iTunes 10 design, or return the colours to the icons in the left side bar have already appeared as a result.

One nice change is in the Apps tab for the attached iOS device. In the new design user no longer have to guess at which apps are designed for the iPad and which cannot be run on the iPhone or iPod Touch. The same three categories that are in the Apps section of the left side bar are available here. These category heading automatically changes as you scroll the list up and down to reflect the category that the visible list of apps belong to.

Another useful change is with the tracks displayed in the iTunes Store, for any tracks you have purchased, the system will change the "$XX.XX Buy" button to "Purchased" for any tracks you have already purchase. So you can avoid purchasing the same track multiple times. This does not mean that you loose access to the list of options normally associated with a track: "Like", "Post", "Gift This Song", "Add to Wish List", "Copy Link", "Other Versions", "Share On Facebook" and "Share On Twitter". All you have to do is click on the label "Purchased" to review this menu of options.

For all who has an iTunes Store account in either: US, Canada, UK, France, Germany or Australia, you will also enjoy the new "social network for music", Ping.

Posted
AuthorVinko
CategoriesApple Inc-

When I signed onto iTunes Ping this morning (HK time) I was able to connect my account to my Facebook account to locate my Facebook friends who are already on Ping. Later on in the morning I start to encounter problems with the Facebook connection. It first thinks that I am no longer connected, then when I try to reconnect it has trouble reaching Facebook.

After a few more attempts the Facebook Connect button on the Ping Home page in iTunes disappeared.

Did Apple kill the Ping Facebook application? Or did Facebook killed it because it stressed Facebook's API infrastructure too much?

Posted
AuthorVinko
CategoriesApple Inc-

As many of you know, Apple will be holding its annual invitation-only music event at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco on September 1st, 10:00 (US PST). For the first time in a long while, Apple will be streaming this event live over the Internet using its "HTTP Live Streaming" (presumably "QuickTime Broadcaster"). Unfortunately, if you do not own one of Apple's products you will not be able to watch it via the Internet.

Apple® will broadcast its September 1 event online using Apple’s industry-leading HTTP Live Streaming, which is based on open standards. Viewing requires either a Mac® running Safari® on Mac OS® X version 10.6 Snow Leopard®, an iPhone® or iPod touch® running iOS 3.0 or higher, or an iPad™. The live broadcast will begin at 10:00 a.m. PDT on September 1, 2010 at www.apple.com.

Sep 1, 18:00 London Time Sep 1, 13:00 US Eastern Time Sep 1, 12:00 US Central Time Sep 1, 10:00 US Pacific Time Sep 2, 01:00 Hong Kong Time Sep 2, 03:00 Sydney Time

Posted
AuthorVinko
CategoriesApple Inc-

Last night Apple made available Mac OS 10.6.4 Update, now the version of iTunes that supports iOS 4 and all its functions is now available from Apple's Downloads page or from Software Update on your Mac.

Unless you are using iTunes on Windows platform or that you have an iOS supported device running iOS 4, there is no rush to update your iTunes to this version. For the former type users there are 3 security issues that this version of iTunes fixes as documented in the Knowledge Base article, About the security content of iTunes 9.2.

Posted
AuthorVinko
CategoriesApple Inc-

Ahead of the iPad official release on April 3rd Apple had made available the iPad Apps in the iTunes App Store.

Many sections now have a toggle switch to choose either iPhone or iPad apps. It also appears that Apple is slowly releasing the reportedly over 1000 apps, as some of the ones I was expecting like TwitePad is no where to be found; at least not easily.

Posted
AuthorVinko
CategoriesiPad

You may have read in forums and elsewhere about the "iPhone Carrier Update" dialog presented by iTunes each time the iPhone is connected to iTunes 7.7 or later. In the past I had suggested that if your iPhone is "carrier unlocked"; not connected to one of the Apple carrier partners in your country, you should not apply this update when Apple's dialog comes up. The reason is because the "iPhone Carrier Update" will update settings relating to the "carrier partner(s)" within your iPhone, and if your iPhone was unlocked and your SIM card is not from one of the "carrier partner(s)" the APN settings (data settings) of your iPhone will be overridden, causing you to have to update these settings each time.

You can read other tips to know when owning an iPhone in Hong Kong by checking out my article, What to Know When Buying an iPhone 3G in Hong Kong or the more layman article 10 Things a Layman Should Know About Hong Kong iPhone 3G.

As rumored Apple has released the iPhone firmware 2.2 today. This is a warning to all users who had either jailbroken or unlocked their iPhone or iPhone 3G, this warning even goes for anyone using the iPhone 3G who had not done either, but may want to unlock in the future.

I strongly advice these users not to upgrade their iPhone firmware to 2.2 until the iPhone Dev Team had released an updated version of their PwnageTool.

This applies to the new version of iTunes 8.0.2 also, as we currently do not know if the latest version of iTunes will be compatible with jailbroken or unlocked iPhone and iPhone 3G.

I will update here when it is safe to upgrade your iPhone or iPhone 3G, please stay tuned.

Posted
AuthorVinko
Categorieshack, iphone

Today I read the article "My Songs, My Format" by New York Times' Sean Captain (Late Edition - Final, Section C, Page 9, Column 1) and it erupted me to write the following letter to the Editor at New York Times (NYT).

Dear Editor,I was appalled to read such an article from New York Times.

Mr. Captain's article is truly bias and had not explained clearly the facts about the topics he touched on. It would be very misleading to a layman reader of the article.

For example, Mr. Captain never explain the "AAC" codec (Encoder/Decoder), but instead referring it to "Apple's format". Implying that it is a proprietary format created by Apple. That is not the case.

The "AAC" format is part of the industry standard for MPEG-2 and MPEG-4, the version that Apple promotes is AAC MPEG-4, which commonly agreed by industry expert as having a better compression and sound quality than the MP3 format.

Aside from that Mr. Captain also fail to explain the concept of "bps" (Bits per Seconds), which is also very important when talking about compression formats and particularly important when comparing different codecs. One can not compare bit rates of different codecs directly. That like comparing apples and oranges.

Mr. Captain also fail to point out that there are many other MP3 players our there which also supports the AAC format.

As Mr. Captain correctly points out that Apple is a trend setter. Like when Apple removed the floppy disk player from their computers, "Macintosh" 5 years ago, everyone was up in arms calling it a stupid move that will destroy Apple's market share. Now we see that other major manufactures are also following Apple's directions and removed the floppy drive as standard equipment from the computers they manufacture.

Going back even further about 13 years ago, when Apple send out all their developers resources in CD-ROM format, the critics were all calling this a bad move, which is designed to force Apple's developers to purchase the more expensive (at the time) CD ROM player option in their Macintosh. This took another 5 years for the rest of the world to realize that CD-ROM is a much better and preferred medium by the consumers.

Apple in the past had always try their best to stick with industry accepted Standards. Some times these Standards are well established in other times they may be recently approved as Standards, and lastly Apple's own technology is adapted as Standards (ie. QuickTime, IEEE-1394 aka Firewire aka i-Link).

For a publication like New York Times, I believe it has much better integrity that to publish something that is so misleading to the average reader that cause them to draw an incorrect conclusion about the subject. As for Mr. Captain, he should be much more responsible to verify and clarify his facts and terminologies in his article, rather than to allow the readers to do the verifications themselves before coming to a conclusion about his article.

I am sure that Mr. Captain does not intentionally want to mislead the New York Times readers. I urge you to insist on a retractile or a following clarification article to this one by Mr. Captain.

Unfortunately, due to the commercialization of New York Times online I am not able to provide the link (URL) to the actual article on NYT's web site.

Again the news of a possible Apple's, industry leading, iTunes Music Store for the Japanese market is in the news. This rumor had been around for over a year now, each came with possible launch dates. The difference this time, is that the news is from the Asian recording company Avex (Chinese only site), which announced an agreement with Apple to distribute its holdings through Apple's iTunes Music Store starting August of this year. Of course, true to Apple's tradition, they have no comments on any unannounced product.

Given that Avex has one of the largest collection of works from Asian artists. The possibility of iTunes Music Stores exploding in the major Avex countries (Hong Kong, Korea, Japan and Taiwan) is inevitable. I truly hope I am correct, since I have been waiting for iTMS to arrive in Hong Kong ever since iTMS was launched by Apple.

This is good news for all those music lovers (like myself) in Asia who want to and willing to purchase our music via the online medium.

It is not that there are not already legal downloads in Asia (for example EOLAsia), but the entry of the market leader into the area is definitely a significant indicator for all those record labels that are still on the fence.

While Asia is one of the most challenging market for companies like Apple to push legal downloads of content. I am sure all of Apple's competitors are watching to see how well Apple can pull this off. Since everyone knows that IP pirating is a major problem for most Asian countries.

When I used to work for SPSS, the Sales & Marketing team used to joke about the fact that they "sell a million copies of SPSS worldwide, but one to Asia".

Let's hope that the theory of "most people are honest and good" prevail and Apple can make these new Asian versions of the iTMS as successful as they did in the US and Europe.

Posted
AuthorVinko
CategoriesNews, opinion

Podcast

By now most of my Macintosh friends and the even the few friends who still use Windows (yes... I still consider them friends) should have tried the new iTunes 4.9 with Podcast compatibility by now.

I have been listening to all kinds of Podcasts for the past 8 months. The podcast "Fly With Me" produced by Joe d'Eon, a First Officer from an US Airline - well as of July 4th he has been promoted to Captain - is very funny.

Below is a quote from his web site to give you some idea

Hear from flight attendants and pilots as they tell you what goes on behind the galley curtain (and behind the cockpit door). The author is an airline pilot who takes his recorder on trips with him -- funny stories, insider info, and interesting insights.

There are content like this on various airline specific discussion forums, but because this one is in audio format therefore it is much funnier.

Even if you are not in the Airline industry you will find this an entertaining Podcast to listen to, and for those friends who are in the airline industry, they will definitely be able to relate.

Enjoy!

Posted
AuthorVinko
CategoriesNews