Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Apple Music: Taking a dump on a butterfly

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  • David MacGregor,

    Sounds way too hard.

    I'll just listen my Best of the Eagles CD on high rotate until it expires - or until the optical drive in Powerbook does (they usually do at some stage) - at which point I'll go back to my wax Edison cylinders of Joni Mitchell albums.

    Auckland, New Zealand • Since Feb 2007 • 41 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to BenWilson,

    The gateway drug of having music and playlists as simple files on a device like how they were before Apple ever invented the iPod and iTunes* has him in its vice-like grip.

    The first music app I can recall using was was Cassady & Greene’s SoundJam MP, which Apple bought in late 2000 and turned into iTunes in January 2001 – after realising they were missing the boat on music. The first iPod was released in Octber 2001. By that time WinAmp et al were well established and there were other portable players on the market.

    The iTunes Music Store launched in April 2003 and we tend to forget what a lifesaver that was. The big music companies were obsessed with DRM and some of the ways other companies were doing it were insane. I recall once buying a much-ballyhooed Kylie Minogue track made available in Windows Media format. I had to plod along and download the track – and then go to a completely different page to obtain a licence to use said track!

    The iTunes Store made it easy and seamless to buy music downloads, not least because Apple’s FairPlay DRM was painless compared to everything else (except eMusic, which didn’t have any major label music). Eventually, everyone stopped caring about DRM on music downloads. It’s only come back to enable offline play from streaming services.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22763 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel, in reply to David MacGregor,

    Matchbox 2015

    Sounds way too hard.
    ... until the optical drive in Powerbook does (they usually do at some stage) – at which point I’ll go back to my wax Edison cylinders of Joni Mitchell albums.

    There's always this retrieval method for vinyl:

    You can glue a rose thorn to a big kitchen size matchbox, stick that on a tongue depressor (lets the assembly "float" on the record, and holds the thorn vertical), and play any album. ANYTHING that will fit in the groove will read the "vibrations". The matchbox acts as a resonant chamber, amplifying the sound.

    DON'T do this with any album you'd like to hear again! But if you've got some old LP's that are beat anyway, go for it! It is a great way to demonstrate analog audio for elementary children - physics lesson, anyone?

    from 2006 on Audiokarma

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7902 posts Report Reply

  • Peter Johnston,

    I had no trouble getting everything up and running on both my iPhone and Mac, and spent most of yesterday listening to Beats 1 (except when it broke of course). Apart from the hype-y announcers I quite enjoyed it - basically it's a worldwide music radio station, which is quite a cool concept.

    However today when I heard a couple of tracks I liked on Beats 1 and attempted to either save them to My Music, or open them in iTunes, nothing happened. So that seems to be broken, in NZ at least.

    I haven't experienced the same problems with existing music or playlists in my iTunes library because over the last year (due to having free Spotify premium with Spark) I have been culling my iTunes and building up saved offline albums and playlists in Spotify. Which may very well remain the case, with Apple Music just becoming another discovery source along with RadioActive, NPR etc.

    However it is worth noting that until recently saving albums in Spotify was a laborious process. So Apple may just need a little while to get it right.

    Wellington • Since Sep 2013 • 25 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Peter Johnston,

    However it is worth noting that until recently saving albums in Spotify was a laborious process. So Apple may just need a little while to get it right.

    Good point. I still find Spotify a struggle.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22763 posts Report Reply

  • bob daktari, in reply to Russell Brown,

    I always just added albums as individual playlists, worked a treat and once listened to enough times just dumping that playlist

    I've had a play on apple music or whatever one is meant to call it - the signup and personal selections are a bit tedious and as I did it on my phone which only contains a few tracks I've bought my suggested music preferences were a little on the yeah nah side (no offence Kenny Rodgers). I store very little music on anything than my iPod

    I spent the most time mucking about listening to some of the radio playlists, was impressed by the choices, by far the most "me" default selections I've come across, pleased with that. The beast radio station just seemed odd, far too many songs I liked for it to have any appeal to the masses - surely the target?

    Connect is just stupid, no doubt the brain child of a social media expert

    Longterm I can't see myself using it as I have the spotify spark deal and youtube is my default music finder service

    auckland • Since Dec 2006 • 539 posts Report Reply

  • Aaron Hutching,

    Having posted some snarky comment on Facebook the other day about 256kbps audio quality, I have to confess I can't actually tell the difference between Apple Music and Spotify...

    Nice interface, but nothing on there to make me switch over from Spotify and my carefully curated playlists. However, if an app is created for use with Apple TV, that might change things. Spotify using Airplay is often unreliable, in our house it seems to be affected by the microwave.

    Auckland • Since Dec 2014 • 4 posts Report Reply

  • nzlemming,

    But surely it wasn’t meant to work like this?

    Of course it was. How can they keep you in their walled garden if they don't tightly control what you do. The only time I ever run iTunes is when I open it by mistake,

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 2930 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Russell Brown,

    The iTunes Music Store launched in April 2003 and we tend to forget what a lifesaver that was.

    Yes, it's ironic that a enormous multi-tentacled organization finally finding a way to actually make money out of music downloads killed the ever present tendency of said corporations to try to block the development of what was (to anyone with even half a brain) the future of music. The horrible specter of a world of free music evaporated and was replaced by an actual world of free music. For that, I thank the fanbois who paid to make it all possible. All it took was one obscenely rich guy to get way, way richer and business faith in the unlikelihood of IPGeddon was established. The system was once again working how it should. And it still is, over ten years later, as said fanbois valiantly struggle with the latest tentacle, fending it off from all those hungry ears that gobble it for free.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10646 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to nzlemming,

    The only time I ever run iTunes is when I open it by mistake

    It was amazing how many ways there were to do this. Eventually an OS reinstall fixed it.

    Having posted some snarky comment on Facebook the other day about 256kbps audio quality, I have to confess I can’t actually tell the difference between Apple Music and Spotify

    Yes, me too. My ears are analog, after all.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10646 posts Report Reply

  • bob daktari, in reply to BenWilson,

    the AAC format apple uses in iTunes at 256kbps is akin to 360kbps MP3 files so even the keenest ears probably wouldn't be able to tell them apart

    auckland • Since Dec 2006 • 539 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to bob daktari,

    Yup, probably most people confuse problems in the underlying level of sampling with micro-dropouts and blockiness due to data streams, disks, memory and algorithms not keeping up with the speed. Which, ironically, happens more the higher the sample rate. I'd be pretty amazeballed if anyone could really discern issues with sounds whose duration is less than 1/32,000th of a second as opposed to a horribly slow 1/8,000th of a second. Especially if they could do it for a sound passing along an analog headphone or speaker cable that probably could only support data at old-skool modem speeds. Remembering of course that for it to reach the human brain it has to turn into analog waves of horrid old compression waves through massively lossey air of varying temperature with huge interference from other sounds, then it hits an eardrum with huge differences in ability to pick up sound of different frequencies, and that's before the issue of how horribly slow our neurons are at firing compared to the data stream they're tapping. So much compression happening right there in the ear itself. We probably need to get bluetooth enabled prosthetic ears before the next jump in music quality can actually be appreciated.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10646 posts Report Reply

  • nzlemming, in reply to BenWilson,

    We probably need to get bluetooth enabled prosthetic ears before the next jump in music quality can actually be appreciated.

    At which point it stops being music and becomes data streaming.

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 2930 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz, in reply to Ian Dalziel,

    I reckon you could hold the vinyl record up to the camera and use software to decode the grooves into music: http://www.andrewhazelden.com/blog/2010/04/microphotograph-of-the-grooves-in-a-vinyl-record/

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to nzlemming,

    But surely it wasn’t meant to work like this?

    Of course it was. How can they keep you in their walled garden if they don’t tightly control what you do. The only time I ever run iTunes is when I open it by mistake,

    Nah, there's really no possible benefit to Apple in making that action difficult. It's a flub.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22763 posts Report Reply

  • Gareth, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    Or you can use five laser beams (and a lot of cash): http://www.laserturntable.com

    Bucolic in the backblocks… • Since Jan 2008 • 269 posts Report Reply

  • Moz, in reply to BenWilson,

    people confuse problems in the underlying level of sampling with micro-dropouts and blockiness due to data streams, disks, memory and algorithms not keeping up with the speed.

    Surely the solution there is to use dedicated decoding hardware in the phone and local storage? Or at least a bigger buffer - there's no reason I can see not to have ~30s of music in RAM. That's what most Android phones seem to do, there's a sub $2 audio chip that decodes most of the free formats as well as mp3 and it seems they've all decided to whack it in there. Making it rare to find and Android phone that won't play ogg, flac and all the rest.

    I haven't actually tried to play 24/96 WAV, but allegedly my phone can do that. Crazy people can apparently stream lossless 24/192 at 4Mb/s which should unpack to about 10Mb/s (24 bits stereo = 48 bits* 192kHz = 9216kb/s) and a class 10 SD or uSD card can (just) do that.

    Sydney, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 1219 posts Report Reply

  • Eediot,

    So it gets worse... http://mashable.com/2015/07/01/itunes-icloud-music-library-bug/

    I don't even seem to be able to close iTunes down now. Everytime I do it opens up again and asked me to reconnects to iCloud, which I'm too scared to do now !

    Auckland • Since Mar 2011 • 51 posts Report Reply

  • James Littlewood*,

    Not that I'm an expert on this sort of thing, but isn't the success of Apple, both in terms of its business and its designs, positively correlated at r=1 with the presence of Steve?

    Mac Classic, iMac, wireless, iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, the whole Disney thing ... what comes close during the not-Steve periods?

    Auckland • Since Mar 2008 • 410 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Moz,

    Dedicated hardware is a good idea, which is why they do it, but it does suffer from difficulties in updating it when improvements in the encoding/decoding algos occur. Also, it’s hardware that’s completely idle in the tiny real estate in the phone for most of the time when you’re not listening to music. Similarly with buffer space – that’s RAM that could be used for something else a whole lot of the time. So it’s a trade off in how important the quality of the sound is compared to the quality of everything else your phone does. Again bearing in mind that the quality of the sound rendering is only one link in a chain to your brain, and there are several more in the phone itself. It’s got to be pumped down a high speed channel to the speakers or all of that resolution is for naught. If you’re cabling it, the phone has to have high speed out ports, which a simple headphone jack isn’t. If you’re wirelessing it, then the quality and strength of that signal is vital, and you want to make pairing it painless.

    Also, there are big overheads in bigger files. If you choose to have file sizes 4 times greater, then you can only have a music library that is 4 times smaller. If you stream it, then you chew up your bandwidth 4 times faster. If your bandwidth is local and unlimited, you’re still compromising every other user on the network’s bandwidth, and unless you can guarantee your phone the bit rate you want, you’re going to get something a whole lot nastier sounding than a low bit rate – you’ll get dropouts when your kids are streaming their torrents extra fast, or playing their games, or your own downloads find a juicy peer. All for a very, very minor improvement in the sound quality under perfect conditions? I can see it appeals to tech purists, rich people and especially picky music lovers with high-end gear. That ain’t me, babe.

    There’s way, way more product differentiation to be had in the front ends of the systems. Good library control and searchability, good playlist management, good store fronts for people who buy the music. I have no personal problem with Android on the hardware/playback side but I’m yet to find any app that does good playlist management and when I tried to make my own one I found out why. The tendency is to use the libraries built into the Android OS to do this, and they have been way inadequate for ages. I still don’t trust any app not to lose my playlists and those that I do almost trust don’t share themselves with other apps easily. On this, the massive variability in the Android OS flavours and the huge array of hardware does not count in Android’s favour.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10646 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    Attachment

    signal to noise...

    I reckon you could hold the vinyl record up to the camera and use software to decode the grooves into music

    I have an old NZBC tone test record*, with individual tracks of different frequencies for testing equipment, each frequency is clearly different from the next. (which stands to reason).

    There have been people who can identify albums or at least content by looking at the groove patterns:
    http://www.tonedeaf.com.au/362661/vinyl-vision-meet-the-man-who-can-identify-a-record-by-its-grooves.htm

    *(the one pictured isn't mine it was grabbed from here: http://www.audioasylum.com/cgi/t.mpl?f=vinyl&m=682423 )

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7902 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    I'm listening to Beats1 and quite enjoying it, even if I don't like all the music. It's much better than the NZ commercial music stations. I can actually bear to listen to it and find out what the current pop music sounds like.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22763 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    I'm starting to work it out. The playlist and discovery stuff is awesome.

    I think I'll have to write a Help file blog on actually using it though.

    Saving things on my phone remains the big problem, because it's contingent on enabling iCloud Music Library.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22763 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Okay, looks like letting my iTunes Match subscription expire might be a risky move for now.

    What a mess.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22763 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel,

    Attachment

    Killer bytes...
    This recycling bin in Barcelona might presage the evolution of Apple's logo and customer base...

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7902 posts Report Reply

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