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First impressions of iTunes 8

Since iTunes was released today I figured I'd try it out and see how it worked. It was a relatively quick download and included a new QuickTime Player update as well. All told it was 54.8MB for my Mac Pro and 67.5MB for my MacBook Pro.

After a reboot iTunes was ready to roll. It asked me if I wanted to turn the Genius on. Doing so requires that your song information is sent to Apple in an anonymous form so that trends in music can be established and dynamic playlists created. Here's a link that tells you a little more about what Genius is actually doing behind the scenes.

The process of gathering this information, even on my monster of a Mac Pro with RAM and processors to spare, took a very, very long time. Granted, I have a rather large music collection, having put virtually every CD I had ever purchased into my collection, but wow. At least 3 hours, though it did work in the background and I could use iTunes to listen to my music while it was going on. Be prepared for a pretty long wait on this one.

Using iTunes
The majority of the interface remains the same, though there are now some additional options when you select Grid view. Within the grid view you can see your collection by Albums, Artists, Genres or Composers. The album art is then displayed, which really makes me wish I was more diligent about grabbing album art for my ripped CDs. This mode operates incredibly fast, scrolling very quickly through the entire collection.

There is now a Genius Sidebar that appears to the right of a selected Playlist. Apple is incorporating a lot of the iTunes store in there, something that likely will generate some more sales. Why? Well, if you select a song in your collection it shows top albums from that artist, a list of the "Top Songs You're Missing" , an "Essentials" list and finally "Recommendations". Each of the items in the list has a Buy button in it so it's really simple to grab something that catches your fancy (ie. spend some money).

I was surprised to find that the "Top Songs You're Missing" seemed to take into account what I had pretty well. I have several duplicates because of "Greatest Hits" collections, yet even when that was the only version of the song it didn't appear to recommend a song I already owned.

Listening to the Genuis
Okay, so the cool part is selecting a song from the play list and clicking on the Genius button on the lower right status bar. It immediately creates a dynamic playlist from your existing collection. It's kind of like listening to a radio station that specializes in the genre that you like to listen to. I've never been a big fan of simply listening to the random songs in my collection because it will switch from Michael Andrew's version of Mad World to Burl Ives Holly Jolly Christmas. This technically will keep you listening to music that is basically similar, though it's not without flaws in the initial version.

Listening to current, popular music seemed to generate some pretty good playlists for me. It was only when I went out on the edge that it had some trouble. I was shocked that this is what I got when I opened my 80s collections and tried to Rick-Roll myself:


Oh well, maybe that was intentional on Apple's part.

Still, I do like the Genius feature and the generation of playlists. Great way of exploring my music without having to set up playlists beforehand.

13 comments:

Eytan said...

"I was surprised to find that the "Top Songs You're Missing" seemed to take into account what I had pretty well. I have several duplicates because of "Greatest Hits" collections, yet even when that was the only version of the song it didn't appear to recommend a song I already owned."

I did not find that. I have the CSN box set, and yet it recommended many duplicates I already had...

pooter said...

When you say large collection, could you quantify a little, as in how many songs or gigabytes? That would help me get a better idea of its efficiency when I do it on my circa 200 GB collection.

David Alison said...

@Pooter: Well, I thought 146GB was large but apparently I am wrong.

Chris Howard said...

Dave, dave, dave, dave!!

Forget the Genius. Check out the new visualizer. I sat and watched it for over an hour last night. That thing's freakin unreal!

Although, I do now have this strange urge to kill Microsoft...

David Alison said...

@Chris: Wow - I never run it so I didn't even check it. Very cool. I did find it hard to watch after a while though - a little TOO MUCH motion in that one. Thanks for the heads up!

Desperate Postdoc said...

"The album art is then displayed, which really makes me wish I was more diligent about grabbing album art for my ripped CDs."

This app called GimmeSomeTune could solve your problem. This program can fetch the album art from the internet based on information of that song as well as lyrics. You might want to give it a shot. Here is the link.

http://www.eternalstorms.at/gimmesometune/index.html

Ast A. Moore said...

My personal favorite features of iTunes 8 are actually not there.

Feature #1

defaults write com.apple.itunes show-genre-when-browsing  -bool FALSE

Feature #2

defaults write com.apple.itunes show-store-arrow-links -bool FALSE

Odd.

dub said...

to bad, it doesn't work for me. I have an MacBook with a 80GB HDD, so I am keeping only a limited numbers of songs on it. All my music is on my iPod, the 160 GB Classic, but Genius (like FrontRow in Leopard) seems not to be able to see it. It's a shame, really, there must be more people like me who are listening exclusively from their connected iPods.

Chris Howard said...

Dave, press ? in the visualizer and try some of the options. My fave is the freeze mode when you've got a nice stringy visual going. Awesome.

And try it with classical music, it really brings out the best in the visualizer - actually makes classical enjoyable. :)

David Alison said...

@Dub: There's an update that to 2.1 that's coming out today (downloading it now on my iPod Touch) that should provide a subset of the Genius features.

You really should consider getting a larger HD for your MacBook. They are very easy to install and the prices are dirt cheap. That plus you'll have a backup in case the HD in your iPod fails, which can happen quite easily.

@Chris: My daughter got me listening to Imogen Heap; Hide and Seek with the Visualizer is amazing looking.

David Alison said...

@Desperate Postdoc: Thanks for that link. Hadn't heard of GimmeSomeTune. I just installed it and while it is picking up the album artwork and showing it in it's own window it does not appear to be updating iTunes. Not sure if this is an iTunes 8 issue or not, I have the preferences set properly and it does properly update the lyrics for songs in iTunes.

gary said...

Love the new itunes update. I only wish itunes had a feature that allowed you to monitor certain folders so that any music within it is automatically added (a la windows media player)
am i right in thinking this is not an available feature or am i missing something??

Partners in Grime said...

Impressed with the Genius feature. And the visualizer from Magnetosphere is awesome.

http://www.barbariangroup.com/software/magnetosphere

"We’re insanely, ridiculously proud to say that Magnetosphere now lives in iTunes..."