Eppur si muove

Things I Think About, by Peter Bowditch

Let me do things my way, Apple. Please.

It sometimes seems that I’m the only person in the world outside Apple who likes iTunes. Even the fanbois who camp outside shops to get the latest iGadget seem to hate it. I like it because it does what I want and it does it how I want it done. The only Apple device I own is an iPod, again because it does what I want a portable music player to do. (It is an iPod Classic, the second one of these I’ve owned. When the first one died I had two options for replacement – the Classic or an iPod touch (I didn’t want a phone, just a music player). As I have 110 gigabytes of songs and podcasts in iTunes the choice between a 64Gb iPod Touch and a 160Gb Classic at half the price was relatively easy. Also, as I use the thing in my car the thumbwheel provides a better no-looking interface than a non-tactile touch screen.)

I have two non-portable computers, one in my office that has all the disks and things attached to it, and one in my loungeroom which has my television as a screen, connected by a (not gold-plated) HDMI cable. It is used for watching movies from a network drive, and for watching the ABC’s iView to catch up on shows that I have missed. The two computers are connected by a wireless network. Because I am in the middle of reorganising my living arrangements the network is not connected to the Internet and I use mobile broadband, with both machines having two network adapters – one for connecting the computers, one for connecting to the world. This works really well, and because mobile broadband is expensive I only have it on when I need it.

It was all working so well that I decided to use the system to play music for the times when I just want to veg out on the couch and read a book. This should be easy, because Apple lets up to five devices share an iTunes library. I say “should be easy”.

After a bit of fiddling around it all looked like it was working. The main computer was sharing its library and the other one could see it. One of the things I like about iTunes is that I can configure the layout of the screen to suit, and this is what I usually see:

On the other machine it looks like this, and while it can be changed temporarily to look the way I want it to look, it reverts to this every time the shared library is selected.

It sorts everything by artist then album and doesn’t separate music from podcasts. (The “Music” and “Podcasts” at the top of the menu refer to a library on the machine running iTunes, not the shared library.) While I can get it to display albums, there appears to be no way I can get to the playlists and mixes I have in the shared library.The word “useless” seems so inadequate. There is a reason I have my usual layout – it suits the way I use iTunes. I hate it when people drive my car and move the seat, but at least all I have to do then is move it back. This was like sharing a car with someone who moves both the seat and the steering wheel, alters all the rear-vision mirrors, erases all the programming for the radio buttons, and sets the air conditioning to a different temperature, all of which have to be reset every time I get back in.

But that’s not all. I turned off the Internet connection and the whole thing stopped working. That’s right – to share songs between two computers on my own network I have to be connected to the Internet. Need I say that when I reconnected the screen layout reverted to the default and I had to configure it again?

I don’t need to be connected to the Internet when I listen to music on the machine which holds the iTunes library. The iPod has no connectivity, so obviously I can use it without a connection. There seems to be no logical reason why I would need to be connected to anything other than my network to listen to shared music. That doesn’t rule out illogical reasons, of course, such as Apple wanting to know what I’m doing.

So what could I do to listen to music? I went to the back of a cupboard and got out an old set of computer speakers that I keep for emergencies. (The ones either side of the monitor in the picture – they cost $8 from an Op Shop and are perfectly adequate when nothing better is available. I’ll get a couple of Logitechs the next time I’m in Officeworks.) Plugged them into the top of the iPod, and settled back with my book and cup of tea, with all computers, monitors and the Internet turned off. Bliss.

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