Making Fire

Originally, I was writing about Robinson’s Rant and Jeff’s Linked Support. After really looking at the software and thinking rather than reacting I’ve stumbled on a new way to make fire. (In case you’re wondering, I don’t know if he prefers “D. Keith” or “D.” or “Keith” or “Mayo” so I’m playing safe with his last name. I’ve corresponded with Jeff and know that he prefers words we don’t use in polite society, so we stick with “Jeff.”)

These two gurus are really tops in design aesthetics, full-on high-flyers, while I admittedly rank somewhere between flotsam and, uh, well, rank. They are covering the aesthetic bugs, tho, and that’s only half the equation.

iTunes 7I’ve only spent the day with iTunes 7, but I have found a few bugs that are both functional and aesthetic in nature. One is a remix album that is showing up as 16 albums instead of one in the flip view, and several others albums divided into 3 or 4 albums, some with artwork and some without, where the only change is the artist listing. In fact, it’s still showing the correct track number for these supposedly separate albums. It’s dividing the album up because of something other than the artist info, even tho that’s where the album breaks are happening. And it’s breaking them up regardless of the sort column that’s active, and it’s keeping the track numbers. So it’s very weird, check out the pic by clicking to get a larger version. That’s fairly minor bug and will probably go away in a month or two with a .1 update. I’m not pressed about it, yet, it’s just a bug that should be fixed.

I say ‘yet’ because there isn’t any guarantee they will fix this, as iTunes 7 still doesn’t fix one of the biggest complaints that I have about iTunes. Since the first iPod was released this has bothered me because,

  1. I got the iPod, and
  2. this bug is a mental disconnect between ‘iPod + iTunes’.

Now, you’d think, and rightfully so, that the computer hosting iTunes would be the more powerful machine. It stands to reason that the more complex functions would be reserved for iTunes and a lesser set of functions would be carried over to the iPod. iTunes can access the store, purchase and download files, upload them to iPods, etc., while the iPod can’t, so this all follows pretty logically. The iPod can do something that iTunes can’t, aside from fit in your pocket. Any iPod can play an album right from the get-go because you can refine your music source list via a sub-set that included ‘artist’ ‘album’ etc. iPods have been able to do this since the beginning, but iTunes can’t unless you

  1. create a playlist with the entire album, which could be multiple cds, with all tracks in the correct order, or
  2. access the album in the library by using the search function or just sorting based on album and starting with the first track

The first option duplicates a view that is already in place in the iPod, while the second means that you can have the dramatic and climactic-yet-soothing end of an opera be destroyed by the first track of Maroon 5’s latest album, neither of which is ideal. Yes, you can reduce the list in the library by searching, but that is also an inelegant option when the data and answer are right in front of you – adjust the library the same way you do in iPhoto, give me a sub-set defined by albums only. Just like my iPod.

You have no idea how much I hate having to create playlists so that I could listen to an entire opera while at my computer when my iPod did this on it’s own via a menu choice inside the source list. That sort of user-interaction disconnect is hateful, and with the album view I thought it was finally fixed. Is it? Nope. And that’s just sad. Especially because the gapless playback was certainly a much harder fix.

It would seem to me a simple step to mirror the twisty-filtered library of iPhoto, using the subsets already defined by the iPod’s source dividers instead of the years like in iPhoto. Why hasn’t this been done? It’s especially annoying now that the iTunes library has ‘Album View’ as a switch, but you can’t have it just play one album and not continue to the next. Trust me, there is nothing more jarring than having Madonna followed by Vivaldi’s Mass in G, or Avril Lavigne tacked onto the end of Il Barbiere di Siviglia.

For the most part I like the new aesthetics, although I don’t know about the color of the scroll bars. I don’t particularly like the candy-aqua blue scrollbars of Mail and Safari and iPhoto. At least these new scroll bars in iTunes look like they could belong to the grey-semi-metallic look, while Safari and iPhoto appear schizoid to me in their heavy-metal-meets-candyland aesthetics, while Mail’s aesthetic is no more than a click away from having to don the pin-stripes of 10.1 again. However, all of them work, and I understand the functions each piece does.

I’ve said it before, design incorporates aesthetics and functionality, and they are balanced based on the needs of the user. I find the public experimentation with new user-interface elements a bit odd, but not disturbing like Robinson and Jeff do. I find the lack of a simple iTunes source-list twisty, which is effectively what the iPod has had since it’s inception, to be poor design – both aesthetics and functionality suffer in this case. Again, think of Madge on Vivaldi, and then tell me if the color of the scrollbars is all you’re worried about – and of course, FLAME ON!