First Full Day of Spring – New Apple Goodies

It’s the first day of Spring, and Apple has sent released new products

Rumors of a March Apple event have been circulating for many, MANY weeks. With the end of March quickly approaching, continuing rumors changed March to April, and the rumors persisted.

I never thought there would be a Spring Apple event, regardless of the month. With Apple announcing WWDC dates in February, I never really thought that there would be any kind of streamed event prior to June. In my mind, all that a pre-June event would accomplish would be to lessen the impact of the introductions Apple had on the books at WWDC.

When Apple instead issued press releases on new products, everyone got what they wanted. The public got new goodies, and Apple didn’t ruin the impact of the June keynote with an event just a few months before they announce the 10th anniversary iPhone. With that, let’s take a quick look at everything that Apple announced yesterday.

Product RED iPhone
Apple released a 128GB and 256GB Product (RED) iPhone 7 and 7 Plus for $749/$849 and $869/$969. The anodized aluminum’s red color with white front bezels joins last year’s new matte black and jet black colors with the same set precautions – the finish could scratch and flake very easily.

Gold, Silver and Rose Gold anodization doesn’t seem to have the same set of issues that “colored” iDevices do. Those finishes don’t seem to have the tendency to flake and scratch like true colored anodized surfaces do. Users will need to take care with those devices. Some kind of clear case (otherwise, why get the (RED)..??) will need to be applied in order to keep the finish scratch and flake free.

PRODUCT(RED) is the brand that has been used for more than 10 years of partnership between Apple and (RED). Products with this special branding and color give customers a way to contribute to the Global AIDS Fund and “bring the world a step closer to an AIDS-free generation.”

PRODUCT (RED) iPhones will be available to order on Apple’s website, at Apple Stores, and at select authorized resellers and wireless carriers. The new model will begin shipping to customers by the end of March in the United States and will be available in more than 40 countries and regions around the world.

5th Generation iPad (iPad Air 3)
Apple today announced it is launching a new 9.7-inch iPad equipped with an A9 chip and a brighter Retina display. The new model is set to replace the discontinued iPad Air 2.

The tablet, which Apple is simply calling “iPad,” is Apple’s new entry-level model at the 9.7-inch size, starting at $329 for 32GB and $429 for 128GB.

The new device is similar in many ways to the iPad Air 2, which had an A8X chip and started at $399; but is slightly thicker and heavier. The new device has a faster A9 chip and a brighter Retina, but non-laminated or antireflective display.

The device’s tech specs also include a2,048‑by‑1,536 resolution and 264 PPI display, 8-megapixel rear-facing iSight camera, 1.2-megapixel front-facing FaceTime camera, two speakers, Lightning connector, 3.5mm headphone jack, Touch ID with Apple Pay, Wi-Fi 802.11ac, and Bluetooth 4.2. In many ways, this device can be considered the iPad Air 3, though Apple has chosen not to give it that name

iPad mini 4 128GB
Apple today announced that its iPad mini 4 is now available with up to 128GB of internal storage. The Wi-Fi only version starts at $399. The previous, 32GB Wi-Fi only model has been discontinued. A cellular model with 128GB of storage is also available for $529.

The newly priced iPad mini 4 is available now on Apple.com in Silver, Gold, and Space Gray with next-day shipping.

Don’t expect much more out of the iPad mini line, such as a Pro model. The fact that the mini got an EARLY Spring update likely precludes it from getting the Professional treatment with any additional iPad updates that might come to the Pro line in June. Look for this line to be discontinued no later than this time next year.

iPhone SE 32GB & 128GB
iPhone SE is the four inch version of the very popular iPhone 6. It was released to satisfy those folks that just couldn’t use the iPhone 6/ 6s/ 7 or iPhone 6/ 6s/ 7 Plus without painful hand stretching.

Previously, the iPhone SE was available in 16GB and 64GB storage capacities for $399 and $449 respectively. The 64GB model was initially $499, but it received a price cut following the iPhone 7 launch. The new 32GB and 128GB models replace the 16GB and 64GB models and will remain available in Gold, Rose Gold, Silver, and Space Gray.

Storage was the only tech spec update this iDevice received. The new iPhone SE models will be available online and in stores starting on Friday, March 24.

Apple Watch Bands-o-Plenty
As widely anticipated, Apple today also debuted its new Spring 2017 lineup of Apple Watch bands. The new line introduces all-new options like Striped Woven Nylon bands, a set of sold-separately Nike Sport bands, and new colors for Hermès leather bands. Every band is available to order now on Apple.com.

Striped Woven Nylon bands now come in Berry, Tahoe Blue, Orange, Red, and Pollen. There’s also an all-new, solid Midnight Blue Woven Nylon band. The new Apple Sport bands are available in Pebble, Azure and Camellia. The Classic Buckle has gotten a small buckle redesign and now comes in Sapphire, Berry, and Taupe colors.

Users can also finally buy the Nike Sport Band separately in Anthracite and Black, Pure Platinum and White, and Volt and Black. The company is introducing new collections of Nike Bands as well, including a 38mm and 42mm Space Grey Aluminum Case with Anthracite and Black Sport Band and 38mm and 42mm Silver Aluminum Case with Pure Platinum and White Sport Band.

Apple Watch Hermès line is gaining new colors as well. Users can now choose from a 38mm Double Tour in Bleu Zephyr Epsom leather, a 38mm Double Buckle Cuff in Fauve Barenia leather, a 42mm Single Tour in Lime Epsom leather, and a 42mm Single Tour in Colvert Swift leather. One new addition to the Hermès collections and it includes the Apple Watch Series 2 with the 38mm Double Buckle Cuff in Fauve Barenia calfskin leather.

Bands are an easy and very affordable way (excluding the Hermes collection) to spice up your Apple Watch and bring it some exciting, new life. All of the new Apple Sport, Nylon and Nike Sport bands are available now for $50 bucks. All of the new Apple leather bands start at $149.99. The Hermes Bands start at $489 for the Double Tour, $339 for the Single Tour, and $680 for the Leather Cuff.

iTunes 12.6
One of the very few software announcements Apple made include the release of iTunes 12.6 for Mac. iTunes 12.6 introduces a “Rent once, watch anywhere” feature that lets iTunes users watch iTunes movie rentals across all devices with iOS 10.3 or tvOS 10.2.

Prior to the 12.6 update, an iTunes movie was only available on a single device at a time. When a movie rented on a Mac was transferred to an iPhone, iPad, or iPod using USB, the movie became unavailable from an iTunes library until returned to the Mac. This limitation has been removed with this update, and rented movies can now be watched and transferred on any device running iOS 10.3 or tvOS 10.2.

This feature begs the release of both iOS 10.3 and tvOS 10.2, so it’s likely that these new operating system versions will be released in the coming days and weeks. Look for them on a compatible iDevice near you very, very soon.

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WWDC 2016 Part 1 – macOS Sierra

A lot came out of the WWDC Keynote…

Apple WWDC16

There was a great deal of information that came out of Apple’s software only keynote address to press and WWDC 2016 developer attendees.  In this article, I’m going to concentrate on macOS Sierra.

macOS Sierra concentrates on a few different things. The ones that really caught my eye include Continuity, iCloud and Mac Fundamentals.

Continuity blends the lines between your devices. Your entire computing experience with you logging into and unlocking your computer. macOS Sierra now allows you to auto unlock your Mac by simply opening up your Mac while wearing your Apple Watch.  Apple Watch users can simply open the lid of their Mac laptop while wearing their Watch, and the Mac auto unlocks. Proximity and time of flight networking technology insures that it really is YOU opening up your Mac laptop.

Apple is also implementing a universal clipboard that works between your Mac, and all of your iDevices.  When you find something on your phone that you might want to use on your Mac, you don’t have to email or text it to yourself.  Now, the data is in your clipboard, and all you have to do is paste it.  One of the things missing here – at least as of this writing because I haven’t had time to play with Sierra yet – is clipboard history: the ability to remember a set, number of items copied to your clipboard.  Sierra may support this, it may not.

iCloud Drive makes documents available across all of your connected Apple devices whether they be Macs or iDevices, it doesn’t matter.  With Sierra and iOS 10, you get not only all of your documents, but your desktop and its contents available too.

iCloud Drive also now includes a feature called Optimized Storage.  Modern computers – laptops especially – come with SSD’s.  Unfortunately, most of those SSD’s are smaller than the spinning disk hard drives that everyone is used to.  Macs come with 128GB, 256GB or 512GB SSD’s; and even with half a terabyte, your drive can fill up quickly. iCloud Drive will now intelligently make room for new files on your Mac by moving older files from your Mac to the cloud, allowing you to access them there, instead.  iCloud Drive now only REALLY keeps the data that you’re working on, locally on your Mac.

Apple Pay now works on the web through Continuity.  When you’re buying something online on your Mac, you can use your iPhone to pay for it through Apple Pay via Continuity.  All you need is your iPhone handy, and you should be good to go.

For Mac Fundamentals, Apple has taken a logical, straight forward approach.  For example, tabbed windows now appear on every app, Apple created and included with Sierra or third party app.  This change comes at the OS level and no additional third party developer support is needed.

Picture in Picture (PiP) support is now also included at the OS level.  That means you can be writing a really great Mac article (like this one…) while also watching a video in a POP window that will travel with you from Space to Space and will work with full screen apps as well.

Siri is also included as part of Mac Fundamentals. Siri has her usual sass, but includes the ability to ask the system complex queries that you can pin to Notification Center. From there you can even drag and drop them into a document.  The seamless integration of it with other new and existing Apple features make the complete package very compelling, if not ungodly expensive…  However, if you ARE all Apple all the time, AND you have a compatible Mac, then you’re really going to love what you can do with all of your Apple gear.

You can see demos on all of this (as well as the rest of the Apple WWDC Keynote) here.

Speaking of compatible Mac hardware, Apple has also released the Mac hardware compatibility list for macOS Sierra.  Those computers include the following:

2009 and later

  • MacBook
  • iMac

2010 and later

  • MacBook Air
  • MacBook Pro
  • Mac mini
  • Mac Pro

While this list seems pretty decent, there are some pretty obvious computers missing from this list.  In the pre-2010 list, it seems that only MacBooks and iMacs get Sierra love.  Missing from that list are ANY kind of MacBook Pros, MacBook Airs, Mac minis and Mac Pros.

For me, this means that my wife will be eligible for the upgrade, but my son-in-law with his Late 2008 Aluminum Unibody MacBook, will be left out in the cold. All of the other Macs in the house – my daughter’s Late 2015 13″ MacBook Pro, my Late 2013 15″ MacBook Pro and Mid 2012 13″ MacBook Air – will all get updates.

As of this writing, I’m installing macOS Sierra Developer Beta 1 on the MBA.  I’ll do my best to put it through its paces and then have some kind of write up in the coming weeks.

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Uninstall QuickTime for Windows – QUICK!

That is, if you want to remain virus free…

Uninstall QuickTime for Windows

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been a bit absent from Soft32.com, not because I wanted to and not because there wasn’t cool stuff to write about, but because real life intruded.  It’s always an interesting time when real life gets in the way, especially for those of us that have routines.  Thankfully, though, I didn’t have THIS problem to deal with – more malware.

However, if you’re an iDevice user on the Windows side of things, you’ll remember that iTunes historically always wanted you to install QuickTime for Windows. It used to play all video out of iTunes via QuickTime.

That, my friends, has changed.

Apple is no longer using QuickTime for Windows to play video in iTunes and apparently, has also stopped issuing security patches for it as well. Unfortunately, Apple didn’t tell anyone about this.  This was picked up and reported by Trend Micro and their Zero Day Intuitive; and has been making quite the stir ever since.

Trend Micro released the following statement on the issue:

“Apple is deprecating QuickTime for Microsoft Windows. They will no longer be issuing security updates for the product on the Windows Platform and recommend users uninstall it… Our Zero Day Initiative has just released two advisories ZDI-16-241 and ZDI-16-242 detailing two new, critical vulnerabilities affecting QuickTime for Windows. These advisories are being released in accordance with the Zero Day Initiative’s Disclosure Policy for when a vendor does not issue a security patch for a disclosed vulnerability. And because Apple is no longer providing security updates for QuickTime on Windows, these vulnerabilities are never going to be patched. We’re not aware of any active attacks against these vulnerabilities currently. But the only way to protect your Windows systems from potential attacks against these or other vulnerabilities in Apple QuickTime now is to uninstall it.”

While nearly everyone should have seen a number of third party reports to this effect, there’s no information on Quick Time for Windows’ demise coming from Apple.  They just seem to have flushed it, and moved on.

Those Mac users in the audience don’t have anything to worry about. Apple doesn’t seem to be deprecating or ending support of Quick Time for Mac, just the Windows variety.

It is highly recommended to everyone who uses Quick Time for Windows, to remove it from their Windows PC’s immediately.

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Do I have the AceDeceiver Malware?

Most – if not all – iPhone users, can relax…

AceDeceiver-Malware

There’s but a great deal of hub-bub over the latest revelation that non-jailbroken iPhones can be breached with a man in the middle attack (MitM) that comes to iDevices via flaws in Apples DRM system, FairPlay.

Apple’s FairPlay DRM (digital rights management) system insures that only authorized users can get access to purchased content (apps, music, movies, etc.) through a given AppleID. However, this MitM attack allows hackers to install malware on iOS devices without a user’s knowledge or consent, bypassing Apple security measures.

According to PaloAlto Networks,“In the FairPlay MITM attack, attackers purchase an app from App Store then intercept and save the authorization code. They then developed PC software that simulates the iTunes client behaviors, and tricks iOS devices to believe the app was purchased by the victim.”

While this has previously been used just to pirate iDevice apps in the past, this is the first time this particular attack has been used to install and spread malware.  Victims first download a Windows program called Aisi Helper which is supposed to provide jailbreaking, system back up and device management and cleaning services.  Once installed, it installs malicious apps to any and all iDevices that are ever connected to the PC.

From that point forward, the malicious app redirects App Store requests to a malicious store, where your AppleID and password WILL be phished.  So, what does this mean for YOU, the iPhone user right now?

Honestly, not much; and there are two really big reasons why:

  1. Currently, this effects users in China
    … and that’s about it right now. So unless, you’re an iPhone user, in China, at least for the moment, you’re safe.
  2. This is currently a Windows only Attack
    So, if you’re a Mac, you’ve got nothing to worry about. It all starts on the desktop, as I noted above.  If you’re using a Windows PC, then be vigilant; but again, unless you’re a Windows user that actually uses a Chinese localized version of Windows (and actually resides IN China), then you don’t’ have anything to worry about.
  3. If you’re OTA Only
    …Then don’t sweat it at all. If you NEVER connect your iPhone to a Windows machine, like…EVER… then you’re perfectly safe.  Apple’s on device security measures have already covered for this, and you have nothing to worry about.

So, what can you do to protect yourself, if you’ve been to China recently, use a Windows PC, and think maybe you might-could, possibly be infected??  That’s really easy.

  1. Don’t Jailbreak your iPhone
    I know, I know, I know… I said earlier that this attack hit NON-jailbroken iDevices. The whole thing starts, though on the desktop through the program Aisi Helper. While you may not be interested in its jailbreaking services, it can be used to backup, and clean cruft from your iDevice.Here’s a piece of advice – the only thing you need to use to back up your iDevice is iTunes. Period. If you don’t connect to iTunes on your computer through a USB cable and are OTA only, then use iCloud to back up your device. If you think you need to reset your, iDevice, then use only Apple provided tools (iTunes or the Reset functionality in your iDevice’s Settings).  Using third party tools for any of this is just an invitation to trouble
  2. Uninstall the Desktop Software
    If you have Aisi Helper on your PC, uninstall it. Period.  Don’t ever install any third party tool to backup, clean, or manage content on your iDevice, unless you REALLY trust the developer. And then, it’s really, REALLY risky.
  3. Run a Virus Scan
    After its gone, run a full virus scan with the tool of your choice, and then  make sure you quarantine and then remove any threats that are found.

This development is interesting, and monitoring for it on your iDevice and outside of China (where it’s the only place this is currently a threat) isn’t a bad idea.  However, at this point, for everyone else, this isn’t too big of a deal.  The biggest thing you have to keep in mind though, is that jailbreaking your iDevice is risky, no matter how much you might hate Apple’s walled garden.

While you may not be able to do everything you might want to do with your iDevice in terms of customization and side loading applications, with the threat of malware that steals your personal information that can lead to identity theft, the cool factor and the value in breaking free largely lose their appeal.

What do you think? Is jailbreaking still a thing?  Does it really offer you the options you’re looking for?  Is it too risky?  Do you have a jailbroken iDevice?  Why don’t you meet me in the discussion area below, and let me know?

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Where’s Apple’s Media Server??

Am I missing something, or has the whole world gone out to lunch..?

media_server

Ok… if you haven’t guessed by now, I am a tweener.

I sit firmly in between both the Apple and Microsoft eco systems with my feet firmly planted in the middle of the pool. I’ve got a boat load of Apple gear (with a “What I Use” column pending…) – an iPad, iPhone, MacBook Pro and of course, an Apple Watch (and no, if you’re at all curious if my Watch shows that its shipping early, it isn’t, doggone it).

On the Microsoft side, I’ve got a Surface Pro 3, a Dell Latitude 10 ST2, and of course a Microsoft Band (part 2 of its review can be seen here). I also run a Windows 7 VM via Parallels Desktop on my MacBook Pro to enable me to write Windows-based software reviews. Much of my early writing career was also spent as a Windows Mobile/ Pocket PC Microsoft MVP nominee and in covering Microsoft on both WUGNET – The Windows User’s Group Network and in the Computing Pro Forum over at AOL/CompuServe.

So, yeah… firmly planted in both camps.

When it comes to digital media, though, I am wholly and totally a Mac. The iPod, iPhone and iPad have made it too easy to take your media where ever you want, and since I’ve been firmly planted in the Mac camp since I made the total switch in 2010 or so it makes sense for me to really have all of my digital content in iTunes instead of anywhere else. I’m not much of an Android person any longer, having moved back to an iPhone with the iPhone 4S from a Nexus One; and because Microsoft is just now getting its act back together again when it comes to a digital media store and ecosystem, again, being on the Apple side of this fence just seems to make perfect sense.

So, here’s the big issue I have with all of this. I hate streaming stuff over the internet.

I know that may come as a shock to many people, but hear me out first, before you color me beyond crazy and write me off…

Yes. I have Netflix. Yes. I have Hulu. Yes, I’ve used Pandora and iTunes Radio and the like (but honestly, I don’t use those last two a lot, due to mobile bandwidth caps. That’s a whole other story on streaming, so please… pleASE, PLEASE… don’t get me started on that!). But when I – or anyone for that matter stream content over the internet – there’s a GREAT deal of space between me and whatever server I’m trying to get content from; and WAY too much can happen between there and here to block, impede or otherwise slow down the receipt of streamed content to my TV set, or receiving device f choice. If at all possible, I’d really much prefer to stream content across my home network. Its totally self contained and much more reliable. If I have problems with the streaming, I know those issues are within my control to resolve…, which gets me back to my opening question – Where (the hell) is Apple’s Media Server?

See, when first introduced back in January of 2001, iTunes synchronized content from your local hard drive to its portable music player, the iPod. When Apple introduced Time Capsule back in January of 2008, I thought, from an iTunes perspective, that I had died and gone to heaven. Here’s why:

  1. Time Capsule has more storage than my Mac
    My 15″ Late 2013 MacBook Pro Retina has a 512GB SSD. I just upgraded my Time Capsule to 6TB of space. That’s 12 times more space than my current Mac.
  2. All my Apple Stuff sits on my Home Network
    That would include my family’s Macs (there are currently 5), my AppleTV, my iPhones, iPads, iPods, my (soon to arrive… hear that, Apple..? SOON TO ARRIVE..!!) Apple Watch and of course, my Time Capsule. With 12x more space than my Mac, it has ALL of my iTunes content backed up on it. All of it. However, as far as my Mac and any of my iDevices are concerned, my Time Capsule may as well be a boat anchor. None of them can see it, or the three plus terabytes of content stored there.

And I’d like to expound a bit on that…

While I can definitely browse my home network and find stuff there on any of the computers in the house, my AppleTV and none of my other iDevices can see any of that content. iOS doesn’t include a file browser. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to have a cool NAS product like Time Capsule, with the ability to have a large, upgradable hard drive on your home network, without having the ability to stream content locally.

That’s the idea behind a media center or media server computer on your home network. That server allows you to stream content across a home network, bypassing all of the inherent latency and other bandwidth issues and downloading problems that many often bump into when trying to watch content on HBO Go (or other cable network premium channel iOS app) or Netflix or Hulu over the internet.

There are likely third party products out there that can do this, and that’s all fine and good; but what I don’t understand is why Apple doesn’t have a way to set this up as part of the out of box setup process for Time Capsule. This is totally a huge hole in the product.

I know that Time Capsule was initially released as a companion to Apple’s Time Machine. The two can work seamlessly together; and Time Machine will default to it if it finds a Time Capsule on your home network (it will also create one via the Airport Express base station that’s part of its make up). However, not everyone uses Time Capsule that way; and more importantly, I don’t. I have a dedicated 2TB LaCie drive that’s connected to my Mac via Firewire 800. It does a great job connected to a port on my Thunderbolt Monitor that would otherwise go unused.

However, let’s get back to Apple, Time Capsule and what you can do with what you (may already) have.

You can always copy all of your music to your Time Capsule and then ALT/Option Right-Click iTunes, iPhoto or Photos and open an alternate library location, and that’s cool, but that doesn’t really hack it. All this does it put your iTunes library on a home network location. If you do that with a MacBook or MacBook Pro, you can’t use iTunes to listen to or anything on your Mac when you’re out and about (unless you have a local library that you update with the (new) content you want to watch or listen to before you go). In this case, you’re maintaining multiple iTunes libraries, and who wants to do that??

You can install something like Plex, which according to TWiT does a really good job; and it does have a NAS component, for Netgear, QNAP, unRAID, Drobo and the like; but it doesn’t support Time Capsule. That’s the solution that I, and I think so many other Apple fans want.

I’ve written a note to Tim Cook, asking where something like this that would naturally and automatically hook into a Time Capsule might be; but that was a couple weeks ago, and I haven’t heard anything from Mr. Cook regarding an answer. This isn’t the first time I’ve asked this question of Tim Cook, and it probably won’t be the last; but I have a feeling, that no matter how many times I ask it, I’m going to end up with the same answer – silence.

UPDATE: While writing this column, a new article came out on Neowin. Apparently, Microsoft has killed Windows Media Center in Windows 10. It won’t be part of the end game for Microsoft either. I hate to say it, but I have a feeling that I’m not going to see anything like that come out of the Apple camp at all…ever. It just seems as though the whole idea of streaming content across your home network, FROM your home network, is a dead issue, which is totally sad (and totally crazy…)

The last thing I’m going to say on this subject – hear me and hear me well. Until the day when ISP’s are true Title Two utilities, AND until the average speed across the entire nation is well above 50-75Mpbs down (with that being the totally suckiest speed, ever), things like Netflix and Hulu and other streaming services aren’t going to take hold and be the must have services they want to be. Last mile issues aside, issues with general traffic and bandwidth I think will always be a concern until full Title Two as well as super speeds are common place in the United States.

What do you think of all of this? Will Apple create their own media server? Is Time Capsule the best way to go for holding and serving up a local copy? Why don’t you join me in the Discussion Area below, and tell me what you think?

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iTunes 12 Breaks Music Organization

Apple has been having iTunes organize music the same way since the inception of iTunes. Now in version 12, it’s totally different.

I’ve been an iPod user since 2003/ 2004 time frame. I still have my 60 GB Click Wheel iPod. It’s in great shape and still plays music well. The battery is in decent shape, too; so if I had to, I could cart it around without constantly searching for a power outlet or USB port. I still make certain that it’s as updated as it can be. You have no idea when you might need a portable hard drive with all your music on it…

I’ve really invested in the Apple ecosystem, too. Actually, that’s an understatement… I jumped into the deep end of the pool with both feet. I’ve got almost 600 movies and over 50 TV shows (multiple seasons on some, not many…but some). I’ve got 65GB just in music and audio alone. When you’re looking at 4-6MB per song, that’s a lot of songs to get to 65GB.

There’s been an influx of Apple gear in my house thanks to Gazelle and No More Rack and the recent Christmas Holiday. I’ve got at least two new Macs and two new iPad mini’s in the house that need to be connected to Apple services, including iTunes and iCloud. I’ve had reason to setup new devices and new Macs in existing iTunes and iCloud accounts, and honestly, I’m not a happy person right now.

That may be just me, as I did cut my teeth on DOS/Windows and on the Microsoft side of the world, but I’ve recently noticed that the latest version of iTunes has changed the way it organizes the music library.

itunes12-music-song-list

In previous versions of iTunes, when you checked the option to have the app automatically organize your music library (it actually organizes your whole media library on your computer, including music, movies, TV shows, etc.), it organized the media in the following folder tree:

iTunes Music

<Media Type>

                        <Sub-Organizer 1>

                                                        <Sub-Organizer 2>

                                                                                        <Media File>

So for Music, this would translate to

iTunes Music

Music

<Artist Name>

                        <Album Name>

                                                  <SongName.aac/mp3/etc.>

For TV Shows, this would translate to

ITunes Music

TV Shows

<TV Show Name>

                               <Season #> (where # is the number of the season)

                                                  <EpisodeName.m4v>

In the current version of iTunes, the middle, organizing folders have been removed. This means that for music, the Album folders have been removed, so, all of the songs you have for a given artist, coming with all the songs from all of their albums. For TV Shows, this means that every episode of every TV show is stored in a single TV Show Name folder.

Now… you HAVE to be asking yourself, “Why do I care?”

That’s a GREAT QUESTION. Here’s why – It’s totally screwed up my local copy of my EXTENDED iTunes Media Library.

While iCloud is GREAT, the key word in its name is – CLOUD. The big problem of backup and access TO the cloud is still a concern for a great many people, and quite honestly not ubiquitous and totally NOT trustworthy, even in a large metropolitan area like suburban Chicago. I’ve also got TERABYTES of media; and that’s not something that I want to have to rely on internet access to get access to; and I always download a copy of anything that I buy so that I don’t have to rely on the internet or to any other service. Having a local copy on my home network also backs up a copy for me… AND because MacBook Pro’s, MacBook Airs, and Mac mini’s no longer come with upgradable storage, I don’t keep everything I buy on my Mac.

As soon as I download a copy of anything in iTunes, I copy it to my NAS and make a backup copy. That’s just smart computing.

The problem now, though, is that the new file structure doesn’t mesh with the old file structure, and I’ve got shows copying to show folders and not in season specific folders. I’ve got a huge mess of a movie folder on Mac that now copies movies to the root of my movies folder on my NAS.

Now, after I make any new iTunes content purchases, I have to go into iTunes, find out where iTunes has stored it, move it to match the folder structure of all the content on my NAS and THEN copy over the backup. This is a huge increase in overhead, and a change that totally screws up a bunch of stuff on my network. I have to ask, WHY did you do this, Apple, especially without telling anyone?

I’ve been being a good Apple boy. I’ve been resisting to organize my iTunes library myself and have been letting iTunes organize it for me. Part of the reason why this worked for me and was so easy to accept was the fact that they organized it exactly the way I would have done it, if I organized it myself. The obsessive-compulsive, anal retentive organizer within me now screams every time I download new content.

I think what’s bothering me the most is that the change in this is unannounced, and for me to follow the Apple “company line,” I’d have to reorganize my entire extended library and I really don’t want to. I don’t want to do that not only because it’s a huge amount of work with very little return in value, but also because the new organization structure is not what I want. I want what I had. I want it the way it was. The new “organization” method that iTunes does on its own creates a huge mess…

Am I alone in this? Am I the only one that’s noticed this? Have you noticed the change? Does it matter to you? Am I the only anal retentive nut job out there that keeps a local copy of their extended iTunes media library? I really can’t think that I am…

What are your thoughts on this change? Does it matter to you? Do you have a local copy of your extended iTunes library, or do you totally rely on iCloud to get you access to content you’ve removed from your iDevice, Mac or PC? I’d really love to hear what you have to say on this, as I’d like to know how big of an issue this is for everyone. Have you looked it up in Apple’s Support Forum? Why don’t you meet me in the discussion area below and give me your thoughts on this?

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Over, Done with, Gone: Apple Anti-Trust – Not Guilty

Well… THAT was quick…

antitrustI’ve been looking for news on this since the jury got the case; and it finally came out – and a lot sooner than I expected it to, too.

This story broke during the day today and I’ve been struggling to get back to this so that I could find out more about what happened and what the next steps are for the plaintiffs. I have a feeling that as far as they are concerned, this isn’t over yet.

The long and the short of it, according to the plaintiffs, is that Apple improperly created a DRM system that prevented competitors, like Real Networks, from putting music from their stores on Apple’s iPod. This was really an issue between Apple and Real Networks who was feeling squeezed out of the business not only by the RIAA and the music labels who were trying to crack down on file sharing and piracy, but by a market that got out of hand quickly for them. They simply had bad desktop player software, and most everyone left for a system that had better support, better software and better hardware. You can’t blame the fish for following the ebb and flow of the tide.

But, I digress somewhat…

A federal jury in California, however, disagreed. They were able to determine after only four hours of deliberation that Apple did not violate any antitrust laws and did not harm consumers. While plaintiffs argued that Apple’s repeated updates to iTunes and its DRM were done explicitly to prevent competitors from integrating their own services with Apple’s iPod, Apple rebutted the article stating that any changes made benefited users and that competitors that may have been harmed were collateral damage.

With all the bad press that the case had, I’m surprised it got as far as it did. With all of their original lead plaintiffs dropping out due to ineligibility and the 10 years of dust on the case, I’m surprised it was heard at all. The plaintiffs are expected to appeal the decision (no big surprise there), but all that seems to be happening now is that the lawyers are billing hours to a case that should have died and/or was already decided by a jury.

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Apple DRM Antitrust Suite to Begin

A decade old lawsuit could be a huge problem for Apple…
image3014Back in the day – and I’m really referring to the late 1990’s to the early 2000’s – digital music was a total mess. There was no standardization in terms of file formats, desktop players or portable players. The only thing that WAS clear and pretty much standardized was that no matter where you turned, any digital music you didn’t rip yourself or pirate through tools like Napster, Limewire or some other torrent tool, were clogged with DRM. What that meant was that you couldn’t play it with the app or portable player you wanted to play it with…that is, without having to jump through some pretty nasty hoops.

If pirating wasn’t your thing – which in many cases turned out to be a good thing, because the RIAA is nothing but a group of money grubbing, ugly lawyers out to screw the American public… but I digress – then what you really had to do was buy your music, burn it to a CD and then rerip the songs. This worked with any and every digital music store you purchased digital music from, regardless of what your favorite or default store or app was; or what digital music player you carried. This effectively “stripped” the DRM out of the music, as the DRM didn’t transfer to the new CD you burned, and therefore, wasn’t on the songs you ripped from it. Life was a lot better for you AND the music you bought, as you set it free.

At that point, everyone DELETED the original digital music files they purchased and replaced them with the DRM free ones they just created. It was at THAT point that you copied or transferred them to your portable music player, because at that point…you could copy them to ANY player and play them with ANY desktop music app. Some people were really into WinAmp. Some really liked MusicMatch Jukebox. Some were into Windows Media Player or Apple’s iTunes.

That was a LOT to put on the consumer. It really made us jump through a LOT of hoops; and honestly, not everyone was happy doing it. I did it because it was easy enough for me to do. The only thing that anyone really needed was a blank CD and a bit of time to burn and rerip the music. The technical side of this whole story was wrapped up in the bit rate of the source music files vs. the bit rate of the files you ripped from the CD you burned – which was greater and offered the better quality? The big question for audiophiles here was, “did I just introduce distortion, his or other noise into the music I purchased in order to get around the playing limitations I feel I have?”

However, back in the day – and here I’m talking circa 2005 or so – a lawsuit was filed on behalf of many of the iPod owners, accusing Apple of violating both US Federal and California State antitrust laws by restricting music purchased via iTunes from being played on other digital music players or desktop apps. The suit also accused Apple of restricting iPods from playing music purchased from music services OTHER than iTunes.

Since the suit’s original filing in 2005, a number of changes have been made to the suit. Apple also removed DRM from all music sold via iTunes in 2009, effectively making the issue a moot one from that time forward. One of the major modifications of the suit was to restrict the case to iPods sold between September 2006 and March 2009.

The opening statements in the complaint reference the now defunct Tower Records,

“It would be egregious and unlawful for a major retailer such as Tower Records, for example, to require that all music CDs purchased by consumers at Tower Records be played only with CD players purchased at Tower Records, yet, this is precisely what Apple has done… Apple has rigged the hardware and software in its iPod such that the device will not directly play any music files originating from online music stores other than Apple’s iTunes music store.”

This largely came about because Apple was trying to protect its iPod and iTunes business from Real Networks and Real Player, MusicMatch, and others. Unfortunately for ALL involved, Apple’s iPod was a huge hit, bringing order from the chaos that was digital music at the time. NO ONE (really) wanted any other player, and so Apple did its best to protect their market, and they effectively created a monopoly as far as music and portable music players were concerned.

As I mentioned, the suit has been modified; and now, with its restrictions, is set to get underway on 2014-12-02. We’ll have to wait and see what happens with it. The plaintiffs are asking for $350M USD, though if found guilty and found to have willfully and purposefully violated the law, the award Apple could be required to put up could top $1B USD, according to current antitrust law penalties which specify triple the damage amount.

How does all of this make you feel? Did you buy an iPod between September 2006 and March 2009? Will you be joining this class? Do you feel you were inappropriately restricted in your choice of desktop music apps as well as portable music players? Did you put aside a desktop app or portable music player because it wasn’t Apple or iTunes compatible? Does this lawsuit, even with its modifications and restrictions have any real relevance? Does the burn and rerip option negate the whole suit because it provided for a reasonable work around? Why don’t you join me in the Discussion area below and give me your thoughts? I’d really like to hear what you have to say, as the right information to the right attorneys at this point, could make the difference between a simple settlement and triple the damages.

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