Monday, January 30, 2012

What I learned from iTunes

Many many many years ago, I divided my computer time between an Apple and one running Windows (I don't remember who made the computer, because frankly I don't care that much.)  Despite the fact that the two computers were of the same age, the Apple was horribly slow and cumbersome, and while I had to use it, I really didn't enjoy it much.

But, I assumed that things had changed.  So many people, many of whom otherwise seem like reasonable human beings, seem to verge on orgasm when the name of this company is mentioned, that I assumed that things had turned around (and given that now Apple products cost twice as much as everybody else's, people must be buying them for a reason).

So, after many years of avoiding Apple stuff, partly thanks to the above mentioned shit experience, and partly because I hate evangelism of all kinds (even in the massively unlikely offchance that I read an issue of watchtower and felt like it had opened my eyes to how things really were, I wouldn't admit that to a Jehovah's Witness, until they stopped with their ridiculously annoying policy of going round raving about it).  And Apple evangelism seems to me to be of the absolutely worse variety - it's not even of the religious type that aims to save one, it's of the type that ejaculates over a vast multinational corporation enriching itself further.

Bit anyway, I digress (and anyway I've already done that rant). After the Apple avoidance, I ended up, a couple of years ago, acquiring an iPod Touch.  And, I have to say, it was a really good gadget.  Did what it should have done, was very attractive, user friendly, well designed, and frankly - as far as pieces of electronic equipment go - great.  The headphones that came with it were rubbish, which given the price was a bit of a let down, but aside from that I have to say that I liked it.  Very very much in fact.  Perhaps things had changed, and Apple were actually producing good stuff now, and the cult members, while being a bit simple in many ways, were actually raving about something that they believed in.  In hardware terms this mini-computer (which is effectively what it is), was really good.  And, its operating system was also good.

But (let's face it you knew there was a but, didn't you?), there was a problem.  Not just a small problem, but a large massive elephant in the room.  The one thing that the Applecultists don't mention, because to do so, would presumably bring their carefully crafted illusions collapsing on their head like a house of cards or a really badly mixed metaphor.  This elephant is called iTunes.  iTunes, is, without doubt, the worst piece of software I've been exposed to for years (and I had Windows Vista for a while).

How do I loathe iTunes?  Let me count the ways:

  1. It's slow.  I mean incredibly slow. I'd click a tab, and I could go off and make a cup of tea in the time it took for that tab to actually open.  Even the simplest of operations took half an hour minimum.
  2. It has weird default settings which mean that it always opens up in an area which you never use.  These defaults seem impossible to change and personalise.  (Coupled with 1 above this adds more time as you then have to click through to get to where you'd like to start from)
  3. It seems to occupy vast quantities of hard drive space. I know many modern pieces of software are often referred to as "bloatware" these days but iTunes is less bloatware than massivelyobeseware.
  4. Because of 3, it not only is slow itself, but it slows everything else down to a crawl. I had to plan times when I didn't want to do anything else so I could spend an hour doing what I needed (eg downloading podcasts and "syncing" them to the iPod), because I knew when iTunes was open nothing else would work at a reasonable speed.  The day I finally uninstalled the bloody thing, my computer suddenly took on a new lease of life, like I'd untethered it from a massive cartoon anvil.
  5. Because of Apple's frankly insane policy of making everything they do linked to everything else they do (you have to use their operating system, you have to have this one inviolable whole), iTunes is pretty much impossible to not use if you want to have an Apple product playing music. Having been used to the fact that with other OSs, if you don't like something you get rid of it and replace it with something better (and often open source), this was a really big shock to the system.  Working around iTunes is a lot of work, and a lot of hassle.  And it is enough to piss one off, massively.
  6. Even if you just want to use iTunes to download free podcasts (which is basically what I did use it for) you still have to input your credit card details.  Why?  They won't say.  But it is seriously annoying.  And then this got more annoying, because...
  7. After I had uninstalled the bloody thing, somehow my account got hacked, and someone started trying to use iTunes to buy things in my name.  Luckily my bank noticed this and stopped it, and replaced my credit card for me, but it could have been a real problem.  How often do you hear about security problems with iTunes?  But do a search and it seems that this is a genuine and real problem and that the security of iTunes is paper thin at best.  The media love-in with Apple seems to extend even to here.  
  8. Did I mention how infuriatingly, maddeningly, horribly SLOW it bloody is?
Seriously, how is it that people are not tearing their hair out and complaining in their droves to Apple?  Is it that having spent so much money on the hardware they don't want to admit that the software is shit?  Is it that they think because it's not all over the media that it must just be them?  I'm here to tell you that no, it isn't you.  It's the software.  It's absolutely rubbish.  You can do it, you can admit it, it doesn't reflect badly on you, it reflects badly on them. Stand up and say it proudly:  "iTunes is an absolute piece of utter dogshit".

There now, I bet you feel better don't you?

(But still, within an hour there'll be some Jobs's Witnesses in the comments section saying how none of this is true.  It is, and the thing is, YOU KNOW IT IS)


Paul Hellyer said...

OK, I'll bite. I used iTunes for many years and was by and large happy with it. I never experienced the 'bloatware' you, and many others as well, described. even when it came to speed, I didn't find that a problem. But I made an essentially ideologoical decision to move away from iTunes. Like you, I disliked the almost religious fervour of the apple 'fan-boys' and I disliked the way Apple wanted to control my 'user experience'. So I made a decision to use opne-source and non-Apple products whereever possible. Since I don't have an iPod/iPhone as a portable media player this wasn't such a big deal. I re-ripped my music collection in FLAC, which iTunes does not support, and went in search of a alternative - a suitable based Windows media player for my (work) laptop. Man, what a mission that was. I tried Foobar but after a month of trying to customize it, gave up as I was spending more time on that than actually listening to music. Next was Winamp which, while doing the job, seemed to me so 1990's in the way it looked. All those uber-geeky skins! Let alone the fact that to rip at full speed I needed the 'Pro', i.e. paid version. No way was I going to use Windows Media Player 'cause I always found that too hard to use. And besides why swap the Apple dictatorship with a Windows one? I tried MediaMonkey but that was too 'function-rich' for my liking, i.e. more bloatware, I even purchased JRiver Media Center for heavens sake, but again, too feature-rich and it locked-up more times than I thought necessary. So I landed on Songbird. But without joy or enthusiam. It too is bloatware and let's not get started on how each new version breaks extensions. Sigh. However, I have stuck with Songbird as the best of a bad lot. I do miss the ease of use of iTunes, the way it easily downloads artwork, etc. when I rip a CD, or the ease at which I can legitimately purchase music. I can't go back and don't really want to, but to be honest I haven't any program that works as easily as iTunes. Every one has their favourite media players and I understand, to some extent, the hate iTunes seems to generate. But, but, if it wasn't part of the Jobs empire and all it stands for, I could consider going back.

Craig Turp said...

There are other things too.

1. Leaving iTunes is a bit like leaving a cult. In fact, the thought of doing, and how long it will take to rejig everything to the right format has put me off trading in my iPod and iPhone for Android based devices.

2. Much on the same theme, even just changing computers is horribly difficult. I got a new PC at the end of last year and moving iTunes (and all music) from one to the other was incredibly difficult.

Laszlo said...

Hey, this blog is on again:-)?

Hi Andy, I met you in the summer of 2011, my sister plans to live near you and you showed me around your house (which was very nice:-))

What kind of iPod Touch do you have, mine has wifi and I never had to go near a computer to download anything from iTunes, it works fine over wifi. Since iOS 5 it can supposedly even update iOS over wifi (although I never tried that one).