Fixing the iTunes 10 badness

I think many will agree that iTunes 10 was more of a marketing ploy than anything else... I found that iTunes 10.0 was worse than 9.x, primarily because of the "traffic light" style buttons in the window corner and graystyle icons. That was bearable though, and then the update to 10.0.1 came along made things even worse. No more Genius sidebar, and obnoxious "Ping" buttons every time a song is selected.

So I went on a quest to fix it, and found these commands on various forum threads and blogs:

(If you are unsure how to run these commands, quit iTunes and open Application > Utilities > Terminal. Copy/paste these commands in, hitting <Enter> after each to execute it.)

defaults write hide-ping-dropdown 1
Disables the obnoxious "Ping" drop-down menu I mentioned earlier.

defaults write show-store-link-arrows -bool TRUE
Restores the store arrow links present when a song is selected in 10.0 and earlier.

defaults write disablePingSidebar 1
Disables the ping sidebar. Sadly, I haven't found a way to re-enable the Genius sidebar.

defaults write full-window -boolean YES
Puts iTunes in "full window" mode, removing the traffic light window controls.

Now, the last thing is to restore color in iTunes. To do this, download the iTunes.rsrc file linked to in comment #7 on this thread. Next, right-click on iTunes in the Applications folder and select Show Folder Contents. Inside the Contents/Resources folder, copy the downloaded iTunes.rsrc file and opt to replace existing files when prompted. Restart iTunes and you should have coloured icons!

Note: If you're reading this but you're running iTunes on Windows, a user on Apple Discussions has posted how to do the same on Windows.


Some hidden gems in the iTunes 9 visualizer

It's more or less well known that the stunning visualizer in iTunes 9 is actually a modified version of The Barbarian Group's Magnetosphere. I recently downloaded a copy of the original magnetosphere visualizer, and one thing I enjoyed was the ability to control the amount and intensity of the particles (the glowing, moving dots). The following is displayed in the visualizer's help screen:

+/- Increase or decrease the intensity
A/S Add or Subtract particles (100 at a time)

While these commands are not listed in the help screen of the official iTunes version of the visualizer, to my surprise I found that they still work! They've proved useful for when the iTunes visualizer seems to get stuck for a bit with one of the big black stars blocking the view.


iTunes 8.2.0

Apple Software Update just popped up with an update for QuickTime and iTunes... The changelog indicates that it has added support for iPhones OS 3.0. I am installing it now, back soon with more info.

Edit: Okay, so apart from bug fixes nothing much seems to have changed for now - iPhones OS 3.0 isn't available immediately.


Qt, Drupal, iTunes, DRM and a bunch more

I saw this story on slashdot today and wanted to share it - this is exactly why I will never buy anything DRM-protected. If you missed the other article a while back, this is the second music store to shut down in the past few months and leave its users in the dark. I say "in the dark" because both Yahoo! and MSN took down their key servers along with the service, so any user who needs to authorize a new computer to play the music they legally purchased is unable to do so - forcing them to rebuy the songs they've already paid from for somewhere else. This is the perfect example of why I think DRM is a bad, bad technology. Another reason was something I read in a comment on slashdot (sorry, don't have the link this time): When you think about it, the users who pay are getting the short end of the stick. If you pay and recieve DRM content, you're getting a service that's worse than what you get from pirating that same content! For example, music. People who illegally download music are getting high-quality (320kbps) MP3 files without any content restrictions for free, while the users who pay to download music will typically get a 128kbps AAC or MP3 file, with DRM restrictions... Something has to change. Soon.

If you agree with me, try to opt for DRM-free music or simpy don't purchase DRM-encumbered music. While a CD will cost you a few more dollars, it has a much higher sound quality and it's not restricted in any way. Hopefully if the music industry sees the common trend of users moving towards DRM-free music, we can get rid of DRM once and for all. I've started purchasing from the iTunes store now that iTunes Plus is getting more popular, and I must admit I'm liking it. I can choose to purchase only select songs from an album, the prices are very reasonable ($0.99/song) and the sound quality is great - 256kbps AAC! What's best of all is that I can play the songs anywhere without the need for authorization - including on Linux or on other non-iPod media players (like Creative MuVos for example) since I can convert the song to any format: ogg, flac, mp3, etc.

Anyways, now that that rant is out of my system, I'll tell you what I've been up to recently. I've been creating a new website for the open-source section of with the Drupal CMS. I still like Joomla since there's lots of support and community extensions available, but Drupal was recommended by a few friends so I figured I'd give it a shot. And I'm happy I did.

The first thing I noticed was that it was lightning-fast - at least twice or three times faster than Joomla. Not only that, but to my surprise it was much easier to use. I found the interface much cleaner and easier to look at... Everything faded nicely and there seems to be some pretty advanced Javascript stuff built right-in to the administator interface. The WYSIWYG "TinyMCE" editor packaged with Joomla is available for Drupal, so I felt right at home. Drupal also does away with the whole sections and category thing which is really nice. Instead, content items are created as "nodes" and you can cross-categorize nodes if you'd like to.

Blogging is also supported out-of-the-box, which was a big plus since I call this a "blog" but really it's just Joomla content items displayed on a homepage (this is going to be moved to Drupal soon, too). I found themeing Drupal to be a bit more difficult than theming Joomla, however that was made up by Drupal's wonderful access controls. Drupal supports creating user roles, and each role hasa set of permissions. This effetively lets my control who gets to what, when, where and how. I created three simple groups to start with (co-administrators, registered users and anonymous users), but there's a lot of potential in there that I'm hoping I can tap into later.

So, as I blogged about last time I'm also working on a new version of fwbackups. I've changed almost everything I could behind the scenes - from autotools to CMake, from GTK to Qt and from Python to C++. I plan on keeping the interface as similar to as it was before, but it's going to be much simpler and easier to use. It's also going to be much faster under the hood - I'm going to have more info about the next version soon, as soon as I get the new drupal site up ;)

One problem I had when making all these changes was how to set things up properly - it took me a few days, but right now the interface in Qt is done and the very little of the program that's been completed is C++ builds on Mac OS X (10.3.9 and later), Windows (MinGW required) and Linux of course. If you're looking for a way to do this with one of your projects, I'm going to blog about getting the structure for all that setup soon, so check back in a week or two!


I'm tired of this (rev3)

Apple has been in my good books for a long time because as their computers have no problems. Nearly no viruses, popups or adware at all. No additional software needed. Their computers 'just worked', right out of the box. I'm seeing more and more things in Apple that I don't like, things that I stopped using Microsoft's products for. Apple's products work wonderfully, but in many cases only with other Apple-based products. iPhone. iPod. iLife. iMac. And even then I find they don't work that well all the time.

A perfect example is recently when I was creating a slideshow using music purchased from iTunes. The iTunes Plus tracks worked flawlessly - Drag & drop, that was it. I'm happy Steve Jobs supports it and I really hope the industry moves DRM free... But I'm getting off track. I try the regular iTunes tracks (DRM encumbered) and turns out they refused to be added to the iMovie slideshow claiming the computer wasn't authorized. I entered my password, authorizing from iMovie which didn't work so then from iTunes too. I even deauthorized and reauthorized the Macbook in iTunes to make sure. Then I tried playing the tracks in iTunes - It worked. I switched to iMovie and what d'ya you know, same results. In the end I burnt all the songs to two CDs and then ripped them. Another two hours of my time wasted. Apple's FairPlay doesn't seem too fair at all - I couldn't use it on the very same computer I had purchased the songs from, and forget even trying to play them on another computer. I don't even know if you can put songs purchased from iTunes onto non-iPod players without having to break the DRM first (which is illegal in the US).

This time, Apple has added encrypted firmware and hashes in the database which makes it near impossible to use a new iPod with 3rd party tools (see the article I posted at the beginning of this entry). To make it worse, the encrypted firmware makes you unable to run Linux (aka Rockbox) on it to workaround the database issue. One could say otherwise, but I don't see the advantage of encrypted firmware or hashes in the database to users... What do the 3rd party tools change from Apple point of view? Users have still purchased their iPods, and whether people update iPods from iTunes or GtkPod doesn't make a difference to Apple whatsoever.

Considering one can't use an iPod with Linux anymore, I'll have to use iTunes from Windows or Mac OS X. And considering what happened the last time I used iTunes, I won't be buying the new iPod everyone's talking about either.