3/31/17

iTunes Stealthy Changes

In the past, I have blogged about how to create and add Ringtones to iTunes. I've also written up a post about How to tag iTunes movies and TV shows. I like iTunes. It has a purpose and, at least in the past, it worked well for me.

Recently things have started to change. I've expressed my frustration with iTunes updates that messed with the behavior of the mini player and I've ranted about general iTunes annoyances.  

This past week Apple released MacOS 10.12.4 and updated iTunes to 12.6. In doing so Apple once again messed with the look of iTunes as well as the behavior. Please Apple, STOP IT! iTunes was great once and now it's just a jumbled mess that's fading away.




Today I want to talk about some of the issues and problems brought on by the update and I'll start with the mini player. 

When you open iTunes you see a large window of all your media. If you would rather switch to the smaller mini player you need to hover your mouse over the play area and click the boxes that appear.





Yeah, intuitive I know. But that's how it's designed. With iTunes version 12.6 you will now see a slightly larger mini-player than past versions and it's completely devoid of any UI clues. 


Again, What was Apple thinking? How are you suppose to know what the controls are or what to do? If you hover the mouse over the window things change and now you see this view:


This makes things a little clearer but based on this view you have no idea what will play if you hit the play button. Is it a song, a movie, a TV show?  What??? The most egregious sin of all: Where are the open and close, red, yellow and green buttons in the upper left? How do you close the window to get the large media view back? Good gosh Apple, can you at least be consistent in your UI? PLEASE?!

The key here is to select the ellipsis, that's the 3 little dots on the left by the speaker icon.


If you select "Hide MiniPlayer Large Artwork" EVEN THOUGH IT"S NOT SHOWING, the view changes again.


Why look at that! The close butting has returned in the upper left. If you close the window, the large view of all your media reruns and you are back to where you started. Obvious isn't it?

OK, now that we have some way to control the MiniPlayer what about TV shows? In the past every episode of every season of your TV show showed up when you clicked the icon of that show. Now just the last watched season and it's available shows will be displayed. 



If you select the currently visible season (SEASON 6 in the example above) you will now see all available seasons for that show.



In this case I think this change is an improvement. It prevents shows like The Simpsons, 28 Seasons and counting, from taking over you monitor. By only showing one season at a time your scroll time is decreased.

What ever changes Apple makes in their software I just wish they made it a little clearer what changed and how. I'd also appreciate a little effort to unify the behavior of the UI so you don't have to hunt around to figure out how to get things to work.

Are you listening Apple?


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1/27/17

Beyond Basic Find: Advanced Searches


MacOSX has a great search feature called Spotlight. If don't use it you should. It's powerful and has a lot of options. You can learn more about Spotlight here

However there are times when you want to do a very specific search and for that you either need to use a powerful commercial application like HoudahSpot. It has a lot of options and gives you a lot of flexibility but unless you do a lot of searching it might be overkill.

Mac OS X does have some great search features if you know how to use them. That's what I'm going to talk about today.

  
Start your search by opening a finder window and typing the standard Mac shortcut for find -  Command+F.

Click on the "Name" Dropdown menu and select "Other…" 

This will bring up a menu of search options. There are a lot of options. Scroll through the list to see what search variables are available.


  
In this example I wanted to find all the ripped movies that were HD. To do that I knew I needed to find any file that had a height of 720p or 1080p.  It isn't obvious but the variable to search for is Pixel height and/or Pixel width. To enable that search function just click on the "In Menu" checkboxes on the right.

High definition movies today are 4K or higher. That means the display device or content has a horizontal resolution on the order of 4,000 pixels. Old school says that 720p (720 pixels) or 1080p (1080 pixels) are  still high def. Or at least they are by my ancient TV standards.

In case you need a refresher:

1080p Movies = 1920x1080
720p movies = 1280x720

In some cases movies use a different aspect ratio so if you want to find any movies that are 1080p you need to search for "Pixel Width = 1920".  The height might actually be less than 1080. 

In my case, I wanted to find all my HD movies in a specific folder so I searched for any file that had Pixel Width greater than 1280. 

Play around with the search attributes. By combining variables you can make complex a lot of variables into something you can use. If you plan on using the same search over and over remember to click that "Save" button so you can use it again.