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Apple TV OS 4.1 now increments play counts on a shared library

Apple TV now increments the Play Count and Last Played Date of a music track played from a shared iTunes library. (Skips are still not counted.)

Shared movies are also marked as “watched” after watching. Nice!

The November OS 4.1 update of the new Apple TVs (black, $99 – amazon link) brought this new feature that I have not seen covered yet in the press.

This means that the listening habits of the Apple TV — which is bound to be the central media playback device in many households — now count toward Smart Playlists based on Most Played, Recently Played and other similar criteria.

Previously, the only way to accomplish this required “pushing” music from a source library to the Apple TV as an AirTunes destination. Less than convenient — and requires you to bypass the nice Apple TV interface.

I had previously devised an overly elaborate workaround but that is no longer needed. Yay!

More features I’d like to see come to Apple TV music:

  • iTunes DJ (altho the Remote app and the “push” method above work fine at a party full of iPhones)
  • Set star ratings remotely and/count skips (I’ve got an unrated, newly-encoded Apple Lossless master music library in desperate need of some curating)
  • Only display playlists being shared by remote iTunes (all of them show up right now)

Previously:

Watching my first movie with Netflix app for iPhone (UPDATED)

(UPDATE: The all-new Apple TV (amazon.com) is real. Netflix is built-in. It now makes even more sense why Netflix for iPhone is exclusively focused on Instant queues.)

Yesterday, Netflix updated their iPad app to version 1.1.0 which added iPhone and iPod touch support. netflix.com has been crashing my Mobile Safari on iPhone 4 (possibly just an incompatibly with iOS 4?), so I was eager to have an official native app to manage my DVD queue while mobile.

We also wanted to test the movie streaming, so we ventured out and got an Apple Composite AV Cable (amazon.com). These are my impressions:

  • The Netflix on iPad allows you to manage your DVD queue as well as your Instant queue.
  • The interface of Netflix on iPhone, while way more native than iPad’s rendering of the actual Netflix website, only gives access to titles available for streaming. Therefore, you can only manage your Instant queue on Netflix for iPhone. (There are other iPhone apps of varying quality that will do actual DVD queue management.)
  • Removing a film from your Instant Queue on iPhone is not immediately obvious. You must be on the movie info screen and tap the “In instant Q” button, which then brings up a confirmation prompt asking “Remove from instant Queue?”. Even then, nothing happens — the movie info remains on screen until you go back to the Queue. It’s a minor quibble, but it would feel more iPhoney to have a Swipe-to-Delete action or an “Edit” toggle on the main Instant Queue list screen.
  • Play quality on the iPhone screen seems nice enough, but I’ve read reports that it is a huge battery drain.
  • Luckily the AV cable includes a USB cable for supplying power to your device thru the dock connector. As a bonus, our Sony Bravia has a USB-style port labeled “DMex/Service” which happens to supply enough power to kick my iPhone 4 into charge mode.
  • Not surprisingly, the “DMex/Service” does not have enough power to charge an iPad. You’ll need to use battery power or be close enough to an outlet to use the (included) power adapter.
  • Unfortunately, the iPhone 4 bumper case prevents the AV cable from fully connecting due to the larger older-style dock connector. It doesn’t actually matter (yet), because…
  • Netflix for iPhone doesn’t support video out via the dock connector (yet, as of v1.1.0). iPad does already — and the dock connector is universal — so we watched this fine Chris Pine vehicle using Netflix for iPad instead.
  • Video quality out the iPad via the Composite cable was fine but not great. Being streaming video, I doubt it would make a different, but another option is the Apple Component AV Cable (amazon.com) if your TV supports that input.

The best thing about the AV cable is that it is long. Secondly, the video cable is separate from the R/L audio pair. I can think of many circumstances out in the field where this would be really handy. I also agree with the criticism that the RCA connectors themselves are too smooth on the outside and difficult to disconnect, but I expect they’ll mostly remain attached to the back of our TV so that’s not a deal-breaker. If it is, there are other brands of compatible connectors. Maybe even one that fits thru the iPhone 4 bumper.

In any case, it’s workable. The streaming inventory isn’t too huge on Netflix yet anyway. But other apps like YouTube and iPod support video out, so the cable isn’t going to go to waste. Also, Apple may surprise us at their upcoming Sept. 1 event — maybe these iTV rumors will finally materialize. If not, the boxee box is right around the corner!

Duh, Use Bluetooth Speakers to Act Like Airfoil for iPhone

(not exactly Airfoil for iPhone — similar, only without the Wi-Fi.)

I’ve posted a few times about ways to use iPhones with Rogue Amoeba’s desktop app “Airfoil” and iTunes streaming.

There’s no great (or official) solution yet for wi-fi audio streaming from an iPhone — but there is definitely plenty of interest still. This blog’s top keyword searches continue to be “airfoil iphone”, “airfoil for iphone”, and “airfoil iphone app”. Until just a bit ago, I totally forgot that Bluetooth was an option.

I haven’t tried any of these devices, but the reviews seem to imply they work well.


How to disable Ableton Live ReWire in DP7

I’ve been configuring a new audio workstation, and I found that my Reason and Sibelius ReWire audio inputs wouldn’t work in MOTU Digital Performer 7 like they do on our other workstation. I spent the first part of 4 hours trying to decipher whether the problem was with Sibelius’ config or DP’s, only to realize that I hadn’t disabled Ableton Live’s ReWire slave mode and inputs on this new workstation.

I’m not sure the problem is necessarily with Live, but perhaps with DP having to handle so many ReWire inputs — maybe DP (or ReWire) has a 128 channel limit? At least on Snow Leopard 10.6.2 with Digital Performer 7.02 and Live 8.1.1, DP couldn’t handle adding Live’s additional 64 inputs to my existing 64 Reason inputs, 2 Sibelius inputs, and 2 Waves inputs. Note: the Live inputs were not even assigned to a DP input (no rows and no chicklets). Just having Live’s inputs *available* in DP prevented both Reason and Sibelius from passing ReWire audio into DP.

I generally use Live as a standalone DAW, so I don’t need these ReWire inputs in DP. But it’s not immediately obvious how to disable them, and it took me the rest of the 4 hours trying to get DP to forget about Live’s ReWire channels. Turns out It’s stupid-simple. It boils down to setting one preference in Live’s Options.txt file and then deleting two aliases from two different Mac OS X Library folders.

NOTE: Doing the steps below prevents Live from entering ReWire slave mode for all apps. It also completely removes the inputs from Digital Performer’s Bundles > Instruments window. I don’t know what else it might do — proceed at your own risk. :)

To disable Ableton Live’s ReWire slave mode and remove the inputs in MOTU Digital Performer:

  1. Quit both DP and Live if either are open.
  2. Edit (or create) your current “Options.txt” file for Live, according to Ableton’s FAQ page. Add the (undocumented) flag -ReWireSlaveOff. Setting this flag tells Live not to undo what you are going to do in step 4.
  3. Save and close Options.txt.
  4. Navigate to /Library/Application Support/ (that is, your top-level Library folder) and trash the alias named “Ableton Live Engine.bundle”. Navigate to ~/Library/Application Support/ (this one is the Library in your Home folder) and do the same thing to that “Ableton Live Engine.bundle” alias.
  5. Empty the trash for good measure.
  6. Relaunch DP and verify that the Ableton Live channels are gone from the Bundles > Instruments tab.

DP’s VI Instrument Bundles have been a little fickle since v6, so this all may be the result of some bug in DP, or I may be hitting some limitation of ReWire 1.7, or it may be something in Live’s implementation of ReWire. It is curious that every other audio app I have besides Live places a .bundle file in /Library/Application Support/Propellerhead Software/ReWire/ to register their outputs.

Why does Live just stick a lonely alias at the top-level of Application Support? Why doesn’t the file say “ReWire” in the filename like others do? Maybe there is more to that “Ableton Live Engine.bundle” alias than just publishing ReWire outputs. But Live reinstates the alias only when the -ReWireSlaveOff flag is gone from Options.txt. So as long as Live doesn’t repair the alias when -ReWireSlaveOff *is* present, I’d say we’re safe.

What originally started as a quest to fix broken ReWire audio between Sibelius and DP became instead about how DP and Live were working together (or not working together).

Deleting Live’s ReWire inputs from Digital Performer restored ReWire audio from Sibelius and Reason both. I hope that saves you some time.

Sibelius Rules

Well, after the learning curve couple of weeks using Sibelius, Brent and I are wondering why we waited so long. We are both really impressed with the Sibelius works, and the intuitive nature of the software. The lyric entry in itself is well worth the switch from Finale. We have switched, and have not looked back. So long Finale! (finally)

Snowferno iPhone Game Beta Released Tonight

Our first foray into the world of iPhone Apps officially entered beta tonight.

It’s Monday morning in Melbourne, Australia, where Ben just posted the first beta build (b0.9.2) to the Snowferno website.

If you want to play the game before anyone else — for free! — let us know:
http://www.snowferno.com/2009/05/18/beta-testers-wanted/

We’ll be able to add new device IDs in a week or so. Barring any huge bugs, we are aiming to submit to the App Store in about 10 days.

My iPhone 3.0 upgrade is not going well (Updated 3x)

Update 3 (6/19/09 3:45p): It’s a feature, not a bug. I hate that…

Apple – Support – Discussions – Double contacts? … shows people with similar symptoms. Why I had trouble getting iTunes to disable local syncing, I now don’t know — but I will no longer be spooked by the option to enable local syncing remaining visible. And I will notice the new text which used to say “Over-the-air sync settings can be changed on your iPhone” now says “You can also choose to sync contacts/calendars with this computer.”

I guess Apple removed the either/or restriction on MobileMe syncing. I suppose this could allow you to sync with a home-based MobileMe account while also syncing with a work-based desktop account.

Update 2 (6/18/09 5:46p): I think I’ve fooled iTunes. It’s not “fixed”, but here’s what I did to get back on track:

  1. I created a blank new Calendar and a blank new Address Book group.
  2. I deleted all mail accounts on my phone, along with all their data.
  3. This left a bunch of calendars and contacts *still* on my phone, so
  4. I unchecked “Sync Mail Accounts” (for now).
  5. set my phone to sync Calendars and Contacts to those empty groups I just created, and checked the corresponding Reset buttons. (The idea being that I reset all my data to nothing, the only way I could find to erase just the Calendars and Contacts.)
  6. Then, after the Calendar/Contact sync finished (erasing all Calendar/Contact data on the phone), in a separate sync I re-added the Mail Accounts.
  7. I ejected the phone and disconnected the USB cable.
  8. On the phone, in the Settings for my MobileMe account, I turned on Contacts, Calendars, and Bookmarks sync. I also had to launch the Contacts and Calendars apps to initiate the data being pulled in from the MobileMe cloud.
  9. After that all finished and I had the correct data on my phone, I deleted the blank Contact group and blank Calendar from my Mac (sync cable still unattached) to verify the Push connection was alive and working.
  10. Only once the blank group and calendar disappeared from my phone via a true MobileMe push did I then reconnect the cable to my phone for another sync. iTunes does not show the MobileMe override for Contacts and Calendars, but at least it knows enough and disabled the local syncing.

Let’s hope they address this, altho a quick scan of the Discussion Forums and other online notices seems to suggest I’m the only one on the planet having this issue. Lucky me!

Update 1 (6/18/09 3:09p): Apple Discussion forums are back online. Weird they would go offline right as the download started. Saving bandwidth, or what else…

Original Post
I’m 2 hours into my upgrade and having problems.

Also, why are Apple’s discussion forums (http://discussions.apple.com/) closed? Is it to squash the possibility of an onslaught of negativeness about anything that goes wrong?

My specific problem is that my phone shows MobileMe sync is enabled, but iTunes’ “Info” tab does not agree. As a result, iTunes resyncs my entire Contacts and Calendars every time, despite MobileMe push sync being enabled. I also end up with two sets of Contacts and two sets of Calendar events — one for On My Mac and the other for my MobileMe account.

Notably (or not?), after the upgrade finished, my phone was renamed to just “iPhone”. Developing…

Airfoil Speakers Touch app is a great tool for iPhone devs

As I wrote previously, Rogue Amoeba’s just-released iPhone app “Airfoil Speakers Touch” is a slightly baffling piece of software with limited use in practice. I don’t think much of the criticism it is getting on the iTunes App Store is their fault tho, and the upcoming 3.0 SDK features may let Rogue Amoeba finally create what users think this app will do (and what they really want — Airfoil for iPhone!). But, for now, it’s baffling.

As a composer embarking on scoring my first iPhone game, however, I now see a tremendous use for this. Our audio system has great studio speakers, but iPhone music has to be optimized for audibility over the tiny phone speaker as well. Instead of the laborious “export, mp3, copy to iTunes, sync, iPod play” routine, I can simply hijack Live or DP and beam the audio to my phone. Tweaks made on-the-fly are immediately heard.

A phone call will still interrupt the audio with no option to resume, and I still can’t control the host from within the app… but it did just make my workflow much simpler.

Airfoil Speakers Touch released for iPhone and iPod Touch

Rogue Amoeba has announced the release of Airfoil Speakers Touch, a free companion app for their cross-platform audio streaming tool Airfoil. This app gives any iPhone or iPod Touch the ability to receive streaming audio from an Airfoil app on your local wi-fi network. It’s a free dowload on the iTunes App Store. Airfoil is required and a free demo can be downloaded from Rogue Amoeba. Licenses (which remove the 10 minute time-limit) are $25.

A while back I wrote about my 4-part solution to stream audio across a network and still have your listening count. It’s oddly become one of our highest traffic posts, currently ranking #7 in a Google search for “airfoil iphone“.

My hunch is that most people want a way to broadcast *from* their mobile device to another person’s audio system — a wireless patch cable.

With this app, you still can’t stream *from* your iPod Touch/iPhone in the same way that Airfoil does — it is receive-only. (I guess it would be good for like an office-wide “radio” station (see update below) or something?) Also, since you only receive audio while the Airfoil Speakers Touch app is open, you can’t use Remote to change the song at the music source either.

But maybe if you had one phone running Remote controlling an iTunes streaming thru Airfoil to *another* iPhone receiving…..

'Airfoil Speakers Touch' at the iTunes App Store

Get 'Airfoil Speakers Touch' from the iTunes App Store

I think we’ll have to wait for some of the features coming in iPhone 3.0 before streaming off the phone will be possible. I’m sure if *I’m* getting the Google hits on this, Rogue Amoeba surely is as well and will be on top of things.

UPDATED: I’ve played with this a little more now, and I can’t see much use for it. Perhaps if you were stuck with a crappy PC that had no sound card or no headphones jack, this would give you remote wireless headphones via the phone. And because you have to launch the mobile app before Airfoil can broadcast to that destination, my idea of joining a “radio station” wouldn’t be possible. Using this app out-of-reach of the Airfoil source would just get annoying. Third, a phone call properly silences the incoming music, but that results in audio reverting to the host computer’s speakers… hope that’s okay in your quiet office! Oh, and it doesn’t automatically reconnect (yet?) when the phone call is over.

I love Rogue Amoeba’s apps, but Airfoil Speakers Touch feels like they are just cutting their teeth on the iPhone SDK for when bigger and more useful companion apps become possible.

Previously: