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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 (2nd generation) 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)

UPDATED
The all-new Apple TV 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 Safari on my iPhone 4 (maybe just an iOS 4 issue?), so I was eager for official native app to manage my DVD queue on mobile.

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

  • The “Netflix on iPad” app allows you to manage your DVD queue as well as your Instant queue.
  • The interface of “Netflix on iPhone”, while native, only gives access to titles available for streaming. So, you can only manage your Instant Queue using 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 in the info screen for that title, then tap the “In instant Q” button, which then brings up a confirmation prompt asking “Remove from instant Queue?”. And then, nothing happens — the movie info remains on screen until you go back to the Queue. It’s minor, 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” USB port 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 a power adapter.
  • 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 if your TV supports that input.

The best thing about the AV cable is that it is long. Second, 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 do agree with the criticism that the outside of the RCA connectors themselves are too smooth 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 for you, there are other brands of compatible connectors. Maybe even one that fits thru the iPhone 4 bumper.

In any case, this system is 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!

DP6 Bugs Fixed in Digital Performer 7

MOTU released DP7 recently, and we’ve just installed our upgrade and 7.01 patch. I was very pleased to find that DP7 fixes many bugs introduced in DP6.

  • All Open/Save dialog boxes now remember their last window size, position, & column widths.
  • All sidebar panes in the Consolidated Window now have consistent click-through behaviors. In DP6, if for example the Sequence Editor was popped out and in the foreground over the Consolidated Window, clicks to the body of only certain background Consolidated Window panes would bring that window to the foreground. The problem tabs that are now fixed are Snap Information, Cursor Information, Event Information, Selection Information, and Track Selector. (NOTE: The exception is Track Selector, where clicking *items* leaves its focus in the background as you would hope, while a click to the tab itself or the pane’s border now brings the window to the foreground.)
  • Double-clicking to enter and leave the “Conductor” track in Graphic Editor is fixed. In DP6, if you double-clicked the “Conductor” track in the Tracks window, it would not switch the Graphic Editor (i.e. “MIDI” tab) to the “Conductor” track, even tho Preferences > Edit Windows > Default Edit Windows > Conductor Track was set to “Graphic Editor”. The only way was to select “Conductor” from the Graphic Editor’s mini-menu track list. Conversely, if Conductor was the active Graphic Editor track, it would not respond to a MIDI track double-click either. The only way to exit the Conductor track graphic view was also through a mini-menu selection.
  • More compatible with SampleTank (v2.5.3). DP6 was able to include SampleTank in Bounce to Disk operations without having to freeze or print the track audio, but the instrument’s behavior was always erratic if the VI window was closed. Possibly related to the window having to remain open, Bounce operations would sometimes take up to 5 minutes to begin. This delay also appears to be fixed in DP7.
  • Fully compatible with Omnisphere (v1.0.4g). Omnisphere is now also able to be included in Bounce operations without freezing or printing the audio first. (Yay!) Previously, Bounce operations would kick Omnisphere into “Stack” mode, screwing up all your patch and output settings, and requiring you to close and reopen the file to restore.

There are possibly many more things fixed, but these were specific DP6 gripes checked off my list.

CPU usage seems much improved, and I’m a huge fan of the UI refinements (namely the more slender automation line weight) and the inline channelstrips. After a bumpy DP6 ride, I feel in good hands again.

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

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.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.

Previously:

Finale 2009 still sucks

Finale 2009, by its own admission, is more paid bug fix than new feature upgrade, and even then it falls short. It is a program full of potential yet completely hampered by bugs. Those skilled in using Finale do not really *use* the program, as much as they have developed a vast palette of workarounds to get the output desired. Using it is feels like building a deck of cards.

I was glad to see that 2009 fixed their incompatibility with MOTU devices using non-default CueMix names (as in “Finale crashes-on-launch, can’t use the program at all” incompatibility). They left this specific fix off the list — but Finale 2007 worked, 2008 didn’t, and now 2009 does again. (Yes, I deleted my preferences.) $90 upgrade for nothing, thanks ’08. It stayed in the box and was never installed.

“Save as PDF…” problems not fixed since 2007
OS X’s built-in “Save as PDF…” feature is one of the best things ever to happen to Finale for sharing music electronically. But just try to “Save as PDF…” a part that has a slash in the name (say “Piano/Vocal” for instance). Finale just decides to leave the part name off. This would barely make sense on WINDOWS (maybe replace the illegal character with an underscore?), nevermind that “/” is a legal character for Mac files. WTF? And hopefully you don’t want to “Save as PDF…” both the score *and* the offending part in the same “Print…” command, because the part will overwrite the score without any warning, and you’ll be left with only the part — but named to look like the score. Nice hack-up of OS-level file operations.

Another example of bad Save box behavior is evident in Auto-Saves. Old Finale files always open as “Untitled” in newer versions. If you have Auto-Save enabled, it will prompt you to “Save As…” upon the first saving. But, if you have any other dialog box open at the time Auto-Save is triggered (which in Finale is extremely likely), the “Save As…” sheet opens behind your dialog box. The save window can be clicked forward in front of the dialog box you’re in, but it never gains the mouse or keyboard focus. Meanwhile, it did manage to steal the focus *away* from the box you were just in, thus leaving you with zero control over the program, no ability to save your work, and your only recourse is to Force Quit, losing all your work. This is exactly the opposite result you should get with an Auto-Save feature. This is not new to 2009. Does *anybody* at MakeMusic actually use Finale on a Mac? They’d find this bug in under 15 minutes. How is this okay in commercially-released software — not to mention, version 2009b.r3!!

Other little things
Staff styles no longer have the final say. My old trick of selectively enabling “Allow optimization” on only certain measures doesn’t work anymore. And when I tried to selectively hide Measure Numbers (staff style with Items To Display > Measure Numbers unchecked), it did nothing.

The new 2009 Expressions categories work beautifully. But the arbitrarily hard-coded six categories is odd, nevermind the fact that it doesn’t merge categories when you import a library file. How else do you push a house style out to other files, then? The whole thing is still clunky and does not foster any confidence. Plus, I heard these categories only came to Finale because Sibelius does them that way.

Lyrics still are tedious in Finale. You already hope and pray they don’t get messed up, and after a certain amount of copy/paste, you give up on keeping anything orderly behind the scenes. I was surprised that now in 2009 Automatic Hyphens and Word Extensions don’t display when you first open the file. Open and close the “Edit Lyrics…” dialog box and they reappear. Why? Why not! (It’s not every file, just don’t forget to always check that the program is doing its job.)

Now that Finale 2009 “runs” sufficiently on Leopard and our score files aren’t stranded forever, it’s finally time to box this line and investigate Sibelius.

My iPhone 2.0 wishlist for MobileMe Family Packs

[Note: I was away the first week, and with the ongoing heat and reported 4+ hour lines at all three NYC Apple Stores, I still don't have my own yet.]

Updating Mike’s first-gen iPhone to 2.0 was no problem. As everyone warns, give yourself an hour or more to complete the update. The firmware and software updates finish in about 20min. But because the update performs a full wipe, all your media needs to be recopied and that’s what takes most of the time.

So far, iPhone 2.0 is 95% awesome. Of all the advertised improvements, the most noticeable are Calendar (color distinctions and general iCal-iness now), Contacts (search is handy), Calculator (flipping to scientific mode is just cool), and of course the App Store.

And by far, the sleeper hit of the App Store is Apple’s “Remote“. Seriously, this could be the best thing about iPhone 2.0 for me. More on that in a later post, I think.

In the fallout of the botched MobileMe launch, it’s been hard to determine what issues were temporary and which were just limitations of MobileMe on iPhone 2.0. I’ve spent a little time testing things, and here is my wishlist:

Allow data sync between MobileMe Family Pack accounts
This one is major, and central to the slightly misleading impression given by the MobileMe tagline “Exchange for the rest of us”. Some have said “It’s MobileMe, not MobileUs,” and that’s true. It functions great as “Exchange For Me”, but a tiny change (to features that feel more like bugs anyway) could turn a MobileMe Family Pack into “MobileUs”.

Family Packs provide 1 primary and up to 4 sub-accounts — each with their own Contacts, Calendars, iDisk space, and Email address. There is no sharing of data between them as far as I can tell (confirmed here) except possibly some way to transfer files thru shared iDisk folders. Family Packs are simply a quantity-discount over buying 5 individual accounts.

But Apple, why not take the “Family” part seriously and make Family Packs “just work” the way a family works? Our desktop and laptop computers sync to one primary MobileMe account, so that we benefit from all the integration goodness .mac has always had to offer. We have our own @mac.com email addresses, but we share common calendars and contacts. It’s even fairly simple for a sub-account holder’s iPhone to participate in this little makeshift family workgroup. You just enable only their sub-account Mail and then enable Contacts, Calendar, and Bookmarks for the primary account.

That works great, but the main problem is this: Push Email is an option for sub-accounts only up until any data sync option (Mail, Contact, Calendar, or Bookmark) from the primary account is enabled. An iPhone can only actively “sync” to one MobileMe account, so sub-account holders (or grandfathered .mac Email-Only accounts) must choose between push email or over-the-air data sync. Once anything from the primary account is turned on, “Push” becomes “Fetch” for the sub-account. I have confirmed this on Mike’s iPhone, and a lengthy Discussion Thread on Apple’s support site details it further.

My hunch is that Apple chose to limit the persistent push connections to just one per iPhone. Allowing multiple push accounts would enable runaway connection demands on their servers.

However, MobileMe has certain quirks that essentially make this Push Email vs. Sync decision for you. The biggest is that calendar colors from iCal are communicated to your iPhone calendars only after an over-the-air sync (feature or bug?). Your initial iTunes USB-sync gives your calendars a confoundingly random color scheme. I’m not about to retrain myself on new iCal colors, so if the only way is thru MobileMe data sync, the push email takes a backseat.

Settling for Fetch email is a small price — but it’s annoyingly second-class. Another drawback is only the primary account has web access to the data synced from the desktop. MobileMe’s online apps are amazing replicas of their desktop equivalents, and giving out the master password so all users in your “Family” can access the Address Book just isn’t always an option. To the “get your own individual account” crowd, that still wouldn’t allow Mike to share calendars and contacts with our desktop apps. And to the “use someone else’s services then” crowd, we’re extremely pleased with (and heavily dependent on) our @mac.com email addresses and the .mac integration way-of-life. Going without Push email is annoying, but not enough reason to forego data sync (except Contacts…for now, see below).

There are two solutions to this that I can think of:

  1. On an iPhone with multiple MobileMe accounts enabled, allow Push privileges for only one account and force all others to switch to Fetch. (This would retain the one-connection-per-phone limit.)
  2. Enable the MobileMe Family Pack primary account to sync selected data with its sub-accounts.

I really hope Apple goes the Family Pack route. Email-only’s are being phased out, and having inter-Family-Pack-account sync happen on the server would be tremendous. Imagine a Family Calendar that all the kids can view on their computers, and a Family Contacts group that means the kids’ AIM Buddies don’t clutter up Mom and Dad’s Address Book. Family Pack users should have the option of treating their accounts as either 5 distinct users or as a true mini-workgroup environment “for the rest of us”.

Re-enable selecting a subset of contact groups for over-the-air sync
A major drawback to over-the-air MobileMe contact sync is that you lose the ability to choose which groups to sync.

When a MobileMe account’s Contacts sync is enabled on an iPhone, iTunes then defers management of Address Book sync to the phone. I had hoped that meant you could continue to selectively sync only certain Address Book groups (in the same way iTunes allows). Alas, all contacts and all groups now sync to Contacts on the iPhone. (Thankfully, there is search now.)

+1 for Push Sync, -1 for feature removal.

A simple iPhone Settings screen or an additional config page on MobileMe’s account settings web page could easily replicate the disabled preferences formerly set in iTunes.

And, that’s it for now for my wish-and-a-half-list. I’m sure I’ll have more to say when I finally get my own phone. And yes, I’ve written all of this to Apple iPhone Feedback, and I encourage everyone do the same for your own gripes. I do think they listen. And I would like to think I encouraged a few features that appeared in iPhone 1.1.x updates. Let’s hope to see some more in iPhone 2.1 — and beyond!

NYMF Platforms reviews are in!

Brent’s show Platforms just closed it’s sold-out run at NYMF. Here are a few quotes from the reviews we’ve collected so far:

From BroadwayWorld.com’s message board, posted by whatever2 – Oct 2, 2007

saw “platforms” tonite — run, do not walk, to get tickets. it’s this year’s commissioned choreography piece, and simply stunning. a little like “contact” (even stars deborah yates!), but w/ a clever, modern, urban new york sensibility. simply brilliant.

From Backstage.com, reviewed by Ron Cohen – Oct 3, 2007

Lord’s recorded score beautifully evokes the show’s shifting moods…

Platforms is an hour or so of the most intense and exciting dance you’re likely to see on any New York stage this season.

From nytheatre.com, reviewed by Josh Sherman – Oct 4, 2007

The original music, by Brent Lord, is perhaps the most inspired soundtrack of a theatre piece I’ve heard in quite some time. The choreography matches perfectly with each mood shift — the underscoring in each and every scene is precisely in tune with the dancers’ vocabulary of movement.

If you missed Platforms at NYMF this year, BroadwayWorld.com has a NYMF dance preview video that you can watch here. Their “tap-off” number is the first one after Kris’s interview.

Previously:

Apple Event Today: my .mac iDisk already bigger

Apple intro’d a bunch of things today: iMac, iLife ’08, iWork ’08, among other things — including up to 10GB of iDisk space. They’re promising everyone will see it by August 14. I’m lucky enuf to have mine already.

.mac System Preferences didn’t show it immediately, but I went in to the web control panel and it showed 10240 MB total. I fussed with my allocation between iDisk and Email and voila!

But why are email only accounts still hobbled at 50MB? I nearly went on a rant about Email Only accounts still being at 50MB, however this article proves me wrong. Little known fact: Email Only accounts now have a fairly healthy 512MB. Still not Gmail-sized, but also ad-free for $10.

I do like that .mac is now allowing you to bring your own domain name. Finally I can recommend iWeb with one less reservation — tho you do still need the initial .mac account. Rapidweaver still wins on price alone, if only I were more impressed by their templates.