Monday, August 30, 2010

iPods + iTunes

At some point in early 2003 I returned to the United States from an extended absence. I moseyed my way over to my college campus, and found that every person I had ever known had:

a) Dated that cute girl down the hall
b) White cords coming out of their ears

This was, of course, the Great Leap Forward of the third millennium; that is, the time in which we, as a people, said enough is enough, I am never speaking to anybody ever again. Steve Jobs deserves a Nobel Prize for that advance in peacemaking alone.

iPods are wonderful devices, more proof that God loves His children. While I, as a twelve year old, was forced to go on Scout campouts and listen to kids tent me and pee in my shoes, my future son will listen to nothing but Rachmaninoff and Debussy while the kids tent him and pee in his shoes.

The best thing about iPods is, of course, the interaction you get to have with iTunes. Never mind the fact that pretty much every other device you own can use magic waves to beam data around, because with the iPod you get to remove it from your car whenever you need a new episode of "Wait Wait, Don't Tent My Unborn Child for Having Such a Nerdy Father", and go plug it into your computer like a sucker (while your beaming android phone laughs at you).

This interaction with iTunes only heightens the excitement of owning an iPod. It's exciting, for instance, to have your computer tell you that your iPod is corrupted every single lousy time you plug it in, and refuse to do anything with it until you unplug it, blow into the connectors like any good Nintendo-trained individual, and reconnect while chanting and prostrate before the image of Steven Jobs.

It's also exciting to use the same search capability my grandparents would find revolutionary. Back in 1920 I'm sure it would have been pretty cool to include a search box wherein exactly six characters are visible, tucked away in the top right hand corner of the interface. Because searching for music isn't, for instance, the main reason you're opening that clunky bit of craptacularness in the first place.

Luckily for the rest of humanity, displays actually designed to give humans emotional pain were mostly abandoned in the early 2000s along with the blink tag and internet sock puppets. Luckily for archeology students, it still exists in iTunes to show you what hell used to be like, or at least what it looked like before spamming your friends with Farmville invites was invented.

I can forgive ugliness if it's functional,1 but the efficiency of using search on iTunes lies somewhere between Outlook Search and using Lycos with your fingers eaten off by piranhas. You get every possible unrelated result in a tight list which occupies approximately .32% of the available screen inside iTunes. This you are allowed to scroll through, with no way of expanding the columns, so you get the default of no characters in each column, which looks something like this:

NameAlbumArtistTimePopularityPrice
I Shot...Burni...Bob M...4:30|||.99

And pray that no two songs in your list are similar enough to be indistinguishable from ye olde invisiview. Include a plea to understand how exactly they calculate that mysterious "Popularity Score".

And if you think searching is fun, just try navigating the web-ish interface of iTunes. Not only are there no bookmarks (good luck finding that page again), no browsing history, no tabs, and basically no way to do anything besides beat your face against the screen until your nose enters your spleen, but every page load takes somewhere around thirteen years.

In its defense, iTunes is conveniently consistent in that every track is always ninety-nine cents, unless it's a track I want to buy, in which case it's always $1.29. But I don't let that bother me, because I'm too worked up over the fact that every single time I try to spend that measly dollar twenty-nine I get slapped with a novel's worth of legalese because they changed the terms and conditions. Heaven forbid they give you a summary of what changed, or maybe not change the epistle of terms every hour. Nope, you get the entire Encyclopedia Stevannica every. single. time. For all I know they could be annexing my rubber ducky collection. And I don't know, because I can't even give it the courtesy scroll-through that every other terms page gets without involuntary twitching.

In short, my mother once designed a more enjoyable experience than iTunes. It's called "finish your broccoli while belted to a kitchen chair before the timer runs out". I highly recommend it to the architect behind iTunes.

And one more thing: iPods are awesome companions in public transit, when you desperately need to imagine yourself in an island in the sun, instead of in a cloud of smelly haze by an armpit. Brilliant.

1. To be clear: I am speaking only of software in this specific case.

1 comment:

Aroura said...

I'm sure you know, but just in case you don't Amazon.com has downloadable MP3's that work in itunes and can be downloaded directly into your music library. They also happen to have a much larger selection - I've found many songs on amazon that were nowhere to be found on itunes.
The footnote was beyond awesome.
P.s. It might encourage more commenting if it came up in a pop up window instead of taking you to a different page. Just my 2 cents.