Switching to the Mini Player in iTunes 9

Don’t you hate it when they change the way something works?

I updated to iTunes 9 while on the road. This afternoon, as I prepare to get some work done in my hotel room, I fired up iTunes on my MacBook Pro for a little background music. I only have about 900 songs on this computer, but that’s enough to keep me satisfied while I work.

I started up iTunes, clicked OK when it told me it couldn’t connect to the iTunes Store, and started up the music. I then clicked on the zoom button in the title bar to get the mini player window.

But the window zoomed, like any other window. No mini player window.

iTunes Mini Player

In iTunes, clicking the green zoom button always toggled the window between a regular iTunes window and the mini player. For years. I clicked it about six times, thinking I was missing something. I wasn’t.

The yellow minimize button didn’t display it either. No big surprise there. I didn’t bother clicking the red close button.

I then spent the next three minutes hunting down the setting that would get me the mini player window. I checked the obvious places — well, obvious to me, anyway — including the Window menu and preferences. I finally found it and its shortcut key listed under the view menu: Switch to Mini Player or Shift-Command-M.

Problem solved.

But don’t you hate it when they change the way things work?

September 22, 2009 Update: I don’t know if it’s my imagination or not, but with the release of the iTunes 9.0.1 update, this “problem” seems to have gone away. The green zoom button now works just like it used to. That’s got me wondering: did Apple “fix” it because they realized it was “broken” or did they change it back because so many people were whining about it?

9 Quick and Easy Steps to Upgrade Your iTunes-Purchased Music

Using iTunes Plus.

A while back, Apple announced that it had entered into an agreement with EMI to sell DRM-free music in the iTunes store. It promised that iTunes shoppers would have access to this music in May 2007.

As May wound down to a close, Apple released iTunes 7.2, which adds iTunes Plus features. iTunes plus is a special area of the iTunes music store where you can shop for DRM-free music. It’s also where you can upgrade some of the music you’ve already purchased to the higher-quality DRM-free version.

Here’s how to upgrade the songs you’ve already purchased through the iTunes music store.

  1. Quick LinksOpen iTunes.
  2. On the left side of the window under STORE, click iTunes Store.
  3. In the iTunes Store Home page, click iTunes Plus in the Quick Links box on the right side of the screen.
  4. Upgrade my LibraryIn the top right corner of the screen that appears, you should see an Upgrade My Library box. (This box only appears if you have iTunes-purchased music that can be upgraded.) Click See Details.
  5. Set iTunes Plus preferencesA dialog like the one shown here appears. It asks if you want to enable iTunes Plus preferences so only the DRM-free versions of music appear (when available). Click iTunes Plus.
  6. A new version of the iTunes Store Terms & Conditions appears. Read this legalize if you like. When you’re ready to continue, click Accept.
  7. Upgrade my LibraryAn Upgrade My Library screen appears. It lists the albums, songs, and videos that you have purchased for which DRM-free versions are available. Click the Buy button to upgrade all music and videos for the price shown onscreen.
  8. If prompted, enter your login information for the iTunes Store and confirm that you really do want to complete the purchase.
  9. Keep or Replace?Anther dialog tells you that the new songs will replace the old ones and gives you an opportunity to save the old ones to a folder on your desktop. Click Move to Desktop or Delete Files as desired.

Monitor DownloadsThe download begins. You can monitor its progress in the Downloads screen. iTunes displays the iTunes Plus window again so you can do some more shopping.

It’s quick, it’s easy, and its reasonably priced. Let’s hope Apple makes more agreements with music publishers to sell DRM-free music. It’ll certainly get me shopping in the iTunes Store again.

One more thing — you may want to repeat this process periodically. As Apple signs up other music publishers, more songs will be available for upgrade. You can follow this process to upgrade more iTunes-purchased music in the future.

I look forward to converting the rest of my purchased library — all 500+ songs — to the DRM-free version.

How to Copy iTunes tracks Between Libraries

A quick How-To from MacOSXHints.

Do you use the multiple library feature of iTunes? If so, you might be interested in this how-to piece, Copy iTunes tracks between libraries on macosxhints:

iTunes users who use the Multiple Library feature may be interested in batch-adding tracks from one library to another. Here’s one way of doing just that.

The article is short, with easy-to-follow, step-by-step instructions.

Combining iTunes Playlists

Calling one playlist from another to keep the music fresh.

I listen to iTunes all day long when I’m working in my office. I’m sitting in front of the computer, it has 4,000 songs on it, and there are a pair of stereo speakers attached to it — why wouldn’t I use it to play music while I work?

I usually listen to it with the volume turned down very low. Classic rock and pop. Sometimes, when I need to concentrate — like when a topic I need to write about is complex and I’m having a hard time figuring out how to compose an explanation or instructions — I switch to new age or “smooth jazz.” Or turn it off completely. I can’t listen to podcasts while I work. (I can’t watch CNN and listen to the reporter while I’m reading that stupid ticker at the bottom of the screen, either. But I can chew gum and walk at the same time.)

Anyway, a long time ago, I created a smart playlist that lists 500 my most highly rated rock and pop songs. I’d listen to that while I worked.

If you’ve never created a smart playlist, it’s easy. Here’s how I created mine.

  1. In iTunes, choose File > New Smart Playlist (or, on a Mac, press Option-Command-N).
  2. In the Smart Playlist dialog that appears, use the pop-up menu and other controls on a line to set up matching criteria. For example, I wanted only rock songs, so I chose Genre from the first pop-up menu and is from the second pop-up menu. Then I entered Rock into the box.
  3. If desired, click the + button at the end of the line to add another line of matching criteria. In my example, I also wanted Pop songs, so I choose Genre and is and entered Pop. You can repeat this step as many times as you like to set up search criteria.
    Smart Playlist Dialog
  4. If you have more than two lines of search criteria, choose an option from the pop-up menu at the top of the dialog. All matches all criteria. In my example, if I chose all, iTunes would look for songs that had a genre of Rock and Pop. That’s not possible — in fact you can’t use the all option if two or more lines of matching criteria have the same option chosen from the first pop-up menu. Any, which is what I used, tells iTunes to match any of the criteria — for example a genre of Rock or a genre of Pop. In general, all results in fewer matches than any.
  5. To limit the number of songs by other criteria, turn on the Limit to check box, choose an option from the first pop-up menu, and enter a value in the box. For example, you can limit to 500 songs, as I did, or 2 hours, or 3 gigabytes. Then choose an option from the second pop-up menu to indicate how iTunes should narrow down the list of included songs. I chose highest rated.
  6. If you only want iTunes to include checked songs, turn on the Match only checked songs check box.
  7. I recommend keeping Live Updating checked so that if you add any new songs, they’ll be considered for the playlist. To me, that’s the purpose of a smart playlist — it updates itself automatically.
  8. Click OK. The new playlist appears in the Source list with a box around its name. Use this opportunity to change the name to something that makes sense to you. I called mine High Rated Rock.

After a while, I realized that even though I had the random button clicked when I played this playlist, I seemed to be hearing the same songs all the time. At the same time, there were songs I hadn’t heard in weeks or months. Is random really random? I think not.

I decided to try creating a playlist that listed 100 of the least recently played songs from my High Rated Rock playlist. I’d then play that playlist, thus guaranteeing that all the music I was hearing while I worked was “fresh” — at least to me.

  1. In iTunes, choose File > New Smart Playlist (or, on a Mac, press Option-Command-N).
  2. Set up just one line of matching criteria that references the other playlist you want to draw from. For my example, I chose Playlist, is, High Rated Rock from the three pop-up menus.
  3. Turn on the Limit to check box and enter a value that’s smaller than the total number of songs in the playlist you referenced in the previous step. Then choose your matching criteria. I entered 100 and chose least recently played.
    Smart Playlist Dialog
  4. If you only want iTunes to include checked songs, turn on the Match only checked songs check box. Note that you can include both checked and unchecked songs in one playlist and only checked songs in this playlist to further narrow down the selection.
  5. Turn on the live updating check box. This is important if you want the list to change each time a song has been played.
  6. Click OK. The new playlist appears in the Source list with a box around its name. Change the name to something that makes sense to you. I called mine Fresh Rock.

If you follow these instructions to duplicate my playlists (with your songs, of course), you’ll find that when you play the second playlist, each time a song ends, it disappears from the list and a new song is added. iTunes won’t play the songs in date order if you have the random button enabled while playing that playlist. Instead, it’ll randomly play the 100 least recently played, high rated songs in the genres you specified in the first playlist.

Playing a song from another playlist also modifies the list. Say, for example, that the Pink Floyd’s’ Learning to Fly is on your Fresh Rock playlist. But you’re not playing that playlist today. Today you’re playing all Pink Floyd songs. (Good choice; I do that a lot, too.) When Learning to Fly is finished playing, it disappears from the Fresh Rock playlist because it has been played recently. It just hasn’t been played in the Fresh Rock list.

As you can imagine, you can play around quite a bit with the smart playlist feature. I like it because it keeps me listening to my favorite songs — the ones I haven’t heard lately, that is — without having to touch iTunes’ controls during play.

i-Fusion

I buy a new iPod accessory.

It isn’t the iPod that’s costly. It’s the accessories.

Anyway, one of the things I like to do with my iPod is listen to podcasts. The only problem is that I don’t listen to my iPod often enough to keep up with all the podcasts I like to follow.

I decided that a good time to listen to podcasts was in the afternoon, when I got home from work and was doing things around the kitchen. You know: emptying the dishwasher, making dinner, cleaning up after Alex the Bird.

I used to plug the iPod into my Twentieth Anniversary Macintosh, which has a great sound system. But the other day the darn thing just stopped working. (My third Mac hardware problem in 6 months. They say bad things come in threes.) I have to decide whether I want to find someone to fix it or just leave it in the living room as a nonfunctioning conversation piece.

I tried plugging the iPod into my 12″ PowerBook, which spends a lot of time in the kitchen. The PowerBook’s hard drive is too full to keep the podcasts on it. But I couldn’t get the volume up loud enough to hear over Alex the Bird or the water running in the sink.

What I needed, I decided, was a set of portable speaker that I could use in the kitchen or take up to Howard Mesa or bring along on road trips. Something that had decent sound and was very portable.

i-FusionI did some research. I found i-Fusion.

I read the reviews on the Apple Store Web site. Everyone absolutely raved about the sound quality. I was a little skeptical. These speakers were small. I don’t care what the case is made of. They can only be so good. Fortunately, I didn’t need Bose quality sound. I just needed something that would sound okay and not distort if I turned up the volume a bit.

One reviewer whined that there wasn’t a place to store the power adapter. There is, however, a place to store the iPod and the earbuds. (I normally keep both in my purse when I travel.)

The price was a bit higher than I was willing to spend. My budget was about $100. This was $149. But I found it on the Tiger Direct Web site for $129 plus shipping for a total of about $135. And I felt as if I needed a treat, so I bought it.

It came today.

I must be spoiled when it comes to sound quality. Maybe it’s because Mike used to sell stereo systems and he buys good stuff for the house. Not expensive stuff, but good stuff. Stuff that sounds good. Really good.

i-Fusion does not sound really good. It sounds fine, but not really good. Those reviewers at the Apple Store Web site really need to spend some time in a stereo shop’s sound booth. Heck, I have a Sony boom box in my hangar that sounds better than this. But I’m not complaining. It’s certainly listenable and it can be turned up quite loud.

The case seems sturdy, the storage spaces are a bit silly but functional. I agree about the power adapter. It seems that they could have built the DC converter into the box (perhaps where the earbuds are supposed to go?) and made a retractable cord. That would have been a better design decision. But I can certainly imagine taking this little bugger on the road. With its built-in, rechargable litium-ion battery, it’ll be great for Howard Mesa, which doesn’t have electricity (yet).

Happy with my purchase? I think so.

I’ll let you know when I catch up on all those podcasts.