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Stuff Is Brilliant

Noise to Signal’s contributors are decidedly mixed on the subject of Apple. We have some Mac users – myself included – and we have some who view castration by acid as a viable alternative to using iTunes. So while the recent removal of DRM from the bulk of the iTunes catalogue is probably worth a comment, it’s hard to do it without stirring up the same old nest of drowsy, ageing hornets.

So since it was days ago and you’ve no doubt already formulated an opinion and moved on, I’d like instead to raise a brief toast to the wonders of stuff

Playing Project Gotham on Xbox 360 – Microsoft’s machine, lest we forget – I’m now able to listen to anything that’s sat in my iTunes library through the console. Anything at all. Yes, that includes singing loudly to LeAnn Rimes’ Can’t Fight The Moonlight as I overtake on a hairpin corner; don’t judge me until you’ve lived my life.

But this is an ode to other stuff too. And stuff, even for a low-level gadgeteer, does so many cool things.

So my lovely iMac – loaded with movies and music as it is – and 360 are connected to (award-winning) Zen broadband, and, via a Netgear router, also to each other. The wonders of Conect360 mean that, even though Microsoft aren’t quick to mention it, the two devices are happily chatting away to each other. No USB-ing the iPod into the 360. Just…just there.

I mean…that’s kinda brilliant, isn’t it? Yeah, sure, you’re all doing this stuff every day, you’re not impressed. But when I was a kid – when connecting a casette player to the audio outs of a VCR and recording an episode of Red Dwarf to listen to on a Walkman was awfully clever – I’d have gone bananas for this. Back then I was thrilled by the idea of watching a tiny portable TV with varying reception quality. (Again, please reserve judgement.)

Now I get on a bus with all three series of Father Ted, not to mention my entire music collection, in a device smaller than a packet of fags. My iPod Touch happily plucks a wireless connection from the air and, when plugged into a neat set of speakers, allows me to listen to a radio show in the bath three days after it went out. I could watch TV shows, too, but somehow QI is more of a ‘living room’ kind of show. For Stephen Fry, I dress.

Shouldn’t stuff like this make us a little giggly?

On my iPod I have a stack of episodes of things, all ripped from DVD – Handbrake, there – and I know what I have on DVD thanks to Delicious Library. And this is where any last vestige of coolness vanishes.

Yes, I’m genuinely thrilled by a piece of kit that catalogues my DVD collection (and CDs, and books…). Thrilled I tell ya. Hold your DVD’s barcode to your webcam and it gets scanned in, plucking the name, sleeve art and general info from (or whichever version of the store you use in that strange country you’re from). A voice reads out the title, and when you’re you’re done the entire list is compiled and transferred to your iPod.

It’s an insurance tool really. And a lending library, since it allows you to index who’s currently borrowing your discs, taking their details from your address book while adding a ‘due date’ to your calendar. But…isn’t it also just kinda nifty?

Stuff – it’s just great, isn’t it?

So as DRM is stripped away, Amazon’s quietly started selling downloads (requiring, it has to be said, a pretty rubbish app), iTunes’ Genius mode continues to create brilliant, surprising compilations based on a single track, and I can’t keep my hands off the roly-poly iPhone/Touch game Rolando, what software and hardware is making your life more lovely right now?

About this entry


I have to admit… as I said in an earlier post, I really do love my iPod Classic. I feel fully justified in saying that I still never really liked them before - I don’t even particularly like the look of the plain black 80GB model that directly preceded mine - but the charcoal 120GB model is absolutely gorgeous. The interface now works better than it used to seem to (from my admittedly limited playing with it), and while I’m sure it makes me shallow, I really do love CoverFlow.

And yes, fuck knows how it works - I can only imagine that iTunes does the work and then dumps the data on the device when I sync - but Genius is rather excellent. It almost makes up for the one major frustration I have with the machine, which is that you can’t properly create and edit playlists on the fly (I like to put together mix CDs while listening to my player, for example). Almost.

(and incidentally, on the subject of ripping video to iPod - DVD Catalyst Free does the job beautifully for me. But on the whole, with the exception of the way widescreen movies get cropped, I’ve been incredibly impressed with its video playing ability. Alright, so it’s designed for the purpose, unlike my HTC Touch, for which it was always an afterthought and so playing stuff is clunky and difficult - but even so, it’s pretty much perfect)

Seb Patrick's picture

By Seb Patrick
January 12, 2009 @ 10:43 pm

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I should add that I spent much of Friday at work downloading cover artwork for all my singles (having already done all the albums within days of getting the thing). This is a measure of just how much I love having my entire music collection in my pocket. I’m completely anal about sorting and tagging the stuff, but it’s bloody rewarding having so much lovely artwork on display.

Seb Patrick's picture

By Seb Patrick
January 12, 2009 @ 10:45 pm

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See, CoverFlow is SO not how I interact with my music library. I acknowledge it’s greatness for those whose brains work that way, I just…never did. So I’m using my current 120GB Classic pretty much as I used to use my Photo.

On Saturday night we got a five hour Genius playlist based on The Big Bang Theory theme song. And it was terrific.

Oh, and I got The Best of Bowie from Amazon on download for THREE QUID!

Andrew's picture

By Andrew
January 12, 2009 @ 11:31 pm

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I’m woefully behind on the latest, greatest technology at the moment. I’m currently surviving with an old ThinkPad as my main machine (my games PC died ages ago) and a 5 year old iRiver brick. Both of which I love, obviously, but I’m looking forward to when I’m in a position to get TECHED UP.

> The Big Bang Theory theme song

Excellent song and an excellent show. Hurrah!

Jonathan Capps's picture

By Jonathan Capps
January 12, 2009 @ 11:43 pm

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> when connecting a casette player to the audio outs of a VCR and recording an episode of Red Dwarf to listen to on a Walkman was awfully clever

I’m stuck on this level. Can you come over to my place and wire all my stuff together, please. Thank you.

Marleen's picture

By Marleen
January 13, 2009 @ 9:01 am

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I’ve never heard it called that before.

By Ian Symes
January 13, 2009 @ 11:26 am

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“Wire me up”? Never? Really?

Marleen's picture

By Marleen
January 13, 2009 @ 12:57 pm

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Another for the list of cool things: a Kameleon remote. A rechargable, glows-when-touched, control-everything-you-own, updates-online remote control that’s kept my coffee table clutter free from the last five years.

Aaaaaah, stuff.

Andrew's picture

By Andrew
January 13, 2009 @ 10:39 pm

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Stuff I am happy about at the moment:

a) A 10Mbs broadband connection from Be in my new flat.
b) The Sky HD I’m getting on Monday in my new flat.
c) My new flat.

John Hoare's picture

By John Hoare
January 17, 2009 @ 2:08 am

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