Tag Archives: iCloud

Episode 116: Brienne of Wisconsin


We discuss the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge and what it means for philanthropy and whether or not you should feel obligated to donate to it.

Neither of us has taken the challenge. Find out why.

We also discuss the celebrity photo hacking scandal and what users and phone makers can do to help secure data better.

This show has not one but two encore endings, so stick around.

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Don’t want your nude photos leaked on Internet? Set up two-factor authentication on your iPhone

You don't want to be an iCloud photo sharer.

You don’t want to be an iCloud photo oversharer.

It’s terrible that hackers have stolen nude photos of famous actresses and are sharing them on the Internet, but hackers will try to steal anything and everything that isn’t bolted down.

By default, Apple saves every photo you take with an iPhone to the cloud. It’s a very dangerous phone to sext with, particularly if you haven’t taken good security measures before you start sexting.

A password is not enough. Most of you use really weak passwords, and thus they are kind of worthless. Even if you use a really strong password, social engineering can allow a hacker to reset your password. Those security questions that websites have begun requiring for extra security are either worthless or counter productive.

This is a disposable security code that acts at the second level of authentication for my iCloud account. Once used, the code no longer works.

This is a disposable security code that acts at the second level of authentication for my iCloud account. Once used, the code no longer works.

But two-factor authentication is the real deal. In order to log into an account with two-factor authentication you need both a username and password and a second authentication, usually a code sent to your mobile phone. Even if a hacker has managed to get your username and password correct, they almost assuredly won’t have access to your mobile phone, and without access to your mobile phone to grab a one-time pin, no one can access your account.

iCloud is a great way to automatically back up iPhones and iPads. It, however, backs up everything, even nude photos. If you’re going to be taking nude photos, you should enable two-factor authentication immediately. Even if you aren’t into sexting, I highly recommend using two-factor authentication wherever possible.

I want to make this clear that iCloud’s automatic backups are a great thing. Most of you are very bad at backing up your data. But please take better security measures; there are some very bad people out there, and you deserve better.

Here’s how to set up two-factor authentication for iCloud and your Apple ID:

  1. Go to My Apple ID
  2. Manage your Apple ID
  3. Password and security
  4. Two-step verification
  5. Write down your recovery key and store it in a fire-safe box or somewhere else safe in your house

Dropbox increases consumer storage plan to 1 terabyte


Dropbox announced a big storage increase on its entry-level Pro plan from 100 GB of storage to 1 TB (1,000 GB).

Dropbox increased storage a few years ago, but it was only a bump from 50 GB to 100 GB. Another storage bump up was expected but not to this extent. This changes how you can use Dropbox. Now most users can use Dropbox both as a syncing service and a backup service, whereas 100 GB of space was not enough to back up many people’s home computers.

Because of the lack of storage space, I was planning on canceling my Dropbox Pro account. It’s not enough storage to backup even my laptop, and Apple’s new iCloud Drive will handle syncing for me (even to my PC). I imagine a lot of people were considering the merits of Dropbox lately.

Dropbox has been facing increased pressure from backup services such as Backblaze, and syncing and storage services such as Microsoft’s OneDrive and Apple’s iCloud Drive. For online backups, a dedicated service like Backblaze is still superior (especially if you’re not fastidious with where you store your files), but at least Dropbox now offers enough storage for most people.

Dropbox is also rolling out new features such as remote wipe in case a device is lost or stolen and much more robust sharing controls. These power-user features may be enough to entice users to choose Dropbox over the built-in OneDrive and iCloud.

iCloud Drive is launching this fall and now every iPhone, iPad and Mac will come with this online storage and syncing service built-in. The only way Dropbox can compete with that and Microsoft’s OneDrive is on price and robust cross-platform compatibility.

I do wonder if this will cause Apple to bump up the storage on iCloud Drive before it launches this fall? In particular, Apple should offer more free storage to have parity with competitors. Apple is going to offer 200 GB of storage for $3.99 a month, which is a much better deal for your average user than Dropbox’s new plan, but quite a bit more expensive per GB than what Dropbox is offering.

Will these new plans and features be enough for Dropbox to keep me as a customer? That will depend on how good iCloud Drive is. Price isn’t everything, and Dropbox has worked very, very well for me over the years. And these new features and pricing have gotten my attention.

Episode 109: WWDC 2014

Screen Shot 2014-06-09 at 10.04.55 PM

This episode is all about WWDC 2014.

This was one of the most impressive WWDCs in years. WWDC is Apple’s yearly developer conference.

There are big and exciting changes coming to iOS, OS X and iCloud. What did we like? What didn’t we like? What did we expect?

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Episode 68: Cord cutting for a more purposeful watching of TV

Credit: ReadWrite.

Credit: ReadWrite.

Jeremy has the power! He finally has fast Internet. Before now, he was using DSL. Yes, DSL. Like an ANIMAL.

Jeremy is also an official cord cutter and owner of a new Apple TV. This leads to a discussion of how we watch TV shows and movies now, and how not have cable has led to a more purposeful watching of TV.

When we first started this website, I opined about my desire to store movies in the cloud. That has happened, and now I own a ton of movies. Apparently if you make it easier to buy, own and store something, people will be more likely to buy something.

Since iTunes in the cloud came out a year ago, I’ve purchased 19 movies. Before then, starting in 2006, I had purchased five movies. Storing movies myself was a huge barrier to buying digital movies.

I now sit about five feet from my router, and that seems to have helped some of the recording issues we had last year. This leads to a discussion of wifi interference and how there is still a place for wired ethernet connections.

Jeremy fills us in more on how he plans on using Google Glass.

And then we get into academic publishing. Should academic information be free, instead of being tied up in text books?

Yes, it’s a jam-packed show.

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Episode 39: Do you really want to be polling a bunch of weirdos?

Fring update push notification

We discuss the value, or lack there of, of push notifications.

Are push notifications making us more and less productive? Do we need better ways to manage push notifications?

We also discuss political polling and the difference between polling landline and cell phone users.

I apologize for Jeremy’s audio quality. I blame his Internet connection (although it could be mine, but don’t tell him).

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Episode 37: Blogging for tenure

We start off by discussing the Das Keyboard that I’m testing out for review purposes. Jeremy may have never heard a louder keyboard before.

But for the author, the Das Keyboard feels heavenly and the loudness is an asset. You owe it to yourself to at least try a mechanical keyboard before you die. This isn’t my final review, but early results are very positive.

Why shouldn’t someone who writes, programs or types for a living think very deeply about the device they use to do most of their work? Why do we spend so much time picking out our actual machines, software, even mice and so little on our keyboards?

I’m typing this entry on a Apple Extended Keyboard that I got off of Ebay to compare modern vs. old mechanical keyboards. It’s huge little a battleship, but man does it feel good, even though it is 20 years old.

We then take Google Drive for a spin and discuss how we think it stacks up against Dropbox and iCloud. If you’re interested in setting up a writing workflow with an iPad, I highly recommend you check out this post. I bring this up because any good mobile workflow will need one of these three services.

We also discuss academic writing in the Internet Age. Why is so much scholarly work locked up in academic journals that no one reads?

Is it time for academic blogging? Can you get tenure in your Mom’s basement?

I apologize for my audio sounding weird at the end. I’ll investigate what went wrong with my microphone.

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My iPad setup

Above is my iPad home screen. I try really hard to keep all of my apps on one screen and very organized for quick access. I have one app on a second screen that I’m still trying to find a home for.

The other day I posted my computer setup for grad school this fall. In this post, I’d like to focus on an increasingly critical part of my computing setup, my iPad.

I have a third-generation iPad with the Retina Display and 32 GB of storage. I have the wifi-only model since I’m either on wifi a lot or the times that I’m not, I’d prefer to just use my iPhone to create a wireless network. I don’t really need multiple wireless Internet plans. I’d recommend at least the 32 GB iPad. As I’ve begun to use my iPad more for work, I’ve noticed that I have a lot less space left over for movies, songs and video games.

I have a few movies stored on my iPad and a couple of games. With all the apps and files that I have, I only have a few GB free. The next iPad I get will probably have more storage, but I think this amount should be good for at least a few more years.

I use the standard iPad smart cover in gray. I find that it works pretty well and does a good job of protecting the screen. It does sometimes fall off when I’m holding it, and it offers no protection for the backside. But, it is the best case I’ve found when it comes to the ability to easily take the case off.

If I’m just lounging around a comfortable chair or sofa, I don’t really want the case on. More heavy duty cases are often too hard to regularly pull off.

The three main things I use the iPad for are reading, writing and surfing the Web. I start and edit a lot of my posts on my iPad. No, it’s not a good device for writing long-form journalism or books, but it’s perfectly good for writing 500 words or so.

The iPad is also a great device for getting ideas down and finishing them off when I get back to my desktop computer. The first 150 words of this post were typed on my iPad when the idea struck me, and now I’m fleshing out the post on my Mac.

You never know when an idea will strike, and I’m much more likely to start writing now that I have a good iPad (and iPhone) workflow that seamlessly integrates with my main computer.

Writing words

When I first got the iPad, I purchased Pages, which is a pretty good word processing program in the abstract. It has a critical flaw, however: syncing a document between the iPad version and the Mac version of Pages takes a lot of work and is anything but intuitive or seamless. I would not recommend it, and it’s not worth describing the broken process here (a quick note: I would recommend purchashing Pages if you ever need to open and edit Word files, because Pages works really well for that).

Let’s just say that that Pages is nothing like the experience I get with Byword, where I start a file on one device, and it syncs automatically via Dropbox, allowing me to pick up where I left off on another device. All my changes are automatically synced via Dropbox, and I don’t have to do anything to get the latest version of a document.

A big part of what I do is write and take notes, and that part of my workflow will be the main focus of this post. I use several programs for this purpose: Omnioutliner, Byword and Simplenote (note: Simplenote is both an app and a Web service). They each serve a purpose, and I do not like programs like Word that try to be all things to all people.

Simplenote is very aptly named. It’s a great program for taking short notes or writing down little bits of frequently used information. The beauty of Simplenote (and the Mac software that I use to sync with it, Notational Velocity) is that everything is built around search, not some file hierarchy that is easy to lose files in.

Simplenote, because some things you want to make sure you get in writing.

All of my notes are stored in one folder. You can also store your Simplenote files as one big database file, but I don’t recommend this, as it ties you into the Simplenote ecosystem, which may not be around forever. Also, by storing your Simplenote files as individual text files, any program that can open text files can open Simplenote files. This makes it really easy to start a blog post as a note in Simplenote and bring it into a full-fledged writing program such Byword.

Rather than going and hunting around my file system for information, I just search for what I’m looking for in Simplenote. I store all kinds of little nuggets of information that I know I’ll need at some point in the future. It’s incredibly helpful.

I store building codes, for instance, in my notes folder. If I want to know how to access the gym, I just search for gym or building codes and the information is right there for me. Or if I need to know where certain files are stored on my work’s server, I have a note just for that information.

My work also has several different wifi networks, depending on which building and floor. I have a note with login information for the networks. I just type in wifi and the note comes up (and don’t worry, Simplenote supports encryption).

I also use Simplenote to jot down ideas for articles and blog posts that I’m writing. It’s a good program for quickly getting ideas down. But I don’t like it for more structured writing. That’s where Byword comes in.

Byword is my favorite writing program for a fey key reasons: There are Byword clients on both OS X and iOS, it is easy to sync between all of my platforms, the program itself is gorgeous and minimal and the software isn’t larded up with features that get in my way and distract me.

Byword is beautiful. Just me and my words.

Take a look at Word sometime and ask yourself is that a writing environment that inspires creativity? It looks like something designed for making corporate memos. Byword’s beauty and simplicity focuses on your words only, letting you create your own palette with your words.

I simply write more and am a better writer in Byword than I am in Word. If you’re a writer, you should like your writing program. You should enjoy the actually experience of writing in it. That’s all I’m going to say about that.

Syncing is the reason that I selected Byword as my main iPad writing program. Any writing program that doesn’t sync with a personal computer OS is fairly useless for me. The days of device silos are over. I have little need for creative software that ties me to a specific device class.

I do most of my writing on my Mac, but I find that the iPad is a good device for doing a final read. I’m no longer sitting at a desk, staring at the same monitor that I have been for hours. With Byword, I can take my iPad, go grab some coffee, lounge around on a sofa and do my final read in a totally different atmosphere. I find that being in a different state during the editing process makes it easier to catch mistakes made during the writing process.

For me, Byword for the iPad ends up being the program that I often start a post on and where I finish a post. The middle, where most of my words are written, is done on my Mac. This post will follow that arc as well.

The last main pillar of my iPad setup is Omnioutliner, which is a great program for making structured outlines. I have yet to find a better program on any platform for taking notes. Simplenote, as the name implies, is for simple notes and tiny bits of information, whereas Omnioutliner is for taking really great notes and making them into a cohesive outline.

People use Omnioutliner to outline how a book will go or to take notes for a class over an entire semester. Omnioutliner has an incredible amount of formatting control and is extremely fast for indenting and outdenting. Whereas Word annoys the user by trying to guess what the user wants to do with an outline, Omnioutliner does no such thing and instead gives the user full control over how an outline will look and feel.

Like your outlines with Roman Numerals? Go for it. Like your outlines with letters? With numbers? Want a custom combination depending on which level of indentation you are on? Omnioutliner supports it all.

Omnioutliner is my go-to program for taking notes during meetings. Even on the iPad’s software keyboard, I am able to type fast enough to take meaningful notes during meetings. I’m not sure if I’ll be using the Mac or iPad version (with an external keyboard) of Omnioutliner for note taking for grad school, but it would be nice if the two versions synced with each other.

Omnigroup has said that they are working on making Omnioutliner sync between the Mac and iPad versions, but that isn’t here today. The biggest knock on Omnioutliner is that it lacks this syncing. It’s not a deal breaker for me because there is no program anywhere near the capability of Omnioutliner on the iPad that does support syncing.

Keeping my life in order

The iPad is my key life and project management tool.

I find that the built in calendar program on the iPad is fine. It syncs with both Mac and PC calendaring software and can work with a lot of people’s corporate calendaring systems. It also syncs with Web calendars offered by Google and others.

For project management I use Omnifocus, which is ostensibly a GTD (Getting Things Done) program, but it doesn’t have to be used in such a way. Think of it as a very powerful to-do list app. It helps you plan out projects and work and execute them.

This is a very basic way to use Omnifocus. It’s great for staying on top of projects. I use it more in depth with more granularity to my steps for work projects.

Omnifocus also syncs with the Mac and iPhone versions, which is a must for me. (although I’d argue that the Mac version is superfluous now, and that the iPad version is by far the best version).

Between calendar and Omnifocus, the iPad and the iPhone really help keep my life in order in a way that a personal computer couldn’t. I have to juggle my day job, work on the Interchange Project, the writing that I do for other organizations and my school work. I’m away from my work and home computers a lot more than I’m away from my iPad and iPhone, and what good is software that can remind you to do something if it’s not near you when you need it?

A big part of what I do is read, and the iPad is my main reading device. Instead of keeping countless tabs and browser windows open, I use Instapaper to to read all those links that I come across during the day but don’t have time to read. I click a little button in my Web browser and the articles and blog posts are sent to my iPad (and iPhone) for reading at a later time.

If reading is a big part of your job, I cannot recommend Instapaper higher. Along the same lines, I keep up with a lot of different sources of information via RSS. Reeder is my favorite RSS reading program, and it syncs between my Mac, iPad and iPhone. The iPad client is really good and it has the ability to tweet out articles that I find interesting, and it has Instapaper integration for stories that I don’t have time to read.

I also recently started using News.me to stay up-to-date on the most talked about stories on my network each day. I usually start my day with breakfast, News.me and Reeder.

Reeder makes for a really great news discovery and reading experience.

The key to making this whole experience work is syncing between my computer and my iPad and iPhone. Without the syncing, and the seamless integration, I wouldn’t do much writing on the iPad.


Syncing is a big part of making an iPad workflow work, and without syncing to smartphones and personal computers, the iPad would lose most of its power as a work tool. The two main options for syncing files between an iPad and a personal computer are iCloud and Dropbox.

iCloud only works for OS 10.7 Lion and later. If you have an older version of OS X or use a different OS altogether, iCloud is immediately out as an option. If you can choose between both iCloud and Dropbox, it really comes down to how much of a power user you are. The benefit of iCloud is that it comes baked into iOS, and the first 5 GB of storage — plenty for most document storage — is free.

To me, the choice comes down if you want to view file structures. If you’re used to the traditional file structure format of OS X, Windows and Linux that involves nested folders in different locations on hard drives, Dropbox will just make sense. Using Dropbox is just like using any modern computer from the last few decades. You store files in folders and you can nest folders inside of folders.

If you never really like the whole managing where files go process, iCloud may be the better choice because it has no file structure whatsoever. iCloud associates files with individual programs. Looking for a Pages file to work on? Just open up Pages and search through your list of files. You will only see Pages files; all other files will be out of sight, out of mind.

You don’t have to worry about where a file is stored, and there is a certain simplicity to this that is appealing. If I know I’m looking for a certain Pages file, why am I seeing all of these files that aren’t it from other programs? With iCloud’s method of storing files, if you at least know the program that it was created in, it won’t be that hard to find a file.

The downside of this is that currently iCloud storage doesn’t allow multiple programs to access the same files. Will Byword still be your text editor of choice five years from now? Maybe not, but how will you get those files to be associated with another program?

Apple hasn’t really addressed this issue yet. I suspect that a future version of iOS (perhaps as early as this year) will allow a user to select multiple programs that can open and edit a file. But that’s not the reality today, and we can only make decisions based on today’s realities.

With Dropbox, I can have multiple programs open the same files. Heck, programs that haven’t even come into existence will one day be able to open my files. It is, however, more complex to setup this structure, but it offers a world of flexibility.

I store my Byword files as plain text files, a format that has been around for decades and a format that will probably be around on computers as we know them forever. I’m not concerned that 20 years from now that my files won’t be accessible by modern programs, and because I’m choosing a basic file format, a lot of different programs can open the same files. It is entirely possible that a text editing program will come around next year for the iPad that will blow me away, and I’ll be very thankful that I stored by files as plain text and used Dropbox, allowing my new program to easily begin editing those files.

But Dropbox has some negatives. First, it costs $100 a year for a paid account. If you keep an iPad for five years, that’s $500. That’s a lot of money to spend for the privilege of having more flexibility with how your files are stored.

Yes, Dropbox does give free account holders 2 GB of free storage, which is fine for most document types, and the ability to earn 16 GB more of free space by referring people to Dropbox, but for most people Dropbox still offers less free space than iCloud. And, while clearly not a fault of Dropbox’s, Dropbox can do a lot more than iCloud, and you’re much more likely to eat up your Dropbox storage than your iCloud storage.

Also, more novice computer users may also find the process of setting up Dropbox to be harder than iCloud. I’d recommend setting up folder structures on a personal computer and not on the iPad for instance. To use Dropbox, you’ll need to tie it into a personal computer as well, whereas iCloud can exist just on and iPad and the cloud.

Dropbox, however, does a lot more than just syncing files. It provides a backup for all of the files in my Dropbox folder on my Mac and is my main backup strategy.

Dropbox can back up just about anything (iPhoto databases excluded), whereas iCloud can only backup files from programs that are written specifically for iCloud. As it stands today, iCloud isn’t really a Dropbox competitor, and I would recommend that users at least go with something like Dropbox to back up their important files.

In terms of up-time and reliability, I find Dropbox to be better. I haven’t had issues with either, but Dropbox has years of proven service. If you’re comfortable with traditional file systems, and you’re looking for a way to backup files on your personal computer as well, I recommend Dropbox over iCloud. I personally use both, but Dropbox is the backbone of my productivity syncing solution, whereas iCloud is used for backing up my audio and video files.

Software and services mentioned in this article:
* Byword
* Simplenote
* Omnioutliner
* Omnifocus
* Instapaper
* Reeder
* Pages
* iCloud
* Dropbox

iTunes should be split into 3-4 smaller, more focused apps

Should iTunes be split into smaller, discrete applications that focus on specific tasks? iTunes being bloated and slow is not a new meme, but there has been a lot of discussion recently about breaking iTunes up into separate applications for different tasks.

It’s important to note that iTunes began just as a music jukebox app. All it did was play music files, and it was very good at that. It was also a very good companion to early iPods, but as iTunes aged and took on more tasks, it became a poor application for most uses.

By making iTunes into several small apps, Apple could deliver more features and granularity without overloading users.  Imagine iTunes with more features and granularity. That sounds like a terrible proposition.

Doesn’t iTunes already do too much?

iTunes has the paradoxical distinction of both doing too much and too little. It does too much because it handles too many discrete function. But it also does too little because it often doesn’t delve that deeply into what each discrete function can too. iTunes is a music jukebox application that also plays movies; iTunes is also movie management software that has almost no movie management controls.

iTunes is a bloated piece of software that does a lot (Apple bills it as an application that has “Everything in one place,” which is sadly too accurate). Adding more features to it — even features that make a lot of sense — comes with the cost of making the application needlessly more complex and slow. As long as iTunes is one giant application — almost an operating system for digital media — Apple will hesitate in adding too many features for a specific area of the application.

Take the iTunes Store; it exists as one section of a big application. Giving it more features and granularity would only increase the feeling that iTunes is overloaded (and would make the application even slower to load). But, there are a lot of features missing from the store that would make it easier to shop and find interesting content.

There is no way to search for movies by rating — either customer ratings or Rotten Tomatoes ratings. I’d love to have the ability to find out the highest rated movies by genre, decade and overall. Or how about seeing reviewers and users lists of which movies to check out? But if that functionality was added in today, it would make iTunes seem even more complex.

Without features like this, it’s difficult to discover great movies. The only thing that the iTunes Store is good at is showing what is popular right now. It’s not good at showing me historically popular movies or highly rated movies (or music or TV shows).

This is what happens when one app tries to do the job of three-to-four applications. What does purchasing movies have anything to do with making music playlists? What do music playlists have to do with syncing content between my Mac and my iPad?

iTunes tries to do too many things. When I plug in my iPhone to sync files, it launches iTunes, which then triggers automatic downloads of video files that I may have available for download. When I’m trying to sync my device, I don’t need video files from TV shows that I purchased on my Apple TV to automatically start downloading.

Because iTunes does so many things, it feels slow. It takes several seconds for the app to launch and for me to finally be able to do something. If I just want to listen to music, why am I being greeted with the iTunes store or my movie collection?

Whenever I open iTunes it opens to the last section of the application that I had open. Considering that iTunes does so many different things, this can greatly impede my ability to do what I want to do. If the last thing I had open for the iTunes Store, the application has to load, than the store and then I can finally do what I want to do in the application. If all I want to do is listen to music, having the iTunes store load first makes no sense. But when you have an application that does so much, how do you even decide what should be the first thing that people see when they start the program up? If an application ever has a big identity crisis where it can’t decide what makes the most sense to start with each and every time, that application has become too bloated and is trying to do too many things.

An application like that lacks focus.

When I open up Sparrow, I’m shown my inbox. When I open up Twitter for OS X, I’m shown my Twitter feed. With Safari, I get my homepage. With iTunes, I get whatever I had open the last time I closed the app.

There are a bunch of ways that it could be broken into separate, discrete apps. I don’t think there is a right or wrong answer when it comes to how to do it, but the right answer is surely to separate iTunes into distinct apps.

Syncing should have always been a separate app for iOS devices. iTunes not only handles syncing of my music files but it also handles syncing of movies, TV shows, applications, photos, contacts, preferences, etc. This makes no sense. Apple is moving away from iTunes as a syncing platform towards iCloud, and eventually anything but iCloud syncing could be eliminated, but that won’t happen for years.

iCloud is not, nor is much of the world’s Internet infrastructure, in the right place to only allow cloud-based syncing and backups. Thus, the syncing portion of iTunes should be an entirely separate application. Something lightweight, easy to use and with plenty of granularity.

And something that I only see and load when I’m trying to sync.

After separating syncing into a new app, there are several routes to go. Apple could simply break up the rest of iTunes into two applications: One for playing media files and one for purchasing media files. All of the sudden the store area of the app would be gone from iTunes (iTunes Store, iTunes Match and Ping), as well as Genius and the Devices section. This has significantly pared down the left-hand navigation column, while also removing a lot of code and bloat from the application.

Where Ping, iTunes’s built in social network, fits in is anyone’s guess. It speaks to how hopelessly lost iTunes is as an application that it also comes with a social network. You can’t search for movies in the iTunes Store by best rated, but you can share the latest song you purchased in a ghost town of a social network.

The other major option would be to split iTunes up into separate audio and video applications. iTunes is a pretty good music player. Yes, it is missing some functions that more dedicated music playing applications have, but it’s pretty good for playing music and this is where iTunes is at its best. iTunes, however, does the bare minimum for storing and playing video files.

iTunes doesn’t have a good way for people to store large video collections in different ways. Nor does iTunes really work for any video management and playback for files not purchased in the iTunes store (imagine if iTunes only handled audio files that were purchased through the iTunes Store). iTunes functions as the most bare minimum video storage software that you can think of, but there is no reason that it isn’t more full featured like the music portion of iTunes.

For instance, why doesn’t iTunes show all of the TV shows and movies that I have available to stream through iCloud? With movies and TV shows in the cloud, the idea of locally storing video files on my Mac is going away. Rather, I’d like to have a good interface to see all the movies that I have purchased and am storing in the cloud.

Because I’m much more apt to buy movies and TV shows now that I don’t have to handle local storage, I could really use a way to categorize my video content and make playlists. One day when I have a 100 or so movies from iTunes in the cloud, I’d greatly appreciate the ability to sort and categorize movies the way that makes sense to me.

From this audio/video split two different directions can be taken: the store functions can be kept on each app or the store function could be its own app. The biggest question is how much does being able to purchase music from the same app as you listen to it help consumers buy and enjoy music?

From a usability perspective, it’s very convenient to purchase music from the same app that you listen to it in. The iOS App store, however, seems to suggest that people understand the difference between an app for buying something and an app (or OS) for using something. Users are downloading a lot more apps than songs these days.

Seeing how successful downloading and running apps on the iPhone and iPad are makes me realize that average users clearly understand how to use two separate apps that work together. Because of this, I’d recommend that the iTunes Store become its own application, no matter how the rest of iTunes is split up.

This leaves us with two good options for splitting up iTunes:

  • iTunes (for music and video management and playback), iTunes Store and iOS Sync application.
  • iTunes (for music playback and management only. Back to its roots), iTunes Store, iOS Sync and a much more robust video application (for file management and playback).

Both of these options are much stronger than what we have today. These apps would be small, lean apps that could support additional features that iTunes couldn’t dream of adding it its bloated state. This is the kind of win-win that a company that focuses on usability and focus should do.

These apps could finally have UIs that make sense for each distinct function that iTunes tries to do. Why exactly would you use the same general UI concepts for music management software as you would for a store to purchase movies?

iOS and the Mac App store have proven that people enjoy using smaller discrete apps (I prefer using Instapaper to Safari’s built in Reading List because I get a lot more features with Instapaper without adding bloat and complexity to Safari itself). Perhaps the reason that Apple made iTunes do so many things was that in the past the average computer user didn’t buy and install a lot of new applications. Before the iOS App Store and the Mac App Store, it was a hassle for a non-geek to get new software.

Now it’s easier for me to purchase a new application on my Mac than it is for me to make coffee in the morning. I’m talking about real software from big-name companies and great upstarts. And keeping all of my applications up to date? Dead simple.

Apple itself has shown that users will embrace smaller, more focused applications. It’s time for Apple to focus iTunes.

Episode 26: An OS X a year keeps the doctor away?

We discuss the big news that Apple is releasing a new desktop OS this year.

Most of us did not expect to see a successor to OS 10.7 Lion for several years. To our surprise we’ll be seeing OS 10.8 Mountain Lion a year after Lion debut. The big news is that Apple is going to a yearly release cycle.

There are several features that we are excited about, most notably AirPlay streaming, which allows users to wirelessly stream their computer’s screen to their TVs.

We have concerns, however. Releasing an OS a year is a lot of work. Will more bugs creep into OS X? People are still complaining about Lion’s bugginess, and it usually takes several patches to get a new OS to be really stable.

We talk about this and much more.

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