Having made quite a few recipes from Marcella’s classic cookbook, I’m not surprised that she’s murder to get along with. Some are dead easy and some will wreck you. And of course they all taste fabulous.
After last night’s disaster, I decided to give iTunes 8 another try. This time I made sure my library settings were correct in advance, and let it collect and submit the information while I ate dinner. No spinning beachball, no issues, this time around.
So, Genius. I’m not evaluating the sidebar right now (though I will note that the message that appears when Genius can’t find any recommendations in the store is a pretty good predictor of whether the Genius playlist feature will work. And you know what? It does work, quite well.
The feature in a nutshell is a little like an old bar game: pick a song, then identify a bunch of other songs that go with it. All the songs are pulled from your library and you can vary the length of the playlist, and save it into your library if you choose. Pretty simple. So I decided to throw it some curves. First, “Nuki Suki” by Little Richard. It took this slightly profane funk gem from the master and mixed it with “Sexy MF,” “There Was a Time,” “Baby I Love You,” “The Hook and Sling” by Eddie Bo, “Up for the Down Stroke,” and Marvin Gaye’s “You Sure Love to Ball.” There were a few clinkers as well, like Ready for the World’s “Oh Sheila,” but at least everything was in the ballpark.
So I tried something a little different: a movement from “Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet” by Gavin Bryars, from the recording with Tom Waits on vocals. What came back seemed to be mostly related to Tom Waits rather than Gavin Bryars: tracks from Waits, Smog, the Black Keys, the Cocteau Twins, Cat Power, and so on. So I tried another Bryars track but Genius couldn’t find matches. Also matchless: tracks from the Virginia Glee Club and the Virginia Gentlemen, probably because they aren’t available in the iTunes Store. But mixes around Hilliard Ensemble, Pink Floyd, Jane Siberry, Steinski, Jeff Buckley, and Neko Case were all pretty solid.
So I think those of us that like genre-busting mixes and unusual juxtapositions are probably safe: Genius doesn’t automate what we do just yet. But for a good 25 song groove it’s not bad, and for most people it will handily replace Shuffle as a way to plumb the depths of their library.
I installed iTunes 8 last night on my home machine, a MacBook Pro with 2 GB of RAM. The update wasn’t in Software Update, so I pulled it off Apple’s website. Then I had to update to get the latest QuickTime, begging the question of why they aren’t packaged together. But that was straightforward enough. Then I rebooted and fired up iTunes.
First it wanted to update all my album art–I suppose to build new thumbnails for the new grid view. When it finished looking at my 26,000 song library in five minutes I was suspicious. Sure enough: it had forgotten that my music lived on a network drive and silently reset the location to my laptop hard drive, causing all the songs in the library to be unplayable. Fortunately I’ve been through this before: Preferences, Advanced, and set the correct location for the folder, then wait fifteen minutes while all the song paths are reset. But man: I was really hoping Apple had fixed this one. I don’t restart iTunes often, but when I do I have to go through this dance more than half the time.
But OK: so far no worse than the old version.
The new grid view seemed nice enough, until I clicked something. Then it locked up tighter than a drum with a spinning beachball. About five minutes later the beachball cleared and I was able to play some music. I found of interesting that the grid view was only present some of the time. If I clicked through on the Jazz genre, it brought up the classic view of tracks next to album art. Maybe this was because of the number of albums (330) in the genre, but I found it a little disorienting.
Then: Genius. I don’t know if I would have called the feature that, since it has to upload the entire library to the cloud before it can work. I let it run for awhile but it wasn’t long before the spinning beach ball returned. I finally killed iTunes but it managed to keep any other application, including QuickTime, from playing any sound until I rebooted.
And when I rebooted, iTunes forgot where the music library was again.
I think Genius has promise–it came up with some interesting recommendations on my work computer. But that only has thirty songs on it. I have a suspicion that it doesn’t scale. At all.