Envisioning a Recording Studio

As someone who loves to write and also really enjoys reading, book reviews seemed like a natural fit to my activities. Read a book, write a bit about it, be happy. However, as I delved into the world of book reviews, I found that I really didn’t enjoy it. I lack the ability to make such things wholly entertaining, and I have trouble conveying my feelings on books through writing. I love to talk about books, but I just don’t enjoy writing about them.

The idea to do book reviews through video crept upon me slowly, so I can’t point at a flash of insight where I finally hit upon the idea of a video book review. Nevertheless, I have begun doing them, and specifically I recorded two today. Expect to see those on Saturday for the next couple of weeks, and who knows, maybe it’ll become a regular feature here. I enjoyed doing them quite a bit, and the process was relatively painless. YouTube makes it pretty simple.

iTunes, on the other hand, has been rather frustrating when it comes to podcasting. In addition to the Online Bible Study I am writing (which is essentially where I study the Bible and then write what I’m thinking), I wanted to record a podcast on the same topic. The podcasts are on the same verses I thought and wrote about, but generally expanded with more thoughts. I can speak a lot more quickly than I write, so where I might have spent a couple of hours thinking and writing, I can record in twenty minutes and be done with it. It’s not professional by any means, but then again neither am I.

Unfortunately, the plugin I use for podcasting with WordPress has designated an RSS feed location that I simply cannot find. I wanted to burn the feed with FeedBurner so I could track how the podcasts were doing, but there’s no way to easily modify the URL in iTunes that it pulls from, and I also can’t find the XML file locally to edit. This means that I pretty much need to just pull the original feed from iTunes and set up a new one.

I sent in a request that the current SilverPen Publishing thing on iTunes be pulled, but when I tried to create a new feed on there, it kept reporting that iTunes had timed out. In looking at Apple’s forums, they’re having a lot of complaints on this issue, so I’m glad it’s not just me. At the same time, I receive no solace from knowing other people are having problems with this too. I wish it just worked.

At any rate, I did create a new podcasting feed to which you can subscribe if you are into such things. Both videos and audio podcasts will be on here (if I did it right, anyways) and you’ll see them trickle in over the next few weeks. Hopefully I’ll get things straightened out with iTunes soon and can link to that as well.

And if you’re the retroactive type, I recorded a podcast for my first OBS entry. It’s pretty rough because this was my first recording and I wasn’t entirely sure what I was saying or where I was going with it. Please be assued that the podcast going live this coming Wednesday is far superior in every way.

Now that all that’s out of the way (about four hours of work so far), I think I’m ready for a cup of coffee and maybe playing some World of Warcraft with April. Because I obviously didn’t get my fill after yesterday’s all day adventure.

Genius Review — iTunes Automagic Playlist Generator

It's like Pandora, but with music you already know you like.
It's like Pandora, but with music you already know you like.

Having recently purchased an Apple Macbook, I thought I’d give iTunes another shot. The last time I had used iTunes was about three years ago following my first iPod purchase. Beholding the shinyness that all the cool kids had been using for years, I poked around, marveled at the quick downloads of podcasts and music, and generally enjoyed the experience. There are, of course, some things about iTunes that absolutely infuriate me (DRM, poor file management, duplication of tracks, etc.), but it’s obvious that this product demands you drink the Kool-Aid, and if you do, it’ll be a wonderful, magical ride.

Part of my impetus for purchasing an Apple computer was because I want an iPhone sometime in the future, and if I’m going to drop that much cash on a portable device/phone, I want to get all the functionality I can out of it. Therefore, I transferred my 12+ gb of music to the Macbook and imported it into iTunes to see how it worked, as well as to prepare for iPhone syncage when that glorious day comes.

Immediately following import, I decided I wanted all the cover art for my discs, so I told it to pull those down. Of course, iTunes demanded I register an account with the iTunes store (requiring my address, credit card number, and a vial of blood from our first born), but then happily opened its vault of artwork to me. It then asked me if I’d like to turn Genius on.

Genius is a relatively new feature in iTunes that looks at your music collection and compares it to the collections and playlists of other people. This means that you have to send information about your music library to Apple, which made me a little nervous (though I do not pirate music, or anything else as a general rule), but I went ahead and agreed to the ToS so I could find out what this thing does. Like any proper geek, my curiousity grabbed me by the throat and drug me along.

Overall, it’s been an extremely pleasant experience. When listening to a song, you can hit the Genius button (located in the track information pane at the top or at the bottom right of iTunes) and iTunes will instantly generate a playlist for you of songs similar to the one you were listening to when you hit the button. These playlists are usually about an hour and a half; I’m not sure if that’s because there’s a preference somewhere that dictates the length of the list or because I don’t have much music, but it’s sufficient for my purposes. If you like the playlist Genius produces, you can listen away, or you can run it again and again to generate slightly different lists.

Mix, match, and re-arrange, and you can also save these as permanent playlists. Of course, Apple also displays the Genius sidebar with recommendations of other albums similar to those you’re currently listening to in a bid to get you to buy some music. But it’s not really in my face, doesn’t pop out or anything, and all-in-all, I’m liking Genius. It’s like Pandora, but with only music I already know I like.

Genius doesn’t supplant Pandora, and I don’t view them as being in competition. Pandora allows me to listen to a lot of bands I either haven’t heard of or wouldn’t otherwise hear, and I’ve bought a few albums through Pandora of bands I just fell in love with after hearing a few of their songs. But Genius is a wonderful compliment to Pandora, and the fact that it’s local (requiring no Internet connection) and isn’t streaming (so there’s no buffering) is really nice.

No, iTunes isn’t the greatest music player ever (it’s probably not even in the top 5-10), but Genius is a great feature that will keep me opening it time after time.