seriously, iTunes?

I’ve used every version of iTunes since 1.0 (even that short-lived version 5), and traditionally, it’s been one of Apple’s real software assets.  Nice, simple management of your music library.  When iPod came along, things got even better because things synced up so beautifully and simply.  But the software just hasn’t managed to stay this spry since those golden days.  It’s still definitely a leader in managing your media library (and really doing a hell of a lot more than that now), but that speaks more to just how awful iTunes’s competition is.  I’d like to share with you my biggest iTunes pet peeves.  Feel free to leave our own in the comments!

1. iTunes, you’re starting to get a little fat.

I feel a little hypocritical making this criticism, since i’m not exactly thin and light like most of Apple’s products (and their CEO… too soon?), but there was a day when iTunes was just a few megabytes in size.  Now, you’re looking at upwards of 150 megabytes for the app.  That’s kind of pathetic considering that iTunes is piggybacking off of a lot of OS X technologies.  Honestly, I don’t really care how much space iTunes takes up as long as it is good at what it does, but as you’ll read in my next complaints it isn’t really good at what it does, and maybe, just maybe, there’s some bloated code here.

2. Use some freaking threads!

This one truly baffles me.  Apple is constantly developing all these new technologies and APIs for developers to use in their apps, and is always pushing developers to use the latest technologies or get left with an app that won’t run in OS X’s next release.  Yet, Apple apps tend to be the worst offenders about using old APIs and frameworks in their apps.  I guess there are perks to being the ones who are writing the OS.  One of the worst offenders of not using new technologies is iTunes.  And there aren’t many apps I can think of that would be better candidates for using more of these modern technologies like, say, doing more than one thing at a time.  Also, iTunes, there isn’t a god damn thing you need to use modal windows for.  Get rid of them!

3. What the hell is this?


If iTunes is doing multiple things (and isn’t choking up trying to do these multiple things at once) this is the…. thing you interact with.  And instead of being able to see all at once what all’s going on, you have to click this stupid little arrow button to go on to see the next progress bar.  It’s asinine, and surely there’s a better way of doing it.

4. What were the UI designers who designed the iTunes UI for managing apps on iOS devices smoking?

I can’t really capture how asinine this UI is with mere screenshots.  All I can say is just try using it yourself and you will realize what a freaking clusterfuck that UI is.  I am pretty well convinced that Apple worked aggressively to optimize the design of that interface so that it was as antagonistic to the user as an interface could possibly be.  Seriously, I have never in my life seen an Apple product be so unnatural to use.  I don’t even think Microsoft could have made that interface worse.

5. Home Sharing is kind of half baked.

Maybe I’m not the target market for Home Sharing.  Maybe it was designed for households that had multiple different people who wanted to get each other’s music.  I just wanted it so that I could (try to) keep my work PC and laptop’s music libraries in sync.  And by “in sync” I mean fully in sync, complete with same ratings, play counts, everything.

Even if that wasn’t something you wanted to do, you could have done your current feature set a lot better.  Using it to download each other’s music is kind of kludgy and not that natural.  Granted, a lot easier than what you’d have to do before, but not that great.  And I’m not a big fan of the iTunes store hoops you have to jump through to do Home Sharing.

6. No lyric fetching?

Seriously, what is this? I’m sick of needing third party software to accomplish something iTunes would be much better at doing itself.

7. Time to cloud things up.

Plugging my iPhone into my computer to exchange information seems so… last decade.  My iPhone and iTunes feel so disconnected from one another despite the fact that both are connected to the web.  It’s time for iTunes to get more web based.  Let me sync over the air.  Create an online service similar to Pandora or that integrates with my iTunes account and lets me listen to all sorts of tunes and share them with friends.  Apple, you’ve got a golden opportunity to fundamentally change the way people share and discover music.  You’ve killed off radio by turning people onto having their own music collections in their pockets.  But you failed to really delve into the music discovery thing.  I rely heavily on friends and word of mouth to find new songs.  Genius is trying to help, but it’s only getting me so far.  Services like Spotify look really enticing, but the iTunes ecosystem is tried and true, and people will trust a subscription based system from Apple to stick around.  And the prospect of (legally) just sending my awesome playlist to my friend instantly to have him listen to it is a really cool concept.  There is so much freaking potential here, Apple, and you aren’t seizing it.  And Apple can get away with that for awhile because they’re one of few leaders.


All right, readers (both of you).  That’s about enough complaining from me.  What pisses YOU off about iTunes?

AT&T’s real problem


Everywhere you read about technology, the chief complaint about AT&T seems to be its dropped calls in big cities.  And while that’s a very valid complaint and all, AT&T has a much bigger problem on their hands.

It’s their coverage map.

Ask any AT&T rep about their 3G coverage, and one who is well-versed in bull-shittery will quickly point out that AT&T’s 3G network reaches 75-80% of the US population.  Wow, you think.  That’s pretty reasonable.

Unfortunately, that’s just a really flattering interpretation of a pretty lousy 3G footprint.  Much of the US is crammed into some super densely populated areas, so you can reach 75% of the US population without covering much land.  And maybe if you live in a large city that is blanketed in AT&T 3G, it’s not a big deal to you that 3G isn’t available out of your bubble.

However, when you pay your inflated wireless bill, you’re paying for a nationwide wireless network.  You’re paying for a promise that you can go out to these far out places and have some coverage.  You’re paying for a promise that you can be traveling down a highway in a place you don’t know and call up a friend for directions because you’re lost.

But that’s not really something you can do with AT&T, because they just don’t put forth the effort.

I live in the Madison area, and I often travel to Iowa via 151, which is a four lane highway all the way into Iowa.  If I made a phone call starting when I got on the highway and tried maintaining a call all the way into Iowa, my call will drop several times, because the towers are spaced too far apart.

But to AT&T, this is acceptable.  After all, why put the money into an area that isn’t very densely populated?  After all, it doesn’t give you much of a return, so why bother having it there for customers to use?

Again, it all comes back to the promise of a nationwide network.  When you’re paying your bill, you’re not just paying for infrastructure in the area your billing address is.  You are paying for a network to be there when you happen to be on this random road and you break down.  You’re paying to have service to make calls when you’re staying at a friend’s house in some podunk town.

For sure, AT&T needs to address the issues in its big cities.  And they can afford to do so, because they have a lot of subscribers per square mile.  But they also need to start taking more rural areas seriously.  Even EDGE coverage is acceptable here (though they could put up 3G towers and make a handsome profit selling internet service to people out in the country), but there needs to be some coverage.  Verizon has AT&T beat by a long shot, and their network is 3G across the board. And if AT&T wants to keep customers like me, they’re going to have to put forth the infrastructure, or I’m leaving in 2012 when Verizon LTE iPhones are available.

The Verizon iPhone isn’t coming any time soon. I promise.

Is there a bookie that will let me place a bet that AT&T will remain the exclusive iPhone carrier for a period of time?  If so, I could be sitting on a gold mine.

You don’t need me to tell you that Verizon iPhone rumors are a dime a dozen and that they’ve been around pretty much since iPhone was announced (but I guess I just did  tell you).  The rumors are all absolute crap until at least 2012.  It was confirmed in 2007 (and it was re-confirmed in 2010) that iPhone would be exclusive to AT&T by USA Today.  And here’s an Engadget article confirming this.

If you think that your early termination fee is high, you can bet that the early termination fee for the contract Apple inked with AT&T is much steeper.  And surely AT&T deserves a great deal of credit for letting Apple get its foot in the door for a revolution in how we deal with mobile phones in the US.  Now, the phone maker controls the user experience, instead of the carrier.  This leaves the carrier to focus exclusively on providing a great network for users, which is great, because AT&T needs all the time they can get to focus on making a better network.  Plus, canceling the exclusivity contract without AT&T’s blessing would put a damper on Apple and AT&T’s relationship, which for sure would need to live on after the two are no longer exclusive.

The relationship between Apple and AT&T right now sure as hell isn’t very good, though.  Wired had a great article about the strained relationship between Apple and AT&T, but the talk about Verizon iPhone is either the journalist making up shit as link bait (any article mentioning Verizon and iPhone is sure to get a lot of reads) or the Apple contacts were just fucking with them (which actually would be a really fun thing to do if you worked for the fruit company).  I knew for sure it was pure myth when I read the part where Apple allegedly dropped the Verizon iPhone plans upon realizing that the CDMA radio chip was too big and would require a nontrivial redesign of iPhone’s innards.  Apple’s influential enough to get Intel to redesign chips for them and let Apple have them early; to say that Apple couldn’t either modify iPhone’s design for CDMA chip or get a smaller chip is just dumb.  And even if a CDMA iPhone wasn’t a choice, Apple could have sold the iPhone unlocked or to other carriers in the US, but isn’t.  It isn’t that Apple doesn’t want the extra customers, it’s the exclusivity agreement.

Now, I’m sure there are clauses in the contract between Apple and AT&T that would allow iPhone to go non-exclusive.  For instance, there is probably a clause for low sales.  As you’ll note, iPhone’s sales surely haven’t been suffering, so no chance that clause will save us from the wrath of Ma Bell.  And since we didn’t really have phones using data back in 2007, Apple was naïve and didn’t bother putting in a network performance clause.  After all, we had never really seen cell networks get congested before iPhone, so how were we to know that cell networks were so vastly unprepared for us to actually start using data?

The bitter truth here is that US Americans using iPhones won’t have access to good… maps, like Verizon’s… until 2012.  Assuming that efficient enough radios exist by then, we’ll likely see iPhone jump straight into LTE, which happens to be what Verizon is starting this year.  By 2012, their LTE network should be nice and well developed, and the LTE iPhones will work around the world.  Man, I look forward to these days.



The angry queer: an open letter to straight people (in the US)

Dear straight people:


I have to often hold myself back every time I hear someone start on a “I’ve got nothing against the gays, but why do they have to flaunt their homosexuality like that?” rant, and it happens all the time, and I’ve even seen this mentality come to be accepted within the less flamboyant part of the queer community, and this pisses me right off.

You know why?  It’s because straight people flaunt their sexual orientation all the time too, if not more than gay people, because they’ve identified their sexual orientation as the dominant one.  The bulk of US culture is centered around being heterosexual, setting expectations for men and women from a young age to adhere to a life of heterosexuality.  It’s okay to be hetero, though, if that’s what you are.  You’re just being yourself, and I don’t fault anyone for that.

But when gay people want to be themselves, then it’s a whole different story, isn’t it?  When gay people start being themselves, it’s no longer being themselves.  Instead, it’s flaunting.

This is a huge problem.  You can’t just say you’re accepting of the way other people are, but only if they want to look and act just like you do.  That’s not what freedom is about.  Freedom is about having the peace of mind that you can be yourself because you have the integrity to let your fellow people be themselves as well.  It’s a shared thing.  We have gay parades where we show off our own subcultures.  Straight people have their parades where they show off things that are important to them.  And I go to both, and I think it’s great if straight people come to our parades. You’ll be loved for showing your support for us!

Straight people, you need to get over the fact that we’re different.  We’ve come to terms with that now, because you’ve been reminding us that our entire lives.  Next time you see that flamboyant guy or the butch woman, don’t feel like you’re threatened. Feel reassured that you’re not living under an oppressive regime that pushes for everyone to be the same.  Feel happily reassured that it’s okay for you to be you.

And for fuck’s sake, get off your religious high horse and quit trying to tell other people how to be morally correct. You’re in the United States, where you get to choose your own faith.  So if you choose a faith that says being gay is bad, then be reminded every time you see a gay guy that you’re lucky enough to live somewhere where you can follow the faith that works for you.

Much love,


Evernote Feature Requests (that really are thinly veiled complaints)

One software program I use every day and would be lost without is Evernote.  I use it as my second brain and it faithfully stores all of the information I gather throughout my day that I find worth keeping for later.  The best part of it is that Evernote’s available for pretty much any platform.  You can get it for OS X, Windows, Linux (via the web, but someone’s developing a native app), iOS, Android and Blackberry.  Possibly even for webOS.  By being available on all of those platforms, it’s very likely Evernote is always within an arm’s reach for you, which is the beauty of it, because that makes it very easy to quickly capture some piece of information you’ll need later, saving you from having to scramble for a scrap of paper, then wonder where you put it later.


Recently, Evernote got me really excited by saying they were going to unveil a new, secret thing this week that would change the way I thought about Evernote.




I was pretty excited.  What could be under that red velvet (maybe even velour?) cloth?  Of the many feature requests I have, I figured the odds were pretty good that this surprise announcement would give me one of those features.


It ended up giving me none.  But, at the same time, it kind of gave me all of them.


You see, instead of actually implementing much desired features and putting them in Evernote, Evernote is now becoming a platform instead of a tool that holds its own.  Evernote launched a service called Trunk which is basically a collection of services that can be used in conjunction with Evernote.


There are two problems I am seeing so far with these programs and services:

  • They often cost money on top of my Evernote Premium subscription (and are often subscriptions themselves)
  • Many don’t offer very meaningful integration with Evernote.


Here’s an example one:







Ooh, I can save my PDF into Evernote?  Wow, adding that option must have required oodles of effort!  And think of all the work it’s going to save me now!  Instead of saving my PDF and dragging it into Evernote, I can just save into Evernote!  Wow, if I do that enough times a day, that could save me… minutes in the long run.

And sending to Evernote is the extent of its integration.  If you wanted to open a PDF already in Evernote and annotate it or mark it up or edit it, you’d have to send it to Evernote again.


Here’s one that made me laugh:








It’s a paper notebook.  No, really, that’s what it is.  And its “integration” with Evernote is that you can just scan those pages right into Evernote when you’re done!


There are a few diamonds in the rough (Egretlist looks really promising), but fundamentally, I want to see Evernote get more cool features to let me use it in new ways, and seeing that Evernote developers are pushing Trunk is sending me a message that Evernote’s not interested in actually adding new features to Evernote.  Instead, they want others to do that work.  And being reliant on other companies for your own success is just not a good position to put yourself in.

I want to see Evernote investing in making new features.  They’ve got access to their core elements and can make those kinds of fundamental improvements.  They can change the mobile versions of their apps to do more (iPhone apps can’t really have third party plugins).

So, here are my Evernote feature requests:

  • You know how Evernote can OCR images (which is amazing)? Why not transcribe audio recordings?
  • Evernote has the ability to make things to-do items.  Improve upon this!  Minimally, let me specify due dates and give me some ways/views to manage the things I have to do (controlling that by location would be spiffy)
  • Make search work with characters that aren’t alphanumeric.  Seriously.
  • Let me doodle on Evernote in places other than the Windows version of Evernote.  Doodling in iOS version of Evernote would be sweet.
  • Let me record audio while also editing a note in another way (like typing or drawing).  And while you’re at it, keep track of when I write certain things so that I can go back to that part of the note and play back the audio, so I can remember context and maybe catch what I missed the first time around.
  • Instead of making me highlight text to clip from the web, let me select a box and capture that, similar to how LittleSnapper handles it.
  • Let me annotate web pages right from my browser, then save those annotations in Evernote.  This would go great with the web site memory feature.
  • Give me the ability to link to other sections of my notes and other notes in Evernote.
  • Give me some drawing tools so I can circle important things, make diagrams, etc.
  • Create a watch folder I can save stuff to that will auto-import into Evernote.
  • Give desktop versions of Evernote feature parity.
  • Give mobile versions of Evernote feature parity.
  • Fix image drag & drop in OS X so that I can drag images from notes into an Open dialog box and get the image.
  • Work harder on improving performance of Windows Evernote.  It’s a little pathetic.
  • Let me edit notes in the mobile version of Evernote.
  • Sometimes I like to keep code snippets in Evernote.  Let me define notes as being plain text, then let me edit them in my favorite text editor.



Apple’s iPhone 4 Death Grip Press Conference

My first blast from the past is from a few hours ago.  Enjoy!

death grip.png

So, everyone’s been talking about the iPhone’s “death grip” issue–that is, the issue in which holding the iPhone 4 in a certain way causes you to lose your signal. Of course, none of the people making these complaints actually own an iPhone 4. Well, I am both left handed and I actually own one, so I’d like to explain what the issue is, why it’s not really an issue, and we should probably talk about Apple’s press conference they held today (in a word: wow).

So, first off, I will say that yes, if you hold the phone in a certain way, reception will drop a couple bars after a few seconds. 

But you probably don’t hold it that way.

I don’t hold it that way.

And my iPhone 3GS lost signal when I picked it up if I was in an area with poor signal. It’s just that there weren’t steel bars to make it easy to notice where to touch it to make the signal degrade.

The thing is, iPhone 4 has an issue that previous iPhones (and other phones) have. The problem can be manifested in a way that perhaps is more noticeable for people holding it a certain way. But iPhone 4 gets better overall reception due to this design change. So, Apple is sticking with the new design.

And, if you’re still not happy with that, Apple’s going to give away bumpers so that you can hold the iPhone in that forbidden way and not be affected. It seems like a kludgy solution, but then again, you can’t accommodate every single way a person wants to hold the phone. This offers something for that user who wants to hold the iPhone in that (really weird) way. 

But I don’t think Steve Jobs was really the best person for this situation. And I really don’t even think a press conference was appropriate here. Apple would have been much better off had they just e-mailed customers saying what they were doing. Because Apple used this press conference to try to tell the press that they were being dicks, spreading misinformation, while at the same time feeding out cherry picked statistics about the issue to try to tell people they’re wrong. And seriously, Steve Jobs? What is some of the random crap you’re saying here? My two favorites are when he mentioned that Apple built over 300 retail stores out of love for customers (apparently not to sell Apple stuff), and he made some odd comment saying “would you rather we were a Korean company?” I didn’t understand that one.

Steve did point out that over 3 million iPhones 4 devices have been sold so far. And that, to me, is a real sign the media’s blowing it out of proportion. If there really were a problem, people WOULDN’T BE BUYING THE DAMN THINGS. 

Another thing to keep in mind is that Steve Jobs isn’t one to fess up when he did something wrong, except during that backdating scandal when he was potentially facing jail time, at which point he was quite candid in admitting that illegal things happened under his watch. But if Apple has truly screwed something up, you can bet your ass they aren’t saying a word. Remember when all those iBook G3s had dead logic boards? Not a word from Apple besides silently extending repair programs. Such has been the case with a number of hardware failures Apple has had over the years. 

But you’ve got to admire their style. Apple isn’t the ass kissing kind of company. In fact, they’re quite the opposite. And that’s why I am a happy customer of theirs. They don’t do focus groups. They don’t ask customers what they want and implement whatever got the most votes. Instead, they focus on the whole experience, and they find smart, thought out solutions to problems. And they stick by their guns about it.


Hi, I’m Aaron.

I’ve been writing lots of posts on the web, but they’ve mostly existed in various places and didn’t get to be viewed by the world at large.  I’ve got nearly 200 Facebook notes right now, and I’ll be moving in some of my older, more awesome posts on slow news days when I don’t have anything else to say.

These first posts are always kind of lame, because they never really have any content, and usually about 95% of these first posts end up being one of the only posts that get written.  Well, I like to rant a lot about things, so don’t worry; this won’t be the only post here.

But, I’ll not drag this post on too much, because it already sounds lame, boring and dry.  You’ll learn about my kind of wide array of interests soon enough, but here are some quick facts about me:

  • I’m a Mac evangelist, but I use Windows a lot too.  Also a Linux enthusiast from time to time.
  • Love mobile OSes, particularly iOS and Android.  The rest don’t really have much of a future.
  • I’m a gay rights advocate, and I love having discussions about the theory of being queer, and gender related topics.
  • I enjoy discussing fundamental political philosophies.
  • I’m more existentialist than religious.
  • I work in the healthcare IT industry, and healthcare access for all is very important to me.
  • I love art, but am not good at it.
  • I’m a little eccentric.
  • I’m interested in sustainability and the environment.
  • I kind of have a thing for the 90s.

I hope this doesn’t become a place where I broadcast my thoughts for you to absorb (which admittedly sounds a little sexy, albeit kinky), but rather, I hope my posts can be the seeds of discussion, and I hope I can form relationships with my readers (also kinky).

So click that RSS button in your browser, because this is going to be fun.  Go ahead, click it now.  I’ll wait.  You know you want to do it.