Music.app without Apple Music

IMG_8979

TL;DR — I thought Apple Music would lead to a lesser enjoyment of the Music app for non-subscribers. There are a number of annoyances, with the main ones being the complete uselessness of the ‘For You’ button and no way to get back if you accidentally tap on something that requires a subscription. There are reminders sprinkled throughout that you’re not a subscriber.

However, on the whole I find it to be a major improvement over the previous version of the app, with my favourite features being; search that works well, the restoration of the album list view, and getting rid of the silly landscape mosaic view.

 In depth

After seeing screenshots of the new iOS 8.4 Music app with Apple Music, a major concern was with how people without a subscription were going to be treated. I have a fairly large music library that lives on my home server and have been using iTunes Match to manage it for years now.

The cost of the latter service is A$35 a year,  so going to A$12 a month (A$18 for family, which is probably the better comparison given we all use Match) for Apple Music is a rather significant step up… which I’m not sure I can be bothered justifying.

So here’s a quick review of how the Music app ends up if you don’t have a subscription, but if you do have iTunes Match. (I reserve the right to update the post if I’m wrong on something, I’m lazy like that. Send through the corrections…)

First impressions is that there are these top-level ways of finding something, which then lead you to . For many, music listening revolves around artists (I’m a full-album kinda guy),

Here’s how each of the tabs treat you…

IMG_8971Search

Not really a tab, but with a large library this is my #1 way of finding what I want to listen to. Very happy with the improvements here.

You have the option to switch between ‘Apple Music’ and ‘My Music’. Leave it to the right, and all is well.

IMG_8977My Music

This is an updated view of what we’re used to from the old Music app. The default view is by artist. When you tap on one, it takes you to the artist page, and note the three tabs: All, My Music, Connect.

All will show all the artist’s music, as per the iTunes Store. If you don’t have a subscription and don’t already have the song/album in your library, you will see the Apple Music signup screen (see ‘For You’ next). Otherwise it will play.

IMG_8976With My Music selected it will show and play your local and iTunes Match tunes. (The Connect tab will show the artist’s view in Connect, although this is currently glitching and wouldn’t show for me again after taking this screenshot.)

A note here, the view with a list of albums (without the songs listed underneath) has been restored. We lost this with iOS 7 and it was a major pain for anyone with a large number of albums from the one artist. Small wins.

IMG_8978Up Next

A quick aside again here. Music finally adds the ‘up next’ playlist functionality that’s been in desktop iTunes for a while now. So when you’re DJing the road trip, you can queue up a stack of songs without having to go through the rigmarole of creating a playlist.

Tap on the ellipsis next to a track or album to bring up the menu. ‘Play Next’ does what it says on the packet and will play the song next, while ‘Add to Up Next’ adds it to the end of the songs you’ve queued.

IMG_8979For You

Not accessible without an Apple Music subscription. At all. Boo.

You’ll be seeing a bit of the screenshot at left anytime you need something that requires a subscription.

A nod to us cheapskates would to have a ‘Back’ button here. As it is, you’ve lost your place. Pay up like a good drone.

IMG_8981New

You can browse the view of what’s ‘New’, which seems not much more than the existing iTunes Store music view, only you get the dreaded sign-up screen rather than a buy option when you tap.

Radio

As far as I can tell, Radio is fully accessible to non-subscribers. You can listen to Beats1 as well as a dozen or so genre-dedicated stations. The Metal station’s already given me a few tracks I’ve not heard and rather enjoy, and you can hit the “play more (less) like this” buttons.

There’s a buy button underneath the track in the Now Playing view, same as it used to be. Presumably if you have a subscription this becomes ‘Get’ instead.

IMG_8975You can “Start Station” from almost any track, and this seems to work without a sub. You have a limited number of song skips though, so the difference seems to be less control over what you can hear.

 

Connect

This is meant to be the new social platform to communicate with artists or some-such. It seems accessible without a subscription, but my understanding that this is meant to be monetised somehow…

 

Why Apple Watch?

The tech press is once again fixated on its ridiculous neomania; you should get an Apple Watch because it’s new. And “cool”. No-one has done even a half-reasonable job of justifying how anyone is actually going to benefit.

No. That sucks. Let’s see if I can do better.

First, why? This is not a replacement for the phone, it’s for the moments in-between. Times when it’s going to be annoying, inconvenient or rude to use the phone. Quick glances, information checks.

Next, how do I interact with it? A button, a scroller and… Siri. She’s been much improved with iOS8 and iPhone6 (not sure how much credit goes where), but usability is improved to the point where… it’s actually usable.

So… what actual real-life situations am I talking.

Note taking while you’re involved in something else.

Grocery lists; it’s awkward juggling a list (paper or on phone), a trolley, and getting things off the shelf.

Music: Remote both for music off the phone, and for a home setup with iTunes and AirPlay. You can also load some music on to the watch, leave your phone, and use Bluetooth headphones to listen.

Maps; I’m often wandering around the city and need to just orient myself.

Weather: a quick check of the radar.

Fitness; they covered that stuff pretty well already.

An app I want: a “schedule app” for photo shoots. Integrates locations, alerts for time to move on, GPS directions to next location, etc.

There’s more… but I’ll stop there for now.

Learning music

I learned the piano as a kid, then forgot. Taught myself some hacked-at bass, guitar and singing as a teenager. Now, many years on, I’m rather rusty at all of the above.
Add to this that my kids are at the age where I’m keen for them to get into music… and that means I’m investigating how to imbue them with a love for not just listening, but also creating.

So… some ideas and resources. Hope they’re a good starting point.

Guitar Hero/Rock Band. I’ve had this for years now. I didn’t play an enormous amount, but the drumming I did do helped me with my rhythm no end. The kids have played it a little on beginner mode, where they just have to hit the guitar’s “strum” button in time. Rock Band 3 came out after I’d lost a bit of interest, it allows you to use some real instruments.

Rocksmith. Virtual guitar game à la Guitar Hero, but using a real guitar.

Synthesia. Again, like Guitar Hero, but for piano using a MIDI keyboard. (Also HDPiano which has a video of the hands playing.)

Musiah. Found this while looking around for self-taught piano options. It’s a computer program that uses a keyboard/piano hooked up via MIDI and claims to be a “virtual piano teacher.”

Wolfie and TonaraiPad apps for piano. Interactive sheet music, listens and grades.

musictheory.net and Tenuto. Music theory.

Getting White Balance right in camera

One method to speed up your colour-correction after a shoot is to get white balance right in camera.

Here’s how I’ve been doing it over the past few months:

Pop the camera into Liveview, ensure your exposure is correct, then hit the WB button and the menu comes up on the LCD. Set it to Kelvin, and then use the other dial to quickly scroll through the temperature settings until you’re happy. Done!

I often end up in the 3400-4000K range for weird mixes of light, but I knew that already from my post-processing in Lightroom.

Caveat: This doesn’t work so well for very green sources like fluoros. You could go in and set the WB offset in the menu, but then you may as well just go and do a custom white balance.

This is obviously an ‘eyeball’ method, and so is not really useful if you need a ‘technically correct’ white balance. But in many genres (weddings, portraits, etc), apleasing white balance is preferable to a technically correct one, and this method lets you set just that – a pleasing white balance.

(Credit to Jonathan Dear who uses Liveview to set his exposure, which inspired this method.)

The Best (Is Yet To Come)

There’s been an article making the rounds about how ensuring you get “The Best” option when acquiring “things” results in an implicit trust in them… which is liberating. The “Best” in this context is not necessarily the most expensive; but the best designed, the most fit for purpose.

 “The Best Should Result in Less” builds on this by adding two points; this is not a decision made so you look good to others, and this actually results in fewer purchases over time.

This has stuck with me as I’ve recently been thinking about consumerism; and indeed being accused of engaging in it myself, since I’m usually among to first to jump on a new iDevice or DSLR camera.

I want to postulate that when it comes to technology, The Best Is Yet To Come. The “best” phone or computer now, will not be the best in two years time. Not only because technology itself evolves, but the uses we have for such devices evolve alongside them and our expectations are raised accordingly.

Geeks are the frontrunners for these new uses (think iTunes Match, AppleTV, photo retouching), which will trickle down into general society only after a few years, so we’re acutely sensitive of the capabilities of new technology over and beyond the previous generation.

So my attitude to acquiring technology is this; purchase when newly released, extract maximum usage and then when it is clearly superseded (which is now two product cycles for computers and phones, and one for pro-level DSLRs) upgrade immediately and sell the older tech while it still has maximum resale value.

(For instance, the iPhone 5. I upgraded fairly close to launch day from a 4 (not 4S), so I was out of contract. I have to stick on the same plan for my usage, so it was a no brainer when I could still sell the 4 for $300. So I was actually ahead on that one.

Ditto for the Canon 5D3. I bought some of the first stock into the country, and was able to sell the 5D2, which had been heavily used, for only $200 less than they cost *new* just 3 months later.

And I don’t buy new tech just for the sake of it. I still have the same LCD TV I bought refurbished 6 years ago. As to ovens, microwaves, washing machines who could only be loosely be considered “technology” anymore… if a company would actually design one with an accessible user interface; I’ll be first in line. Until then, only when they die. :)