Friday, May 17, 2013

How to Revert to iTunes 10.7

Apple just released a new update to its iTunes application. It is now iTunes version 11.0.3. The 11.0.3 update brings back to iTunes 11 what I think is one of the most important features of iTunes, namely the view of album art in List View. List View is the view in which you can still use the venerable column browser. However…

I think that iTunes 11 still is a total failure.

Luckily it is still possible to revert to iTunes 10.7.

Why iTunes 11 is horrible

Apple marketed the iTunes 11 update as a due and significant overhaul. Granted, iTunes 10.7 — the last version before iTunes 11 — was arguably somewhat bloated and many people wished for a technical update. But Apple took the app and tweaked all kinds of thinks that did not need any fixing and on the other hand did not fix any of the issues that made people wish for an iTunes 10.7 update.

iTunes 11 is still bloated in the sense that it still has to handle all sorts of things: music manager, music store, iOS device manager, sync manager, app store for iOS devices, e-book store, e-book storage manager (iTunes still can’t read those books stored in iTunes), video store, video manager and player… And iTunes 11 still feels technically a little behind with modal Mac-OS-9-like dialogues. So the technical underpinnings have not been touched as far as I can see. iTunes 11 has not gotten any faster than 10.7, it may be even a little slower.

And now iTunes 11 has also a complicated, inconsistent, unintuitive interface and a very much changed application behaviour. You don’t have a sidebar anymore by default. (At least you can bring it back via a menu command.) Playing songs works differently with an awkward and intransparent “Up Next” playlist. Double-clicking a song now often won’t play the song but bring up a dialogue with barely comprehensible questions. Search works differently and crams search results into a tiny menu. (You can change that if you find the right setting.) Coverflow and iTunes DJ have been removed. Thankfully Apple kept at least the traditional List View with the column browser. But all other views have very much changed, and not for the better. You can’t customize views. You can’t change the size of albums in album view. To change the volume in the Mini Player you have to open a pop-up. The way you are supposed to edit playlists is just awkward… I can’t list all of iTunes 11’s flaws because 1. there are so many, and 2. compared to version 10.7 iTunes 11 is so horrible that I haven’t used it much.

And by the way iTunes 11 is also ugly and does not fit at all into Mac OS X interface conventions including the design conventions of any of Apple’s other apps.

Simply put: iTunes 11 doesn’t do anything better than iTunes 10.7 and it does a lot of things worse than iTunes 10.7.

How to Revert to iTunes 10.7

First things first: To revert from iTunes 11 to iTunes 10.7 you have to use an old version of your iTunes library file. iTunes 11 “updates” the library file so it can no longer be used by older versions.

You may find a 10.7 version of your library in the “Previous iTunes Libraries” folder inside your iTunes Library folder (usually ~/Music/iTunes/). Of course all changes to the iTunes library made with iTunes 11 are not registered in that old library file.

If you don’t have a backup of your iTunes 10.7 library file and that file has already been modified by iTunes 11 you will have to create a new library file and reimport the music. That is not difficult. Simply put all your existing music in the iTunes Media folder of your newly created library and than drag the iTunes Media folder onto the iTunes 10.7 sidebar. (Before that you have to reinstall iTunes 10.7, obviously.)

To reinstall iTunes 10.7 you will need:

  • An iTunes 10.7 installation, downloadable from Apple:
  • Pacifist, a shareware installation package manager that will enable you to reinstall old components, updated during the iTunes 11 installations process, that are not changed if you use the standard Mac OS X installer for the iTunes 10.7 re-installation. You can download Pacifist here:

Simply install iTunes 10.7 with Pacifist and choose “replace” if you are asked whether or not Pacifist should override newer components.


This has worked for me. Your mileage may vary. No liability assumed whatsoever. Be sure to always have at least one backup up to date before doing something that you might regret.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Evils of DRM

Apparently Amazon reserves the right to delete user accounts and wipe Kindles remotely, as reported by the following blog post:

Martin Bekkelund: Outlawed by Amazon DRM

“A couple of days a go, my friend Linn sent me an e-mail, being very frustrated: Amazon just closed her account and wiped her Kindle. Without notice. Without explanation. This is DRM at it’s worst.”

(Via Daring Fireball)

I suspect Amazon’s behaviour is illegal. But apart from legal considerations…

Does it need more to conclude that you should never even consider buying content “protected” with DRM?

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Microsoft’s “Surface” Preview Models Look Very Promising

I must say that Microsoft’s new “Surface” looks very promising. I have always wanted a combination between an iPad and a MacBook Air.

Hardware-wise Surface looks simple and well thought out. The idea of a keyboard integrated into the protective cover is just great. By having the keyboard separate it is also very easy to change the language of the keyboard. The computer itself (the Surface) is language-independant.

To provide stylus support (muting touch input when a stylus is near, providing a place to clip-in the stylus when not in use) is a good idea, too.

The ports are minimalistic but sufficient for most tasks: external display, USB for peripherals, SD card slot for photos. That’s much better than on an iPad.

One thing that could be a problem, though, is weight:

The small Surface (ARM processor, Windows RT) weighs 678 g. That's about as much as the iPad 1 without 3G connectivity (680g) and definitely more than the iPad 3 (652g). The “big” Surface (Intel processor, Windows 8 Pro) weighs 903g. That is lighter than a MacBook Air 11” (1080g), ok. But for a tablet to hold in your hands that might be a little heavy.

And – most importantly — we don’t know yet about…

  • how fast the Surface will be, nor
  • how long its battery will last, nor
  • how warm the devices will be.

However, it is a great approach. I can’t wait to see one in the flesh.

I am also very curious about Apple’s thoughts about that. I am sure they have been testing combined devices but have decided against them for now. Maybe this will change if the Surface is successful. And IMHO that is not totally unlikely. Unlike the “Zune” or Windows phones, Microsoft’s responses to the iPod and iPhone, the Surface has a unique capability: it is both, Tablet and PC. Just like Windows 8 aims to be an operating system for Tablets and PC’s.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

How to disable Auto Quit under Lion

As mentioned before Mac OS X 10.7 Lion introduced a new feature called “Automatic Termination” or “Auto Quit” for short. It basically quits applications after their last window has been closed. (See this article on TidBits.)

IMHO Auto Quit is a major nuisance and probably the single worst feature ever introduced to the Mac OS. If I want to quit an app I can use the app menu, Cmd-Q or the Dock menu. Whereas normally closing a window does NOT mean that I don’t want to use the app anymore. It has always been a good Mac tradition that apps can run without any windows open so you can activate them quickly or even pass them commands via shortcuts.

That is particularly true for document based applications. Take TextEdit as an example. If I close all TextEdit windows and switch over to another app I may very well be wanting to switch back to TextEdit later to open or create another document. I also might want do to that using TextEdits Dock icon or the application switcher shortcut (Cmd-Tab). Auto Quit prevents all that by removing TextEdit’s icon from the dock and from the application switcher.

But auto quit is even bad for one window apps like iPhoto or Address Book. Quite often I work in some other app, say Word or Pages, but frequently want to switch back and forth to look up a photo or address. Auto Quit makes that very difficult. It forces me to lock the iPhoto or Address Book icons in the Dock and makes it that I have to always launch those apps again every time I want to look something up. It is almost as under Windows. So effectively Auto Quit is a multitasking preventer. It should not exist.

Now the good news: You can disable it. Yes!

Just open Terminal and type in the following command (and hit Enter):

defaults write -g NSDisableAutomaticTermination -bool yes

To make sure the command takes effect, you should probably log out and in again afterwards.

Enjoy! Your Mac will feel like it has been reborn.

My thanks go to user Lemmy Caution in the Apple discussion forums.

The setting does not work for Address Book and iPhoto, only for document based apps like TextEdit and Preview. So it is a great help but there is still room for improvement.

Friday, April 6, 2012

How the “Loudness War” threatens Hi-fi music

What is the “Loudness War”?

One thing that makes me sad is the bad sound quality of some new music albums released on CD or on iTunes.

The problem with many late CD releases is that they are overly compressed. By “compressed” I mean dynamic range compression (which reduces the difference between loud and low parts of the music), not digital data compression (which reduces the size of digital audio data).

The main reason for overly compressed music is that the record companies want the music to be as “loud” as possible because they think consumers will prefer louder CDs over ones with lower levels. Hence the name: “Loudness War”.

Since the peak level of the music is controlled by the user the record companies try to raise the average level by making quieter parts louder. But if you make the quiet parts louder while the peak stays the same you reduce the difference between quiet and loud parts—you reduce the dynamic range.

The Problem:

The problem is: Overly compressed music sounds flat and lifeless. Transitions, e.g. between verse and chorus vanish, as does the sense of depth. The music has no real punch. My impression is that loud bass sounds (e.g. bass drums) appear muffled or mushy. Sometimes the music sounds harsh and distorted.

Over the years the average levels of CDs have constantly increased which has decreased the dynamic range. The loudness war has thus lead to the perverse outcome that older releases often have a higher sound quality than newer ones, and also that LP releases often sound better than CD releases (because on LPs there are technical limits to audio compression). In the case of Metallica’s Death Magnetic even the version in a computer game sounds better than the CD version.

The effects of the loudness war are well demonstrated in the following two videos (one short, one longer video).

1. “The Loudness War” by Matt Mayfield on Youtube.
A high quality version of this video (20MB Quicktime) can be downloaded from this page. (Here is the direct link.)

2. “The Loudness War: Background, Speculation & Recommendations” from Earl Vickers on Vimeo.

Comparison Between Strong and Weak Compression: Examples

If you have a good stereo (such as this one) you will really appreciate music with a high dynamic range. But even on my laptop speakers I can hear the difference.
Here are links to comparisons between more compressed and less compressed versions of three songs:

  1. Radiohead: Nude
  2. The Smiths: How Soon is Now?
  3. Massive Attack: Unfinished Sympathy

Measuring Dynamic Range

The dynamic range of an audio file can be measured. The “Pleasurize Music Foundation” provides a Dynamic Range Meter software that will calculate for any given song a DR value. The software can be downloaded from the Dynamic Range Database (following the link look in the top right corner).

The DR value is not only dependent on audio compression but also on the type of music or audio. And of course the dynamic range is just one element of audio quality. Nevertheless generally you can say that the higher the DR value the better or at least the more hi-fi the audio material.


Apple’s iTunes Music Store has some guidelines for mastering engineers regarding dynamic range in their “Mastered for iTunes” program. Hopefully the music in this program will have a higher dynamic range than the music released on CDs.

Addendum 2:

I think “Mastered for iTunes” is generally a good idea and some of the releases have exceptional sound quality. But unfortunately that label is not a guaranty for good sound quality. All depends on the record producer. If the producer delivers a bad master then also the “Mastered for iTunes” release will be bad.

For example Red Hot Chili Peppers’ album “I’m With You” is labelled “Mastered for iTunes” but some of its songs (e.g. “Monarchy of Roses”) have a dynamic range of DR3. That is an abysmal value. Of course it also has no headroom and horrible clipping. It seems that Apple does not reject songs if they are not mastered according to their guidelines but accepts them blindly and labels them “Mastered for iTunes” as long as they get the data in 24Bit/96kHz. The CD version can’t be much worse if there is not only noise to hear. If you want to buy that song, I would recommend buying the LP. The version on vinyl is better. It seems absurd that in the digital age you have to buy analogue LP’s to get a reasonably decent sound quality. But in some cases that is the sad truth.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Steve-Jobs-Biografie: Typografievergleich Original vs. deutsche Fassung

Mir ist schon oft aufgefallen, daß englische und amerikanische Bücher oft geschmackvoller und technisch besser gestaltet bzw. gesetzt werden als deutsche Bücher. (Oder auch umgekehrt: Die Typografie deutscher Bücher ist oft schlecht.)

Die Biografie von Steve Jobs ist ein solcher Fall.

Die Umschlaggestaltung der deutschen Ausgabe ist gegenüber dem Original in sehr unvorteilhafter Weise verändert und wäre von Steve Jobs selbst bestimmt nicht gebilligt worden. Das Bild ist verzerrt, die Typografie häßlich. Siehe dazu den folgenden Blog-Eintrag (der leider einen nicht besonders selbsterklärenden Titel trägt):

„Warum Steve Jobs ein Kontrollfreak war“

Auch die Rückseite des dt. Covers ist viel schlechter als die der US- bzw. UK-Ausgabe. Im Original besteht die Rückseite vollständig aus einem Bild von Steve Jobs in jungen Jahren, das als Gegenstück zum Titelfoto dient. Auf der Rückseite der deutschen Ausgabe wurde das Bild in einen kleinen Kasten gezwängt und ein nicht besonders schön gesetztes Barack-Obama-Zitat auf die Seite geklatscht.

Die schlichte Schönheit, die die Originalausgabe hervorhebt, wurde bei der deutschen Ausgabe durch ein vulgäres, gewöhnliches Buchdesign ersetzt. Das ist einfach traurig. Es ist auch völlig schleierhaft, weshalb man nicht einfach das Design des Originals übernommen hat. Das wäre nicht nur deutlich besser, sondern auch einfacher gewesen.

Und auch im Inneren ist die Typo der dt. Ausgabe einfach nur häßlich (den Inhalt kann man bei Amazon über Look inside begutachten), wohingegen die Typo bei der US- bzw. UK-Ausgabe weitgehend einwandfrei und insgesamt ziemlich schön ist.


Das Buch scheint auch noch unglaublich schlecht übersetzt zu sein. Der eigentlich unfaßbare Fehler, “Silicon” mit „Silikon“ übersetzt zu haben, scheint mittlerweile behoben zu sein. Das war aber wohl auch nur die Spitze des Eisbergs. Gleich zu Beginn des Buches, wird so schlecht übersetzt, daß es weh tut.

Original: “Introduction: How this book came to be”,

Übersetzung: „Einleitung: Wie dieses Buch zu mir kam“.

„Zu mir“?

Original: “In the early summer of 2004, I got a phone call from Steve Jobs. He had been scattershot friendly to me over the years, with occasional bursts of intensity, especially when he was launching a new product that he wanted on the cover of Time or featured on CNN, places where I’d worked.“

Übersetzung: „Im Frühsommer 2004 erhielt ich einen Anruf von Steve Jobs. Er war über die Jahre hinweg auf eine oberflächliche Art freundlich zu mir gewesen, zuweilen aber auch recht ungehalten, insbesondere wenn er ein neues Produkt auf den Markt brachte, das auf dem Cover der Time oder von CNN – ehemalige Arbeitgeber von mir – präsentiert werden sollte.“

Ja, nee, is klar. Steve Jobs war ungehalten, wenn er Walter Isaacson dazu bewegen wollte, ein Produkt auf dem Cover der (sie?) Time … zu „präsentieren“? Hallo?

1. Kennt der Übersetzer das Time Magazine? Weiß er, daß dort keine Produkte „präsentiert“ werden?

2. Wäre es logisch, „ungehalten“ zu sein, wenn man jemanden zu etwas bewegen will? Oder könnte es möglicherweise so gemeint sein, daß Steve besonders freundlich (!) war, wenn er daran interessiert war, daß es ein neues Produkt auf den Titel des Time Magazine schafft?

Was mutet man da den deutschen Konsumenten zu?

Nachtrag 2:

Hier eine weitere Kritik an der dt. Umschlaggestaltung: »Die Leichenschänder von Bertelsmann«.

Und noch eine: »Geschmacksverirrung«

Nachtrag 3:

Mittlerweile spricht es sich herum, daß die Übersetzung schlecht ist.