ipod

Been a bit of a brouhaha recently about the behavior of the iPhone’s ring/silent switch, kicked off by an article in the New York Times. John Gruber, Andy Ihnatko, and Marco Arment have weighed in, and covered most of the ground for and against, but here’s three specific thoughts I haven’t read elsewhere:

  1. The iPhone’s silent switch has behaved the way it does for 4½ years, and we’re only now having this conversation? Because some guy got a brand new iPhone and embarrassed himself at the symphony the same day? And people want to change the behavior because of one (well-publicized) incident of user error? Seriously?

    There’s no better indication that the behavior should remain the same than the fact that we’re only now discussing it.

  2. Flipping the ring/silent switch is a casual act. You can do it without looking at your phone. You can do it without even taking it out of your pocket. You can do it unintentionally, digging something out of that same pocket.

    Setting an alarm is a deliberate act. I defy anyone to do it while their iPhone is still in their pocket. I defy anyone to do it accidentally. If you forget you have an alarm set after going through the process of setting it, and get embarrassed at the symphony, shame on you.

  3. If you think the ring/silent switch should override an alarm you have set, causing it to not make sound, there’s an easy way to do that: don’t use the built-in Clock app. Many third-party alarm apps respect the ring/silent switch. I like Night Stand. It’s pretty, and when silent mode is enabled, it vibrates but doesn’t ring. Solve your problem for 99¢ and move on.

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Audiobook Builder 1.5

by Michael Alderete on 5/30/2011 · 1 comment

My recommended solution for creating digital audiobooks from CDs, Audiobook Builder, has recently been updated, and comes with a new feature for renaming the chapters in an audiobook:

Rename Chapters feature

I don’t know that I’d want to use this on every book, but for those without interesting or meaningful chapter names (or if you’re just not as anal retentive as I am), this can be a nice time savings to make your chapter titles look neat and regular. This is especially useful if you’re creating a separate track for every chapter, and want to keep chapters in the right order. (I recommend a different approach, but it’s up to you.)

Other new features include additional metadata support, something that’s very welcome. All in all, a great update — and free to registered users!

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Free download of Walden by Henry David Thoreau

by Michael Alderete on 4/7/2011 · 0 comments

Henry David Thoreau's WaldenFor a limited time, you can download a free audiobook of Henry David Thoreau’s Walden read by Mel Foster. This is the commercial version of the book, which retails for $23-33.

The unabridged audiobook is provided as MP3 files, which you can simply drag into iTunes, and then sync to your iPod or iPhone for listening. You can change their Media Kind to have iTunes treat them as audiobook tracks, or with a little more work, you can convert them to a single audiobook file.

Note: If you don’t already have one, you will need to create an account on Tantor Media’s site, which will sign you up for their newsletter where, among other things, you can learn about future free downloads.

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App Review: Audible Audiobook Player

by Michael Alderete on 11/5/2010 · 11 comments

If you search the App Store for “audiobook” you turn up hundreds of results, most of which are crap. (More on that in a future post.) Separating the wheat from the chaff can be a challenge. Aldo on Audiobooks will only bother to review worthwhile apps.

My favorite source for audiobooks is Audible.com, an online service offering over 85,000 digital downloads of audiobooks and other spoken word content (more here). This summer Audible released the Audible audio player app, dedicated to playing Audible content and interacting with the Audible.com service directly, without requiring the use of a computer or iTunes. The app is free, but requires the use of an Audible.com account.

Audible app

The short version of this review is, if you’re an Audible customer with an iOS device, getting this free app is a no-brainer. It’s intuitive and optimized for audiobooks, it plays in the background just like the built-in iPod app, it adds useful features not in the built-in iPod app, and its design is clean, simple, tasteful. I’ve used it exclusively for audiobooks for the last four months, and it’s a great replacement for the iPod app. I plan to continue using it indefinitely. I still use the iPod app for podcasts and non-Audible audiobooks, and regularly miss Audible app features.

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Free download of Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

by Michael Alderete on 10/20/2010 · 0 comments

Mary Shelley's FrankensteinFrom now through Halloween, you can download a free audiobook of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein read by Simon Vance. Vance is an extraordinary narrator, winner of many awards, and certainly a Golden Voice. This is a high-quality production.

The unabridged audiobook is provided as MP3 files, which you can simply drag into iTunes, and then sync to your iPod or iPhone for listening. You can change their Media Kind to have iTunes treat them as audiobook tracks, or with a little more work, you can convert them to a single audiobook file.

Note: If you don’t already have one, you will need to create an account on Tantor Media’s site, which will sign you up for their newsletter where, among other things, you can learn about future free downloads.

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Four quick iPad thoughts

by Michael Alderete on 1/28/2010 · 0 comments

I just watched the full video from yesterday’s introduction of the Apple iPad, and had a few thoughts.

  1. If you have seen other Apple product introductions, the format is familiar, and they are never less than well executed. Of the intros I’ve seen, nothing has come close to the introduction of the iPhone. (I saw the original Mac intro years too late to fully appreciate its true impact.) But what the introduction of the iPad may have lacked in shock and awe, it made up for in the completeness of the story. The iPhone was on stage by itself, just the software that came on the phone. The iPad arrives with an entire ecosystem, of new and existing applications, third party developers, accessories, etc.

    People who were expecting to get the stomach drop of excitement that the iPhone intro produced (at least in me) were certainly disappointed. But that’s misplaced, the iPad is a far more advanced product and story than the iPhone was when introduced. It’s like the difference between the excitement of crushing hard on someone new, versus the comfort and trust and love that comes after many years of marriage. One’s more exciting, but the other is richer and more fulfilling.

  2. Another disappointment, or fear, that people have expressed is the lack of “openness” or “freedom.” I’ve got a different word for that concept: “complexity.” You can call that spin if you like, but I’ve spent 20+ years showing people how to use computers, and they’ve never been easy to use. Even today, 25 years after the concept of clicking and double-clicking hit the mass market, I see people confuse the two, and that is the most trivial of examples. It’s easy to come up with dozens more serious.

    What Apple is doing, first with the iPhone and now with the iPad, is offering a new model for computing, one that allows more direct interaction with objects on the screen, while at the same time simplifying away huge amounts of complexity, things that most people will never care about.

    Those of us who are “computer sophisticates” think those things are important, but when the iPad arrives, and normal people love them, and rave about the user interface, and buy them by the millions, we’ll see what’s really important, and it’s not the “freedom” to fuck around in the file system, or the “openness” to go out onto the Wild Internet and download and install random software.

    Try this exercise: every time you hear an expert say the iPad isn’t open, change “open” to “complicated.” Every time they write the iPad is “locked down” subsitute “simplified.” When the gurus get detailed about “important” three letter acronyms or random tech talk, hear “blah blah blah,” because that’s all it matters.

    Gruber put it best, it’s the arrival of the automatic transmission for computers. Those of us who are enthusiasts and experts will have access to manual transmissions for decades — regular computers are not going away. But for those folks who only care about getting to their destination, it just got a lot easier.

    Update: Here are some terrific articles that tackle this topic in depth, and in different, complementary ways:

  3. If you want to really understand this, and get an idea of just how much Apple is leading by example, watch the segment where Phil Schiller demonstrates the iPad versions of the iWork suite (a word processor, a spreadsheet, and a presentation tool). Apple has completely re-thought the way that you interact with these tools, and except for the on screen virtual keyboard, it surpasses the desktop experience in every way. Really quite extraordinary, it was here that I got genuinely excited about what is new in the iPad, and what it means. A small taste of The Future.

  4. Scott Forstall offered developers a big incentive to build apps specifically for the iPad: separate, prominent placement in the iPad App Store. The phrase “a new gold rush” was used. Is that sound in the distance the clatter of Android and web OS and Blackberry phones being dropped by developers? Maybe not, but Apple is certainly building tremendous momentum for their platform. Competitors will not be catching up for years.

At $500, the iPad will be $100 cheaper than the original iPhone I lined up to buy. I may not line up for an iPad, but I’ll certainly be buying one. Yes, the 2nd generation will be even better. That’s always true. So what. I don’t think the iPad is the grand slam home run I wrote that the iPhone was, but it’s most definitely a hit that will score runs. I want one.

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Making Nearly Perfect Audiobooks

by Michael Alderete on 1/30/2009 · 15 comments

This is an overview of my current process for importing audiobooks. It’s a preview of my forthcoming (no, really, I promise) update to my instructions for importing audiobooks from CDs into iTunes. For OCD types, anal-retentives, and Harry Potter fans (hello brothers and sisters!), this preview may be sufficient for you to follow along on your own computers. For normal people, it’s a look at how much effort it still is to create audiobooks that behave as you’d expect and desire in iTunes and on an iPod.

The Motivation

But before seeing the tedious steps, here’s the why of it. Audiobooks processed as I do below are easier to organize and navigate, and they behave the way I want them to, instead of behaving as individual tracks.

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iTunes 8 is great for audiobook lovers

by Michael Alderete on 9/11/2008 · 23 comments

The number one question I receive from visitors to Aldo on Audiobooks is How do I get my audiobooks to show up in the Audiobooks section of iTunes and my iPod/iPhone? With the release of iTunes 8, I can replace hundreds of (a thousand?) words with a single screen shot:

iTunes track info options panel

Well, maybe a few words are still in order. Here’s the new process, which will work every time:

  1. Import your audiobook using your favorite process, in your favorite audio format. (I’ve written detailed instructions for both standard Audio CD audiobooks and for MP3 CD audiobooks.)
  2. Select the imported track(s) in iTunes, and choose File > Get Info, and then click on the Options tab, to get to the Track Info Options panel.
  3. From the Media Kind pop-up menu, choose “Audiobook”.
  4. Check the Remember playback position and Skip when shuffling options.
  5. Click the OK button.

From now on, iTunes, iPods, and iPhones will all treat the track(s) as full audiobooks, including remembering playback position automatically (saving your “bookmark”), skipping the track when you’re playing a random shuffle of music, and allowing you to speed up or slow down playback with the Settings > Audiobooks speed options on your iPod or iPhone.

Note: When you make the above changes, the audiobook track(s) will be moved from the Music source list to the Audiobooks source list. If you haven’t enabled the Audiobooks list, it will seem as though your tracks have disappeared. See Optimal iTunes Import Settings for Audiobooks for more details of enabling the Audiobooks source list.

If you’re interested in more of the details of what’s new in iTunes 8, I suggest iLounge’s Instant Expert: Secrets & Features of iTunes 8 as the best and most detailed guide I’ve seen.

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iPhone user interface quirk #1 for audiobooks

April 23, 2008

Dan Sanderson provides a clear explanation, including pretty good photos, of one of the user interface “quirks” that can get you when using the iPhone for audiobooks, namely, the iPhone’s indicator and toggle buttons for Repeat and Shuffle modes are somewhat hidden, not 100% clear, and can be toggled accidentally if you’re not careful. When […]

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Managing audiobooks on a small-capacity iPod

February 15, 2008

Managing audiobooks on a small-capacity iPod is a new article I’ve posted in Aldo on Audiobooks, which describes some of the ways I manage what goes onto my iPod. The article is for anyone whose iTunes Library size exceeds the capacity of their iPod or iPhone, but it’s especially helpful to anyone who has a […]

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How to join multiple tracks into a single audiobook file

January 16, 2008

If you follow the instructions I offer for importing audiobooks on audio or MP3 CDs into iTunes, you end up with a single album with the title of the book, that is composed of sequentially numbered tracks, which make up the chapters or discs of the book. These separate tracks are kind of painful to […]

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Holy afterburners, Batman!

September 5, 2007

Today Apple announced a whole series of changes to its lineup of iPods, including improvements and a price reduction for the iPod I recommend for audiobooks, the 4 GB iPod nano. But the most interesting news, to me, was about the iPhone, at the end of the event. From Steve’s lips to our ears (via […]

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