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I’m getting serious pain from Apple’s ‘services’.. enough to move away? Quite possibly.

All your purchases automatically downloaded. Except movies. Or TV shows.

I think my problem with Apple began when, without any flipping explanation at all, the latest version of their operating system required me, by default, to start scrolling upwards instead of downwards. Or was it the other way around? I can’t remember. I don’t care. I don’t want to care. This is why I pay extra for Apple — so that it’s all managed.

The launchpad arrived. Supposedly to make things look like iOS. That’s confused the hell out of my family who are still trying to get around the scrolling update. Yes, you can switch it off, but the confusion, dear me… that’s taken some explanation.

Then the utter debacle with this bleedin’ Photo Share system. An ultra-alpha photo-sharing-sort-of-but-not-really service that has even the best of us confused. That is, apart from the Apple Apologists who’ve been seriously upset with my recent rather critical post. Some apologists even took to forensically taking apart my post to try and point out that Apple wasn’t to blame. The ‘you’re just using it wrong’ argument doesn’t stack up. Not when I’m spending thousands with the company every year. Not when I can buy a faster, higher-spec Dell for a billionth of the price.

The latest arse with Apple is iTunes. It really is a dickhead set of services. Let’s be clear, I really enjoy the concept, I do spend LOTS with Apple through iTunes. I love the one-click download options, the speed and, for the most part, the available selection of songs, TV shows and movies.

But it’s almost 2012. I thought I’d be freed from the shit.

Let me explain the shit: It’s managing files.

I now have 993 gigabytes of iTunes media. Movies, TV, audiobooks and music. I don’t buy HD movies or TV shows. I can’t ‘afford’ to, because I have to manage my sodding file structure myself. This, despite the fact that Apple has a gigantic data centre waiting for me.

A little while ago when I passed 600GB of iTunes data, I deployed a dedicated drive for iTunes. I opened up my Mac Pro and stuck in an extra 1-terabyte drive. I then painfully DICKED about with the iTunes Library file to make sure that when I transferred the data and the database file to the new drive, I’d still be able to access all my music. Get this wrong and your database file corrupts. (You can still *see* the list of files, just, you can’t flipping access them any more, so you need to start again with the ratings, etc.)

It’s a triple-A arse. It sucks so much of time. I thought I was done. I really did. But I obviously keep on spending money with Apple. One TV episode is about 600mb. Buy a single 24-episode series and you’ve spunked 14.4 gigabytes. Before long that starts to add up. Especially if you’re a big fan of a particular on-going series. My wife likes to buy a lot of TV series as well.

And I need to horde the flipping files as well. Get this: It’s almost 2012 and I am still having to horde my own flipping data. Why? Because I ‘own’ it. I don’t WANT to own it, but I have to. Because if I lose the files, I’m screwed. The £30 I spent on some series is wasted because I can’t get the files again. Unless I plead with Apple’s customer support. Who are wholly entitled to ignore me. Because, as they keep on reminding me, I must back up my purchases.

I don’t bother backing them up.

A flipping TERABYTE? Yes. I’ve almost got a terabyte of data. I’m 7GB away from overloading that drive. I now need to go and buy a TWO TERABYTE drive. Just for Apple. Just because I quite enjoy being able to watch the odd TV show on the plane or the train.

It’s beginning to seriously wind me up. I don’t want to invest another 6 hours screwing around with hard disks.

Why can’t I just access it all in the cloud? Why can’t I delete 500GB of the shows that I don’t need to watch *now* and, should I feel the need to call up the first series of The Sarah Connor Chronicles (worth a look if you’re into Sci-Fi), I should be able to re-download it again.

But no.

Not yet.

Not now.

Apple’s clearly not ready yet for whatever reason. Perhaps it’s the inane idiots in the movie and TV industry preventing it. In which case, I should redirect my ire. Although I’d have hoped Apple could have just stamped on them. Or threatened to buy the whole industry to shut them up.

Either way, I’m moving into the departure lounge with Apple. It’s my mistake for using up too much of their services and becoming too dependent. I stopped buying movies from Apple a little while ago because the hassle of dealing with the 4GB was getting annoying. I just rent them now.

Before any smart-arse decides to suggest that I should ‘buy the DVDs’ or ‘own it on Blueray’, no thank you. I haven’t bought a DVD for at least 5 years and I don’t ever intend doing so.

And another thing. Now that I’ve got iCloud synching going on, I don’t know WHERE I am with my iPhones and iPads. When I buy an episode on the iPhone, I used to diligently plug the iPhone into the computer as soon as I could to ‘backup’ the purchase (“Transfer your purchases”) to make sure that the mother-computer had a copy of the file.

I chose the sync-by-wifi option and now I don’t know what’s happening. I don’t know if the files are ON the computer automatically. Or not. And all of a sudden I’m wondering why my iPhone battery is fried — because it’s been busy synching 2GB of TV shows that I downloaded the night before back to the desktop by super-slow WiFi.

I’m about to disable all this WiFi sync jazz just so I’ve got some control again. Geez.

Does anyone have any helpful recommendations for some alternative services to iTunes? I mean helpful. It’s got to be at least as good. For instance, I haven’t seen the last episode of Downton Abbey yet. I intend buying it tonight on the iPhone to watch on the train tomorrow. I need that level of flexibility.

Amazon may well be the answer at some point.

Meanwhile, is my only option to put up and shut up?

Note: I am delighted that I can even get annoyed with this kind of thing. A few years ago — back when Symbian was king — having this kind of problem was a pipe dream. I really do appreciate the evolution wrought by Apple. I’d just like to see it evolve a little bit more, quicker.


  1. But you know what, this is the standard answer from all the Applezoids — ‘you’re not doing it right’ or ‘it wasn’t designed that way’!

  2. The iPhone only sync’s over WiFi when it plugged into its charger. Unless you manually initiate it, so if it’s frying your battery…it’s your own fault

  3. I keep seeing the little sync icon running — perhaps that’s been when I’ve had it plugged in at the mains though. So fair point.

  4. Pretty sure that is a hangup with the TV/Movie folk in the UK. 

    I can access any TV show I’ve ever bought on iCloud. Not sure about movies as I’ve never actually bought one.

  5. Your main problem is geography, Ewan. iTunes Match does all of what you want: stores everything in the cloud, allows downloading and streaming of music and video to iOS devices and anything running iTunes. But it’s not out in the UK yet. Video demonstrating it here:

    Amazon is the other one to watch here; especially with the Kindle Fire – which will allow a limited amount of downloading for offline viewing, I understand. But again, not in the UK yet. And they currently have little music or video love for iOS devices.

    Spotify will allow you to stream and download music without worrying about ever storing anything locally, but it doesn’t necessarily have all the music choices you may want.

    There is only one alternative to iTunes or Amazon that will provide you with the ability to download any music, TV show or film and play it on your computer or iOS device, and that’s bitorrent (or usenet, to be fair).

    Your other problem is storage, but if you want local copies you’re going to have to manage them. Either deeply meditate on the acquisitive nature of modern consumer society, or just get a Drobo 😉

  6. I think Matt has hit the nail on the head – for fully integrated content-based cloud services there’s only Apple and Amazon. 
    However, I expect MSFT and GOOG to have credible offerings available to us in Europe during 2012.

  7. Might I just say, that toward the end of Season 2, TSC was just brilliant. Such a shame they cancelled it!

    To address the topic at hand, I am noticing a frightening trend here with Apple products. What was once intended to just work and be simple for the illiterate computer user, has now become a nightmare. I’ve spent many hours providing assistance to people who I have converted to iMacs and MacBook Pro’s. Yes, family and friends who used to be on disgusting Windows machines, got Apple products. Initially of course, they loved it. But of course things can’t be this easy – no – various printer driver issues failing to install and above all library sharing between users on an iMac tried my patience very, very much.
    In the end, it was easier to create a new ‘user’ so that applications like iPhoto and iMovie were all attached to the same library, because sharing the same library between multiple users was possible albeit broken. I don’t know why bother then, Apple?
    The things I had to do, nobody would be able to figure it out just by scouting  forums forums and the like, it really took a lot of time and thinking.

    As for LaunchPad, unless they make it useful, I doubt any normal user even knows it exists let alone finds it useful, I still prefer cmd+n in Finder and clicking on Applications!

  8. 100% agree iTunes is the weakest link in the Apple chain, Clementine is one option Ewan 

    However I do personally use iTunes as well, apart from some of the bloat and playlist management, when you own an idevice its unfortunately the easiest one for sync

  9. Despite the overall loveliness, I’m with you on all those gripes. Everything looks so pretty, but their are so many little niggling things *especially* with recent releases. I think Apple has been on a downhill slope of quality assurance for quite a while, and they really need to sort it out before it tarnishes their reputation.

    iCloud, for example – you don’t know what it’s doing, when it’s backing up, how much bandwidth it’s using, you can’t schedule it to only run at night etc. (some people are on usage-based plans! I don’t want my iPhone using up all my MiFi data!). And then, after soaking up all your bandwidth for a few hours, it proudly exclaims “Can’t back up this iPhone, you’ve run out of iCloud space. Buy more?”. Listen here, Apple.. you don’t sell a 5gig product, so why start the iCloud free storage at 5gig? Everyone’s got the same data on their iPhones, so we all know you don’t need to store a unique copy of every application.. just the content, which again from a music, video etc. point of view will be pretty similar across devices. Some hashing and de-duplication and even 500gig of free space will cost you sweet FA.

    I could go on, but don’t get me wrong.. I love the iPhone, iPad etc. and wouldn’t give them up for the world.

    Apple just need to sort out their QA. Perhaps it should be “Real artists ship, when it’s ready and not before.”

    Oh, and bring back the Human Interface Design guidelines whilst we’re at it. Those were the good old days.


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