beaTunes News

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

beaTunes 4.5 EA1

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In the last couple of months I've been working on switching some things under beaTunes' hood as well as in its user interface. Today, I'm happy to release the first Early Access version of this effort.

So what has changed?

Under the hood, many third party libraries beaTunes depends upon were updated. Probably the biggest step was from Hibernate 3.4 to 4.3. But other libs like Jython, Groovy, and JRuby were updated as well. Additionally, some of the database caching code has been streamlined for greater efficiency.

On the surface, beaTunes 4.5 features a fresh new look—much more in line with Yosemite and the upcoming El Captain. Library, Analysis, Inspection, and Charts are now accessible via a vertical mode button panel, removing some visual clutter. With the same idea in mind, both the sidebar (what used to be the playlist tree) and the status bar can now be hidden via the View menu. Also, the Matching Songs and Album Info buttons are now only visible when the main song table is visible as well.

The goal of this update is not to add a lot of new features. However, some of you will be very pleased to see that it has gotten much easier to write computed keys to the comment field (simply check a box in the analysis options). Also, alternatively to valid ID3 TKey values, one can now embed Open Key values as key names (box in the general preferences). Furthermore, there is a new inspector and a bunch of other little improvements. One of them being a dedicated button in the matching songs panel, that allows adding the selected song to the current playlist with a simple click or press of a button (keyboard shortcut), instead of having to drag it.

Because I didn't try to go overboard with new stuff, this Early Access release is close to production quality. However, it still needs some testing. Please download it and try it out. As always with Early Access versions—the software will expire, in this case in a week. If the real thing isn't released by then, I will post another EA release in time.

I'm looking forward to your feedback.

Downloads

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Wednesday, July 22, 2015

More iTunes 12.2 Fixes

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iTunes 12.2 delivered a bunch of surprises for all of us. Today's update deals with some more. In case you hadn't noticed, beaTunes suddenly displayed some additional playlists for all kinds of non-AV content (Apps, PDFs, ...). This stems from the fact that Apple apparently re-organized some iTunes internals and started to export these items in iTunes' iTunes Library.xml file. To fix this, I have added some code to filter out these unwanted lists and items. As always, you can download the update from the download section of the website.

Most important changes in 4.0.26

  • Hide internal iTunes playlists (Apps, ...).
  • Ignore apps, books, etc. during inspection.

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Friday, July 10, 2015

The unfortunate Return of DRM

Back in April 2007, we thought it was the beginning of the end. The end of DRM-crippled songs sold through iTunes. Apple announced that songs released by EMI would soon be sold DRM-free in the iTunes store. In May of the same year, iTunes Plus was launched and by January 2009, Apple was finally able to announce that "all four major music labels—Universal Music Group, Sony BMG, Warner Music Group and EMI, along with thousands of independent labels, are now offering their music in iTunes Plus, Apple’s DRM-free format". Undoubtedly, a great achievement.

Fast forward to June 2015. Apple announces Apple Music, as "a revolutionary streaming service and app that puts the entire Apple Music catalog at your fingertips across your favorite devices". As we all know by now, the public reception after the launch has been not quite revolutionary, but rather luke warm. Users reported installation glitches, UX issues and plain old bugs.

One thing that took many users by surprise, was the fact that iTunes Match and Apple Music share some properties, like being able to import your private collection, but are still two different services. Kirk McElhearn, wrote a good explanation of how exactly they differ. And here's the most important part:

Songs downloaded via iTunes Match are DRM-free.
Songs downloaded via Apple Music are not.

Yes, I'm afraid, you've read that correctly:

DRM is back!

How could this happen? And why isn't this all over the news? When you think about the business model, this immediately makes sense. Without DRM, people could simply download the whole Apple catalogue and freely share their files. Given the three months trial period, they could even do this for free. So in a sense, this is very understandable—but unfortunately not obvious.

So what, you might say—I don't see the disadvantage of DRM-crippled music! Until of course, you want to listen to it on a non-Apple device for the first time (the Android version isn't out yet). Or want to use a tool like BeatGauge to determine the BPM. Or decide you want to DJ with Traktor and realize: Traktor can't play protected content. Suddenly DRM becomes a big nuisance and it feels like 2007 all over again.

Naturally, other streaming services aren't necessarily much better. To integrate Spotify into an app, you have to first get approval and then use their special SDK, that does the decoding for you. But at least they offer such an SDK. Plus a REST-API for metadata access. Apple does not even offer an API for iTunes Match, which was introduced almost four years ago.

No doubt, streaming is here to stay. And Apple is most certainly on the right track, trying to meddle in this market. But so far, it has acted amateurishly, delivering a half-baked service. And many users haven't realized, that by choosing streaming, they also chose DRM. Let's hope, Apple finds a way to allow at least third party apps to access the raw audio of Apple Music—just like Spotify did.

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Thursday, July 9, 2015

beaTunes 4.0.25

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Just want to make you aware of a little beaTunes maintenance update. As always, you can download the update from the download section of the website.

Most important changes in 4.0.25

  • Changed id3 rating export to please Explorer.
  • Fixed little issue in artwork file cache.
  • Fixed persistence of replace/import option in analysis.
  • Fixed ####!#### iTunes 12.2 library name.
  • Fixed enable/disable issue in inspection button.

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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

beaTunes 4.0.23 - New Mood Plugin

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Now, that the BeatGauge smoke has settled a bit, it's time for an overdue beaTunes update. Frankly, I would have posted this a while ago, but Apple recently messed up something in their codesign tool, that prevented me from properly signing the OS X version. It's not that they have actually fixed this yet, but I'm glad I've found a workaround (the link unfortunately requires an Apple dev account).

For those of you who are importing mood data via Last.fm tags, this release offers an alternative. The AcousticBrainz project offers some calculated mood data, which can now be accessed via a beaTunes plugin (Preferences -> Plugins) as long as your songs are associated with MusicBrainz IDs (MBIDs). After installation, the plugin shows up as an additional analysis option. If you decide to install and use the plugin (sources here), please consider contributing to the project. They're doing cool stuff and deserve your support!

Anyhow. As always, you can download the update for beaTunes from the download section of the website.

Most important changes in 4.0.23

  • Fixed issue in bpm rule.
  • Fixed bad drop location indicator in playlist tree.
  • Fixed tooltips in inspection preferences.
  • Fixed new playlist from selection for very large selections.
  • Removed caching of Last.fm error messages.
  • Improved lyrics import.
  • Improved embed artwork inspector logic.
  • Added AcousticBrainz.org service class.
  • Moved to Jipes 0.9.10.
  • Moved to Java 8u45.

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Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Free BeatGauge Licenses

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I'm giving away 10 free BeatGauge licenses to beaTunes 4 users. If you're interested, please simply leave a comment on http://blog.beatunes.com/2015/05/free-beatgauge-licenses.html. The first 10 comments, that are verifiable from people who have purchased beaTunes 4 for OS X, qualify.

Please note, that BeatGauge requires OS X 10.10 (Yosemite).

To give you an idea what BeatGauge looks like in action, here's a little demo video (this is not speeded up in any way):

I'm also quite happy to report, that a British customer had the following to say about version 1.0.0 (current version is 1.0.1):

Astonishingly good, accurate and easy to use ★★★★★
by Nick65423 - Version - 1.0.0 - May 13, 2015

This just works. I used to use an old piece of software (ltjBPM) to determine BPM. This involved listening to each track and tapping the space bar in time with the music. Each track took about a minute to do. My 4571 tracks would have taken seven and a half hours to finish, but I would have given up long before that. BeatGauge did all 4571, with no interference or supervision from me, in roughly seven and a half minutes and never made a mistake. For interest, I tried to trick it to see what, if any, error messages came back, or if it would crash. I fed it one-second orchestra stings (Message: Unable to determine BPM). I fed it voice memos (Message: Unable to determine BPM). I fed it DRM-protected tracks (Message: Illegal operation. DRM protected?). Finally, I moved the parent file of a track to break its link with its listing in iTunes. (Message: File does not exist). None of these tricks would be done by anyone in day-to-day use, but it is interesting to see that the software coped with everything I tried and came back with an accurate result. The best software is simple, accurate and works with as little user supervision as possible. BeatGauge is one of those apps. Brilliant.

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Tuesday, May 12, 2015

BeatGauge: Automatic BPM detection for iTunes

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I'm happy to announce, that beaTunes got a little brother today. His name is BeatGauge and he's a dead-simple, automatic BPM calculator. While beaTunes aims at the larger goal of improving metadata to build great playlists, BeatGauge does only one thing, but it does it very well:

It computes BPM values for your iTunes songs.

Simply drag your tracks from iTunes onto the app and it will automatically start calculating, reporting the results back to iTunes immediately. Honestly, I don't know how this could be done any simpler.
Under the hood, BeatGauge uses multithreaded GCD code, taking advantage of your computer's multiple cores. It's written in Swift for OS X 10.10 (Yosemite)—in other words: Apple's latest technologies.

As of today, BeatGauge is exclusively available via the Mac App Store (MAS). If you're using iTunes on Yosemite and are looking for a light-weight BPM calculator, BeatGauge is definitely a nice addition to your audio tool-belt. Give it a try!

Demo

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