Amazing Audio Tech

Have you seen Shazam? If you haven’t here’s the short version…. Have you been listening to a song and so wondered what it was? Load up Shazam, tap the tag button, let the app listen and within about 15 seconds Shazam tells you what the song is along with who the artist is. The part that amazes me is the Lyric Play tech built in. On many songs there is a Luric Play button when pressed will find lyrics for you. Then those lyrics start scrolling along in sync with the song while it is playing. All this happens I’m the palm of my hand! I can not believe the mic in my phone handles this. Even in a noisy car driving down the noisy road it works!

Obviously this works better with popular songs but the fact that the audio can be tagged liked this is astounding! Reminds me of the day I realized that my computer would actually remember the names of all the tracks on a cd! Of course I had to type all that info in back in those days!

Back to the original thought though, is anyone using this tech in your lesson plans?

iTunes11 is out! Using it to make ringtones and my thoughts on the new version…

For some reason, as tech oriented as I am, I have never really gotten into creating my “own” ringtones or buying them. But my son’s phone ringing this morning got me to thinking about why I have never done this before. Of course when I went googling around for instructions all of them were outdated because of the new version of iTunes11! I figured it out and then decided I should write a tutorial on how it works, because the process is really easy. Of course then someone beat me to the punch! Simon (I think his name is Simon) has written a tutorial exactly as if I had written it so go check this out…. RingTones on iTunes!!

As for the new version of iTunes11…. It is very different. My three favorite changes are the new album view, the new MiniPlayer and the fact that they have taken away coverflow and all those little icons that gave you different ways to see you music – I never really got into those! Plus, the album artwork now loads wicked quick, even though my entire library is in iTunes Match. Album artwork has been one of my hangups with iTunes Match this past year and that issue has been taken care of now.

The Album view is simply beautiful! When viewing by album you see all of your CD artwork and then when you click on an album cover that album expands in place – right there – no jumping to a totally different view or something weird – it just expands down and shows you a list of all the tracks on that album. The beautiful part is that iTunes11 does some crazy fast analyzation of your artwork and uses colors from the artwork in the expanded view that shows your track listing. You have to go see it to fully understand but here are a few screen shots to give you an idea. By the way the iPad Remote app has been updated and functions in the same manner!

iTunes11Art1 iTunes11 Art2 iTunes11 Art3

I also really like the MiniPlayer. In the past I have never used the mini version of iTunes, in fact I couldn’t think of much of a reason that they had even included it as a feature! This time around Apple nailed it though! The MiniPlayer is very going to be very useful. First of all you can do a search for a song you are looking for and boy is it fast! Then when you find a song you want to listen to, you can click on the arrow beside that song and use the new play next feature to set that song or album as the next music to play.

The MiniPlayer

iTunes11 MP

The MiniPlayer showing what will be playing next

iTunes11 miniplayer

 

Searching for a song in the MiniPlayer

iTunes MP Searching

The MiniPlayer showing options when you find a song

iTunes11 Play Next

 

It is also easier to add things to you iOS devices, you can use the built-in camera to redeem gift cards now and even better iCloud functions! Apple has a great list highlighting everything on their web-site. If you have not downloaded the new version because you are not sure you like new versions of apps go get this version now! I know Apple has messed up new version of  iTunes in the past – Not this time.

iTunes will never be able to do this…

20120710-151954.jpg

iTunes is an amazing piece of software. I’ve used it since before Apple bought the software and named it iTunes. I should not admit this but I could not believe it the first time I stuck in a CD and found out I could typed in the names to the track and they reappeared the next time I put the same CD into the computer!

I even use the iTunes store, not nearly as much as my teenage sons though. We buy music online frequently and appreciate the chance to do so. But iTunes will never be able to reproduce the experience like I had today, TWO TIMES TODAY!

The first experience was while shopping in WalMart. I wandered by the CD racks and glanced around. There in the last bin, on the bottom rack, I saw the latest Yanni CD. Live at El Morro, Puerto Rico is an album I’ve been thinking about buying. I’ve also been considering purchasing the DVD. So my surprise to find out that the disc I was holding in my hand was actually the CD plus the DVD all for $15! I bought it!

The next place we went was to the mall, which here in this great northern town was a pretty dim prospect. But in a comic book/Warcraft store I spotted a rack of CD’s (don’t worry, I was standing in the hallway glancing in.) I flipped through the CD’s and started spotting a few Amy Grant CD’s. The first ones were several of her old disc’s from the 80’s! Then I found even more of her CDs! Of course my next question was how much they were so my daughter ran up to the counter to ask and found out that the disc’s that were not marked were $1! I couldn’t believe it! First of all, what were the chances of me finding one or two of these CD’s I had listened to while growing up that were on cassette tapes? Now who would have believed that they were that price! I ended up find 17 CD’s in total, 13 of which were all from Amy Grant! Obviously I am not a fantastical Amy Grant fan, or else I would probably have already had those albums! But at $1 a piece I now own 13 more of her albums, on CD, that I will enjoy listening to and exposing my children to as well.

My brother and I have often discussed that we both enjoy having a physical CD and case in hand to look at while listening to music rather than buying it online without the case. There is just something about having that information available. Yes, I know that many of the digital albums come with a PDF now.

20120710-152200.jpg

20120710-152220.jpg

iTunes Match upgraded to a streaming service and Play Counts stick.

A reader asked a great question about iTunes Match and how play counts work. After playing around with it a little bit I found a few interesting details.

After signing up for iTunes Match iTunes will match your songs to the songs in Apple’s library. Then if you your songs are “matched” you will see that indicated in your iTunes (if you have iTunes Status turned on in your view settings that is.) What it means is that if your song is “matched” then Apple already has that song in their library and your version will not be uploaded to their servers. If a song is not matched, for instance the songs that I have recorded sitting in my basement messing around in my studio, then my song will be uploaded to Apple’s servers.

This process serves two purposes. After this happens I can then go to my iPad for instance, and then access those songs that have been matched or uploaded WITHOUT having to hook up a cable to my computer and drag and drop them onto my iPad. Secondly the process of getting your iTunes library into the Cloud is so much faster than uploading every single song in your library to Apple. (Trust me – Google does this and it took FOREVER (as in more than a week!))

More importantly, Apple will upgrade your songs if they are matched but are a lower quality on your computer. I have taken my old cassette tapes for instance and recorded them onto my laptop. I know that when I did this the quality was not that great for some of those files because I had worn out those tapes long ago! Maybe I had even saved those files as mp3. Now we are talking two things that have degraded my files. If Apple matches those songs their version is much better than mine! So after matching I simply delete the file off my computer, iTunes asks if I also want to delete the file from iCloud, I do NOT check that box and then I also have iTunes move the file to the trash on my computer. I then get a little iCloud icon with a download arrow in it. That indicates that my song is sitting in iCloud waiting to be played or downloaded.

Here is where it gets interesting! After doing this you can play the song anytime you want from iCloud. It is fast (depending on your service I suppose of course – I experience about a second delay at home) In the past when I would play a song like this it would be automatically downloaded to my computer again. I would then have the newer, better file sitting on my computer. NOW that song is NOT downloaded anymore – the file STREAMS! I will have to play around with this on my iPad because this could be HUGE news to those of us trying to save space on our iOS device by not having every song stored on our iPad for instance. If I want to actually download that file I simply click the iCloud icon with the little download arrow in it and the file is downloaded.

Also, in answer to the original question Aaron asked, play counts do not get se-set. So if you are tracking how many times you have played a song you will not loose that info. If the song is on your computer and you have played it three times, then you delete it from your computer so that the file is only in the cloud and you play it again (stream it again) the play count will say 4. If you then download it by clicking that icon and play it then the count turns to 5.

If you are like me and you don’t TRUST the process then try it out with only one or two songs first.

Check out my screenshot. In it you can see the iCloud icon, you can also see in the play bar at the top where the song is playing and streaming to my computer all at once.

AirPlay and AirFoil

So the other day I was cleaning up around the Band Room trying to get everything packed up for the summer. The trouble was it was too quiet. I needed music! So I grabbed my iPad and hooked it up to the speakers, hit play and turned it up – I mean come on, there were no kids around and I needed inspiration! About five minutes later another teacher walked into the room. Of course I had to walk over to the iPad and turn it down so we could carry on a conversation without yelling at each other. That teacher left, I hit play and continued on to work. A half an album later and I thought about listening to The Brass Band of Battle Creek! So I trekked over to the iPad, did a few flicks of the finger and turned on some great Brass music!

After work I was sitting downstairs at my laptop and my Son, from across the room asked if I had heard the new 12 Stones album that he had just purchased. Of course he was way more up to date than I was and I had not heard it. So he hurriedly came over to share the new album with me since it was not loaded up on my computer.

After all that I got to thinking about how much easier it would have been while at school if I could have been controlling the music I was working to with my iPhone, it was right there in my pocket the entire day! I could have started, stopped, turned it down, picked new music and I’m sure it would have made a great impression on others who just happened to walk into my room! Or what if my Son could have just simply stayed where he was and hit play on his iPad and I could have heard the new music on my iPad/iPhone/Computer?

At first you might be thinking – Get an AirPort Express! Well, to an extent you would be offering a great solution. The problem is that at school an AirPort Express doesn’t work – I tried! Your next thought may be – Use the Reflection or AirServer Apps to play music through to your classroom computer which is hooked up to the sound system. I would have – but I had the computer and sound system tore apart to pack it all up for the summer.

Of course I wouldn’t be writing about all this if I had not found a solution. I have known about Airfoil and Airfoil Speakersfrom Rogue Amoeba for a while now. I like what it does… It allows you to play music from your computer to a number of different devices all around wherever you may be. But I have never really used the app because I just have not wanted to send audio FROM a computer to my iPad or iPhone. I do constantly want to send audio and other items the other direction though as mentioned in the scenario above. A while back the Airfoil Speakers App was updated in the iTunes Store and this time the update information caught my eyes. The update included the ability to transmit audio from any iOS device to another iOS device! The app did not stay in the store long though. Apple yanked the app because of that ability to play from iOS to iOS. Rogue Amoeba had a difficult time getting Apple to work with them though. Just the other day AirFoil Speakers app was admitted back to the Apple Store again, without the ability to play from iOS to iOS though. Read more about it here on CultofMac. Rogue Amoeba had to take that capability out of their app. Bummer!

Rogue Amoeba has an article on their website about one work around. Kind of what I wanted but not as easy as I hoped.

Then today I found a nice article from 9To5 Mac about how to get this functionality back, without having to jailbreak your device. It appears that, as of now, all you have to do is download iExplorer from MacroPlant. This free little utility lets you access your iOS device like a flash drive from your computer. After downloading that app you will then need to download a plist file into a specific spot on your iOS device (check the article from 9to5 – there is a tweet in there with a picture about where to put the plist file.) This was EASY, Fast and worked like a charm. It was a bit tricky getting the plist file into the right spot and I think I had to restart my iPad to make it take effect. But now I can start up the AirFoil App on my iPad, go to my iPhone Music App and hit play, select the iPad exactly as I would if I was selecting any other AirPlay device and I’m in business!

If this interests you at all, I would suggest that you go get the plist file, download the tweeted picture and get the AirFoil App form the App Store NOW! Who knows how much longer this will all stay available. Of course who knows if it will even still work after Apple makes all their announcements this next Monday at WWDC.

Reflection on the ReflectionApp and the AirServerApp and Apple TV

I have been very excited because every year when I get my tax refund back I usually convince my wife to let me buy a new toy. Like my iPad’s or a new kayak. This year I’ve known for a long time that I was going to be buying an Apple TV with the converter from HDMI to VGA with audio. I’ve been using my iPad for two years now every day in class and I wanted to take things to the next level. I want the students to be able to see many of the tools that I have at my finger tips.

I’ve been using the AirServerApp, running on my classroom computer for a year now. That app was the previous version 3. I used it to AirPlay music to my classroom sound system. Of course it has worked flawlessly, with the one exception that there was no security on it. That meant that frequently some kid working out down in the weight room would discover a pretty new icon on his iPod Screen (you know, that one for AirPlay that is never there until you can actually use it!) and in the middle of rehearsal I would suddenly have some pumping jams in the middle of a Michael Sweeney festival piece! Now during a high school rehearsal we would simply enjoy the commercial break. I would dance a bit for the class and then flip the mute switch then back to work we would go. BUT I REALLY tried to leave the mute switch on during middle school class because the rest of rehearsal after an episode like that was usually useless! It was worth it though to be able to wirelessly stream music, at will from anywhere I had my phone, iPod Touch or iPad!

You are probably wondering why in the world I didn’t just buy an AirPort Express and use that. Those have pass codes on them! Well I did! The only thing was that my PC tech guys freaked out! Plus I could not for the life of me get that darned thing to work at the school, on the school network! I even talked to the “big guys”, the ones doing the install on the new wireless servers going into our school to see if they had an answer for making it work, These are tech guys not form our school but instead with a big company whose only job was to install these wireless servers. Their answer was – don’t bring in home network devices, our devices will simply block them! I was in fact afraid I would have similar trouble with an Apple TV. I was hoping though that it would work.

Turns out I might not even try though! This last week of February was a great week! Especially for those of us school teachers in situations like this!

First, the ReflectionApp came out! This is from the same company that makes AirParrot – which puts your mac screen on your AppleTV. ReflectionApp is meant to mirror your iOS device onto your Computer! Of course your iOS device has to be capable of this, the iPad2 and iPhone4s both are. Not only does the mirroring include the picture but it streams the audio as well! So in other words, instead of having to but an AppleTV ($99), a convertor ($45 or more), and get it to work with my school network, I simply bought a $15 app and installed it on a computer I already have hooked up to my classroom projector and I am in business.

Second great thing was that the same day I bought and installed the ReflectionApp an error message showed up on my computer. Getting excited about error message is not normal I know, but this error came from an app called AirServer that I have been running for a year now! The message said that I needed to purchase an upgrade from AirServer in order to mirror my iPad! This startled me! I had not heard, and still haven’t, anything about AirServerApp adding the capability to mirror from an iOS device! So I headed over to their website – http://www.airserverapp.com/ and found it plastered all over the front page of the website! I quickly bought the $3.99 update. I had some issues with the update because when I originally bought the AirServerApp I used an old email that I never use any more. I bought the update with a new email. This really ticked off the AirServerApp and for a day I was in a limbo with the update screen from the app freezing up when it tried to authorize the update. The tech support took a day but considering that it was Friday night that’s probably not bad. They updated their databases of paid people and I was in business. I like their tech support.

So now, the good stuff! I’ve been playing with both apps for all of today and it’s been great fun. Of course I am at home with my MacBookPro and no projector hooked up. My kids walk by and I’ve had one of them do a double take and say – Whoa! Your iPad is on your computer! Then one of the other boys said, Why are you doing that?

Here’s what I’ve discovered. With the ReflectionApp there are more options for you to configure. At first boot the iPad (or iPhone) pops up with a border around it. This looks cool at first but in my case I want the image as big as possible so the students can see it better. It’s easy to take the border off. Another option that helps get the image bigger is to have the app go fullscreen. Now I have not really liked using the full screen mode in Lion. But I like it in this app because it is more what I expected – when using my iPad everything is full screen all the time. Plus I want no other distractions when projecting that image to the students. A quick shortcut (command F) and the app pops out of full screen mode. There are different optimizations for what image size you want mirrored, iPad, standard iPhone, Retina iPhone, or High resolution. This has been one of three issues I have found when using ReflectionApp. When I switched to High Resolution I really messed things up. I had to quite Reflection and reboot my iPad both to get things mirroring again. The second issue I found with ReflectionApp is when switching from portrait to landscape mode. If I am in landscape mode when I start the mirroring the image on the computer is filling the full screen, top to bottom – right to left. Then I can switch to landscape and the image is still top to bottom (not right to left of course) BUT when I switch back to landscape the image is no longer filling the entire screen top to bottom. It is smaller. A quick flick of the command F shortcut pops it back but I am not going to want to do that in the middle of class. The image when it is not filling the screen still is large and acceptable though.

Mirroring with both apps have gone very well – I will mention one exception at the end of this post about trying to mirror instrument apps though. In face with the ReflectionApp I found that I can end up mirroring both my iPad2 AND my iPhone4s! OK – I take that back I can mirror both devices with both apps! If you really want to do this though you should not have the automatic full screen mode on though because it is kind of a pain to get it to look like my screen shot. One of the amazing things I’ve found is that I can be running both the ReflecitonApp and AirServerApp at the same time. They are working very well together and they are not fighting each other at all! I even have been running audio from iPad through ReflectionApp and mirroring it too while mirroring my iPhone with AirServerApp! The audio plugged away and the video behaved as it had all day long with just one of these apps running at a time. I have been running the mirroring all day when I have been at my computer (my daughter did become a teen though so my time has been limited with her party and bowling and shopping though!). Every thing runs smooth as I would expect for all normal apps. I even tried photoBooth. There is a bit of a time delay in PhotoBooth as well as FaceTime with the video. At times I do get a stutter in the audio too. You should understand though that I am running an old AirPort Express with only 802.11b and I know that two of my boys have been running iTunes, FaceBook, Web Surfing and the like through their iPodTouches too.

My only complaint is when I have tried my musical instrument apps. For instance a piano app, MorphWiz or something like this. The lag is not going to work at this time for live performance! There is not way I could mirror this at at a concert and play a song on my iPad so the audience could see what was going on. Now I’m not sure what the problem is though because the PR on both web-sites show gaming apps running and they say that people could be using this for mirroring games! I am not a gamer but I do have a few games loaded on my iPad and I tried BugDom and it worked pretty well on both apps. Cro-Mag Rally crashed the ReflectionApp but worked in AirServer. So for gaming and musical instruments…. I wouldn’t hold my breath too much. These apps are not rock solidly performing in either mirroring app yet!

In wrapping this post up… there are two more points I need to make. The ReflectionApp tech support is really super and really super fast! I sent an email requesting and asking about a passcode (because the first version I downloaded didn’t have a passcode in it) Within minutes they had responded back to me. The next day there was an update to the program! Now don’t get me wrong – I know the update was not because of me but these guys are working hard on their app and want to interact with their users.

The AirServerApp has been rock solidly streaming music in my band room for a year now. This app is a bit more polished. For instance, there aren’t very many settings that we can adjust, the app just does it for you. When you select a song on your iPad in the Music app and push play there is a little notification (very Growl like, if you know what Growl is) on your Mac that tells you what song is playing. When you play videos, like YouTube, and take the video full screen, AirServer uses it’s own built-in movie player. AirServer has some more info about this sort of thing on their web site.

Both apps are great. ReflectionApp requires OS 10.6 or higher. AirServer will work somewhat with Tiger, Snow Leopard, Leopard and Lion as well as working some with Android devices (I think just for audio though) they are both $14.99 (the upgrade for AirServer from v3 was $3.99)

Ineligible song issues with iTunes Match.

I have several albums of mp3’s that iTunes Match claim are ineligible albums for iTunes Match that I have no idea why they have been marked as such. They are CD’s that I have ripped, I own the CD, and I know they are are available in the iTunes Store.

I also noticed that iTunes suddenly had two of the songs listed with the incorrect times on them. Instead of being 4 or 5 minutes in length, they were now listed as being 29 or 30 minutes long! I thought maybe this was just an error, so I clicked the play button in iTunes. They actually played fine for the length of the actual tune but then iTunes kept playing, in silence, for the rest of the 30 minutes! I dragged the song out of iTunes and opened the mp3 in several other programs, QuickTimes, SoundStudio and Audacity. No other program had issues with the length. So I figured that possibly these mp3’s were corrupt in some way or another.

SOLUTION
I went back into iTunes, went into my preferences, and made sure that my import settings were set for AAC. I then  went back into the iTunes library, selected several of the songs that were ineligible, and created an AAC version of the song. After iTunes had updated my iTunes Match results these songs became eligible! They were now marked as being Matched! I went through and did all the other songs in this album and they are now all Matched. If you take a look at the screenshot from below you can see where some of the files are mp3’s still and are marked ineligible, whereas other songs have been converted into aac’s and are now Matched. You can also see that after going through this process of converting the files you will need to wait for iTunes to re-post the iTunes Match results – or you can force iTunes to update by going to the store menu and selecting update iTunes Match. After getting the results you want… Matched files… then you will of course want to go through and delete the bad files. If you want to make sure to get the best file possible after getting your tunes Matched in the Cloud then you will want to follow my previous post where I talked about how to get iTune Match’s better file.

Posted in iTunes. Tags: . 1 Comment »
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 741 other followers

%d bloggers like this: