Cybernaut 

iTunes 8.0 gets intuitive

Apple CEO Steve Jobs had a lot to announce at their annual fall party, including updates to the iTouch, new iPods, new software and capability for iPod Touch and iPhone products, the reintroduction of NBC programs to iTunes, HD television and movies, and a new version of iTunes (now 8.0) with some new features.

I like iTunes to sort my home music library and tune into online radio stations and the odd podcast, but that’s about it. I don’t buy music from their store because of their digital rights management restrictions, or buy television shows or movies when I can record them in my cable box. I don’t own an iPod because I’ve been waiting for an iPod with a built-in voice recorder — something you can now apparently do on iPhone and iPod Touch using third party software, but I’m waiting until it’s officially offered by Apple. It’s safe to say I use about 10 per cent of iTunes capability at this point.

Sometimes I also find iTunes kind of annoying. Never have I owned software that has been updated as frequently. iTunes was first released in 2001, and they’re already up to their eighth new iteration, iTunes 8.0, and each version has required several incremental updates and tweaks. I’m not exaggerating when I say that it’s rare to go two months without an update of some kind, and for some reason all of the updates also seem to be huge downloads, usually in the tens of megabytes, instead of small fixes you see with other software. Usually you have to restart your computer, and when you reopen iTunes it’s impossible to tell what’s different.

The new version of iTunes is pretty much the same on the front end as previous versions, but with one interesting new feature, called Genius.

Apple is not the first company to come up with the idea of creating automated playlists of songs that sound alike, far from it, but like everything Apple does it will probably set the standard.

Basically, you can pick a song and click on the Genius button to generate a list of songs that are similar. If you’re in an ’80s heavy metal frame of mind you can click on Quiet Riot’s “Black Reign” and Genius will go presumably go through your collection to add Motley Crue, Killer Dwarves, WASP, Ratt, Def Leppard, etc. to your playlist.

Genius works by scanning your library, and presumably linking types of music in genres and sub genres based on Apple’s own database of music. Some services actually scan the peaks and valleys of the songs to determine things like beat rate, rhythm pattern, and tone in order to group music, and Apple probably has an algorithm that does something similar to tell the difference between slow songs and fast songs.

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