iTunes Is The New Real Player

I’ve been extremely happy with my iPod Shuffle. It is a fantastic device. Much to my sadness, though, the Shuffle is a package deal: you can only transfer music to the iPod using the bundled iTunes media player. Is that bad? Well, yeah, because iTunes is the new Real Player.

Remember Real Player?

real_screenshot

Let’s take a trip down memory lane:

  1. No-one really liked the application, but installed it anyway.
  2. It had a completely non-standard skin which couldn’t be turned off.
  3. It repeatedly advertised other peripheral products that could be bought via the player.
  4. It was slow and bulky, possibly due to all sorts of features no-one used.
  5. Installing it didn’t install only the player, but lots of other stuff too, stuff such as hidden network and update services that were all but impossible to turn off.
  6. Unless the player was used the way prescribed by Real, it wasn’t very useful.
  7. Wasn’t fullscreen a “paid for” feature at one time?

Goodbye Real, hello iTunes.

itunes_screenshot

  1. iTunes is needed to transfer music to the iPod.
  2. iTunes has a brushed metal skin that can’t be turned off.
  3. iTunes repeatedly advertises it’s music and video store which are accessible via the player.
  4. iTunes on Windows is slow and bulky, possibly due to all sorts of features and services.
  5. iTunes installs the Bonjour network service, Apple Software Update and Quicktime.
  6. The “Sync” feature is a risky thing to use in iTunes. Ever synced your iPod to an empty playlist? Zip. Your things are gone. In other words, if I don’t use iTunes the way Apple wants me to, it’s not very useful.
  7. Wasn’t fullscreen a “paid for” feature at one time?

Discuss.

20 thoughts on “iTunes Is The New Real Player”

  1. James says:

    I’ll have to disagree with you on a few of those points regarding iTunes.

    1. iTunes is not the only option. There are alternatives, like Songbird, though Apple chooses not to mention them (for obvious reasons).

    3. I haven’t had a problem with iTunes “repeatedly advertis[ing] it’s music and video store”. Would you mind specifying a few incidences? If you’re referring to the Real Player-like “MiniStore” below your main library listing, you can easily disable it by selecting “Hide MiniStore” from the View menu, and you are usually greeted by a “Turn off MiniStore” button on the first launch.

    4. I attribute the slowness and bulkiness more to iTunes being Apple’s first major Windows application, as performance has improved with almost every update.

    5. iTunes uses QuickTime’s core to play media files. They could wrap the QuickTime core into iTunes, but all it would do is create a bulkier application. You can disable automatic updates in iTunes and safely remove Apple Software Update via Add/Remove Programs. I haven’t bothered to remove the Bonjour network service, so I’m not entirely sure how safe that would be.

    6. Well, I’m sure that Apple assumes you wouldn’t intentionally sync your iPod to an empty playlist and expect your songs to remain on your iPod. ^_- And, if you did, it’s only a matter of re-syncing, and on a Shuffle that takes only about 15 minutes at most.

    7. Fullscreen was, at one time, one of the bonuses that you gained in QuickTime after purchasing QuickTime Pro. It has always been a free feature in iTunes (since video support was added) and has recently become a free feature in QuickTime.

    I hope that helps to clear up a few things! Please feel free to discuss further.

  2. Jonas Rabbe says:

    Much to my sadness, though, the Shuffle is a package deal: you can only transfer music to the iPod using the bundled iTunes media player.

    It can’t be that bad considering a simple Google search yielded Yamipod which is a standalone iPod manager. I must admit I can’t speak for the effectiveness of the application because the only Windows computer I have is my work computers, and they’re not getting some weird third-party application, but it sounds useful.

  3. Tom says:

    iTunes on Windows isn’t great. I haven’t used it in Windows so I can’t comment, but lets look at the situation in OS X:

    1. Without going to some lengths you still have to use iTunes to transfer your music to the device. You know this when you buy the product. This is often the case with many other music players.

    2. iTunes has the same User Interface as OS X Leopard

    3. I believe version 6 or 7 had a ‘MiniStore’ that appeared by default at the bottom of the application. It can be hidden through the menu. I had to turn it off once and I’ve never seen it again. I’ve never used the Music Store and sometimes I forget it exists. It’s certainly not visible on my iTunes.

    4. I have around 180gb of music, over 32,000 songs. iTunes takes about 10 seconds to load and about 4 seconds to quit. This seems to be completely due to loading up the Library Database, which considering the size of my collection I’m happy waiting.

    5. Under OS X, iTunes has a service called ‘iTunes Helper’ which probably launches iTunes when an iPod is connected. This is the only extra thing installed.

    6. Think of syncing a playlist with your iPod as one way. Sure they could have called it copy, but it doesn’t touch an mp3 file that is already there. You can’t copy songs off your iPod.

    7. The program iTunes has never had a pay feature.

    I would like the iPod to mount as a normal flash drive, I would like to be able to sync both directions, but these are company decisions to protect their profit. It’s not like other companies don’t do the same or worse.

    For all the rest of the complains in this post, if you want to get the best out of Apple Software use OS X.

    Final thought: This post contains way too much conjecture and sounds like the author is trolling for comments. Well done Dvorak Junior.

  4. Joen says:

    1. iTunes is not the only option. There are alternatives, like Songbird, though Apple chooses not to mention them (for obvious reasons).

    It can?t be that bad considering a simple Google search yielded Yamipod which is a standalone iPod manager.

    Will check those out, thanks.

    If you?re referring to the Real Player-like ?MiniStore? below your main library listing, you can easily disable it by selecting ?Hide MiniStore? from the View menu, and you are usually greeted by a ?Turn off MiniStore? button on the first launch.

    I am referring to that, yes :). That might be fine if I installed iTunes to purchase music or videos, but I’m doing that only to transfer music to my device.

    4. I attribute the slowness and bulkiness more to iTunes being Apple?s first major Windows application, as performance has improved with almost every update.

    Probably. But it’s still damn annoying when there are no alternatives. (I know you just told me, apparently there are, i’ll review them asap).

    5. iTunes uses QuickTime?s core to play media files. They could wrap the QuickTime core into iTunes, but all it would do is create a bulkier application. You can disable automatic updates in iTunes and safely remove Apple Software Update via Add/Remove Programs. I haven?t bothered to remove the Bonjour network service, so I?m not entirely sure how safe that would be.

    When I first installed iTunes back when I bought my player, Quicktime wasn’t bundled with it. So apparently it has been able to work without quicktime.

    I know I can remove the software update utility, but I’d rather there was a (un)checkbox in the installer. The bonjourn service is torture to remove.

    6. Well, I?m sure that Apple assumes you wouldn?t intentionally sync your iPod to an empty playlist and expect your songs to remain on your iPod. ^_- And, if you did, it?s only a matter of re-syncing, and on a Shuffle that takes only about 15 minutes at most.

    Well, perhaps I am daft, but a simple dialog warning might help… Seems like a drastic thing to do.

    Tom, I’ll get to you in my next comment.

  5. Joen says:

    1. Without going to some lengths you still have to use iTunes to transfer your music to the device. You know this when you buy the product. This is often the case with many other music players.

    True. But Apple is not just any company. Apple is a phoenix that rose from the ashes into a glistening white plastic giant. The did so because they make gorgeous things. Apple brought purchasable music to the masses even though the RIA said it couldn’t be done. They’re doing it with video, and they’re working to remove DRM from music. Apple can do great things.

    So why the hell would they lock you into their music software? To quote Sting: “If you love someone, set them free!”

    2. iTunes has the same User Interface as OS X Leopard

    (Or is it the other way around?). About time!

    3. I believe version 6 or 7 had a ?MiniStore? that appeared by default at the bottom of the application. It can be hidden through the menu. I had to turn it off once and I?ve never seen it again. I?ve never used the Music Store and sometimes I forget it exists. It?s certainly not visible on my iTunes.

    That’s the one. Real Player also had the option to turn off lots of their extra offerings. Spending an hour disabling things actually made Real Player look almost digestable.

    4. I have around 180gb of music, over 32,000 songs. iTunes takes about 10 seconds to load and about 4 seconds to quit. This seems to be completely due to loading up the Library Database, which considering the size of my collection I?m happy waiting.

    That sounds reasonable. But remember, you’re on OSX. I’m sure some things work better there. On windows, I’m referring to the 5 second delay it takes for the “pause” button to become active, and the 5 seconds it takes to actually push it.

    5. Under OS X, iTunes has a service called ?iTunes Helper? which probably launches iTunes when an iPod is connected. This is the only extra thing installed.

    Right, that one is on Windows as well. That, and the bonjour network service, and the update service, and Quicktime. I suppose most of those extras are builtin to Leopard (hence working better).

    6. Think of syncing a playlist with your iPod as one way. Sure they could have called it copy, but it doesn?t touch an mp3 file that is already there. You can?t copy songs off your iPod.

    That’s another thing: why can’t I copy songs off of my ipod? Why is it a one way device? I smell corporate fascism 🙂

    I would like the iPod to mount as a normal flash drive, I would like to be able to sync both directions, but these are company decisions to protect their profit. It?s not like other companies don?t do the same or worse.

    Again, this is Apple. They’re better than this!

    Final thought: This post contains way too much conjecture and sounds like the author is trolling for comments. Well done Dvorak Junior.

    I criticise because I love! If a side-effect of concise and (attempts at) humorous writing result in improved software or actual alternatives, than I’ll proudly wear my Dvorak Junior badge.

  6. Rogier says:

    iTunes Is The New Real Player

    Thank you, I’ve been saying this for years…

    Usually in the same sentence as “all apple fanboys will die a horrible painful death”..

  7. Tom says:

    Awesome. For a minute there I thought you were dead serious. You can have your Dvorak Junior badge another time.

    iTunes has the same User Interface as OS X Leopard

    (Or is it the other way around?). About time!

    Indeed.

    That sounds reasonable. But remember, you?re on OSX. I?m sure some things work better there. On windows, I?m referring to the 5 second delay it takes for the ?pause? button to become active, and the 5 seconds it takes to actually push it.

    Now that you mention it, iTunes does take a while to start and stop at times. I personally never use the gui play/pause button and hardly ever use space to play/pause. I use a global key combination setup through quicksilver. I’m not sure where the delay comes from but sometimes it takes a while to pause.

  8. Joen says:

    For a minute there I thought you were dead serious. You can have your Dvorak Junior badge another time.

    My thanks.

    Now that you mention it, iTunes does take a while to start and stop at times.

    For me: especially for podcasts. On Windows I’m thinking it’s a consequence of the specific skin they’ve applied.

    On a different note, I’m finding it sorta funny that no-one is trying to defend Real Player in this discussion.

  9. adam says:

    absolutely agree.

    90% of the reason I’ve never bought an iPod is because I don’t want to be locked into iTunes.

  10. bv says:

    all i can say is ‘hmmmm’

    not seeing this one.

    peace.

    bv.

  11. Robin says:

    When I first installed iTunes back when I bought my player, Quicktime wasn?t bundled with it. So apparently it has been able to work without quicktime.

    That’s because iTunes didn’t have video (music videos, TV shows, movies, etc.) back then. That’s what the QuickTime’s for.

  12. Chris says:

    It’s fun to see people other than myself piss on your arguments. I feel less alone now.

    A moment for zeroconf, sorry Rendevous, I mean Bonjour. You do understand that’s the network awareness app that makes it possible for iTunes to see other libraries on other machines as well as airports with speakers attached to them in the kitchen? You do understand that’s installed because on the box it says iTunes can do those things (find other libraries). It has to be installed because last I checked Windows doesn’t do zeroconf out of the box or at all for all I know.

    Now, onto my usual rebuttal (folks we have this and similar arguments all the time), Joen, I’m sorry you hate your computing experience and feel it necessary to blame this one app for all the wrongs of the world. I assure you, where I live, in Apple land, everything is wonderful. We bitch about translucent menu-bars and 3-d docks here because we have little else to bitch about.

    Ever notice that? I don’t recall many folks other than Betalogue (who is a grouch) ever complaining about security on their mac or the Fischer Price “My first OS” UI, or constant crashes and blue screens or having to revert to a previous version or the OS getting slower with each iteration while my OS gets faster with each iteration.

    I’m sorry you feel that iTunes is the new Real but perhaps your real problem is that Windows is still Windows.

  13. James says:

    I would like the iPod to mount as a normal flash drive.

    That’s very easy to do. First, connect your iPod and accesses its settings in iTunes. From the Summary tab, select “Enable disk use”, and for the iPod shuffle, “set the Storage Allocation slider to indicate the amount you want to be used by audio files and the amount you want to be used for data files.” More info here.

    Why can’t I copy songs off of my ipod? Why is it a one way device? I smell corporate fascism.

    They’re just doing their best to prevent indiscriminate, and illegal, music sharing/piracy. To be fair, iTunes allows you to transfer all iTunes Store purchases from the iPod when connecting it to a new computer, including the DRM-free iTunes Plus songs.

    I’m finding it sorta funny that no-one is trying to defend Real Player in this discussion.

    It’s not worth defending. As far as I’m concerned, they hit rock bottom awhile ago, and all they have done since then is to buy better shovels and continue digging.

  14. Joen says:

    It?s fun to see people other than myself piss on your arguments. I feel less alone now.

    Oh, you were never alone!

    ou do understand that?s installed because on the box it says iTunes can do those things (find other libraries). It has to be installed because last I checked Windows doesn?t do zeroconf out of the box or at all for all I know.

    I do understand that.

    And if there was a checkbox during installation, that I could uncheck if I didn’t want this feature, we wouldn’t be having this discussion.

    Ever notice that? I don?t recall many folks other than Betalogue (who is a grouch) ever complaining about security on their mac or the Fischer Price ?My first OS? UI, or constant crashes and blue screens or having to revert to a previous version or the OS getting slower with each iteration while my OS gets faster with each iteration.

    I see your point. I bitch more about OSX than about Windows.

    Honestly, I think it’s a case of “broken windows theory”. The theory is usually applied to crime rates, but has been used as an allegory for the development of Windows.

    In this case, Windows is an old warehouse. It has quite a few broken windows in it. Does it matter if I throw another rock and break a new window? Doesn’t feel that way. That’s how I feel about Windows: It’s a lost cause. Right now I’m staying here only because it has the apps I use.

    OSX, on the other hand, has only a very few broken windows. In fact, it seems like such a minor task to… just fix those windows up, and the warehouse is brand new again!

    So when I criticize iTunes, it’s to fix a broken window, which I honestly think is broken. But I criticize because it can be fixed. Unlike Windows.

    So yes, you’re semi-right. My problem with Windows is that I really can’t be bothered to criticise it at all. Where to start?

    More comments to follow.

  15. Joen says:

    That?s very easy to do.

    Oh right, good point. Personally though, I meant USB storage device as in I simply copied MP3 files directly to the drive, outside of iTunes, and it woudl simply look at what music was on the device and play it.

    Right now the mp3s have to be renamed to something like “MDK3.MP3” which are indexed in an XML file. Obviously that’s what we need itunes to do.

    They?re just doing their best to prevent indiscriminate, and illegal, music sharing/piracy.

    Yes, that would be my guess too.

    In a way, that is OK: it’s their device, they can do what they want. I could just resist buying it.

    What I’m wanting though, is to see the visionary that is Jobs say MP3s are no different than the mix tapes of the eighties! Go on, play it in a friends device. Be free.

    I don’t see this as a stretch: he did push DRM free music (even though that’s sorta limited still).

    As far as I?m concerned, they hit rock bottom awhile ago, and all they have done since then is to buy better shovels and continue digging.

    Exactly. When they finally realized they couldn’t just pile on adware crap, it was too late.

  16. Chris says:

    As far as a check-box for customising the install of bonjour, beats me. Is it using a ton of resources? Does windows even have a proper resource monitor? I forget (thankfully).

    Most Apple apps, by that I mean all apps made for running on an Apple, have very few customisations during install. Why complicate the install with widgets and knobs and such, ya know? For instance, installing OS X itself is the most brain dead simple process in comparison to Windows (no experience with Vista) or Linux (not much experience with the new flavours).

    Maybe that’s a horrible thing but, I’ve never had a problem with it. If Bonjour is making your computer crash left and right and sucking up RAM then I can see why it would be a bother. All the more reason to switch to Apple.

  17. macguru says:

    This comparison is by no way fair nor realistic.

    First off, iTunes doesn’t bombard you with advertisements, and if you don’t like the apple store you can hide it in the preferences. (try looking around the application some more)

    Also Apple’s iTunes interface is inherently easier to understand then any version of Real Player was because it makes sense. (typing a url in a music player is just stupid, thats what web browsers are for)

    As far as unnecessary features, i agree iTunes has recently become bloated, but all its features are still within the realm of a media player. Also bonjour is probably necessary for the shared music libraries. (a feature I love and use all the time, being that all my mp3s are on one computer)

    Anyways give a fair assessment of the facts, don’t just hate a program because you have windows and its designed for a mac.

  18. mo says:

    haha.. I wrote a short entry on how to tag and get album art for itunes.

    apple has a super awesome archive of album covers which it can update to your music list automatically – yet there is a *catch

    you need an itunes store account.

    ok. lets get one… ooops.. it’s a secure billing account.. grrr.. please give us your banking info..

    ___

    good bye itunes store account.

    Who said apple made things simple?

    unless you have a freaking hex editor and coding skills your music library and all the links and music counts will be totally lost if you change a directory. Because the counts, ratings and playlists are linked to absolute file locations not the music names!

    Happened to me a million times. Change the music folder..opps not found..

    In vista, itunes loads with a black screen.. but as they recommend on their website.. “if you resize it, the black screen will fix itself”

    yay!

    too bad last fm doesn’t work with Real Player.. I want to go back!

  19. mo says:

    Update:

    the latest version (7.6.1.9) improves some performance issues, to an extent worth mentioning.

  20. Kevin says:

    Too bad you don’t have the guts to run on a linux box like me. Amarok destroys all of that bloated corporate garbage.

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