iTunes Album Art and Cell Phones

I spent a bunch of time talking to Evan and Lloyd tonight.

This post is also subtitled “the blog entry with one thousand topics covered”. Evan made me go research the best way to get album cover art into iTunes. We mucked with a couple of different ways. Pretty much all the tools grab info from Amazon using their web services. Results are all dependant on the quality of the cover art that Amazon has.

Export Artwork is probably the best way to really automate the process. It’s a shareware AppleScript that lets you look up 100 tracks per launch, or you can pay $8US to not get nagged. But, it kind of left Evan and me vaguely unsatisfied.

The second selection was Clutter. Holy smokes! This is an awesome, awesome app. It’s one of the things that I’m going to take screenshots of and say: see? this is why I own a Mac. Basically, it hooks into your iTunes library and presents you with a browse-by-artist listing, with their albums in the middle pane, and the album cover on the right.

Once you select a song to play, a second window shows a “Now Playing” window, and displays the album art if available. If it’s not available, it will try and grab it from Amazon. Failing that, a menu item lets you do a Google search on the album, and you can drag and drop images on the window to set the album art. And then you can select another menu item which copies the album art into iTunes. The Dock icon of Clutter changes to display the album you are currently playing.

Oh, right. And the reason it’s called Clutter? You can drag-and-drop these album images onto your desktop. And they’ll stick there. Each of them has a nice little drop shadow, and they’re each in their own layer, so you can overlap them, drag them wherever you want on the screen, etc. So it’s like having your desktop “cluttered” with a bunch of CD cases laying around. Click on an album cover to start playing it. Or right-click to select a specific song. Coupled with Expose, I can switch from whatever app I’m in, click on an album to start playing it, then Command-Tab or Expose back to whatever I was working on. Slick. In the meantime, iTunes just gets hidden in the background and never used.

I think I’ll start listening to more music again. Shuffle on a 9K song library is a bit intimidating, especially when a large proportion of the library is classical/country/opera. I’ve made it as far as “C” in the artist listing (“Crash Test Dummies” – I made it a practice to memorize and sing the intensely bass-y “Superman Song” while on watch during my ship voyage).

Note: both these methods get iTunes to add an uncompressed image into the ID3 tags of each song in an album. For 9,200 songs (which is how many Kate and I have) that’s a significant amount of extra space used up.

Whew! Next up cell phone talk with Lloyd. He cracked the screen on his cell phone, and quickly found that there is basically nowhere in Canada to buy reasonably priced cell phones if you buy them separately from activation/a contract. Yup. We talked a bit about the sucky-ness of various providers, concluding that Rogers Wireless are the biggest evil. Don’t worry – me and Lloyd both use them, and we both reminisced about the good old days with Fido. They get a link, because their website is good, and they suck less.

So, what phone to get? May as well get a kick ass smartphone of some kind, since it’ll be costing you a fortune either way.

I postulated that I would be working backwards and forwards. Backwards meaning that I make sure that the phone is compatible with apps like Clicker – lets you control all sorts of cool stuff on your Mac using the built-in Bluetooth. Oh ya. I want Bluetooth (yes, I’ll need the adapter).

Of course, contacts and calendaring get synced across to your phone. And I seem to remember something cool like being able to answer phone calls coming in on your cell phone on-screen. Maybe that’s a third party app, I can’t find anything about it right now.

Forwards meaning I have to look at what phones are available from which providers. Again, looks like only Fido has cool phones.

I think I want the Sony Ericsson T616. Seems to meet both requirements. I look at it this way: it’s not like it’s $300. It’s like it’s $650 cheaper than the P800 :o

Oh yes, and this would be in BC of course. So maybe, just maybe, I get to try the no landline option. I figure I could get a second handset for Kate, and Fido has unlimited local calling between Fido subscribers. Then, I would get Shaw cable for highspeed access (although I actually wish I could get it without getting cable…on the other hand, maybe finally give me a chance to grab a TV tuner and do some multimedia PC testing, though).

Actually, thinking about Telus again reminded me about a home networking presentation I gave to them back when I was with Nortel. My predictions were…...a little optimistic. But I still blame the service providers for not even trialing anything. The difficulty comes down to in-home distribution. But I'm not going to go down this ranting road right now.

Reminds me: Rob and I saw a Prismiq at Future Shop. Pretty amazed that the company managed to get distribution through Future Shop – it’s a media player product that hooks up to your TV and streams content from your PC. The sucky part is that it requires a Windows-only app. Reading the FAQ and the developer’s forum it looks like Mac- and Linux-support may eventually come around (there is already a “preview release” for Linux). Looks like a pretty good solution.