• iTunes 8 Walkthrough and Review

    iTunes 8, released Tuesday, brings a host of new features.

    I'll go over the new features here. iTunes 8 is available now via Software Update on your Mac - I first had to update QuickTime and restart the Mac (twice), then update FrontRow - then I had iTunes available as an update.

    Grid View - browse through your music collection in a Cover Flow-like grid view.

    Grid View provides a sexy looking image for each artist, genre, composer, or album, depending on how you choose to have it displayed. It seems iTunes has improved their "Get Album Artwork" (right click on a song or selection of songs to see the menu item and press it) functionality - I was able to get considerably more albums' artwork doing that then I have in the past. Looks like Apple realized if folks were going to use the grid view they'd want to actually have some images. There were still a decent amount it couldn't find artwork for, but Amazon (just search the album name and Amazon usually has an image for it - then right click the albumin iTunes, and in the bottom left of the Get Info window you can drag an album image) or Google fixed the rest after an hour of me going through and finding them all.

    Hovering over an album/artist in grid view brings up a Play Artist / Play Album button which automatically plays only that artist or album. iTunes plays in order, not random. You can easily go to Controls > Shuffle > Turn on Shuffle if you prefer a random playlist.

    Double-clicking an item in grid view opens up a list view for just that artist or album.

    I never used Cover Flow purely because it took too long to get to my music. I know, I know, the difference between Cover Flow and list view is minimal - but enough that I preferred list view. After a few hours of using grid view, though, I definitely prefer it to Cover Flow, and may prefer to list view - its just prettier. I'm not sure how functional it will be as I continue using it. I'm often looking for a song which I don't know the album of. We'll see how it goes. It also adds a step if I'm looking for a particular song, although generally when I use iTunes I'm playing either a playlist, album, or artist.

    Genius - this intelligent service lets you create an entire playlist based off a single song you select.

    The Genius Sidebar is a Pandora-esque smart playlist and social updating function. Genius allows you to select a single song, and then press Start Genius from the bottom right of the iTunes window - iTunes will then create an entire playlist based off simply that song.

    When you first install iTunes 8, you're greeted with the new Genius Sidebar. Press Turn On Genius and iTunes will look through your whole iTunes library and submit the info to the cloud to be ran through Genius' service and see how other users are using the same music (very BigBrother, eh?).

    The Genius service is constantly pulling information based off of how other Genius users have created playlists with specific songs, and then creates a playlist similar to the ones they have. Checking the Genius playlist shows an option to Refresh the playlist, assumably from refined statistics as more users enable and use the Genius service in iTunes.

    The service is also Genius Marketing on Apple's part - when the Genius Sidebar is on, every time a song is playing the sidebar brings up iTunes Store links to complete the album if you haven't purchased it all, show you new albums or hits by the same artist, and offer you a whole bunch of other songs that you'd like if you enjoy that song. I'm sure they'll be pleased (and so will you stock-holders) at the jump in sales from that feature.

    HD Shows - rumored for a good while now, HD shows are now available in iTunes for $2.99 each.

    The shows are coming down in 720p, and can be streamed to your Apple TV already. Currently they offer shows form ABC, NBC, and Showtime. Expect the offerings to only increase if sales go well for these studios.

    Worth noting - HD shows also include the standard version, and will automatically sync only the standard version to your iPod or iPhone, since the HD version would be rather pointless on those devices. However, make sure you have some room on that HD - on a typical one hour show (about 42 minutes without commercials) the filesize is ~ 1.5 GB for the HD version, and 500 MB for the standard version, an HD-squeezing 2GB per show.

    Syncing my pwned 2.0 iPhone 3G went without issue.

    I'd say its worth the upgrade purely for the Genius feature, although there's been a few rumblings that 8.0 will not let you restore from a custom .ipsw - can anyone confirm? EDIT: So far everyone on IRC and on the boards here are reporting custom .ipsw restoring works fine, as expected. Upgrade away - but don't update to 2.1 when it comes out Friday until the Pwnage guys have got a new version of Pwnage.
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