Sunday, April 18, 2010

Facing the Music

Perhaps the most compelling thing about the iPhone, and the reason I bought mine, is that it integrates top notch music player with phone. I used to carry a Sanyo M1 flip phone (great phone, BTW) and an iPod Touch. The Touch was for music and email. The Sanyo was for phone and photos. Having just one device in the cell phone pocket of my shorts was most of the appeal of the iPhone. Syncing music and podcasts with iTunes is easy with the iPhone.

So it's time to face the music with Nexus One. First, I plugged my Nexus One into my MacBook Pro. The flash disk did not mount automatically. Reading the manual, I learned that you have to deal with a notification on the Nexus One that dismounts the compact flash card so the computer can mount it. That makes sense. It also leaves the Nexus One usable while syncing, unlike the iPhone.

Once the drive was mounted, I noticed immediately that iPhoto was ready to transfer my photos. That should not have surprised me, but it was nice. The superior camera on Nexus One is all win!

One way the Nexus One differs from iPhone and iPods is how it deal with music on the device. On iPod and iPhone, the music files are organized and indexed by iTunes on your computer during the sync process. I know way too much about this having reverse engineered much of it in the iPod Photo days to develop a vertical app that would have allowed hotels to manage fleets of iPods to be leant to guests. Unfortunately, we never found a customer.

On Nexus One, you just copy files over, and the player apps figure things out. So I opened up the Finder and browsed to my extensive iTunes library and started copying artists I wanted. I have far more than 4GB of music, so I had to be selective. I also skipped over artists that I knew I bought from iTunes Store more than a year ago, because the files would be DRM encumbered. As I write this, I'm copying about 3GB over the home wireless network from my media server, through my MBP, and onto the Nexus One.

This process is easy with music, and it's a once in a while process, because my music collection is fairly static. I might add a couple of albums a month. With podcasts, this process wouldn't work well on a day to day basis, because I'd want to remove old episodes, copy new ones, etc. Moving podcast management to the Nexus One will solve this problem, but may present others. It is nice having the complete archive of EconTalk on my media server, so I can pull up a classic episode when I want to listen again without needing 5 or 10 minutes to download.

OK, my copying is almost done... So I unmount the drive from my Mac, then go up to notifications on Nexus One and turn USB off. Then the moment of truth, starting the Music app and seeing what it does with all that music. It quickly displays available music and appears to scan through the files and update what's available as it finds things. The process took about 15 seconds. I know I copied over some DRM'd music, and it just skips processing it.

So copying music is easy enough if you know where iTunes hides its files. I'll do a separate post on synchronization software.


  1. Scott again.
    FYI on the PC, iTunes sucks. Maybe Apple is against cross-compilers because they use that technique and their results are crap. Doing anything including transferring music takes forever on my quad-core. Using MediaMonkey however, it takes a small fraction of the time.
    Quicktime for PC is no hell either. If you visit the Canon forums on dpreview you'll hear from a bunch of people who have started using VLC to display Canon 7D 1080i movies because Quicktime chokes and sputters. I'm one of them.
    Again, thanks and keep up the great work.

  2. Ah QuickTime... We use it for cross-platform audio in RealeWriter ("RealeWriter" ). The big secret is make sure you keep it updated as you keep Windows updated. Something between QuickTime and Windows is very fragile. When a customer reports a crash on startup of our app, the first thing I suggest is reinstall or update QuickTime and it solves 3/4 of the problems.


Do us all a favor when commenting... First, let us know if you have used an iPhone, any Android phone, and/or the Nexus One.