Saturday, June 5, 2010

Kissing iTunes Goodbye

I was never a fan of iTunes to begin with. Winamp is and always will be my audio player of choice. Why?
Winamp 5.572:

  • is highly customizable. Everything from the way it looks, skinning features, the Big Bento themes right down to the Milkdrop visualizations.
  • can instantly re-scan your monitored folders. All your downloaded (legally or otherwise) can be easily integrated into your library in two clicks.
  • allows intense control over your Idv2 tags and instant free access to Gracenote's auto tag facility.
  • offers Smart views, which allow you to tame your monstrous collection of music by rating, length, genre or a permutations of the existing parameters.
  • gives you syncing features with your iPod and lets you listen and bookmark Shoutcast Radio. It has limited podcasting as well.
So the question is really why do we use iTunes (unless of course you're cursed with a Mac)? Yes Mac lovers I said "Cursed". Call me a Windows fanboy, but whatever, Win 7 works wonders for me. We'll have that debate later. We use the damned program because we need the iPod updates and when we need to reformat the iPod. Let's see what iTunes does.

iTunes:
  • is a clunky program that serves as a not-so-cleverly disguised front for pushing £0.79 mp3s through iTunes Store.
  • cannot be customized. Period. You cannot download the program and make it your own. Unlike Firefox, Thunderbird and Winamp.
  • cannot auto-update the library.
  • needs you to get an iTunes account (registering is a pain in the rear end) to get auto tag and download cover art data.
  • Its "Genius" feature is not too impressive. Also requires registration.
  • Crashes every so often when your iPod is plugged in and sends the player into an eternal cycle of "Synchronizing. Do not Remove". Killing the program through Task Manager doesn't work at times and Process Explorer is required.
  • Bundles Quicktime in its setup file with no opt-out and assumes that the whole world plays every conceivable file in QT. I use Shark007 Codecs for Windows 7 that allows seamless MKV, Mp4 and AVC encoded video playback of all my anime in Windows Media Player 12. Suck on that Apple.
The other reason I used iTunes was for subscribing to podcasts. There are several podcasts which can be subscribed only through iTunes Store and one of them was HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher. Here are some things I tried. Once I got rid of iTunes, was it possible for me to still get the podcasts??
  • I checked Podcast Alley and other podcast sites for the RSS/XML/HTTP address so that a podcast aggregator like Juice or gPodder can automatically download the future episodes. The link at Podcastalley didn't work.
  • I checked the Idv2 tags of existing episodes in hope of a podcast URL. No such luck there.
  • I installed Wireshark ( a network protocol analyzer) and let it run in the background while I refreshed the Podcast list in iTunes. Then I saved the TCP stream and tried the HTTP address from there. No luck. A full description can be found at BlogicBlog.
  • Worst case scenario I had to rip the audio from the video obtained from a streaming site like Megavideo. But after 3 tries, the server got wise to my attempts and I got an incomplete FLV file using Orbit Downloader.
Finally it struck me. Analogous to the way we can export and import bookmarks across different browsers, we can do the same for Podcasts in iTunes. So before we uninstall iTunes forever to migrate to better players (Winamp or Mediamonkey), do the following:
  1. Using iTunes, subscribe to every podcast that your heart desires.
  2. Download and install a podcast aggregator like gPodder.
  3. Back in iTunes, right-click the "Podcasts" in the left and select "Export". Save as "Podcast Subscription Files". This will have an opml file extension.

4. Open up gPodder and "Ctrl+O". When prompted for the opml file, simply navigate to the file and select it.
5. And that's it! gPodder will automatically take over and prompt you to download the files. You can add the Download folder to your Watch folders in Winamp. The only hassle would be that you would have to manually edit the Idv2 tags so that all the files are easily locatable in your library. 6. Download and install Sharepod and Microsoft's .NET Framework. Unzip the Sharepod contents into your iPod directory and run it from there. Of course, NEVER run Sharepod and iTunes together!! Sharepod helps you backup your iPod to your computer and transfer audio files to your iPod. And unlike iTunes, Sharepod does NOT delete a song from your iPod if it no longer exists on your hard disk.
7. Now you've got brilliant control over your podcasts and your music (between pod and HD), it's time to kiss iTunes goodbye. Go to the control panel, Uninstall programs and click iTunes.

Goes to show that Apple might have won the battle, but we just won the damn war.
Take that Steve!!

No comments: