Mac Essentials: VLC

VLC Media Player
VLC Media Player

VLC is an open-source multimedia player and framework that plays nearly every type of multimedia file. VLC is simple, clean and has a small footprint and because it is open source it can be extended as per need.

We all need to play videos on our computer both at home and in office for one reason or the other. There are various of video formats in the wild and each company choosing to support a particular format for their own reason. But this does not leave the user(us) in a very good shape as the video files that we want to play or receive from someone may not necessarily be in the same format all the time. iTunes does not support all available formats because of license issue and the fact that there are just too many formats out there in the wild. It is always a pain to install format specific application on the machine as you would end up with too many applications that are not doing too much.

This is where VLC comes in handy. VLC can play almost all possible video formats flawlessly. In terms of interface, VLC has a very simple and basic interface that is fun to use. Hidden behind the simplicity is the power to play anything(video) that makes VLC media player so good. It can also download streams from the internet. Because of the simple and minimalist look, VLC is very quick in streaming video from the internet.

Over all, VLC is a very good media Player for you Mac. It is simple, lightweight and will successfully play the most stubborn of the media files.

Click here to download..

How to add Album Artwork through iTunes


Follow these steps in iTunes to filter to all songs without Album Artwork
1) Go to File Menu
2) Select “Create Smart Playlist”
3) Select “Kind” in first cell, “is” in second cell and type “Music” in third cell
4) Click on + besides the third cell. This should add another row below the first row
5) Select “Has Artwork” in first cell or second row and “is false” in second cell
6) Click on “ok”

You’ll now get a list of all songs/albums that do not have an album artwork assigned

To update Album artwork through iTunes

1) Select advanced menu then click on “Get Album Artwork”
Note: 1) You can also select Song/Album and right click then click get Album Artwork to get for individual song/album
2) You’ll get a notification asking “Are you sure you want to get Album Artwork” Click “Get Album Artwork”
3) On completion you’ll get a notification stating “Could not get artwork for some albums”
Click on the plus sign to check which albums artwork could not be found

It would have found album artwork for a large number of albums but there would be few that it would not be able to find. The ones for which Album artwork is found would be automatically removed from the list you created.

You can manually update album artwork for the rest of them. You can either do this by individually selecting songs or by selecting a group of songs that you want to have a similar Album artwork. To do this
1) Sort by Album
2) Select all songs in an Album
3) Right click
4) click “get info”
5) search for google image / wikipedia to get image of the album
6) drag and drop the image from google image/wikipedia in to the album artwork space
7) click “OK”

Now, if you are left with a bunch of songs that are individual songs like free downloads/DJ mixes/Self compilations etc. then you can select them all and add one common image for all in the album artwork space

If you want to further group them and add albums based on a different grouping like artist/Genre/Year then sort them by the group you want to create and select all songs you want to group together and add album artwork to them by the manual process mentioned above.

Beatles on iTunes

Beatles on iTunes

A day before the Beatles music announcement on their website Apple posted a message on their home page that read “Tomorrow is just another day. That you’ll never forget”. It was a very smart line used by Apple which caused a lot of anxiety among the media and Apple fans. Tech journalists went on a frenzy race to be the first to guess what the announcement would be. One thing was clear that since Apple had an Apple event not more than a month back where they announced the new Mac book Air, Mac OS Lion,  ilLife 11 and Mac App store above others, it was very unlikely that this was going to be another major announcement. In spite of this you could see speculations that were at extremes. Moreover, the message also said “Check back here tomorrow for an exciting announcement from iTunes” which made it clear that it had to be something within iTunes.

Beatles announcement
Beatles Announcement

On the following day, Apple announces arrival of Beatles on iTunes. This was an exclusive deal signed with Apple where the digital music of Beatles would be available on iTunes only until end of 2010.

The announcement did not go well with the tech journalists as they had expected a bigger announcement than this! To be fair with Apple they did not send out invites and neither did they send press releases about the announcement. It is their site and they are allowed to put up such a message to create excitement among their customers. Does this not happen with every small or big retail shop that you know on the high street? So, then why is it such a big deal if Apple chooses to write something on their website?!

There are a couple of things that need to be brought to notice here. One is that all the tech journalists played the announcement down and made fun of the hype created by Apple stating Beatles music was not such a big deal and that everyone who wanted to own their music already owns it by now. This is one statement that speaks volumes about the current lot of journalists. Who for them represents a sample of music lovers that Apple is trying to reach? Tech journalist themselves? It is very likely that each one of them would have a copy of Beatles already, but it does not mean that everyone who logs on to the Apple site and iTunes also owns it. The tech journalists have it because they are supposed to be ahead of the curve when it comes to adaptation of technology and in this case ripping their disc in to a digital copy.

It is one week since the announcement now and Apple has sold 2,000,000 copies of Beatles songs and 450,000 copies of various albums on iTunes already! Various Beatles albums have been on the top 50 of iTunes since the time their music have been announced on iTunes .

Lets go back to the statement that Apple put on their site and why is it that it is a big deal for them? Here are a few points that I think are key to the announcement and will help put things to perspective.

1) It is not just another band. It is ‘THE BEATLES

2) It has been well known that Steve jobs himself has been pursuing to get Beatles on iTunes for almost five years and finally he did.

3) The music industry is a bit weird in terms of licensing and royalty and thus has been holding back on some major releases away from digital media, specially the ones they thought were making money through CD sales. Beatles AC/DC, Metallica, Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin are a few that come to mind immediately. Getting “the king” among all to iTunes is a big statement for the rest of the industry and the artists that are still holding back. “A day you’ll never forget”Beatles page on iTunes

4) 2 million copies of songs and 450K albums sale in a week speaks volumes for itself

5) By bringing their music to the digital media(iTunes) it only helps the Beatles to ensure that their music passes on from one generation to the other. Not all youngsters would have a collection of Beatles but they surely would like to download and hear few classics that suit their taste.

6) Lastly, we hope it is the end of the sage of Beatles corporation “Apple Corps” that sued Apple Computers in 1981 for trademark infringement and a case that got settled only in February 2007.

How would Apple use $1 billion Data Centre in North Carolina

Apple has been building a 500,000 square-foot data centre is North Carolina, US for some time now. This is the largest data centre that Apple will own once it is ready and will act as a back bone to Apple services.

Here are few options that I think the data centre will likely be used for. considering the size of the data centre is obvious that it will be used for more than one of the options mentioned below

1) iTunes music streaming

iTunesAfter the purchase of Lala it was highly speculated that Apple will build on their service and design a bigger and better model of online music streaming. Eventually, Apple shut down Lala’s online services in May of this year and has not given any indication that suggest that they are going to start a similar service of their own with iTunes. Considering the size of iTunes and the market share that it commands it was never going to be easy for Apple to start a similar service as it would first have to sort out agreements with record labels and get them to buy in. Though we have not seen any movement in this area and any clear indications about the service, it is one of the items that is definitely on the cards and will see light very soon.

2) Media Streaming
(Movies and TV shows)

This is one service which is definitely in-flight. How apple is playing different with Apple TV compared to Google and other services is that the other players are relying on content that is already available on the internet through either the channel or through the producer, Apple here is more likely to host all the media content on their servers and provide the facility to all partners (channels, production house). The assurance that they would have in return is that all media would be streamed from Apple’s data centre and that it would be secure and locked so that it is not possible to download and copy the rented media that is streamed through Apple, unless purchased. This would be a big selling point for Apple who would slowly be able to get a grip on the Media streaming business and eventually be a proper threat to the current Cable/dish networks. Any sort of inroads in this space would only be possible if there is enough content available with Apple. The data centre would be a big selling point for not only converting and securely storing media but also securely streaming subscribers from their own facilities where they have greater control. Currently, there are two production houses Fox and ABC that have signed up with Apple to make their content available on rent through iTunes. I would not be surprised if we come to know against the popular belief that Apple actually had chosen to go only with the two as they wanted to test the data centre thoroughly before other channels/production houses were brought on board or while the content on other channels is being processed and converted.

3) E-mail Service

Apple EMailAs I write this article, it is very likely that facebook would have beaten Apple in the race of providing email service. Apple has never shown any interest in this space and have kept away from it all this while. But with the social media growing very strongly at global level and where facebook and twitter have a strong grip the only other space that will get more users on board with Apple would be the email space. Currently Gmail has a strong grip on the market share with its innovative and robust emailing solution but with every passing day Google is finding ways to show to the world of the different ways they are trying to get more and more information about the internet user and Gmail is just one of them. I do not trust Google with my emails as much as I did a year ago. facebook is in a similar zone. With all the security issues on facebook over the last couple of years it has become a highly unreliable company to trust with your personal data. When facebook launches its email service it is more than likely that they’ll hit a 10 million users in one week but most of them out of pressure than to actually take advantage of the features that facebook may provide on their email service. Apple is one company and I would rate Amazon to be as close that people would not have as many issues with having an email id with which they trust would be secure and would want to use as their primary account. Moreover, with iTunes accounts Apple already has a large user base that can be easily converted to email users if Apple wishes to do so. Apart from social networks, email service is the only place on the internet that can help you showcase your potential to shape user’s experience at such a large scale. It would also be possible for Apple to seamlessly integrate their email services with iOS and OS X to ensure a great user experience on both the platforms and their devices that support those platforms.

4) MobileMe (Cloud computing)

Cloud computing is a concept which is still in its infant stages. There are a few companies that  have tried to shape it in different ways and have come up with their own unique understanding of the concept. Dropbox, Evernote, MobileMe, Google docs etc are a few that come to mind immediately when you think about cloud computing. Apple has already been in this space for sometime with MobileMe. The only issue with that is that they have not got it right. Right in a way that it becomes globally acceptable and becomes the norm of the industry. Apple and people related to the project may want to differ with my opinion but the fact remains that considering the time that MobileMe has been around, it should have gained atleast 100 times its current acceptance to be called relevant in this segment. MobileMe is definitely a good service if not better but has a huge scope of improvement right from design to implementation. It goes back to the same old issue of whether Apple has an understanding of virtual services on internet. They are good when it comes to hardware and experience on the hardware device but do they understand the internet well? They have shown their in-expertise again with a service like Ping which is struggling to make its way even in the iTunes using community. They need someone who is of a non engineer mindset and can look at things from a internet usage perspective who can help them shape MobileMe service in a way that it becomes the norm of industry and takes the shape of how cloud computing of the future would look like.

It is clear from Apple’s product portfolio announced in the last six months that it is the cloud they are planning to move towards with slow but assured steps. Apple TV with no storage, MacBook Air with only 64 GB storage, iPhone, iPad are all hinting towards the inevitable move to cloud storage.