Wednesday, November 02, 2005

The flaw in iTunes: 2 users, 2 iPods - and our RetinaLock future

A revised version of an Apple Discussion Group posting of mine:
Apple - Discussions - The flaw in iTunes: 2 users, 2 iPods

There's a design flaw in iTunes, but happily there's an "easy" fix. How can we get Apple to apply the fix?

Problem: When my wife syncs her Nano to our Library, she messes up my smart playlists (and vice-versa). For example, the 'last played' value is now the last time EITHER of us listened to a tune, so that's no longer useful. Shockingly, despite being married for about 2 decades, we also don't rate tunes quite the same way.

The trouble is that OS X is a multi-user system but iTunes isn't really a multi-user solution - yet.

Here's the fix: We need to be able to treat shared Playlists and Libraries as though they were local, including being able to create derivative playlists.

I was surprised to learn that iTunes doesn't do this. One can share a Playlist readily, but one can't drag and drop items to create a local client Playlist. Note there's no DRM issue or copyright issue here, a Playlist only references a tune, it doesn't copy it. [wrong - obviously! See below.]

Here's how it should work.

1. iTunes Library runs in its own user account. It has global Playlists. The iTunes Library is shared.

2. I run a version of iTunes in my own account, Emily runs one in her own user account. We both are clients of the same shared Library, though of course we could have local tunes too. We create our own playlists and rate songs locally. We switch to our local accounts to sync our iPods. Ratings and last played dates and other metadata are local. We'd also be able sync with our own contacts and calendars!

How do we get Apple to implement this design fix? Obviously the engineers have known for years that this is the way to go, so it's management we have to persuade.

Update 11/2/05 -- Oh, but it is the DRM

As usual it's the DRM. I'd forgotten the little detail that the music is transferred to the iPod when one syncs. That's the problem.

How best to understand this? Think of the secret and forbidden lust of the media companies -- the (patent pending 2040) RetinaLock™ (Palladium Inside!™). The RetinaLock prevents any access to DRMd material by control of visual inputs. BrainLock does the same for auditory, tactile, and olfactory inputs. BrainLock Enhanced™ (mandatory upgrade 2045) makes it impossible to consider any action that would circumvent the workings of the BrainLock (thereby ending the trickle of death sentences related to violations of the DMCA amendment of 2043).

Really, the idea of "shared property" is a legacy of ancient law related to the fading practice of marriage. The media companies abhore this idea. Each person should own their own BrainLocked media (ok, just biometric locked until the advantages of BrainLock associated enhancements become irresistible). If you and your multiple spouses and myriad children want to listen to music, you each need your own music stream. Joint access is discouraged, though it will not be effectively blocked for some time.

The bottom line is that Apple's media partners really don't want multiple users accessing a single iTunes repository. They can't do anything about multiple iPods for now (after all, a single user might have an iPod and a Nano!), but they accept that grudgingly. They won't allow anything to encourage multiple iPods with multiple users, and that means this "design problem" isn't going to get fixed -- because it's working as designed.

Hmpph. I begin to see the romantic appeal of outlaw-hood.

Update 11/2: I have a workaround.

Update 9/4/11: I have had a hard time finding this old post, because I kept looking for "RetinaLock" instead of "BrainLock". So I tweaked it to include RetinaLock. Same meaning though.

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