Comrade iTunes, this is Spotify

iTunes likeness

iTunes likenessThe first iPod, iPhone or iPad is a joy. Plugging-in to iTunes to upload your own music ripped from CD or add a credit card to buy music, apps and even movies. Doing so crowns the iTunes account as le grande fromage, the great dictator, one iTunes to rule them all. It works well – for one person.

Your second iDevice means you sync with the current iTunes dictator or you rebel and create a second iTunes account on another computer. But beware comrade.

Buying content like music, apps, movies, audiobooks etc. in iTunes binds the purchase to the iTunes account. You can’t sync across different iTunes libraries.

In my family this means we have one iTunes politburo opened in 2003 which contains:

  • Key photography albums & slideshows
  • My vinyl and CD collection
  • iTunes music including Amazon purchases
  • Movies and TV shows
  • Audiobooks, Podcasts, PDFs and iBooks ((An iBook bought on iPhone, stored in iTunes but not viewable from iTunes on the desktop!))

I decided to sync all devices with one iTunes library because it meant greater sharing of purchased media on many devices ((One iTunes with apps is very useful where the children can share games etc)) and simplified backup . iTunes has command and control of our family of iPhones, iPods, Airport express and Apple TV.

The issue is every device owner has to use the same computer (mine) when updating playlists and apps. So I make the changes because I don’t want young children running amok in a 1-click purchase environment.

PS3 &  Apple TV remotesSo please comrade iTunes, let me buy music and let my family sync it onto their device from a different computer in our house? Also:

  1. Simplify transfer of camera media between devices and iTunes. Nothing is intuitive here.
  2. Cut the iTunes USB umbilical cord for synchronising, at least for music.
  3. Fix the rental source problems with Apple TV and iTunes.
  4. Allow transfer of photographs and movies captured on a device to computer wirelessly.
  5. Shake the dandruff out of iTunes, its begining to feel like a Sony remote control.


Spotify subscription music


Jet White's Spotify website
This blog post is in part-response to discussions I’ve had with Jer White. He is a technical writer based in Edinburgh by day and creator of the worlds biggest Blog on Spotify. Which is the worlds largest paid music subscription service. It has been growing new features and benefits so I consulted Jer on how Soptify may work in a family setting. See his blog post here of my dilemmas.

I took the free 7-day trial of Spotify Premium, playing-down my reservations of subscription music. It is working on all computers and iDevices and works very.  While writing this I heard it was Bob Dylan’s 70th birthday. Fired-up Spotify and bang! now listening to a live Dylan recording from 1961. Not only did I want Spotify to stand in front of comrade iTunes tanks, I wanted freedom from managing the families devices. Does it ?  …almost.

spotify freedom logoWith a daughter off to France for a week she turned excitement to 11. The prospect of bathing in Spotify’s 14m+ tracks and cherry-picking music for her iPod nano was teenage heaven. Sadly for her iPod devices will only sync owned and not subscription music. Spotify joy for her elder brother however.  Using the Spotify app on his iPod Touch he sideloaded (or cached) a playlist to his device over WiFi for listening on his paper round. I repeat: music streaming and syncing over-the-air.

I Spotified my iPhone. Watching a WiFi sync of music brought a smile. My son and I used different macs too :mrgreen: Take Glasnost and Peristroika comrade iTunes.

Spotify unlimited gives desktop access for £5/month. Spotify Premium provides desktop and mobile access for £10/month. ((includes over the air stream or sync of music)) Spotify does not break the iron curtain fully, some wrinkles in an Apple world:

  • Spotify app paused playback when iPhone was docked in my TomTom car cradle and the screensaver kicked in. Road-tested an update today and this appears fixed.
  • Cannot send music to an Apple TV (Rev 1) from either an iPhone or Spotify on the desktop which is unfortunate. Sometimes its good to rock-out to the same tune coming from various audio devices around the house. Soptify app on iPhone worked with a few drop-outs to AirPort Express.
  • Spotify desktop app has no option to stream music to your AirPlay devices eg. AirPort, Apple TV.
  • Only one device or computer streaming music at a time .
  • Built-in discovery features appear good, but run out of steam fast e.g. the What’s New slider, repeats albums and has a myopic view of its 14m tracks.

iTunes or Spotify

The Spotify trial changed my view about music subscription. Its keenly priced, has a good range of tracks and integrates well into an Apple world. Consider a movie rental at £3-5 per 3 hours experience, or buy a DVD for £10 and watch it three times. Now consider 30 days of unlimited music choice out of 14m tracks for £5-10 ! For a music lover its very good value and restores joy and serendipity to music discovery. Be sure to checkout Jer White’s blog to discover tips, tools and updates to the Spotify library on The Pansentient League.

Spotify has set the bar for subscription music and over-the-air iDevice syncing. Can Apple democratise iTunes, cut the USB sync cable and offer music rental over the ethercloud ?

Any experiences positive or negative in integrating Spotify into your world ? Please add your comments below.

Lowry Theatre

While in Manchester I visited The Lowry Theatre, the home of the works of LS Lowry. As I develop as a Photographer, it is so important to experience a range of visual arts. Seeing with the eye, asking questions why the artist made their choices of context, light, composition, depth, colour etc. This was an excellent display of Lowry’s work. Early sketches in the 1900’s, through oils of his widely recognised Industrial scenes and small ball point sketches. He had a style of his own in representations of people and pets. The people walking as one to/from big smoke-stack factories in single-minded fashion. Whereas the pets seemed to have a life of their own, happy in the landscape, walking against the flow of people. Time very well spent.

Lowry Theatre, Salford Docks, Manchester
Lowry Theatre, Salford Docks, Manchester

The re-development of Glasgow’s old Docks, once neglected then regenerated by the Glasgow Garden Festival in 1988 are now transformed into modern office and science buildings. Similarly for Salford Quay. I was in Manchester this week and had a few hours to explore, with my new point’n’shoot Canon G9 camera. The quay has street art which relates to the history of the area. It has opened-up new uses for the Docks. For Football fans, Manchester United’s stadium Old Trafford sits at the edge of these docks (below).

Old Trafford, Salford Docks
Old Trafford, Salford Docks

There is a small sailing school offering hire and instruction in windsurfing and Laser sailing dinghies.

Ontario Basin Salford Docks
Ontario Basin Salford Docks


Central Bay Salford Docks
Central Bay Salford Docks

Public art improves public spaces

By Andy Scott
Andy Scott sculptures
Andy Scott sculptures on Clackmannanshire roundabouts

A new roundabout was created at the junction of two rural roads in Clackmannanshire, Scotland’s smallest county.  The centrepiece is unusual. A stunning bright creative metal latticework in the form of a lady holding a metal squiggle which is called River Spirit. When erected, it was unclear who the Artist was as there are no markings or nameplates. What did the squiggle mean?  I contacted its creator who told me it is a map of the meandering River Forth formed by metal rods. So this Lady facing North holding (the river) Forth. The figurative Artist is a Glaswegian called Andy Scott. Consequently Andy Scott sculptures are very popular on Clackmannanshire roundabouts.

Andy describes the piece as “a combination of practicalities and aesthetic” citing that its placement required the sculpture be tall for sight-lines and prominence. He continued “I wanted to relate to landscape, environment…idea of being classical ‘terminus’ sculpture from formal gardens etc. half column, half figure”  Andy added that there is a ‘partner’ piece being installed at Muirside roundabout at the end of January.  This male form will also face North (to the Ochils) and be in a more dramatic pose. “He relates to earth and sky, she to earth and water”.

River Spirit
River Spirit holding the Forth

Yes but!

The typical counter argument to these public structures is that the money is better spent on more ‘worthy’ items like school books or more Nurses etc. There is never enough money for those things and there never will be. If I can draw a parallel with personal and public spending priorities. Within homes, some decide to buy large plasma televisions even though the old device still functions (and uses less energy). Or choose to buy a new sofa suite before the old one becomes un-useable. Or paint their walls to ‘freshen’ things up. Most do this instead of paying off the Mortgage or hiring tutors to extend their Children’s education. Sure its complex, but part of the reasoning is that most people understand how important it is to live in pleasant places. So lets extend this sense of living in a good environment to the outdoors and our public spaces. I think we can have a higher bar for our environment than litter-free.

While photographing this new art installation I observed reactions, almost every driver looks at her as they drive around and some smile. Therefore public art improves public spaces. Andy – job done !


By Andy Scott



UPDATE NOVEMBER 2016: Tidy-up of language.
UPDATE FEBRUARY 2018: Tidy language, Repair links and add Google map.