Encrypted iTunes Backups

With iOS 9's release just a few hours away, it seems like a good time to mention that it is always a great idea to make a backup (or two) of your iOS device. More than likely, the upgrade will go smoothly for you, but in the odd chance that it doesn't, you'll be glad to have a backup (or two) handy.

I actually take two backups. The first I do is an iCloud backup via Settings > iCloud > Backup. My iOS devices are also set to do an iCloud backup when they are charging and connected to Wi-Fi, so they tend to backup every night.

But my preferred backup before updating iOS or getting a new device is an Encrypted iTunes backup. By default, iTunes does not encrypt backups. You have to enable it in iTunes' preferences. While any backup is better than no backup, there are some advantages to the encrypted variety.

  • Your data is encrypted, which is always a good thing.
  • It is a more complete backup, as it includes:
    • Your saved passwords
    • Wi-Fi settings
    • Website history
    • Health data

I'll tell you right now, the saving of Wi-Fi settings alone is worth it, but I also think retaining your Health data is extremely worth it.

While iCloud backups save me day-to-day (and are also encrypted), I like the iTunes backups because if you need to do a restore, you'll save yourself a lot of time by doing it over the USB Lightning cable than over Wi-Fi with iCloud.

So go make your backups, and happy updating!


Last night I saw a tweet from my friend Dave Chartier that got me thinking a bit:

There's a lot of rumor about Apple introducing a new music service tomorrow at WWDC. When I saw Dave's tweet, I wondered if this may be the end of the iTunes name.

Let's be honest, does anyone really even respect the iTunes name anymore? For years I've loathed whenever I have to use it. I know a lot of folks who carry the same sentiment. iTunes has been a cumbersome app for a half decade or more.

And then I am reminded of iPhoto. How much that was being bogged down by its past and how Apple essentially scrapped it and rolled out Photos for OS X. A new, refreshed take on photos brought a new name. And I'm now wondering if the same is due for iTunes. A new, refreshed take on music with a new name.

If I were to pick a name for it, I see one of two possibilities. First, simply Apple Music. It fits the trend of Apple leveraging its own name with the general purpose of the app. Second, I could see them using the Beats name they acquired last year.

We'll see what happens tomorrow, but I sure wouldn't be surprised if Apple said bye to the iTunes name.

¶ The Eleventh iTunes

I’ve been using iTunes for a long time. I remember using it when it debuted on Mac OS 9. I remember making the jump to purchasing my music on the iTunes Store when it arrived in 2003. To say I am invested in iTunes is an understatement.

Over the years Apple took that foundation of a music player and kept bolting on new features such as managing iPods, movies, TV shows, iPhones, apps, books, and all sorts of other things on top of the same basic design. iTunes has felt cluttered and stretched to the seams for years.

And for years I have been wanting Apple to do something drastic with iTunes. To trim the bloat — even through reorganization — and make something interesting and fun to use again.

Enter iTunes 11. The first major overhaul to how one uses iTunes that I remember. The sidebar that showed all your libraries, devices, the Store, and playlists is gone. Well, I should say it is gone by default — you can resurrect it in the View menu. If you are reaching for that menu right now, stop it. Give the new design a chance for a week or two. There is a reason the sidebar is gone.

In the past all those things in the sidebar held the same level of significance, even though they aren’t all of the same significance. It was a hodgepodge of where your priorities should be.

Now, whatever you are viewing at the moment is of the utmost significance. The bar along the top has a button on the left to switch the primary context of iTunes — Music, Movies, TV Shows, Podcasts, Books, Apps and Tones. The center of the bar further whittles down the view of each of those categories. Let’s focus on Music, since that is probably the most prominent.


With Music locked and located for the context, the center of the bar displays Songs, Albums, Artists, Genres, Video (that’d be music videos), and Playlists. Songs gives you the old style list of all your music. Albums, however, is now the primary way to interact with music in iTunes.

Albums shows a grid of all your albums and their artwork. This view, at first blush, is not all that new. In iTunes past, you would double click and album and get a song list view of it. Now, a single click on an album cover has a new twist — Expanded view.

If you’ve ever used an app folder on iOS, or in Launchpad on the Mac, Expanded View will seem familiar. The screen splits open to show the content of the album. I also shows the album art a little bigger, and iTunes color matches the view to the colors of the album. I honestly really like Expanded view. It is both beautiful and functional. And when you don’t need it, it is simply out of the way.

Another great part of the Music context of iTunes is Playlist creation. You can use the Playlist view, or, from any other Music view, just start dragging a song or album and a panel slides out with Playlists ready, and you simply drop the music into the playlist. The Panel then scurries away, out of sight.

However, my favorite part of the Music context is Up Next. Start playing an album or playlist and all of it is added to Up Next. However, if you need to satisfy a quick ear worm, you can click on an arrow next to a song and tell it to play next. This jumps it to the top of the queue. When it’s done, you go back to your regularly scheduled programming.

One final great feature I want to mention is the new Mini Player. Activated by a small glyph in the upper right of the screen, the mini player is a great way to have iTunes tucked away into a corner of your screen. The Mini Player has been around for a very long time (maybe since iTunes first debuted?). Though for the first time it is truly useful. You can use search from the Mini Player and queue up more music into Up Next. You can manage Up Next. It shows music information but changes to player controls when you hover over it. The new Mini Player is a tiny powerhouse of musical awesome.

Context, Context, Context

I spent the majority of my thoughts on the Music context of iTunes. But much of what has become iTunes over the years is still there. I cannot escape the idea of context, though. iTunes 11 has taken a page out of iOS. With, say, an iPad, the device is whatever you are using at the moment. The use case of the entire device changes from the context you place on it from the app you are using.

While iTunes 11 doesn’t fully reach this ideal, it gets close. When you want Music, all you see if music. When you want to browse the Store, all you see is the store. When you want to manage an iOS device, that is all you see.

And as I mentioned with Playlist creation, where a panel slides out when you start dragging music — things are only present in the context of them being useful. This is why I am happy to see the obfuscation of the sidebar. I don’t need to see all that stuff when I don’t need to use any of it. Seeing my playlists does not matter when I am managing my iPhone.

A lot of people dislike that Apple is making much of their ecosystem more like iOS. Many nerds are afraid the Finder will someday disappear from OS X. Honestly, I find iOS to be a breath of fresh air. The file system is not something most people know how to deal with, and they often shouldn’t. It is okay to abstract complexity away. Apple has achieved much of this with iOS. They are slowly making inroads toward it with OS X. And now they are bringing the abstract of singular focus and context back to iTunes.

We’ve never been great multitaskers. Be honest. We are really great at switching our context focus quickly. Maybe instead of having anything and everything available at once begging for our attention, we could allow ourselves to slow down with a more singular focus in our computing habits. Singular focus abstracts complexity. And less complexity is more enjoyable.

More enjoyable is exactly what iTunes 11 is.

¶ Apple's New Podcasts App

Me, last week, on the rumor of a standalone Podcasts app for iOS 6:

When Apple touted iOS 5 as being PC-free, one thing they forgot to include is being able to subscribe to podcasts on the iPhone and be able to check for and download new episodes.

Well, it turns out that iOS 5.1 is the release that makes iOS PC-free in this regard. Apple just released their standalone Podcasts app.

Here are the details from Apple:

Podcasts app is the easiest way to discover, subscribe to and play your favorite podcasts on your iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. Explore hundreds of thousands of free audio and video podcasts from the Podcasts Catalog, and play the most popular podcasts, organized for you by topic, with the all-new Top Stations feature.


  • Enjoy all of your audio and video podcasts in a single app
  • Explore hundreds of thousands of podcasts including shows in over 40 languages
  • Try the innovative new Top Stations feature to find new podcast series in a variety of topics, including arts, business, comedy, music, news, sports, and more.
  • Browse by Audio or Video podcasts, or see what’s most popular in Top Charts
  • Tap subscribe for your favorites and automatically receive new episodes for free as they become available
  • Stream episodes or download to listen while offline
  • Skip forward and back using simple playback controls
  • Turn on Sleep Timer to automatically stop playing a podcast while listening in bed
  • Share your favorite episodes with friends using Twitter, Messages and Mail
  • Optionally sync your favorite episodes from iTunes on your Mac or PC
  • Sync your episode playback for seamless transition between devices

This is all very good. The interface is very nice. When you are listening to an episode, tap or swipe up on its artwork to reveal an old reel-to-reel player and the sleep and sound speed settings. If you tap pause, you can see the mechanics of the reel-to-reel player stop.

Another nice touch with the reel-to-reel player is that as the episode progresses, the spool of tape on the left reel diminishes as the spool on the right increases. This also happens quickly as you scribble the timeline.

As for setting up Podcasts, it should pull in any episodes currently found in the podcasts section of Music.app. Also, it should continue to sync with iTunes, just as before. The added benefit of Podcasts, though, is that you can set you device to watch for new episodes and to download the latest. Annoyingly, though, you have to tap into each podcast and toggle each and every one of them to subscribe on the device.

And this is where I see some shortcomings from what I was hoping for. In that post from last week, I stated:

Hopefully Apple will make it easy to use iCloud to keep your subscription list, and allow a new Podcasts app to download new episodes in the background when plugged in to power and on Wi-Fi, in the same manner that it does iCloud backups and Newsstand updates.

Well, this just isn’t part of the app. At least, not yet. iCloud doesn’t keep your subscription list, and while the app will download new episodes, it won’t do so in the background. The app must be open to check for and download new episodes.

What iCloud does offer is syncing the playback position of episodes between devices — say, an iPhone and iPad. Unfortunately, it does this via whatever Apple ID is used for the iTunes Store, and not via the Apple ID set for iCloud.

This identity conundrum won’t affect everyone, as I am sure the vast majority of users have the iCloud ID and iTunes Store ID as one and the same. But for a family? Well, my wife and I each have separate iCloud IDs, yet we both use the same iTunes Store ID. If we were to both be subscribed to the same podcasts (thankfully, neither of us are) we would have a nightmare of playback syncing issues (there isn’t an option to not sync playback).

That aside, this is a very nice 1.0 app. I look forward to how it will improve. Hopefully iCloud will be emphasized more in a future release.

The important thing is Podcasts no longer solely rely on iTunes.

Podcasts is a universal app for iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad, and requires iOS 5.1 or later. It’s free in the App Store.

While podcasts will exist in both Podcasts and Music apps in iOS 5, it looks certain that the podcasts function within Music will disappear in iOS 6. Use the next few months to transition to the new app.

Apple also has a little support section for Podcasts on its site.

UPDATE: I forgot to mention that the only way to add a podcast in the interface is via the Podcast Catalog. However, some podcasts aren’t on iTunes. If you want to subscribe to a podcast that isn’t in iTunes, just enter the feed:// URL in Safari, and it will redirect to the Podcasts app and add it to your feed.

The All-New, Just-the-Same iTunes

Whenever a major new version of OS X is released, many of Apple's notable apps get a bit of a facelift, too. iPhoto, iMovie, & GarageBand received updates to take advantage of Lion's full-screen feature. iWork received full-screen, auto-save, versions, and resume support.

And then there's iTunes. Normally, iTunes just gets worse with each update. I have, for years, blamed this on iTunes being a dinosaur running on 32-bit Carbon, relying on crufty frameworks a decade old. It was just plain bogged down.

Key word: was.

Just like when the Finder was rewritten with Snow Leopard bearing the tagline "all-new, just-the-same", iTunes has finally been rewritten in Cocoa and is fully 64-bit with version 10.4. So, to the casual observer it may just look like iTunes got the full-screen Lion treatment, but a keen person will realize that iTunes is actually fast again. Everything I have done in the new iTunes 10.4 has been quick and the beach ball of doom hasn't reared its ugly head.

I have no idea how things are with iTunes on the Windows side of things, but Mac users can finally begin to enjoy iTunes again.

iTunes Undergoes British Invasion

If you mosey on over to the iTunes Store or Apple’s homepage you’ll notice there are now more bugs in iTunes. Specifically, those bugs are The Beatles.

Apple said we’d never forget this day, and they’re right. I’ll remember this always as the day Apple overhyped something to a ridiculous degree.

I’m surprised Apple didn’t really take the bull by the horns like they did with U2 a few years ago. They could have spun the delay of the white iPhone 4 as the “iPhone 4 – White Album Edition.” Or, how about an iPod touch with a yellow face, for a Yellow Submarine iPod touch?

Okay, I’m done. Where’s my iOS 4.2?

iTunes is Plotting Something for Tomorrow

iTunes Announcement

Apple changed its homepage today to tease an announcement set for 9:00 a.m. CST tomorrow. Apparently, there will be “an exciting announcement from iTunes” tomorrow.

I have spent the last 15 minutes racking my brain about what this may be. Whatever it is, it will need to be extremely significant, as it has to be something that a regular consumer will “never forget.”

My first thought was perhaps the release of iOS 4.2, but that hardly seems worthy of this much fanfare. Some people I follow on the twitter think The Beatles is finally coming to iTunes (meh). Lastly, the other big rumor circulating is that Apple will be utilizing that big data center they’ve built in North Carolina, allowing users to stream their purchased libraries to their devices, versus having to download everything to their Mac or PC.

I’m not even going to bother offering an educated guess, as this is so out of the blue, I’d likely be wrong.

What do you think?

Genius Sidebar Returns to iTunes

Apple quietly changed the Ping sidebar back into the Genius sidebar this morning in iTunes, no software update necessary. I am extremely grateful for this, as the Genius algorithm really “gets me.” Turns out Ping isn’t really interesting to me, as I’ve found my musical tastes differ wildly from my friends and acquaintances.

If you actually do like Ping, don’t worry, it can still be accessed from its dedicated section in the navigation sidebar.

I sure am glad to see Genius recommendations again.

Apple's Remote App for iOS Gets Updated

New icon, support for the iPad (finally), and also scaled up for the Retina Display. The iPad interface is very enjoyable. You can see your entire library, including videos and podcasts. Looks a lot like iTunes 10.

Another nice feature is support for Home Sharing. Log in with your Home Sharing credentials and you instantly see all the libraries on your Home Share. Much nicer than walking to every computer or Apple TV and dealing with PIN codes.

I can’t wait for AirPlay compatible speakers from third parties to arrive.

So Long, Genius Sidebar

In a rather odd move, Apple released a software update for iTunes 10 this morning. Why is that odd? It’s Saturday. The release of iTunes 10.0.1 brought several needed bug fixes and replaced the Genius sidebar with the Ping sidebar.

Now, I expect bug fixes in a maintenance level update, but I have to say removing the Genius sidebar was a mistake. Apple’s Genius algorithm is darn near magic at how well it matches songs up for playlists and how well it was at suggesting similar music to what I like. Now, Genius playlists are still around (thankfully), but the sidebar, the part that recommended new music to me, is history.

Since I don’t listen to the radio often, Genius was pretty much the only way I discovered new music. Apple’s hope is that Ping will drive more music discovery (and sales). The catch is, I really don’t share a lot of musical taste as most of my friends. Heck, hardly anyone I am connected with on Ping is using it. All in all, Ping, as a social network, kind of sucks.

For years, I have wishing each September for a better iTunes – a rewritten, rethought iTunes. Sadly, each year it just piles on more cruft on legacy design. iTunes 10, as a whole, seems a bit more optimized than iTunes 9 was. And in all my years of using iTunes, never has a maintenance update actually made the overall value of the app worse.

As much as I still hope for a complete overhaul of iTunes, in the short term I will hope for iTunes 10.0.2 to give users a preference to toggle whether they want Genius or Ping to reside in the sidebar. If you agree, let Apple know.