Software is an interesting thing. It's not physically tangible in most cases, yet it has such a large impact on our productivity. Software is, for lack of a simpler concept, little more than an idea. It allows us to interact with a world, either physical or digital, to accomplish a task. Like any idea, once we become familiar and accustomed to a concept, we can enter into a period of familiarity where we perform the same tasks repeatedly without really thinking about them. When these tasks become all too common, we grow tired of the little things that get in the way. This stress builds up and eventually we take a leap forward to an altogether new way of looking at things. It's these moments that can make or break software.
Windows is an excellent example of this. As a person who has been using Microsoft's operating systems since DOS 3.0, I have learned most of the ins-and-outs of the system. There are still a mountain of things I don't know about the internals of the last few versions of Windows but, by and large, I have come to know the software very well and how to bend it to my will. That said, the constant battles with Windows have worn me down and I've made the conscious decision to move to something else. Another wonderful example of painful software is iTunes.
Back when I received my first iPod Touch, I installed iTunes and started the long and painful process of moving my entire music library (122GB worth) into Apple's preferred format. This involved moving incredible sums of data, migrating information from a bunch of IDv3 tags, and updating hundreds of albums worth of information for the sake of completeness. Album art was a bit issue, as this is something that wasn't an issue with the previous WinAmp / Windows Mobile Windows Media Player Classic1 combination I had enjoyed for a decade. However, after many, many weeks the entire process was complete. I was able to select just the albums and playlists I wanted on the iPod, and everything would automagically sync to the device. Syncs would then take place every few days to ensure I had the most recent app updates and to back up the notes and everything else that were being recorded in the portable device.
But then I started listening to podcasts.
The Talk Show2 was my first subscription, followed quickly by others. Most of the podcasts I once listened to have all been dropped for audio-quality issues or new directions that aren't in line with what I listen to podcasts for, but these subscriptions have grown to include 32 different programs that pump out an average of 18 hours of audio3 every week. Because podcasts would come out every day, I would find myself firing up iTunes every day to check for updates, sync them to the iPod, and then go about my merry way. At first this was okay, but then a problem developed: hard drive swapping.
iTunes is installed on my notebook. This notebook has a 160GB HDD. My iTunes library is 181GB in total. You can see the problem here. I need to carry around an external hard drive and connect it to the notebook each and every time I want to check for updates. Annoying? First World Annoying! But what's the solution?
The latest version of iOS allows us to make device backups to iCloud when the unit is charging and locked, which is great as it means a daily backup is sent to a server in the US every night while I sleep. Apps can also be updated in place without needing to connect an iDevice to an iTunes computer. New music can, of course, be downloaded directly to the device as well as previously purchased music and videos. The only thing missing from the equation is Podcasts4.
But this, too, has been solved.
Last week I downloaded the latest version of Instacast 2.0 and configured it to grab all of my favorite podcasts. Since I typically listen to a podcast just once, it doesn't make sense to keep these files around forever on a portable hard drive. Will I really want to go back in 10 years to listen to something I heard in 2012? Perhaps ... but probably not. So now all of the subscriptions that I enjoy, from the 512 Podcast to The Web Ahead, are downloaded directly to my iPod Touch and kept in sync as I like. Sure this was possible before ... but it was never this easy. How often have I fired up iTunes since installing Instacast 2.0? Once. And that was just force of habit.
So long, iTunes. I'll be sure to remember you any time I want to grab some of my older music or watch WWDC videos. And no, I won't miss you.