arts

iTunes, You Tunes, We All Tunes for iTunes

ituneslogoYou’ve seen all the white earphones that are the telltale sign of an iPod, but have you figured out what all the fuss is about? What follows is a simple primer on the iTunes phenomena.

First of all, iTunes is a digital media player application. Apple introduced it back in 2001 so that people would have a way to play and organize their digital music files. It also serves as an interface with the very popular iPod digital media player and it can link you to loads of internet radio streams. Perhaps most importantly, the free iTunes application is a gateway to the iTunes Store where you can buy single songs, whole CDs, music videos, TV shows, iPod games, podcasts and even films. And you can use iTunes whether you are on a Mac or Windows machine.

So what’s the big deal? Imagine a wall itunesibookfull of old vinyl albums or shelves of CDs, where you can never find that special song or artist when you want it. Or the fact that you don’t like the whole album -- just two of the songs. Or you wish you could put together some up tempo music to use when you are brisk walking or doing your free weight exercises. With iTunes and an iPod you can move your entire music collection to the palm of your hand. Yes, the files are compressed and not quite the quality of the original CD, but the sound is pretty darn good and you can access songs by A-Z or by genre or by artist name or by album name. You can create custom playlists of mood music for your yoga class, jazz selections for relaxing, or rock and roll for jogging. It’s like having instant mix tapes! And when you look down at you iPod, you can see the name of the tune, the artist and the album name.

In 2005, iTunes added an interface to podcasts as well, so that you can listen to (or watch now) digital media files created by anyone who wants to host or author a podcast. You can subscribe to a particular podcast and listen to new episodes as they itunesScreenbecome available, and almost all of it is free.

The iTunes Store is now selling enhanced digital media files that are even higher fidelity (256 kbit/s versus 128 if you like to keep track of these things), so the sound quality has gotten even better.

One of the most overlooked features of iTunes is the ability to listen to internet radio streams. I get a lot of pleasure going to the international category and listening to radio stations in Asia, Africa, South America or Sweden. It’s fun to hear disc jockeys the world over urging me to listen to the musica, musique, or the musik.

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.

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