Tag Archives: iTunes

Revisiting iTunes with HomePod

Like many I’ve been using iTunes since it’s first versions. Over the past year that use dwindled a great deal as my music playing was mostly via Music on an iOS device. And in the couple years before that I’d been using Plex on iOS devices and AppleTV to access my iTunes library on the Mac because, frankly, the home sharing was pretty crappy. Alternatively, I would also use the remote app on an iOS devices to control iTunes on the Mac which also worked pretty well. The downside was that I didn’t have a decent speaker. I alternated between various (and cheap) computer and/or bluetooth speakers and the built-in TV speakers. None of them were great but they were tolerable. I live in a fairly small space, a “tiny house” so even poor to average speakers sound okay.

Today I’ve got the HomePod and after a year of enjoying Apple Music on iPads and iPhone I’ve added lots of music that I usually just stream, often from my recently played or heavy rotation lists. But two things have surfaced now that I’ve been using HomePod for a few days. First, as I mentioned in my review of HomePod, I’m not very good at choosing music without a visual cue. Second, I live in a rural location and when my satellite data allotment runs out streaming Apple Music becomes less dependable. Sometimes it’s fine. Sometimes not. Such was the case last night. So, after a year away from the iTunes library on my Mac I opened the Apple Remote app. I set the output for iTunes to the HomePod and spent some time with my “old” music all streaming to the best speaker I’ve ever owned. So nice.

This morning it occurred to me that while I’m back on my “bonus” data (2am-8am) I should consider downloading some of the music I’ve added to my library over the past few months of discovery through Apple Music. And in looking at that list I see all that with each month or two, as I’ve discovered new music the previous new discovery’s roll out of my attention span. There are “new” things I discovered 5 months ago that I enjoyed but then forgot. It’s a great problem to have! So I’ve spent the morning downloading much of the music I’ve added to my library over the past year. I never intended to actually download any of it as the streaming has worked so well. But with the HomePod I see now that keeping my local iTunes/Music library up-to-date has great benefit.

Remote App

So, how well does this new music playing process work? I rarely touch my Mac. It’s a server and I use it for a few design projects that I cannot do on my iPad. So, as mentioned above, I’ve been using the original iOS “Remote” app which opens up an iTunes like interface and which works very well to choose music on the Mac which plays via AirPlay to HomePod. Of course I can still use Siri on the HomePod to do all of its normal features. The only thing I do on the Remote app is choose the music. Apple’s not done much with the interface of that app so it looks pretty dated at this point. Actually, it looks very much like iTunes but a slightly older version of iTunes. But even so being able to easily browse by albums, artists, songs, playlists is very comfortable. It fits a little better to my lifelong habit of choosing music visually.

Why not just access my local iTunes music via the Home Sharing tab in Apple Music app on my iPad or iPhone which could then be AirPlayed to the HomePod? I guess this would  be the ideal as it would allow me to stay in the Apple Music app. Just as the Remote app allows for browsing my Mac’s music library so too does the Music app. But performance is horrendous. When I click the Home Sharing tab and then the tab for my Mac Mini I have to wait a minimum of a minute, sometimes more for the music to show up. Sometimes it never shows up. If I tap out of the Home Sharing library I have to wait again the next time I try to view it. It’s terrible. By contrast, the Remote app loads music instantly. There is, at most, a second of lag.

But what’s even worse is that the Music app does not even show any of the Apple Music I’ve downloaded to my local iTunes library. It really is a terrible experience and I’m not sure why Apple has done it this way. So, the Remote app wins easily as it actually let’s me play all of my new music and does so with an interface that updates instantly even if it is dated.

I suspect that my new routine will be to use Apple Music and discovery via Apple’s playlists and suggested artists when I’m out walking which is usually a minimum of an hour a day. My favorite discoveries will get downloaded to my local library and when at home I’ll spend more time accessing my iTunes library via the remote app. All in all, I suspect that I’ll be enjoying more of my library, old and new, with this new mix and of course, all of it on this great new speaker!

Streaming iTunes Content via Home Sharing is Terrible

I’m currently enjoying a recent switch to Apple Music but often when I’m at home I still want to listen to my local iTunes content. Now that I have the Air Pods I’d really like to be able to do this via Home Sharing to the iPad because it’s the device I’m likely using. But you know, the Home Sharing from iTunes to an iOS device is terrible. TERRIBLE. In my experience it’s always been terrible.

One alternative is Plex which is what I’m using to stream local content to the iPad or iPhone. Because Apple treats Home Sharing as an afterthought on the new AppleTV I switched to Plex there as well. On an iOS device I can open the Plex app and be streaming music or any other content in just a few seconds. It’s flawless and fast. If I try the same using the new TV app or Music I just get a very slow loading indicator that never actually finishing loading. Actually, it might finish loading 1 in 10 times. Again, Plex loads nearly instantly.

So, Plex it is and that’s not a complaint because they have built a beautiful app. In fact, as apps go, it’s gorgeous and incredibly easy to use. Over the years I made the effort to add metadata so iTunes and the AppleTV would show nice descriptions and art. With Plex that’s not needed as Plex does all the work on it’s own and does fantastic job of it.

Yet another benefit is that with Plex I get fantastic searching abilities on the AppleTV or iOS devices. Search is nearly instant. By comparison, Apple’s native offerings do not offer search of Home Sharing libraries only streaming services.

It bugs me that Apple treats Home Sharing with such disdain after years of encouraging people to buy content from iTunes, anyone with a large library that would like to share content in the home is out of luck. But as it turns out it’s not a problem thanks to Plex.

Note: This post started as a tweet but it occurred to me that I should at least make a note here first. So it was intended to be a paragraph complaining about Apple’s Music and TV clients on iOS. But it seems to have turned into a little love note to Plex.