iTunes full review

I was minding my own business doing my homework – it was my Mac-head mother, calling from Macworld Expo, San Francisco. She loudly exclaimed that there was this exciting new product from Apple called iTunes, and that I had to download it immediately.

iTunes is a program that can organize all of my digital music, strip songs from my CD collection, create psychedelic light shows, burn my own custom CDs, and tune into Internet radio.

Best of all, iTunes is free. What kind of things have you ever actually got for free? In particular, something free that came from a company other than the one for which you work? (If you happen to work for Apple, please disregard the previous sentence. Furthermore, free cologne samples at the store or brochures from the Jehovah’s Witnesses do not count; nor do free refills of Sprite at McDonald’s.)

And have you ever got anything really good for free? If you have, it must been a very rare occurrence; or you have Napster, which, needless to say, is one of the coolest applications ever, and the main point of having iTunes in the first place.

If you’ve already purchased the similar SoundJam ($39 for the full version from Casady & Greene), that’s too bad – because iTunes is great and doesn’t cost a thing. This is especially important to me as a 14-year-old, as money is something of which I have a limited quantity of.

There are some features that SoundJam has over iTunes, but none so significant that a teenager would want to pay for them.

When I went to the Apple Web site to get it, I soon discovered that iTunes works only with Mac OS 9.0.4 or better. Mum came to the rescue with a little assistance here and we upgraded my iMac to OS 9.1 immediately.

Once I installed the new system on my computer, I finally got to download iTunes. Installation was so easy. What was really cool was that, when I got it on my iMac, it automatically took all of my MP3s and put them into the iTunes music library. Then it left me to do only one thing – organize them into play lists inside the program.

The library puts every piece of digital music in order; and it has a search feature so you can hunt down a certain song, and drag that found track into a play-list and listen to it. Alternatively, you can play it directly from the library. It also has Shuffle and Repeat featured for your play-lists.

Every list has a Burn CD button, so you can record your play-lists onto CD. iTunes rips tracks from CDs at nearly 7x – the fastest I’ve ever seen.

Right now, only owners of the very latest Macs released with built-in burners are able to burn CDs via iTunes. Apple promises to release the drivers that will work with third-party CD burners in the next two months – but I’m not holding my breath, knowing Apple.

Music madness

Then I went completely and utterly insane loading music onto my iMac. In fact, I stripped so many songs from my CD collection that I used up all of my iMac’s hard-disk space – even with the tiny MP3 files! – and had to delete some old computer games to make room for more.

As you can see, I live for music. There are now hundreds of songs in my music library. All I need are some Harmon Kardon SoundSticks, and I’ll really be set up.

You can also tune into Internet radio with iTunes, and listen to songs from various genres, commercial-free. There are hundreds of Internet radio stations from which to choose: for example, Fem-Folk-Rock, Hardcore-Punk, Hip-Hop, Smooth Jazz, etc. You’re sure to find one that fits your musical taste. If only you could download a great song when it’s playing on a radio station.

But the best bit of all – the grand finale of features – is the kaleidoscopic Visuals function. While you’re playing your music, you can click the snowflake icon on the lower right-hand corner of your screen and let yourself be hypnotized by 2001-like psychedelia. This virtual acid trip puts a lava lamp to shame. Images swirl before your eyes to the beat of the music. There’s a different kaleidoscope effect and different colours for each song.

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