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How I Would fix iTunes, Part 4: Increase the iTunes Match Track Limit

(This is one of a series of articles looking at elements of iTunes that I think need fixing. I’ll choose one element for each article, and offer a solution. See all articles in this series.)

When iTunes Match was first released in November, 2011, people already judged Apple’s 25,000 track limit (for match tracks; purchased tracks are unlimited) to be stingy. Sure, not everyone has a large music library, but the 1% of iTunes users who do are the prime demographic for this service, and they were immediately judged nebula non grata.

Itunes match limit

More than three years later, that limit is becoming a problem for many music lovers. If you have a lot of CDs, or buy a lot of music, it’s pretty easy to hit that limit, as you rip and match more of your CD collection. It’s especially problematic for those with large classical libraries; many classical box sets contain 50 or more CDs, swelling the size of a music library very quickly.

Apple needs to increase this limit, if only to keep up with the competition. Google Play Music has just increased their limits from 20,000 to 50,000 tracks, and it’s free. Amazon’s Cloud Player lets you store 250,000 tracks, for the same price ($25) as iTunes Match.

Arguably, these are different types of services. iTunes Match matches your music, so you don’t have to upload it all; if I had to upload my music library, it would take years. And iTunes Match updates quickly from iTunes, whenever you add or delete music. Amazon and Google are merely music lockers, where you upload all your music, and play it when you want.

Apple clearly needs to increase the iTunes Match limit. Unless they’re planning on dropping the service, they need to follow the needs of users, and more and more people have been emailing me recently asking how they can deal with an iTunes Match library that is approaching the limit. (It’s not always simple to deal with.) Perhaps Apple can charge more for a higher limit; or perhaps they can just increase the current limit. But 25,000 tracks, which may be a lot for the majority of users, isn’t enough for serious music fans.

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How To: Save Multiple iOS Device Backups in iTunes

You probably know that iTunes can back up your iOS device when you sync it. You can choose to have your device backed up to iCloud or to your computer.

Itunes backups

You can also manually back up your device; just click Back Up Now.

iTunes’ preferences shows you the backups available for your devices:

Itunes backups prefs

As you can see above, I’ve got two backups for my iPhone, Sugaree: one from this morning, at 8:55 am, and another from yesterday afternoon. iTunes saves one backup from each device – as you can see for the other devices listed in the window – but you can force it to “archive” a backup; when you do this, you’ll see the device name and the date and time of the archive, as in the last backup you see in the above screenshot.

To do this, right-click on a backup and choose Archive. iTunes quickly renames the backup, and saves it. You can do this as often as you wish, with the understand that these backups do take up a bit of space on your computer, depending on the type of content on your device. (My backups take up from 500 MB to about 1 GB, currently.)

If you have too many backups, you can delete some of them. Just right-click on a backup and choose Delete.

iTunes used to make these archived backups whenever you clicked Back Up Now; whenever you made a manual backup. Now you must choose to archive a backup yourself in the Devices preferences.

If you ever have serious problems on your iOS device, you can restore a backup, by connecting the device, and then clicking the Restore Backup button.

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Thoughts On Apple Watch Upgradability

A number of people have been speculating recently about the upgradability of the Apple Watch, the idea that Apple may offer upgrades to the internals of the devices. (The Loop, Daring Fireball, iMore, The Mac Observer) But all these articles have focused on the expensive, 18-karat gold Apple Watch Edition. It seems almost obvious that Apple will offer an upgrade path for this watch, which may cost $10,000 or more.

But what about other models? If Apple can offer upgrades for one Apple Watch, there’s no reason why they can’t offer them for all models. The internals will all be the same; only the metal bodies of the watches will be different.

So, what if Apple announced the Apple Watch on March 9, explaining that it will be upgradable, for all models? This would make it much easier to sell a product that many people aren’t sure they need. While the $349 Sport version of the Apple Watch isn’t expensive for a tech gadget, the mid-range model could sell for anything from $500 to $1,000. (Remember, it’s not just the watch you’re buying. Unless you choose the cheap plastic watchband – available on the Apple Watch Sport and the mid-range Apple Watch – you’ll be shelling out extra cash for a leather or stainless steel watchband.)

At these prices, users would be much more comfortable knowing that there is an upgrade path, so that future versions of the internals could replace what they have for a nominal fee. Apple could use this to possibly convince more users to take a chance on the Apple Watch, since many people will see this as an expensive device with a short life.

We’ve grown accustomed to the fact that Apple devices aren’t upgradable. Perhaps the Apple Watch will be the first device that is.

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Why You Should Use Custom Excerpts for WordPress Blogs

Depending on how you got to this article, you may have seen one of a number of texts that attracted your attention. You might have come here through a Google search, in which case you saw a title and the beginning of an article. If you clicked a link in your Twitter timeline, you just saw the title of this article. And if you came through my RSS feed, or my weekly newsletter, you’ll have seen an excerpt.

I used to let WordPress create its own excerpts; they take the first 55 words of each post. But I recently changed to writing custom excerpts, because I realized that they are much more useful to readers.

When you write a custom except for a post or article, WordPress uses that instead of the default 55-word excerpt. To do this, just write one in the Excerpt field that displays in the WordPress admin interface. (If you don’t see this, click Screen Options at the top of the window, and check Excerpt.) You can also do this in some third-party tools. I use MarsEdit to write my articles, and post to my blog. In MarsEdit, choose View > Excerpt Field to have this display at the top of the window.

Marsedit excerpt

A custom excerpt is what we call a “dek” in the trade. It’s a summary of an article, which appears below the headline, but above the story. In print, and on some websites, you may see this dek; on most blogs, you don’t. There are several advantages to using custom excerpts.

1. Your RSS feed will be much easier to read, and each article will have a custom summary instead of just picking the first words of your article. Since you can craft this summary, you can choose how you want to present an article to get more readers to click through. To make sure your RSS feed uses excerpts, go to Settings > Reading in the WordPress dashboard. Next to For each article in a feed, show, check Summary.

2. I send out a weekly newsletter, which essentially reproduces my RSS feed. Since I use custom excerpts, the newsletter is more concise, gives more information, and looks a lot better.

3. When someone searches your blog, or when they click on a category link (such as this one, for the Tech category) or a tag (such as this one, for articles tagged iTunes), they’ll see titles and custom excerpts, making it much more likely for people to read more articles on your blog.

4. I post all my articles to Twitter and Facebook. While Twitter is limited to only displaying article titles, Facebook also displays the custom excerpt. Again, readers are more likely to click through to an article if there is a clear, concise summary.

5. I’ve seen some articles that say that Google uses custom excerpts, if a site uses them. This isn’t the case for my site in Google’s each results, and this may be because I’ve only recently started using them. I don’t have time to go back and write 2,000 custom excerpts, so I may miss out on having Google pick mine up for a while.

No matter what, custom excerpts are a good thing to add to your articles. They don’t take long, and they can actually help you by making you summarize what you’re trying to say in just a few words. They can help you ensure the focus of your articles, and help your readers choose what they want to read more easily. It only takes a minute to write one, either before or after you’ve written an article, so why not do so?

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How I Would fix iTunes, Part 3: Multiple Windows

(This is one of a series of articles looking at elements of iTunes that I think need fixing. I’ll choose one element for each article, and offer a solution. See all articles in this series.)

Until iTunes 11 was released in 2012, the app let you open multiple windows. You could have, say, one window showing your Music library, and another displaying the iTunes Store. Or you could open two windows when you were creating playlists: one you’d use to browse your music, and another with your new playlist, allowing you to drag and drop items from one to the other, and re-order them easily.

While most iTunes users didn’t use multiple windows – and probably didn’t know they existed – many of us miss this feature. It is most obvious when I visit the iTunes Store. If I’m in my Music library, I need to click the iTunes Store button, then click the type of content I want to browse. If I’m in the iTunes Store and want to get back to my library, it’s often two clicks to do this.

I know why Apple did this, at least in iTunes 12: every time you leave the iTunes Store, clicking a media kind (in the navigation bar at the top left) takes you to another section of the iTunes Store. So, before you leave the store, you may see more things to buy.

Unfortunately, this just makes using the iTunes Store more annoying. I used to always have a window open for the iTunes Store. I could check music, movies, or apps, and not lose my place in my Music library. I could quickly get back to exactly where I was in one of me media libraries, instead of having to click several times to get back to the same library, and the same content I was looking at before.

It’s not complicated to bring back multiple windows in iTunes. It’s one of the main features I’d like to see fixed.

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