Friday, 3 June 2022

Farewell To Apple’s iPod - Why I'm Sad To See You Go - Part 2


In my previous post, I talked about iPods — past and present. In this post, I will talk about storage issues I've experienced with iPhone compared to iPod, plus my wrap-up.

When you have a mobile device that’s portable, one that “does it all” like smartphones and tablets, that’s great! However, there’s one thing people forget — storage shared between apps. Your music library has to share storage space with a Photo library, various saved/downloaded Documents, a Calendar, Reminders, Emails, iMessages or SMS messages, Web browsing data and History. It all adds up, along with the system data that those apps may need or create. On a laptop or desktop computer, this made sense as they were designed with a lot of storage and, until the last decade depending who makes your computer, are mostly upgrade-able.

If you're an iTunes/Apple Music user and you store your music in iCloud Music Library and you don’t download, even if you stream via Spotify, those songs you listen to are still most likely being downloaded in the background as you’re listening to them. Otherwise you’d probably get a lot of buffering - stopping and starting. When you finish listening, you’d hope that the system would clear out those temporary files from your device.

In iOS 15, Apple renamed in the iOS/iPadOS storage area's Other as System Data - system caches, logs and other things currently needed. I’m fine with that but, how can that be taking up almost half the device storage which it was doing on my iPhone 8 Plus? I now have a 256GB iPhone 12 Pro that I’ve had for a year and I hope I don’t see the Storage Full message for another four or five years at least because I use my iPod for listening to music.

At the moment, the only thing I know that can clear that clutter is a Factory Restore.  Who wants to go through that every time they run out of storage? I certainly don’t fancy it. That's also a temporary solution as it starts building up all over again and quite quickly. A way for the user to clear out unnecessary caches, logs and other things would save a lot of headaches.

That is why I feel Apple should bring back a dedicated hardware audio/video player, so that those of us who want to keep our music & video collections separate from our multi-purpose mobile devices can do so. I'm not saying they should take music/video playback from their other products as they're still good for people who don't constantly utilise music or video libraries.

The Musis Lives On (Apple Photo Link)

I think Apple could do the following, if they launched an iPod replacement audio/video player: 

  • Re-program the iPod nano 7th Gen’s operating system for today’s usage and rename it musicOS or mediaOS or any other name they fancy (the 7th Generation iPod nano was the only dedicated music/video player that had a multi-touch touchscreen like iPod touch).
  • Incorporate Siri (for music, TV, Podcasts search only), Apple Music and Apple TV+ while still keeping the flow and design of that system.
  • Keeping Photos support like the old iPod would be okay,
  • Add Wi-Fi and hotspot capabilities so you could add music in the vicinity of Wi-Fi networks. Cellular would need a plan so that wouldn't be ideal - why pay out for a plan when you can use Wi-Fi or hotspot to your phone/tablet?
  • Make the screen over 5” and give it 256GB or 512GB storage.
  • At least bring it up to the CPU power of iPhone 11 or 12 - the current and outgoing iPod touch has the power of iPhone 7 and feels very sluggish and under-powered.
That’d be great! The benefit of that, over iOS, is you wouldn't need a security login as the only data that should be on the device would be your music, videos or chosen photos. There'd be no need for cards or passes. I guess the only private thing you'd really have a passcode on an iPod nano based OS is your Apple ID and password, which would be in Settings. This would be so the built-in apps could access iCloud and purchases. However, I realise that Apple of the past and current decade focuses heavily on the App Store, so I think that even if they could just:
  • Slim down iOS to just audio/video apps — maybe rename it as mentioned above.
  • Filter the App Store to just focus music and/or video apps (this would also appease those who enjoy 3rd party music apps like Spotify, Tidal or other players),
  • If the device just contains downloaded/purchased content and streaming content, you shouldn't have to worry about security or privacy as there wouldn't really be anything to protect other than music or other content.
I think it'd be just as good because they'd also be able to keep all the accessibility features, which mostly weren't in the iPod nano operating system (you had a few, but not as much as iOS). I do think that people like me would be a niche market and Apple want to get their popular devices into as many hands as possible. I can keep dreaming but I doubt that product will ever exist — unless Apple don't mind at least one niche product.

The way I look at it, iPhone and iPad are both great communication and productivity devices. It's great that they — along with Apple's other products — also play music and video but, why not just have a device similar to iPod for today’s world? Why not call it something like Apple Media Player or Apple Music Player? At least it’d give Apple something to compete against Spotify’s hardware players they appear to be coming out with.

Other Apple products I love to use for music are HomePod (original 2018 version), my iMac and Airpods Pro. I will miss my iPod when it eventually stops. My only other thing when that day comes would be to buy the current cheapest 256GB iPhone and just use that for music only. I doubt Apple would have wanted people to do that. That's why I feel there's a need for a dedicated iPod replacement from Apple. 

Farewell iPod brand. I'm sure there'll be people who are sad like me but I know there are also people who are glad to see it end which also makes me sad. Those people tend to be the ones who have given up on iPod the day the iPhone was launched. It's not about nostalgia to me — it's a device I use and love.

Sorry for yet another multi-part post. Hopefully next one will be short. I hope you all have a wonderful weekend! Take care. 

Tuesday, 31 May 2022

Farewell To Apple’s iPod - Why I'm Sad To See You Go - Part 1

Hi everyone! I hope you’ve all had a great week. I had a nice week. Some days were spent working on some music while other days just doing various computer things. 

Speaking of music

Apple officially announced on May 11 that their iPod touch - the last of their great iPod music player range - will only be available while supplies last. This means they’re discontinuing their iPod brand after it changed the way a lot of people listened to music back in 2001 when the first iPod was released. In a lot of ways, iPod and iTunes both changed how music was enjoyed and in a legal way and to stop piracy.

When the iPod touch sells out, there will be no more dedicated music player from Apple.  No doubt with this news, there will be people who will buy up as many as they can and sell them at higher prices when the iPod touch is no longer sold by Apple. I think it’s ridiculous that there’s people out there would do such a thing, but that’s the way it is.

I sadly wasn’t an early iPod adopter at all as I was still very much into my beloved CD collection. If I had been, maybe I wouldn’t find the transition to digital so sad and hard now. After all, I still love reading the booklets and sleeves of CDs and vinyl albums, even using a magnifying glass to do so.  One of my Uncles introduced me to the click wheel iPod probably around 2007. He showed me how it worked — how to go back and forth between songs and how to use the click wheel to navigate the menus. It even had photos stored on it. I was hooked from then on and couldn’t wait to get one of my very own.

I bought my first iPod, an 80GB iPod Classic in 2009, which I put my own music on using iTunes. I didn’t even start buying music from the iTunes Store until 2012. Early 2012 was when that iPod stopped working. I’ve had a few iPods over the years since then, some were even with smaller storage right up to a 160GB iPod Classic. It lasted until early 2020. 

  My iPod Touch on the left and my iPod Classic on the right

When Apple released the iPod touch in 2007, that was the beginning of the music player’s decline in sales and popularity as too many people - Steve Jobs included - wanted a device that did more than just play music. They were minimalists and wanted to cut down on dedicated tools. That was the idea behind the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad later on. The iPod touch was the first and only iPod that connected to Wi-Fi networks. It allowed music and other things to be transferred to and from the device wirelessly. You could also download directly from iTunes Store and iCloud Music Library.

I have to admit, as much as I love my iPhone and iPad, I’m a fan of the dedicated single use device. If you love to read, you probably have a dedicated ebook reader like Amazon’s Kindle. I’m not talking about the Kindle Fire, as that’s basically a multi-purpose tablet. With any of the other Kindle devices, you can read and read and have that storage dedicated to your book collection. Not only that, you can read without getting pesky notifications every 5 or more minutes.  Photographers probably prefer a dedicated camera too.

This is why I’m a fan of the iPod and use my 256GB iPod touch that I purchased in 2020 as a music and audio only device — sometimes even music videos via Apple Music. Apart from the native Music app, other apps I use are Shazam, Signia app (for my hearing aids) and the Boom app for UE (Ultimate Ears) MegaBoom portable speaker. With my 256GB iPod touch, I have notifications for other apps, except those ones I've disabled.

Two other apps that I’d use if I had the iPod nano 7th Gen would be Podcasts and Audiobooks — because the screen is ridiculously too small to read print.

The thing that makes my iPhone and iPad more superior and better than my iPod touch is they both support Dolby Atmos Spatial Audio.

The reason I got my iPod touch is because I kept running out of storage space on my iPhone 8 Plus. Even when I didn’t have much on it, it felt like storage was always an issue. It is a 64GB iPhone. When I go into the iPhone’s storage section, the part of the graph that says Other would be quite large, but yet I couldn’t find a way to shrink it.

More on that in part 2 which I will post this Friday.

Friday, 20 May 2022

Fears Of A Deafblind Musician - Part 3

Hi everyone! I hope you've all had a great week and looking forward to the weekend as I am! Shall we continue with Part 3 of my fears?

Obviously if I do lose my remaining hearing and vision, whether together or separate, I guess my days of creating music could possibly be over. A lot of DAWs (Digital Audio Workstations - complicated words to describe a music making/producing program) such as Ableton Live — my personal favourite — are currently not very screen reader friendly (this is going by what I’ve read, not personal experience). They are also very graphical, although I’ve heard that Apple’s Logic Pro X is a lot more screenreader friendly, especially with their own VoiceOver screenreader. Still, this wouldn’t matter if I lost both senses together rapidly. As for listening to music, I fear that I’d end up falling into a well of depression - I just wouldn’t be able to enjoy music as much as I do now. Are there ways around this??

I know that Deaf people can still enjoy music by feeling the rhythmic vibrations, and I’m very happy for them. However, that way of enjoying music means having the volume cranked to the max and would probably annoy housemates and neighbours alike. There are 2 movies that I watched last year, Amazon’s movie Sound Of Metal and Apple TV+’s award-winning movie CODA! 

The first one, Sound Of Metal scared me. I won’t go into the movie here in case anyone watches it, but Ruben a drummer loses his hearing and wants to hear. He goes to a place that helps with coping with Deafness, hears about Cochlear Implants, eventually goes through surgery to get the implant. When he gets it, he doesn’t like what he hears, and everything is just too loud and he ends up not using the implant in the end. I think I can relate a lot to this movie as it’s dealing with my fears of hearing loss later in life. 
Below, is a trailer for Sound of Metal. If the embedded video doesn't work, you can check it out HERE.

About 10 years ago, I had an Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) specialist appointment at Mater Hospital. At that time, I was suffering with constant high-pitched Tinnitus in my right ear which had become unbearable. I also saw the Occupational Therapist at the Mater to help deal with it. The ENT specialist suggested that I’d probably be a candidate for a Cochlear Implant. Check this page if you want to know more about Cochlear Implants. He said that he had a lot of positive feedback that Tinnitus became less of a problem for people who had the implants. It sounded really promising and I was starting to get excited at the prospect of ridding myself of a high pitched Tinnitus sound in that ear.

My big question was would I still be able to enjoy music? He pretty much said that I could still listen to music through my left ear because that ear wouldn’t get the implant. In other words, music I enjoy through headphones would be mono. My Apple devices have an option that allows music to be listened to in mono, but I noticed that rather than playing the stereo channels, it favoured one channel over the other. 

For example, with Joe South’s “Walk A Mile In My Shoes”, I was frustrated that I couldn’t hear the vocals of the verses, only the chorus. When I play the song through my big Apple HomePod, it was the same effect, proving that the HomePod is a mono, not stereo speaker unless you pair two together. You can only hear the voice very faintly, so I gave up on Mono mode on iOS. Since that appointment, Mum and I have done research on Cochlear Implants and I haven’t been happy with what we found.

Because Cochlear Implants are designed to bypass the hairs in the auditory canal (as they’d all be damaged anyway), they have to to do the job of those hairs, and there’s currently not enough electrodes in the implant that can fit the range I’d want to enjoy music. As it is, speech sounds very robotic from what I’ve heard, and music sounds terrible. I’ve heard that some hearing professionals are working with musicians to make music that is specifically in the Cochlear Implants’ range, and that is great... for those who don’t want to share the love of music with their friends and loved ones.

The video above shows how Cochlear Implants work. All Cochlear Implants generally work like this.

If I end up needing the implant (whether or not I’ll ever need the left ear done too for whatever reason I don't know), I want to enjoy the music that the rest of my family love. I want to be able to say to people “Have you heard the new Ed Sheeran album”, or “I love the song that is playing in this movie, I wonder who it is?”. It currently seems that if you use Cochlear Implants, you can only enjoy music if it has a strong, rhythmic beat (Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean”) or classical music. I’m someone who loves a vast array of music, and Classical is low on that list. I suppose if I was born totally deaf and needed Cochlear Implants, I wouldn’t know what I’m missing out on, and I’d adapt. That’s a lot harder to do when you lose your hearing after 30+ years, even with my hearing being impaired. Kudos to the people who invented the implants because they definitely work great for speech. I know it’s a lot to ask, but hopefully in 30 years, people with Cochlear Implants will be able to enjoy music almost as good as their music loving peers.

The other movie I haven’t talked about yet is CODA. If you have an Apple TV+ subscription, I highly recommend you check it out! CODA is short for Child (or Children) Of Deaf Adults, meaning the child can hear, but the parents are Deaf. In this movie, Ruby Rossi (played by Emilia Jones) wants to pursue a career in music, but her parents want her to help with their family business of selling fish, translating what customers say to the parents into sign language and also be on board the boat for critical operations. Her parents get frustrated with her for wanting to do music. In one part, you see the family going to see Ruby’s school performance. They realised by the audience’s reaction that Ruby is great! After that, you see her family change toward her, being more supportive. I won’t say any more than that.

Below is a trailer of the CODA movie. If the embedded video doesn't work, you can check it out HERE.


While CODA is a beautiful movie and I’ll always love it, I think I can relate more to Ruben’s situation in Sound Of Metal. That movie leaves me feeling like there’s no hope after hearing loss. However, I’d like to think that Ruben will eventually get used to being Deaf and still find ways to enjoy music. That is the hope that CODA gives to me. As for my future, should I lose both sight and sound, a lot of people who are deafblind merge the tools of the Deaf alongside the tools of the Blind anyway, so I don’t think that’ll change. I’ll just need to learn Braille and tactile sign language when that time comes.

When that time comes, I will most definitely have to give up my love of creating music, but I think I’d prefer to enjoy music the way most deaf people do. If you are deaf, blind, deafblind and have your fears, I’d love to hear from you. I think if I do lose hearing, I’ll grieve what I lose, but I’ve seen proof that there’s hope, even if you don’t rely on Cochlear implants. I just feel, why put yourself through the surgery process when you may end up not using it in the end anyway? I’d like to believe I’d get over losing my vision easier than I would with my hearing. Personally, I want to enjoy my world of choice of Stereo music, as well as the new Dolby Atmos Spatial Audio options that are out for as long as I possibly can! Also, it’s great that there’s Audio Described movies out there too and I want to enjoy them too! 

Well, there you have it! A multi-part post on my feelings about my future fears.

Tuesday, 17 May 2022

Fears Of A Deafblind Musician - Part 2

Mum and I were talking one day in September last year about books we were reading. We were talking about the differences in audiobooks and standard eBooks. I said something like “I’ll probably have to rely on audiobooks if my vision goes as I get older”, but then it dawned on me a few minutes later “Hang on… as I get older, both my vision and my hearing will likely get worse like everyone else’s with age. Audiobooks would be useless for me just like printed books will be useless.” 

My legal blindness is due to my optic nerves never developing normally in the womb and, unfortunately, glasses can't help me.

I then started worrying about “What will happen if I were to lose my hearing or vision rapidly, or worse, what if something happened where I would lose BOTH sight and hearing?” (There have been accidents where people have lost one or both senses. Sometimes, even our own bodies implement defence mechanisms that can make us deaf or blind in order to protect us after a trauma, but I’d like to think in the latter case, the senses can come back after a period).

This all weighed on my mind for a few hours that day and it actually made me feel anxious. I wondered if I should be preparing myself just in case? When I expressed my worry to Mum later that day, she pretty much told me that there’s nothing we can really do about it until it happens. That it was better not to worry about something that might not happen and to live each day as it comes. Thanks for the advice, Mum, it helped ease my mind, even if nor completely.


This is how large I have to set the Zoom feature to on my Mac.


I remember back in the early 2010s, I had the same fear about losing my vision. I used to think “I should learn Braille in case I ever need it”. I guess I wanted to prepare myself so that being totally blind would be a little easier. Unfortunately, the Queensland Braille Writing Association pretty much doesn’t teach Braille unless you really need it - in other words, you have to be totally blind, otherwise your vision makes it harder to understand and learn Braille. I didn’t understand that, because when I was in my last year of high school, one of my friends who is blind, took time to teach me a small bit of Braille music. I didn’t use my eyes to read it, I used my fingers as she did and I thought I did pretty decent. I didn’t find it hard. However, after years of not reading it, that small bit of Braille has slipped away. That fear eventually left me and here I am a decade later still with legal blindness. Totally blind in my left eye with a very small amount of vision in my right eye. So, Mum does have a point. 


My Mac has a 27" screen.


However, that was when I was heading into my 30s. As I’ll be turning forty next year, I’ve heard that a lot of people seem to start having issues with their vision in their 40s due to the normal aging process. Now I’ll tell you of my recent scare that has made me even more worried. 


This is how close I have to get to the screen to be able to see the text.


 In November 2021, I was talking to Mum and my brothers about music streaming services vs buying music on CD/Vinyl and digital purchases. I decided that I would delete a lot of my personal music library that I’d imported from my purchased CDs, and replace those albums with the streamed version, whenever I can.  My reason for doing this is because, as Copyright laws stand here in Australia, if you buy and import a CD into your music library and you want to get rid of the CD a few years later, you’ll also need to delete the imported album/compilation because you no longer own the original copy. My future plan is to convert any streamed albums and songs into digitally purchased versions.


At least having a streamed or purchased version of the album/compilation in my library (if available) would diminish the need for that extra copy. I’ve been having to downsize my CD collection as I was diagnosed with Osteoporosis a couple years ago (quite rare for my age) due to taking Hydrocortisone tablets from a young age for my life-threatening condition. I can’t keep carting around huge boxes of CDs whenever we move (CDs are heavy when you have a lot). So I thought, why not embrace music streaming and purchase music digitally from now on when I’m supporting artists?

Note: I use Apple Music, which allows me to combine my personal music library with their streaming service, so my library is now a hybrid featuring saved streamed songs and albums alongside my personal library (Apple Music’s matching service matches what it can with their catalogue, while uploading songs it can’t match to iCloud Music Library). 


 Working with some music files


From late November to early January 2022, I set about deleting my personal music and replacing it where I could. This meant long hours at my Mac computer, sometimes late into the night. I wanted to get it done before the new year. Around the 3rd week of December, I felt tired and had dry eyes, at times I had tears streaming from my eyes. I eventually got to the point where it was not only hard to keep my good eye open, but I was very sensitive to light, whether natural or reading a screen. Mum fears  that I have done some permanent damage. Mum booked an appointment for me at the local Optometrist to get my eyes checked. They scanned my eyes with a machine and said that all looked okay (my normal) in the back of my eyes, but said that my brain might be having a harder time in processing light after all that time I spent looking at a computer screen for hours on end.

Whenever my eyes feel strained, I get Mum to put drops in and wipe my eyelids with Blephadex wipes whenever they’re needed to help avoid any bacterial infection. Because of my fear and trying to save my eyes from straining, I’ve been trying to teach myself how to use VoiceOver on iOS and iPadOS. On my 27’ iMac, I go between VoiceOver (still learning it as it is different to VoiceOver on iOS) and Zoom magnification a lot more than I’ve ever done, especially VoiceOver. 


I now have to be careful how long I’m reading or looking at a screen. I have my good and bad days, but the strain comes a lot easier now. Maybe when I see my Opthalmologist for my next appointment, they’ll make suggestions that’ll help. In some ways, I think Queensland Braille Writing Association were right. The only way I’d probably appreciate VoiceOver on my devices is if I permanently leave Screen Curtain turned on in iOS or wear a blindfold, otherwise I’ll always be trying to view what I’m doing. At least I know that if I end up totally blind, I can rely on screen readers, dictation and Braille (either the real paper or Braille Displays).

I know, this is long, but stay tuned for Part 3...