iTunes – iWant a divorce!

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The Independent Tech

As a rule I try to avoid making New Year's resolutions I can't keep, but this year is going to be different. After a tumultuous and frustration filled relationship with iTunes I've finally decided to bite the bullet and file for divorce.

Like many relationships, my time with iTunes started out with intense passion and infatuation. It's slick, sexy interface instantly caught my attention. As things progressed I developed a deep devotion to iTunes as it selflessly synched music across to my iPod. As the years progressed however, the relationship began to sour.

iTunes began to develop a middle aged spread, becoming slower and fatter with successive update. The breaking point finally came as iTunes annoying habits finally tried my patience beyond reasonable patience.

Whilst I could tolerate sluggishness, having iTunes refuse to let me share content between PCs without a convoluted authorisation process, or attempting to install the in-laws (QuickTime and Safari) on my PC just pushed things to the point where our relationship had become unworkable.

Like most people I'd long believed that owning an iPod meant I was wedded to iTunes. After much soul search however, I came to the realisation that kicking the iTunes habit wasn't going to be anywhere near as hard as giving up smoking.

And that there's literally a tonne of awesome alternatives that'll keep your iPod crammed full of music and podcast goodness without all the grief associated with iTunes.

Some may ask what's not to like about iTunes? Until a few years ago it was easily the gold standard for keeping your music library organised. What a difference a few years can make. iTunes has morphed from a skinny music library management/iPod synching app to a bloated and sluggish marketing tool for the iTunes store. Here's my iTunes divorce case laid out for all to see.

Top 5 reasons divorce

Bloat: It's morphed from a music player/synching utility into an online store to sell Apple products and music. All these extra "features" make using iTunes like wading through frozen treacle. With a footprint of 100MBs, iTunes is the computer equivalent of Fat Albert. Both SongBird and Media Monkey use a fraction of iTunes resources yet do just as a good a job.

Lock-in: Your music and media choices with iTunes are limited to the Apple store. Using Media Monkey and SongBird I was able to find out about a heap of new artists and bands.

Authorisation: Per-leeease! Not being able to transport music I've paid for from my iPod to the assorted PCs is just nuts. Computer hard drives frequently fail so having the music library I've spend almost a decade building up on multiple PCs makes sense. Yup, I can do that with SongBird and Media Monkey.

Customisation: Media Monkey and Songbird have a huge developer community creating truckloads of useful and really cool plug-ins, making both applications incredibly customisable.

Updates: Apple, I don't want to install your godawful Safari browser or QuickTime shovel-ware.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not an Apple hater - I used own a Mac and write for now-defunct MacGuide. I still love my iPod to bits. It's just that nowadays there are smaller, faster and less frustrating alternatives available for free.

Media Monkey

My personal favourite is Media Monkey. Its freeware, easy to use, has a rapidly growing army of useful plug-Ins, and runs like a cut cat. Perhaps the nicest feature though is its ability to intelligently tag songs to auto-organise large libraries. Then there's an embedded lyrics display (for Karaoke buffs), as well several metric tonnes of customisation options via a growing number of plug-ins

Support for the iPod touch (and other MP3 players) is pretty seamless and unlike iTunes, you can load songs from your iPod onto any computer add to this integrated web browsing so you can check out the latest info on bands and a Podcast finder and what's not to like?


Media Monkey's interface has its own quirks, and if these are a show-stopper for you, try Songbird. Based on the same Mozilla code that powers FireFox, SongBird is an open source app that has music downloading capabilities and can even list local gigs. Like Media Monkey there's also a rapidly growing pile of plug-ins plus you can install plus a multitude of skins to customise its look and feel.

On the iPod front, Songbird worked like a charm, automatically synching the music I'd chosen onto my iPod touch. Nicer still however with SongBird I was also able to subscribe to MP3 blogs and transfer these to my iPod for use at the Gym.


If you own a media player that isn't supported by Media Monkey or SongBird, don't despair. DVD Jon, the Norwegian coder that cracked DVD copy protection has launched DoubleTwist as a direct competitor to the iTunes Music Store.

Looking a lot like iTunes, doubleTwist lets media player owners manage music and will synch with a huge array of media player devices. As with Media Monkey and SongBird, DoubleTwist also allows iPod users to break away from Apple's locked ecosystem and play music on any PC they choose.

Source: New Zealand Herald