J Nash Has Obtained a Material Good

a Touch item by J Nash (Monday June 14th, 2010)

JN says...JN saysThose pesky chief scientists at Apple really have thought this through: “I-Tunes” looks like a bit’s broken off in a gale (and the hyphen splits blindly over lines); and “Itunes” looks like the bit which broke off has dropped through a gap in the text and narrowly missed a congregation. Let us therefore use “iTunes” here and never mention it again ever. Or “iPad.” Or “3DOGOONBUYONE.”

I’ve bought an iPod Touch. (Don’t worry, readers: it was second-hand and in place of some shoes.) Accordingly, I’ll be posting small items about small games in a saucy new category, probably for very nearly a week before something goes wrong, eg I fall off a hill because of insufficient soles.

As a small intro, I’m amazed at the sensational awfulness of the iTunes Shop. (As you may know, to download anything for an iThing, even if it’s free, you have to use the iTunes Shop. This is built in to iTunes, something I haven’t previously used on this little Mac except in its intended form, ie as an mp3 player.) It’s like the world’s most needlessly cumbersome site running on 1998’s second most adequate browser. You can’t even look at two things at once. If you click a link (say, in an ordinary browser visiting a site that recommends Touch games) this clumsily transports you via an official Apple site to a page in iTunes itself showing exactly the same info, neatly doubling your time and bandwidth. Naturally, this info has replaced the game you were previously looking at, so if you hadn’t started it downloading immediately you now have to shuffle through an undisplayed list of previous iTunes pages with the Back button.

(The first thing I did, obviously, was scamper to a site listing Touch games and click all the interesting-looking free ones to open in tabs on my browser, only for iTunes to repeatedly leap into the foreground — something I didn’t think you could even do on a Mac as it’s tremendously rude — displaying info it’d then overwrite when the next tab loaded. Ha ha! I won’t be doing that again.)

You can see multiple items with corresponding download buttons as the result of a search, and to be fair I’ve happily used this to nab a big pile of freebies by looking (say) for anything with “zombie” in the name, but this only works if you’re thrashing about at random: anything more structured, such as looking for a decent Super Foul Egg clone (particularly if there’s cash involved) where you want the info too and you’re back to clicking each one individually with the old only-room-for-one palaver.

(If there’s one thing I can’t stand it’s something COMPLETELY WASTING MY TIME, and I’ve reached the stage after, ooo, nearly 52 hours of Touch ownership that I’m raging at the duration required to download, transfer and sync a bunch of games then play and immediately bin them because they’re rubbish.)

The shop really is hideous and bizarrely un-Mac-y, for example refusing to start until I’d switched on cookies, which you can’t in fact do in iTunes but which a baffled search led to a kindly poster revealing you’re supposed to turn on cookies in Safari, ie a completely different prog; not remembering I only ever search for Apps so making me switch away from All which takes two ridiculous seconds every single time to download a box labelled “Search Apps”; not having a keyboard shortcut for that search despite the universally recognised Find combo Apple + F being conveniently unused in iTunes; etc etc ruddy etc. You expect a readme somewhere to disclose the UI team fell down a quarry and the whole thing was knocked out by mistake over a lunch hour by Hay, Moffat and Marriott the Plasterers, except it wasn’t even Hay, Moffat and Marriott but Cannon and Ball. Also, 6.30am on the day my Touch arrived found me standing outside in the rain throwing ineffectual pebbles at a huge murder of crows that were perching on my roof at full volume, but that’s probably not Apple’s fault.

On the advice of top showbiz chum S Campbell, who’s had his own Touch for a while now and encouragingly hasn’t yet set it alight, I’ve been using the friendly aggregatory sort of of thing Appshopper. You still have to lurch into the wretched official shop for the last stage (one item at a time, obv, though at least it properly queues the actual game downloads) but it’s made finding Touch games less revolting. If you know of any better place, bung it in a comment down below. (Ach, yes, that was the other thing: I’ve added comments, which is bound to go well.)

Anyway. Let’s see what happens with this exciting new machine as I encounter for the first time games made this century or something. Will I discover a horizonless world of spectacular gaming in a new medium? Will I sit there pressing the Home button repeatedly and saying, “Blam! Blam! Oh no, not the power-up that turns all the invaders into a grid of icons again”? Will I manage to catch fire once more somehow? One thing’s for sure, I really hate yawping beaks and the iTunes Shop.

(Brackety postscript tip bonus: if your browser supports search shortcuts, paste this link to examine Appshopper for iPhone/Touch games only.)

There's been a single comment on this item so far

  • A technical justification to why iTunes is awful, but other Apple software is lovely:

    Back in the day, Mac apps were built using a framework called Carbon. It was nice at the time, but it is now old and outdated. iTunes was built on Carbon.

    Then, Apple created this Cocoa framework, which was lovely and still is lovely. Most Mac apps (including all of Apple’s software) moved to this framework.

    And yet, iTunes *isn’t* built on Cocoa. Why would Apple do such a thing?! Well, Carbon has this one tiny advantage: Apple ported Carbon to Windows. So they can write iTunes once, and have it “just work” on both Windows and Mac. Apple, apparently, determined that porting Cocoa to Windows would be more trouble than it’s worth. They’re probably right. But that doesn’t make up for Carbon being an old, single-threaded piece of … !

    And that’s why things are the way they are.

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