While your correspondent types, the great Bill Evans is tinkling away in the background—when I say ‘tinkling’, I do not mean to be disparaging to the great BE (who was discovered by the possibly even greater Miles Davis); I refer only to the aural experience of hearing him via the tiny speakers of the Macbook Air—a wonderful tool, but never likely to be mistaken for a hi-fi. This will be rectified later today.
Can I allow BE to play in the background as I dictate? Apparently so, although I suspect the error rate will go up, though not in the sentence just dictated. No, I’m mistaken: there is an amazing interaction between Dictation and iTunes: as I start to dictate iTunes’ music is muted—now that is sophisticated. I am impressed on this clear cold morning.
Interesting from a network perspective is that iTunes, while loaded on the MacBook Air, is actually playing my library from the MacBook Pro which is in Olivia’s house, some 20m away. Using an aspect of the Apple/iTunes environment that I knew nothing about until yesterday (called Home Sharing) both Olivia and I are able to use a remote library controlled by the MacBook Pro. Actually it’s very unlikely that she will use any of the music off the MacBook Pro because our musical tastes differ significantly, though do overlap (if I were to plot the overlap on a Venn diagram, you might need a magnifying glass to see it, though). I am fond of saying that Beethoven and Miles Davis have said most of the things that are important musically; and of course that’s glib but, nonetheless, jazz and classical are my mainstays. Olivia on the other hand prefers wonderful female vocalists like Norah Jones and Sarah MacLachlan, both of whom do reside within my library. But she also likes Celine Dion, whose voice is manic scratching on a blackboard, to me. De gustibus non est disputandum.
One of the beauties of Home Sharing though is that Olivia can build up her own library on her machine and simply make it available to me by the same Home Sharing facility, and out to the network. And files on the home shared network can also be used to make playlists that are personal to me or to her and also to make up road trip CDs from either library I believe.
There is more. Olivia is going to buy an Apple TV on credit card points and I will connect this tiny device to the plasma screen in our viewing area. I have excellent software that will allow me to convert the MPEG2 files (that I have made from the DVDs that we own) and convert them to .mv4 files which iTunes will recognise natively. And then if we want to watch something together in the evening, and that file is found in either of our libraries, we simply use either MBA to control what iTunes sends to the Apple TV and the hi-rez sound and vision will appear.
There is a side note to watching a film on the plasma screen with Olivia: because of my impaired hearing (rifle and pistol target shooting, from years ago, pre-Dunblane) I need the volume louder than she does, though not too much louder. So what I have configured is to take the audio output from the amplifier into a Headroom stereo portable amplifier and out to a pair of headphones—this allows me to adjust the volume in the headphones to a level that works well for me and at the same time, because my headphones are both circumaural (they fit over the whole ear) the stereo’s sound (which, for dialogue, is never as clear as what comes through a set of decent headphones), even though the plasma screen is accompanied by a hi-fi stereo system.
One final comment on the Apple Airport Extreme and Express home network we have: I spend some time yesterday afternoon reconfiguring the Airport Extreme to create a 5GHz network rather than the 2GHz that used to be standard. As a result we can now enjoy 10 Mb/second download anywhere within the network. In our current working environment, a stable and and relatively fast network is critical. I am hoping it is a set and forget option! So far, so good.