Saturday, February 18, 2006

PatioTunes: iTunes remote control for XP, OS X and Fast User Switching

Is this the holy grail? I've tried all kinds of tricks to do remote control of iTunes. None have worked, AirTunes has been a bust for me. I've tried NetTunes, SlimServer's software, various AppleScript hacks, VNC, TuneConnect, and about half a dozen others. I've also reviewed Sailing Clicker and considered the Griffin remote.

Everything I tried foundered on the shores of Fast User Switching, performance and usability issues, or Apple's FairPlay DRM scheme. I finally realized that AppleScript wasn't going to work because Apple doesn't really support AppleScript with FUS (makes me think they're going to sunset AppleScript ...). [1]

The only thing that looked promising was running a web server using CGI Scripts. Looked like a lot of time to setup, but it sorts out the FUS issues.

Then, in a recent search, I came across Mindola Software: PatioTunes. This could be it - but testing is early. I've already found one nasty bug; the author makes the common mistake of thinking everyone runs as Admin (bad, bad, bad practice). If you install this as admin then run it from a non-admin session the internal web server files are inaccessible. Dumb. I changed permissions and will write the author.

Ok, that aside, it's impressive. It's a Java web server that communicates with iTunes, perhaps via AppleEvents. Anything that runs a browser can access it, the only glitch is some obscure browsers need a manual refresh to see new playlists. Unlike the Apache solution you don't have to hand-build playlist references, it gets the playlists itself.

Cost is $15. Well worth it if it works!

[1] I took the easy solution and bought myself a new 30G iPod. The old one is now a fixed music server, permanently plugged in. It lives by the stereo. Since it's a 3G iPod I ordered a very cheap FM remote from Griffin (all the 3G/4G peripherals are being dumped because they don't work with the video iPod or Nano).

Update 2/18: The author is now working on the permissions problem. I don't think they'd understood it before. The author was likewise rather surprised to learn that PatioTunes is compatible with Fast User Switching. I guess it was a happy side-effect of using the web server approach. I re-enabled my OS X firewall adding an entry for the PatioTunes default port.

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