Remote Control of iTunes

Back in July, I picked up a Keyspan Remote specifically to control iTunes. We have a really old iMac DV (FireWire port was critical) with a 160GB drive hanging off of it. It is hooked to the stereo and is the master music repository in the house. Having a remote control is ideal.

The KeySpan remote comes with some basic, obvious, controls for iTunes; play, stop, next track, volume, pause, etc..

I put together a simple set of scripts that do almost everything I need. Direct download.

I would have simply posted the new iTunes configuration file for the KeySpan, but the configuration editor doesn’t do importing/exporting of configurations. Sigh. So, you’ll just have to hack one together yourself. Of course, this will work with basically anything that can trigger an AppleScript, including a USB based game controller.

My changes to the iTunes map:

  • Up Arrow: Set rating to 5.
  • Right Arrow: Set rating to 4.
  • Select Button: Set rating to 3.
  • Left Arrow: Set rating to 2.
  • Down Arrow: Set rating to 1.
  • Menu Button: Revert to Unrated (0 rating).
  • * Button: Refresh selection of tracks in currently playing smart playlist

As a result, when I’m sitting around listening to music, I can adjust song ratings on the fly. Because all of my listening is almost exclusively based on smart playlists that leverage ratings, this additional meta information directly increase the quality of both my in house music consumption and my iPod.

Some explanation on my choice of ratings and some playlists I have around is probably in order. Not that this is the right way but more because you will want to give this some thought and remain consistent over time.

Ratings:

No rating means that I have yet to express an opinion about the song.

1 or 2 rating both mean that I really don’t ever want to hear the song as a part of random playlist consumption. 1 means that the song just plain sucks, I really don’t want to hear it again. 2 typically means that the song sucks by itself, but may make sense as a part of a larger whole (like, in the context of an album).

3 rating means that the song is good enough to hear at random but not special enough to call out.

4 rating means that the song is pretty spectacular.

Finally, a 5 rating indicates a “desert island iPod song”. That is, if I were to be marooned on a desert island forever and could only take one iPod full of music along w/a perma-power source, a song with a rating of 5 would be included.

Playlists:

By themselves, the ratings are useless. Through Smart Playlists, the ratings become an intrinsic part of the listening experience.

My main playlist– the one I listen to most often– is Pretty Good Stuff. It is a randomly selected set of 25 songs that includes only songs with no rating or that have been rated with a 3, 4, or 5. It also excludes all songs that have been played in the last three weeks and all songs over 8 hours (which excludes internet streams). It is set to automatically update. In other words, it always contains 25 tracks that I haven’t heard in a while that either do not suck or I have not yet formed an opinion. Radio BBum, if you will.

For my iPod, there are the 3+ and 4+ playlists. These playlists contain 3GB and 1GB respectively of tracks that are rated 3+ or 4+ stars and have not been played in the last two weeks. The size based restriction is because I sync these two playlists along with a non-smart playlist to my 5GB iPod. Since the iPod also syncs recently-played information, every time I plug my iPod in, it is loaded with musics that doesn’t suck that I haven’t heard in the last 2 weeks.

Update:

I have updated the scripts slightly. The 1 and 2 rating scripts now delay for a second and then send iTunes the “play” command. The delay gives iTunes a chance to update the playlist if the track has been filtered out automatically and “play” will cause the playlist to play again, or do nothing if already playing. I also added a script that can be used to turn off the checkbox associated with a song. Since all my Smart Playlists ignore unchecked songs, the check mark becomes a way of toggling songs in and out of rotation. Useful for the James Brown Christmas album (the only Christmas album I really like).



3 Responses to “Remote Control of iTunes”

  1. bbum’s weblog-o-mat » Blog Archive » iTunes: Multiple library locations and preserving the metadata (and multihoming iPods too!) says:

    […] The end result is that I can now treat my master machine as just that — the master. All metadata updates, etc, are sync’d to that machine. Whenever I rsync, the metadata is propagated out to the backup machine(s). I can still plug the iPod into any machine and it will sync down new music based on my neat little set of smart playlists. […]

  2. bbum’s weblog-o-mat » Blog Archive says:

    […] from my CD collection). Like the iPod, effective use of the Apple TV is just a matter of setting up some smart playlists to automate content selection. iTunes makes it even easier by having some “sync last N episodes” […]

  3. Pete says:

    Can you please include a screenshot of the PrettyGood playlist? I can’t seem to figure out how to do this AND that BUT EXCLUDE th’other.

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