Hi-Res iTunes Artwork

Tristan Pemble has posted some cool iTunes Music Store hacks, which include one tool that can grab the full size album artwork from any given album. All you have to do is find the album on iTMS, right click the title, choose Copy iTunes Music Store URL, and paste it into the field. It’s great for filling in missing artwork on ripped/downloaded music. Other cool hacks include a music video and movie trailer tool, and also one to view the raw XML response from iTunes’ servers (for debugging or general poking around).

Update: This method no longer works, but try my new PHP script here.

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Hi-Res iTunes Artwork

Control Stuff With Your Mac

Here’s a great little article on how to control devices using your Mac and a USB interface board. For similar projects, I may also reccommend Delcom Engineering USB I/O chips, which are dirt cheap and not too hard to communicate with using the included OS X drivers. Good for a Mac Mini robot project, perhaps?

Control Stuff With Your Mac

Tagging Standards

Sites like del.icio.us organize data through the use of tags, which I think is a brilliant idea. However, I disagree with the occasional comment lamenting the lack of tagging standards. I think the absence of a standard encourages a diversity of categories, bringing in more related content that would not otherwise be found.

The idea behind letting users tag their own content goes beyond simple per-user categorization. The theory is that, when enough users have tagged the same piece of information, it should be possible to find similarities between tags and produce an “average” list of tags for that data. While some users may append not-so-common tags, if enough do, the popular ones will rise to the top with the rest and create a new commonly used tag.

I’m wondering, though, what cutoff should be used to gauge when a tag or grouping is “popular enough”? And what tag sample size is necessary to determine that, as well?

Tagging Standards

The Stupid Questions

When you ask a colleague for help, particularly in programming, you want him to know less about your project… so he will ask the stupid questions you sub-consciously avoided asking yourself because you thought you knew the answer, when in fact you didn’t.

I’ve thought about this many times while programming, and I’ve never seen it said so well. Sometimes, when some code of mine isn’t working, I’ll take a break and do something else and work on it later. Quite often, taking a new look at the code forces you to (inadvetently) ask yourself those stupid questions. I almost always find that I’ve made an assumption somewhere along the lines, and my thoughts were not consistent with the actual workings.

The Stupid Questions

Google Maps API

A note to web application developers — Google has finally opened their maps service via an API, allowing you to programmatically make use of their maps, as well as plot routes and markers. Previously, the only way to do such a thing was by disassembling the JavaScript which Google uses and creating your own unsupported solution. Now you can create a web application which reliably uses Google Maps without worrying about infrastructure changes affecting your code. You will need a (free) API key to make use of the service, which can be obtained here. I’m excited to see what new web-based tools can be built using the new Google Maps API! Any suggestions for a small project which makes use of it?

Google Maps API

Enhancing JavaScript Interfaces

Up until recently, I wasn’t a big fan of JavaScript, primarily because I was under the impression that it had limited functionality (possibly a result of seeing it only being used for popup windows and the like). Since I’ve started working on some Dashboard widgets, I’ve found tons of resources on doing useful things with JavaScript, including one recent site, script.aculo.us, which shows a number of ways to liven up web application interfaces. Animations like sliding, folding, fading, and even drag-and-drop resorting are all possible with the right JavaScript. If you’re into creating cool web apps (like Backpack), I highly recommend checking it out. Even if you’re not a coder, script.aculo.us is still worth a look, as it’s rather impressive to see some of these things happening in a web browser. I hope this is only the beginning for interactive web applications.

Enhancing JavaScript Interfaces

Recent Tunes Update

I’ve been working on separating and cleaning up the code I use to run the Recent Tunes area of my sidebar so that it may be made into an easily installable sidebar item for any weblog via a PHP include() statement, but have run into a slight snag. The Recent Tunes application doesn’t work in Tiger and has been sold to someone, so I have no “easy” way of getting the iTunes track data to my webserver with no foreseeable hope of it being updated. It looks like I’ll have to come up with my own solution involving AppleScript. However, AppleScript is just not a language I can work with (I can’t live without {‘s!). If anyone could suggest a simple AppleScript that would grab important data from the current iTunes track and make it available to some other scripting language (PHP would be nice), that would be fantastic. I’ll probably end up putting that AppleScript into a shell script using osascript, then formatting and uploading that data with PHP, all run via cron on my local machine. I’m open to other suggestions, though. The only thing I need is the iTunes track data in a computer-readable format uploaded onto a FTP server. The rest I can change the code to fit. When this does turn into a useable project, you’ll surely get due credit.

I’ve also got a name picked out which has no (yes, zero) results on Google right now, so it will be distinguishable from other projects out there. More on that when I have things working again. For now, I’ve disabled that section of my sidebar.

Recent Tunes Update