Sofa + iTunes = Lazy man's album covers!

by Russell Miles

Related link: http://sofa.ouvaton.org/



Every now and then you get a piece of software, or an addition to something already pretty good, and you think ........ what's the point? Thankfully, the software being developed under the Sofa Project is NOT one of those tools. It's free and it is a simple addition to iTunes. But what we have here is no simple applescript frenzy ... this one gets up in front of iTunes and uses Apple's music management system as it's puppet, with some interesting new features thrown in that just might work their way into the main tool in the future.


So, what does it do ... on first look, not a lot (back to my initial reactions of 'what's the point?') but once you get under the skin you start to feel much more encouraged.


For a vanilla install of iTunes with no iPod you will probably at first be looking at a simple application GUI that does no more than launch iTunes and provides a simple controller. However, the secret goodies are in the Web Services. Once these services are enabled appropriate web sites are searched for corresponding album artwork and then a conduit is set up between iTunes and Sofa to share the artwork that is found. No more scanning each page of that album cover collection again! The artwork for a particular album title from a specific source site is displayed and can be shared with iTunes or kept separate depending on your preference.


There are a few problems and ongoing issues with the version of Sofa tried for this blog. The application takes a long time to startup with a significant iTunes library or when an iPod is plugged in. In fact the tool crashed twice - but hey, it's early days yet and this is not yet version 1!


Also, the software is free but .... free as in freedom? - well, actually, no ... it's free as in beer which is not the same thing but probably enough for most people. Although the program appears to be free there's no source available so unfortunately this doesn't appear to be an open source effort, let alone a free software one. This is a shame as I'm sure with a little community support the project could really come on in leaps and bounds by opening up the source using whatever licensing is appropriate.


My honest opinion of Sofa is that this version (0.6 v219) is still a little clunky and certainly doesn't have the panache of a commercial product yet. Basically Sofa is just missing that feeling of 'of course, that's the way it should work!' that you get from best of breed products on the Mac. If you can get past that criticism, and it's a pretty minor one, then Sofa is a top notch helpful addition to iTunes. It won't replace the iTunes front-end for this Mac user but for the lazy guy who simply can't be bothered to scan in those album covers (myself definitely included) it's a great energy saver all round and perhaps offers a capability that Apple might consider including in iTunes in the future.



Any comments from the guys (or gals) working on Sofa are more than welcome. If anyone's using the tool and got a comment that's good too...


7 Comments

gorilla
2004-01-28 00:54:32
Scan artwork?!
Who says you gotta scan artwork when there are plenty of stores like media play where you can just snag it.
russellmiles
2004-01-28 01:04:11
Scan artwork?!

True, true, but I am 'ultimately' lazy when it comes to non-essential features like artwork in iTunes. I simply like the way that Sofa suggests artwork and then I just have to decide which ones I like. But I do like your thinking, yeah it is pretty easy to scan for this stuff manually.


I've also had a recommendation to look at Synergy which I will do this weekend. Maybe I'll post again with a continuing story for the lazy users search for the easiest ways of doing stuff with your PC and Mac.

r_miller
2004-01-28 12:01:13
I use Sofa and Synergy
Surely you read the O'Reilly blogs about iTunes artwork from a few days ago, which it looks like you did from reading this. I suggested that using Sofa and Synergy together is a good tandem. I agree that Sofa has a ways to go. On my machine it freezes occasionally and also causes some problems with the iTunes program. Synergy was recommended by several people in the aforementioned article. Anyway, I think that using Sofa and Synergy together you could "almost" do away with the iTunes interface. Both programs need a little work, with Sofa needing a few more revisions before it is Synergy's equal.
russellmiles
2004-01-28 12:29:18
I use Sofa and Synergy
I agree, Synergy seems like a much more robust piece of software after a bit of playing with. And I completely agree that using both Synergy and Sofa together would be a formidable interface once the bugs are ironed out. I'm certainly all for variety on the user interface front for any app.


I guess the point of this weblog was that I'm looking for the lazy solution. Maybe I should be a little more clear about what I mean by that. The point was that I don't need different interfaces to iTunes, I'm happy with iTunes the way it is to be honest. I don't need artwork displayed on the desktop or a cool interface that shows things off in a new way, although both of those things are pretty cool as well. What I enjoyed was the 'lazy' approach to just adding artwork to iTunes with the least possible effort. That's what seemed to be the crux of the previous blog on the subject and that's what Sofa got me (albeit a little buggy for the time being).


At the moment Synergy is experiencing some pretty unfair troubles with Amazon concerning it's means of access to artwork, but once those are solved then I'm sure it will more than likely offer the right mix of functionality (just give me the artiwork would be good enough) and robustness (please don't hang my machine again).


As to the software apps eventually being equals, the diversity is fine by me, but really I'm happy with everything else iTunes. I just want the artwork as easily as possible for the collection of music I have already bought.

tarafine
2004-03-18 08:11:33
sofa maybe, but no couch potato!
It's very sensitive to the mouse, kept darting away from me. Also, album covers seem to stack in the window designated for a jpeg specific to an album. Each folder created for album cover/artist contains ALL of what sofa has retrieved. It has good potential, however, and I've decided that the path of least resistance is to let it run itself and be grateful for the album covers I can get, and 'oh well' on the rest.
Plop
2006-05-10 14:03:13
The developer passed away a couple of years ago... I read somewhere on a french forum her sister wanting people who can continue developing Sofa...
jack steven
2008-07-01 21:50:06
What an awesome article on "Sofa + i Tunes = Lazy man's album covers!". In your article you have given some links and they are very useful and informative. You have explained a difficult topic with such ease that I was amazed. Also, where you discussed about i Tunes the selection of words was great. Also I must add that I would closely follow your article in the future and I am sure I would not be disappointed.
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Jack Steven
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