iPhoto, iTunes Falling Down on Library Size

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Scot Hacker

Scot Hacker
Jan. 07, 2003 11:26 PM

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Just so you don't think all I do is kvetch about Apple, let me say up front that I thought today's keynote was a total gas, and I've already fallen head-over-heels for Safari. I think Final Cut Express perfectly fills the gaping maw between iMovie and FCP, I think Keynote is going to be a PowerPoint killer on the Mac, and that the new PowerBooks are right on target. All that said, I'm royally steamed about a glaring omission in the iLife suite.

I've got 1GB of memory in my 867MHz PowerMac. But at 15,500 tracks, iTunes is starting to become difficult (not quite impossible) to use. It hums along fine if I don't touch it. But simply selecting a track can result in 20 seconds of spinning beachball. Editing an ID3 tag can take more than 30 seconds. Dragging tracks to a playlist, same. Trying to use iTunes as the music database it's designed to be has started to become more chore than fun. I'm not even done encoding all my CDs yet, and already I can tell iTunes is not going to make it to 25,000 tracks, let alone what it might grow to in the future. What kind of digital hub is that? I can run a FileMaker or MySQL database with a million records and they won't bog my machine down like this - iTunes needs to work on efficiency, period.

iPhoto is even worse. At around 800 images, it started to bog down on me. At 1,000, it started getting confused, and refused to allow me to add more images (or rather, it would add them to the library, but would not create thumbnails). 800? I've only had the digital camera for 18 months, and we edit our images down pretty scrupulously, deleting all the deadwood. We were totally hamstrung until we found iPhoto Librarian, but it's a major pain to have to switch back and forth between libraries, and there's no easy way to get images from one library into another's albums.

I'm not steamed because there are bugs. I'm steamed because Apple announced a whole raft of iLife features today -- great features, no doubt -- but made no mention of addressing the one thing that thwarts the very people who take the digital hub sales pitch seriously. I spent two hours of my Christmas holiday helping Dad clear out his iPhoto library because I knew he'd be hitting the same glass ceiling soon.

So I spoke to an Apple employee about this today and she agreed 100% - it makes no sense to add new features before basic scalability is taken care of. She was steamed too (but asked to remain anonymous), and implored me to tell my friends to use the iPhoto feedback page to register my complaints. Apparently, the feedback really does get read, and cumulative mail amounts to real pressure on developers.

If you're struggling with quote-unquote "large" iPhoto or iTunes libraries, let Apple know they have to take care of the basics before they can sell us on the fun bits.

Scot Hacker is the author of O'Reilly's MP3: The Definitive Guide, Peachpit's "The BeOS Bible," and countless articles for print- and Web-based technology publications.