Discussion about
swin1974

February 4th 2014 4:43 pm

Why do I still use iTunes?

Seriously. If anyone can give me a good reason, I'd love to hear it.

There was the "cash for clunkers" initiative for old cars that people were stuck with a couple of years ago; if only there was something similar for iTunes.

I love my iPad, iPhone and Apple TV. I reluctantly continue with a Dell Inspiron (Windows 7 Laptop) because I can't afford an iMac or MacBook to use as my server for my movie library. I like iTunes Match and the fact that when I buy anything it arrives across all my devices. I am enjoying iTunes Radio.

Is iTunes as cumbersome on a Mac?

Is there a better way to integrate my devices movies apps and music?

I have all my music at google music also.. In case I feel like jumping off the good ship Apple..

Is Google Play,, Chromecast or Plex worth a look? I don't feel like hacking my Apple TV and turning it into an expensive hockey puck

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39 replies
Dignan17

Have you thought about trying streaming, subscription music services? I'm a huge rdio fan, thought Spotify is clearly winning in this space.

I prefer that these services will work across devices and platforms (not just devices), and everything is mirrored everywhere without needing to worry about downloading/transferring anything.
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ttringle

Apple has iTunes match which will keep all of your music in the cloud as the OP knows, (with the option of having local copy for peace of mind) Gives you the ability to get higher quality rips once you start using it (delete the local lower quality copy and download iTunes version), and comes with iTunes radio which while not giving you the ability of playing albums and songs at will is a very good Pandora like offering. And the best part is all of it it only costs about $3 a month ($25 per year is how it's billed).

If you use an iPhone and Apple hardware like the Apple TV it's a good deal, and is often misunderstood by people who do not use it. I also sub to Spotify as well. But iTunes radio has a better curation based off an artist or song. If you are looking to listen to broad musical tastes then either is a good choice. But if you are already using Apple for one or more things than iTunes Match with iTunes Radio is a no brainer.
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Dignan17

No, not misunderstood. Multi billion dollar companies do not deserve your pity.
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a2thec

I think the only thing about Apple that is misunderstood is, how the devices work.....seriously, I meet a lot people who need to learn about them asking "for Dummies books" and at best buy you will see those people getting their geeks to teach them all the basics all over again because its so easy and intuitive.
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a2thec

The only reason you would need "higher quality rips" is if you pirated the music, CDs are always lossless full quality (save for studio master copy). Otherwise you can rip your discs to whatever format you want. $25/12=~$2 not $3, that would be $36 if it were $3 a month, wish you were my customer!
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frankspin

Plex supports Chromecast and Airplay, so you could always just do that and not feel compelled to hack your AppleTV.

If all your devices are integrated with iTunes and Apple, I'd just stick with the environment. It seems like you're only really using it as a media streamer for the AppleTV. So perhaps it might be worth it to just try out Plex?
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swin1974

Can program my Logitech Harmony Remote to operate the Chromecast? Or is it cell phone app or other device only?
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ttringle

Chromecast really does not have remote control per say, you use apps on your PC or phone and it/they initiate a stream that goes directly to the Chromecast from the web freeing up your phone to do other things. But if you stream the browser session from Chrome then you need to keep the Mac or PC running that session obviously.
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frankspin

You would have to rely on your phone. This is one main reason I have not tried a chromecast yet.
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TgD

"Is iTunes as cumbersome on a Mac?"

I haven't found iTunes to be terrible on either of the Macs I have owned. But I am probably in the minority. I think iTunes for windows has always been a second rate product.
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jedidiah0tmj

I did not find that iTunes ran any better on a Mac. I think people trying to blame Windows are just looking for an excuse. It's the same app made by the same company. It's flaws or strengths are the same on either platform.

Running it on a Mac won't cause it to suddenly manage 3rd party video files or stop it from flattening whatever organization you've imposed on your photos.
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dave

Hah, for me, iTunes is every bit as cumbersome on the Mac. In fact, I nominated it as one of the worst pieces of software I've ever used: www.engadget.com­/discuss­/what­-is­-the­-most­-frustrat...

/threadjack
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swin1974

It's a beast.. Tried updating to the latest version and something in the Apple Mobile Device System became corrupted and required me wiping all apple software and reinstalling..

Yet another sucky experience .. Along with Wifi Sync.. Not recognizing Devices .. Crappy UI. Messed up album art on my phone.. I could go on.. As I am sure you could too!!
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ttringle

Please, iTunes works just fine on Apple. And for those whining about how slow etc it is. I have a 20000+ database of over 122GB of music etc and I can start my iTunes from cold start to playing a song in under 7 seconds. I have never had a case of my iTunes ever having an issue where some other hardware or software was not the root cause. Granted my machine is fairly recent and i have the max memory but as long as the machine has the memory needed for what you are doing you should be fine. And any Mac Mini from the past 3 years would be a good Media machine. But a Roku with Plex as the server on the back end would do well on the cheap. Though Airplay is never as stable as when it is with all Apple hardware. If you want all of your stuff to work without jumping through hoops and airplay is your goal stop dicking around with Windows. I gave up on it 10 years ago and have not looked back. Although XBMC on Windows is still the only way to get BluRay and HD Audio natively for all formats. Apple is getting better though. The main thing that people complain about iTunes is lack of customization, buy if you can just get past that and use it the way it's meant to be, it will work fine. And no offense if you think the AppleTV is expensive then you may want to just get a Roku 3 and stop using Apple gear. They offer the best Out of the Box experience but they are really only for people who are willing to pay a little more for the best without the headaches attributed to Windows. I should know I manage Windows machines for a number of customers and I personally used it (and still do on one machine) since Windows 3.0 until 2003 as my primary OS. In fact the only prebuilt machines I have ever bought have been Apple.
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Dignan17

"I have never had a case of my iTunes ever having an issue where some other hardware or software was not the root cause."

Not everyone's Pinto exploded either.
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dave

Please, iTunes works just fine on Apple. And for those whining about how slow etc it is. I have a 20000+ database of over 122GB of music etc and I can start my iTunes from cold start to playing a song in under 7 seconds.

I envy you. I have a Mac, with an iTunes database of 26,000 songs, ~150GB and I'm lucky if it starts in under 7 minutes! :( Seriously, it's the worst application I've ever used.
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a2thec

May as well just have said, give it another chance, its Apple for crying out loud.

Also "Though Airplay is never as stable as when it is with all Apple hardware." -None of it is actually Apple hardware, the only part that is Apple is the software. I've had a recent machine (both Mac and x86) with Itunes and it only ran fine on Mac, the PC variant was bulkier and slower. I have 500+GB of music alone that Itunes hates, even on Mac---but I bought those 10yrs+ CDs, not from Itunes perfect environment.
Regardless of what device you use, it will only run as desi(red/gned) on barebones setup.
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Fitzzz

I currently run Plex Media Server and iTunes. Both are mapped to the same drive and folder so they have the same content. iTunes is the necessary evil if you are locked into the Apple environment, you will need it for updates and the like.

I have tried all kinds of software and hardware...
This is what I personally run:

iPhone 5S, and run itunes match for my music, since it will up the bitrate of your content and plays well.
Apple TV Gen 3, hacked to work with Plex, since now I can play any movie format and don't need a phone or ipad to act as middle man.
Chromecast (2nd TV)
iPad Mini

I also have a windows laptop acting as my media server, SSD with OS (and iTunes) on it, 2nd HDD with all my media on it.

Works wonderfully. Hope I helped answer your question somewhat.
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ttringle

He doesn't want to hack his Apple TV which he stated out of the gate.

Unless you are referring to Plexconnect which is not a hack but a workaround. It is also not the same as running Plex on the Apple TV, as I do on my modded ATV2, before I got a Roku. Plexconnect info can be found here elan.plexapp.com­/2013­/06­/04­/introducing­-plexconnec...

Roku devices (even older models) work just fine with Plex minus any hacking as there is an app provided by Plex you can run on the Roku boxes. Chromecast will also work with Plex (as I am sure you know) but I am fairly certain you have to pay for the plex pass service $4 a month, $30 a year, or $75 lifetime. If you want to use cloud services to keep your media online you also get access as part of Plex Pass but I have never used Google Drive (which might be how play stores its music online at this point) with Plex. It also works with some other popular cloud storage services, like dropbox etc.

Plex is as close to an Apple like experience with out being tied to Apple hardware, but Chromecast is not as flexible as Airplay if you are not into the Google Play echo system as Airplay requires commitment to the Apple Eco system.

Right now Plex is the only true middle ground that works equally well with Apple Gear as well as Microsoft / Android etc.

Also depending on his Apple TV it might be impossible to hack as he may have it updated past where it can be modded. Hopefully Apple will open up the Apple TV to Apps soon rather than keeping it closed.
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swin1974

Sounds like I need to save my money and get a decent computer running mavericks with plenty of memory and a SSD.

I still think the iTunes UI is clunky though.. A bit of a monster.. But nobody else has cracked it either..

Thanks for the thoughts everyone!
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ttringle

If you get a laptop then I would say that an SSD is the way to go, but with iTunes match and cloud services replacing local storage you really only should get what you can afford. Your not going to be buying a new machine often especially if you get a mac however so the more you can put into it when you purchase (especially if you get a Macbook air) the better off you will be. Research the model before pulling the trigger and determine wether or not the memory is self upgradeable as that would be my recommendation over a SSD on a Mac Mini, as you can replace those hard drives later and even get more memory cheaper if you get it from Crucial. I got 32GB for my iMac at a substantial savings over apples (probably superior) very expensive memory.
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Rugbyball

You can do what I do, I got a NAS, a Synology 411+II, its a few years old now and running strong. www.synology.com. I also have a 411J which I bought first, but it was a bit under powered for my needs which is why I got the 411+II. I have 4x 3TB drives in the 411+II and 4x 2tb drives in the 411J. Synology has a wonderful interface and is easy to work with, you can try it as a demo on there website. It has an iTunes server built in, I backup all my music to the NAS and I share the music across my network, and they have a iOS and Android app that allows streaming from it to your device outside of your network, you need to open ports on your router but it has a wizard to help with that.
I also back up all my photos, videos and important files. I think they also have a PLEX server for Synology, not sure about that though you will need to double check. There is also a great development community for Synology that create apps for it. I have crashplan ( www.crashplan.com) as my cloud backup, someone wrote an app to allow you to run the backup engine on the Synology device so its running all the time, My backup strategy is, all files are on 411+II, backup nightly to my 411J which is located on my wired (not wireless) network BUT is not in my house, in a protected location outside my house. This is to help protect against fire and hopefully theft, but both could get stolen I guess. Then my 411+II has crashplan that backsup actively to the cloud. So even if everything is gone, say in a flood or double theft of NAS's I can get my files from Cloud.
If you have a USB OTA TV tuner or a silicon dust network tuner (www.silicondust.com) the NAS will also pull in the TV signal and act as a DVR to record shows, and has an APP to watch them on iOS or Android and on devices like a playstation 3, Xbox 360, or other compatible devices. I have a OTA silicon dust and a cable card silicon dust network device which is used on my HTPC. Synology also has a video surveillance app, can handle alot of IP cameras, think its like 20 but its dependent on the hardware of your NAS (why I went with 411+II in the end 411J not powerful enough) They give you one camera license free, if you add more you need to buy separate camera licenses at ~$50 each, most dont need more than 1 or two. I only have one.

And they also have a cloud storage app, it works just like dropbox, use an app on iOS, android or windows/mac's. Only difference is instead of saving files to dropbox cloud it saves back to your NAS device, and the big advantage is your savings on dropbox's storage fees.

So my NAS works as an iTunes server, Video Server for home movies, a DVR, a home video surveillance, local backup device, cloud backup server and cloud storage.
Yes, its not overly inexpensive at ~$500+ with out drives, but it does a whole heck of alot for me so its worth it for me and my family.

Hope this was useful.

-Ed
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swin1974

Pretty Epic set up Ed!!

Thanks
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Rugbyball

No problem, and like I said, been using this setup for ~3 years now. My kids can all attach to the iTunes server with there mobile device and each stream there own music. No hickups and its run solid, except for a drive failure which can happen even in a computer, but unless you are mirroring drives or raid 5 or better the drives a drive failure means loss of data. This NAS allows loss of one drive, and if your ok with sacrificing some space for peace of mind you can set it to allow loss of two drives at same time. Since I have a second NAS as a local back up I have it to just one drive failure.

One other thing I forgot to mention, if you dont want to use the iTunes server and just want to use it as an mapped network drive on your computer and use something like Music Bee ( getmusicbee.com/ ), Media Monkey ( www.mediamonkey.com/ ) or some other music player, you can just point to the mapped drive or you can also use UNC name ( compnetworking.about.com­/od­/windowsnetworking­/g­/un... ) to get to it. I have Music Bee and Media Monkey along with iTunes. All have there +/- I tend to use iTunes more often since I use the equalizer and iTunes lets you set an eq setting to each song and not set it and it applies to all songs you play like some other players.
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swin1974

Good stuff! How do you like crashplan? I have Carbonite and I am less than impressed.. Takes so long to back up all my movies on the external drive . It shouldn't because I have fiber optic internet 35/35 up and down..

Still a long way from having all my stuff in the cloud.
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Dignan17

I like Crashplan's software a little more than Carbonite, which just has an old feeling to it. Hard to explain.

It's hard to say if Crashplan would improve your backup speeds from the external drive, as I don't know whether Carbonite is your current problem. Part of it might be that these backup services encrypt your files before the data leaves your computer. So Carbonite has to read the files off your local storage (slow), encrypt them (slower), and upload them to the internet (slowest).

I don't know if you described your computer somewhere in this thread, but it could be a performance issue...
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Rugbyball

I have FiOS and have the 75/35 plan. Even with Crashplan it takes awhile to do the initial backup. After that it not so bad. The nice thing with my setup and having the crashplan engine running on the NAS, after I move the files to the NAS, Crashplan automatically starts backing it up to the Cloud. I don't need to leave my computer(s) running and I have a folder setup in my NAS, one for each person in the house, along with shared folders like photos, videos, TV Shows (DVR) etc. They all get backed up. Once moved to NAS no one needs to think about backing up, it just done for them, computer on or not. And it also backs up the files we all send via the dropbox like app from our phones. So any photos or videos we take with our phones goes to NAS and get backed up, so if phone is lost or stolen, we still have the photos and videos.

I have ~1.5TB on Crashplan now and got there 4 year family plan, dont think they offer it anymore. Initial backup took a month but like I said once its on my NAS I dont think about it much.

If you dont have a lot to backup and want to backup from your computer only you can use a great open source app called Duplicati ( www.duplicati.com/ ) it will do backups, compress them and encrypt them and then push them to cloud service like Microsoft Skydrive , soon to be renamed Microsoft Onedrive, It does incremental backups so if you change a file say a word file, it doesnt send the entire file again, just the part of the file that changed. It does recommend a full backup every month however. I use this at work to backup my files, even though IT backs them up as well but I have had them lose files in the backup so I follow the methodology of TNO, Trust No One, when it comes to important files.
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Dignan17

Yes, I should have clarified that the initial backup will take a LONG time.

Ed, I love that you got Crashplan running on your Synology. That's awesome. I'll have to do that too.

They do still offer that plan, they've just simplified their plans (and raised the prices). Now they offer single or multiple computer plans, and you pay up to four years in advance.
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Rugbyball

Here is the info to get Crashplan on your Synology, pcloadletter.co.uk­/2012­/01­/30­/crashplan­-syno­-packa... BTW, it is the best website name, office space movie reference, although I do like www.goesto11.com Spinal Tap movie reference.
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a2thec

Sadly sir, Itunes will always be cumbersome, it is how Apple forces everyone to their cage they call their "perfect" (money collecting) ego/ecosystem. It will only support those devices and has a monopoly on the music and movie industry, why hasn't this become an issue with anyone (legally?!)? There are other systems out there but they don't get de facto licensing. With an exception of.....
Google play is just like itunes, except one huge difference = device support, you will have access to your music on everything, rather than only Apple devices.

Chromecast is basically a cheaper version of current technology included in Roku and your Apple TV with "airplay" as they call it, simply DLNA compatibility with security encryption to only allow Apple certified devices (how nice!). Except it works like plug and play with any devices that sees it on the network, with the SDK openly available now you should see more content and apps support Chromecast, as Apple TV has been available for years it has more of a collection.

Also you may look into a NAS=Network Attached Storage, basically a HDD with WIFI or ethernet connected to the router(Airport Extreme, I hate the stupidity of these names).

Lastyly, you shouldn't need to afford an Apple computer, they are extemely over priced, it is almost literally your dell with all the somewhat beefed up hardware available, but plus $1000, or lets make it $2000 just becuase they include their useless "Office Suite" that i(think)"works." As always, you will be buying a PC essentially, plus Apple bloatware for a premium.

I've been collecting physical CDs for many yrs, ripping, and storing on WinAmp since like '99 or whenever they introduced cd ripping (I've used DBpoweramp as well) to curate my 500+GB of music, not including anything I've recorded in the studio (Whole other story)
.
Call me old-school, but I use WinAmp still, and it works great. Tied in with my Google Music Manager to sync with my Google Play (free Itunes match). They have these wonderful things called shoutcast which are literally real people setting up their home computer as a radio server to listen to/rip. Predating anything named podcast, pod? what is that, the word just means thing essentially...off topic. :D
I've heard good things about MusicBee, but honestly I haven't used it that much.

An app called Station Ripper to save my legally recorded MP3s from streaming radio (its been legal to record radio since the 90s)

and another app called Saver2 for Pandora.
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swin1974

I can tell you are a massive Apple fan. :-)) is there anything that Google does that you don't agree with?
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MrRoland2u

I'll start with my inventory: iPhone 5, iPad Mini Retina, Apple TV, custom PC running Windows 8.1 and a Lenovo Yoga 11s with 8.1 - A fun mix of PC and Apple. First, Apple TV is wonderful and, so far, Intel's WiDi is a joke on my Windows products. You have to basically be within HDMI cable range for it to work anyway, so what's the point. iTunes leaves much to be desired on a PC, no doubt, and I've briefly flirted with MediaMonkey which may be great, but I had that ‘I'm not familiar with it so it seems annoying’ aversion upon trying it. Nonetheless, you still need another PC program for iPhone/Pad app management; iFunBox is the one I tried. Long story short, the learning curve and file management was more of a burden to me than just trying a little harder with iTunes. Also of note is a program called AirParrot which allows you to mirror your PC screen via AppleTV. It's $10 and works like a charm, even streaming movies from my laptop to my AppleTV without a glitch (you have to have a decent home network to do so, but not crazy pimped out or anything). Also, I have an LG smart TV with DLNA 'Smart Share' built right in. In windows 8, at least, as long as my iTunes Movies and TV Shows folders are part of my Windows Video Library, and it's shared with my Homegroup, it is a Media Server that any device with DLNA capabilities can play. And for those formats that won't play via that route, I'll just AirParrot it to my Apple TV. I'm not sure if the ’Homegroup and Libraries as Media Server’ is available on Windows 7 (I went XP to 8.1), but I feel it might be. Hopefully this is helpful.
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swin1974

Very cool! One factor I always have to bear in mind is ease of use for my family. One or two presses on the Logitech Harmony remote. Otherwise, anyone else is going to find it annoying. Great suggestions though. Thanks
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MrRoland2u

Also something I'm excited about and may help tame many of your woes (but isn't quite out yet):
airtame.com/
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ttringle

Since you already have been using Apple devices, then you are going to find most non Apple solutions to be no where as good as the experience on those devices. You should look for a mac Mini if you want a better iTunes experience but you are probability experiencing growing pains with your hardware if it is nearing 3 years old or more. Memory is also an issue with any machine especially in iTunes if you have a larger database (large amount of songs.

Since you use Apple devices you can use plex on your PC and the plex apps on your phone to stream via Airplay to the Apple TV thus negating having to Hack your mac but still being able to stream things like mov files to your TV. To be honest the best solution if you want a better PC experience with iTunes without giving up on using your Apple gear is bite the bullet and get a Mac, you are not going to be sorry and iTunes will run much better on even a two or 3 year old mac. But if you got a new Windows machine and installed iTunes you would have access to all your iTunes match music and it would probably run much better as well with a clean install. I am more biased to Macs now. But I know that most of the hatred for iTunes is pretty biased and based on poorly maintained or overworked/underperforming Windows machines as well. I would recommend sticking to Win 7 if you get a new PC however. Good Luck.
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swin1974

I have an old monitor and keyboard. I like the idea of getting a Mac mini and using that as my server running iTunes.
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ttringle

Definitely an option, although with iTunes match your phones and your iPad and ATV can get you your music with out a local PC, FYI. But with an actual Mac at the heart of it you get the best of all worlds. With Plex and a roku, even a $50 dollar one you also get to play videos that are not compatible with the Apple TV. Until Apple opens up the ATV to the App store I'll keep using the roku in my bedroom but the day I can download a real Plex app without hacking the ATV i will. But there is PlexConnect which gets around hacking the ATV too.
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jedidiah0tmj

The AppleTV is a very limited device even compared to the rest of the Apple devices you own. It may make sense for you to dump it in favor of a Roku. At least a Roku will allow you to install apps like Plex.It's a much better media manager than iTunes.
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sarahluo

Even though we have many products can replace the itunes and other products ,but for me i like do sth use the professional goods . just like cellphone can take photos and see movie and listen to the music but i like take photo use camera ,see movie use tablet pc or notebook and so on .
I also think the digital goods have many new function now ,but the old goods are beautiful .
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