Friday, September 20, 2013

iTunes 11.1 and Podcasts

It deletes podcasts you wanted to save:

First of all, it deletes your podcasts. If you’ve been downloading and saving podcasts – because you haven’t gotten around to listening to them, or just because there are some you want to save – you’ll find that most of your podcasts are simply gone.


You’d think that if iTunes deletes your podcasts, you can get them back. I’ve been saving up the Prairie Home Companion podcast for years, and I have episodes back to 2007. Fortunately, these were not in my iTunes library, because after deleting the episodes from my Podcasts library, iTunes only shows me episodes going back to 2010 in the cloud. So if you have episodes of a podcast you want to keep, back them up, if they’re still in your iTunes Media folder, or if you have a backup; you may not be able to get them back from the Podcasts library.

And prevents you from deleting podcasts you wanted to clear away:

Here’s one problem: you cannot delete old podcasts. If you do – deleting them, and their files – they still show up in the podcast list. […] These podcasts never go away. They’ll show cloud icons for you to redownload them as long as they’re still available from the iTunes Store. So if you have a podcast with lots of episodes, you’ll have a very long list when you look at it in List view.

Update (2013-09-23): Paul Hagstrom:

Podcasts actually got deleted from my Mac’s iTunes library after syncing w/ iOS 7. All settings everywhere are keep all/do not delete. Grr.

Update (2013-10-01): Andrew Pontious also reported deletions.

Update (2013-10-16): Josh Centers:

After trying to use iTunes 11.1 to listen to podcasts for a few weeks, I’m going back to Instacast for Mac and iOS, and I suggest you do so as well (see “Instacast for Mac Fills the Desktop Podcatcher Gap,” 31 May 2013). Even after completely overhauling the way podcasts are handled, it’s obvious that Apple just doesn’t get it. Syncing is broken, iTunes doesn’t offer sensible controls for podcast listening, and the Podcasts app’s iOS 6 aesthetic looks and feels horribly dated.

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"It deletes podcasts you wanted to save"

Intentional deletion of user data.

I'm pretty amazed this isn't getting more press.

When you first open Podcasts in iTunes 11, you're given two choices — whether to sync/cloud-synchronize your podcasts, and whether to automatically update podcasts. If you uncheck the first box (the corresponding checkbox in Preferences is Store > Sync podcast subscriptions and settings), I'm pretty sure none of this behavior occurs. It essentially seems like half of iTunes Match is implemented for podcasts: it tries to match your episodes with cloud-hosted versions, but doesn't have provisions to upload the remaining episodes.

I only upgraded to iTunes 11 when forced to (iOS 7) and unchecked the box since I'm no longer actively using iTunes for podcasts. I've got some old unlistened episodes around, some as old as 2007, and they're all still there.

Incidentally, I do like the new podcasts layout in iTunes 11 — Apple has done a lot of work on it, which is surprising given how seemingly abandoned podcasts had been for several versions. The old layout is still there as the "List" view, but the multi-line descriptions and inline settings editing are more usable. There's still some UI brokenness like a blue button which isn't triggered by Return, some animation/scrolling performance problems, and lack of keyboard shortcuts/menu items, but those are present in just about 100% of Apple's OS X software these days. (I really wish the UI designers would understand the difference between touch screen and keyboard/mouse accessibility — there is something to be said for the last 30 years of UI evolution.)

@Nicholas I selected the option synchronize, not realizing that this would cause data loss. Indeed, for me, it doesn’t seem to have deleted any episodes (confirmed by IntegrityChecker), even though I subscribe to one podcast that has unplayed episodes dating back to 2006 that have long since dropped off the feed. I have, however, been consistently archiving my played episodes, so most of mine didn’t have many old items.

The non-list view is still problematic for me, showing multiple copies of some podcasts, with messed up art, etc. I generally like the new My Stations feature, but it seems buggy about letting me drag-and-drop to re-order things (and remembering the changes I made). And is there really no way to sort?

Might be more complex than that, then. I did upgrade directly to iTunes 11.1 from 10.x, so the quoted articles may partially be since-fixed bugs.

I do see podcasts represented as multiple items — probably representing feed changes? — but no messed-up art.

I didn't look at "My Stations" much at all, but it seems to be really buggy and confusing — certainly the flakiest piece of iTunes I've seen since 1.0. For example, it claims I have 81 episodes but only 10 are showing in the list. I can set Play Order to Manual but can't drag to reorder (is that what you meant?) It looks like the only thing you can do for sorting is to set Play Order to "'My Podcasts' Order."

Back when I used iPod/iTunes to play podcasts, I had an "Unplayed Podcasts" smart playlist which I manually reordered as necessary; that playlist is still there and seems to work, though I have no idea how/if it'd work with the iOS Podcasts app.

Also, "Podcast Settings" are modal in "My Podcasts" but "My Stations" options are nonmodal despite looking identical. But my favorite bug in "My Stations": with "Station Settings" not showing, show or hide the sidebar. It *replaces* or *removes* the station list, which is clearly not supposed to happen. Showing/hiding Station Settings restores the list.

All in all, nothing that would tempt me to switch back from Instacast (on iOS; I don't and never did listen to podcasts on the Mac.)

@Nicholas What I meant is that when selecting which podcasts to include in a station, they appear in a seemingly random order (not recent order), which makes it difficult to find the ones I’m looking for. Why can’t it sort them alphabetically? And dragging to reorder the stations works on the iPhone but not on the Mac.

I don’t play podcasts on the Mac, either, but I’ve been syncing with iTunes to keep track of which episodes I’ve listened to so that I can archive them. Also, I assume that, without the Mac storing them, older but unplayed episodes would never make it to the phone.

Interesting. So you two didn't get user data loss, despite different methods. I wonder what makes Kirk the outlier here.

I think Apple’s algorithm for when to delete podcasts might contain a bug or two.

I didn’t lose my old (unplayed) podcasts, but since upgrading, I have twice lost a podcast that I hadn’t finished listening to. Once from a feed (it wasn’t the latest podcast) and once a podcast I had manually added (so not via a subscription).

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