The new Mac App Store will be available from January 6 and is certain to be a big success. At the moment, unless you read tech blogs and Mac magazines there is no real pressure to buy new apps. This will change with the App Store in the same way that the market for mobile apps was revolutionised by the iPhone and the all-new way of buying applications. It's not only the centralised and accessible market place that we'll love, it's also the ease of installation. No more downloading files, unzipping them and following instructions for installation. And, above all, no more registration codes to enter and remember. From January 6 the whole process will be as easy and automatic as it is on the iPhone. Of course, not all Mac applications will be suitable for the AppStore because of restrictions, most of them sensible, that Apple will impose.
There is one restriction that concerns me. Developers are to be prevented form allowing user-specified locations for data, all of which will end up in an Apple-specified area of the Library. Increasingly, however, I prefer to keep all my data on Dropbox and I can see problems arising if I'm prevented from doing this in future. Already I don't use the otherwise admirable Bento because the database cannot be relocated from the Library. Bento is produced by Filemaker, a subsidiary of Apple, incidentally. The Mac App Store will be a success and I look forward to browsing for useful free and paid applications. I just hope that the restrictions are not too onerous for consumer.
My music consumption has moved into top gear since I subscribed to Spotify. For £10 a month I can stream anything that takes my fancy; I can even download thousands of tracks for offline enjoyment if I wish. Sitting in front of my MacBook Pro with B&W's excellent mm-1 speakers, I got to dreaming about Airplay and the possibility of streaming my Spotify tracks to my Apple TV and the three or four Airport Express units dotted around the house. But this is Spotify, not iTunes; a solution was needed.
The first option that sprang to mind was to invest in a Sonos multi-room set-up. I've had my "want" (rather than my "need") eyes on Sonos for quite a while but have only just seriously considered buying. Reviews, especially in the tech world, are universally good and my credit card was beginning to vibrate in anticipation. A trawl on the internet showed that I would have to pay £560 for two of the Sonos non-amplified units, one to connect to my router and power the desk amplified speakers; the other to sit in the living room. Sonos works well with Spotify, but the cost is high even for a two-room set up. And this would be a minimum installation; I could well envisage needing several more of these units to provide music to the rest of the house.
Then I remembered RogueAmoeba.com's Airfoil utility for Mac. I checked and, sure enough, it would be capable of streaming music from Spotify on my MacBook Pro to any number of Apple TVs, computers and Airport Expresses in the house. And all for $25, hardly a blip on the credit card bill. What's more, I had all the hardware, including a couple of pensioned-off AEX units, in my gadget drawer.
One hour later I had everything up and running and I can now beam my music ("beam me up Spotify") to every room in the house. Set up is dead easy and the results are as good as I would have expected from Sonos. And all for less than the cost of a good lunch.
Sorry Sonus, you're ever so wonderful and I haven't spurned you for good, but I am rather enjoying my bargain-basement sound system.
Note: The Sonos system is independent of your computer and can play different music in each room, controlled by a Sonos remote control or by the iPhone app. Airfoil, on the other hand, streams one music source to any selected room. It is less versatile than Sonus but, if all you want is to fill your house with the same music at any one time it is a much cheaper and very effective alternative.