Downloading and uncompressing Signal is obviously very easy, but no-where could I find anything that informed me that I should be expecting a prefpane. The few installation instructions I could find said simply to 'run' the application. Lucky I know what to do with a prefpane then.
Then the problems really started. Nothing happened when I tried to install the prefpane, well, nothing apart from everything freezing periodically with a spinning daisy wheel for minutes at a time.
Realising this might be something to do with the Parental Controls I have in place for that user on the server (to enable some measure of security if I have to leave the server with iTunes in that user at the front), I tried to turn them off. This simply confused the Mac totally and I had to restart it. Now this is largely Apple's fault for progressively making OSX less and less robust (which for a server is unforgivable), BUT, there really ought to be some simple, up-to-date docs available for Signal that make it explicitly clear that downloading results in a prefpane and to NOT, under any circumstances try and install it when Parental Controls are in force with System Prefs being disallowed. That's all we need, some warning.
Once I restarted and turned Parental Controls off, of course I was able to fire up Signal no bother and I had my first look from within Safari on my Mac.
Am I right that the iPhone layout is the only one available? Not the biggest deal in the world as my main use would be from an iPhone, but it would be nice to have something that made better use of the screen space when browsing from a large (i.e. non mobile browser).
Then I tried to browse the music by Artist. Oh dear.
So many things wrong with this, where do I start.
My music collection is not small at about 1200 albums, but there's plenty larger and even at the size of my collection, lists just HAVE to be sorted appropriately or they're essentially unusable. Music info like this is just data and when outputting any sizeable amount of info from a database, every database developer knows it has to be correctly sorted. Sadly, I've yet to come across a music app developer who actually understood this.
For many years iTunes has offered the ability to use the Album Artist in preference to the Artist tag. This allows the user to eliminate compilation type artists from the artists' list. I have about 500 real artists, but that increases to about 2,500 if you include compilation artists, 80% of which you do NOT want to see in the main list. This is basic stuff, but in case anyone has a problem with this, it's a user selected option in iTunes so no one is forced to use it. But it MUST be an option in any app that purports to front end music data, as does Signal.
As an adjunct to this, there should be a separate section titled 'Compilations', again, as does iTunes and needs no explanation.
So that covers what should and what should not be in the artists' list, but then there's still the basic sorting of the list. Simply sorting by the (Album) Artist tag is just plain wrong. Eric Clapton MUST be found under C and not E. Likewise The Beatles must be under B and not T. iTunes has ALWAYS handled the latter correctly and indeed it appears so does Signal. But I'm not sure how as it then puts Clapton under E. Sorry, but this sort of basic mistake is unforgivable. Not only does it make Signal's interface totally inconsistent with iTunes', but it renders any large list of artists virtually unusable.
Then, although we can show only artists beginning with a selected letter, it is then presented in several pages, so you have to repeatedly select Next in order to find what you want. Why? Having selected the letter, show one list of all those matches so the user can just scroll to wherever they want. Why the pagination?
Finally there's the list of an artist's albums. Currently this is similarly hopeless as it sorts them alphabetically by the Album tag. In over 50 years of enjoying music I can't EVER remember wanting to look at the albums of a particular artist in alphabetical order. I always want to see them in chronological order, but I do realise that not everyone may feel the same way. Luckily this is all made possible, again by iTunes' use of a Sort tag, in this case the Sort Album tag. By pre-pending the release date to any other data (probably the album name) in the Sort Album tag, I achieve exactly what I want and this is the point of the Sort tags - as long as the developer sorts ALL lists by the Sort tag in preference to the normal version of that tag, the sort order is then TOTALLY in the control, of the user. If they don't know how to do this and/or do not want to bother, this is then NO bother for the app in question and the sort order will then rely on the normal tags - as it does now. BUT, it provides a facility for the user to set up their data exactly how they want. Even Apple recognised this and we've had that ability in iTunes for many years now and I find it continually astonishing that a developer of any such music based app would not have made use of this facility. It is a PERFECT example of how to please everyone. Instead we have something that is so completely wrong it's more than disappointing.
So to reiterate, we need:-
- An option to use Album Artist in preference to the basic Artist tag.
- Separate Compilations section.
- Use of the Sort tags when, er, sorting the lists.
- Longer lists to avoid pagination.
Apart from that, Signal looks good:-)
I realise it sounds like I hate Signal which is not true, but its basic promise of controlling an iTunes instance, from a web browser is EXACTLY what I want and I was over the moon when I discovered it. It's just so disappointing to see the developers have fallen into the same trap as all the others and not made best use of what they have available. So yes, I may well still use it, but fix the above and there's no question that I would. Signal deserves better then this and if there's anything I can do to help incorporate the above into Signal, just let me know.