An iTunes rating box for everyone

If you’ve ever scoffed at the idea of opening up iTunes every four minutes to rate a song, [Steve] is the guy to talk to. He built a small hardware box with five illuminated buttons to rate the current song playing on iTunes.

This build comes after [Steve]‘s earlier Arduino-based rating box that was functional, but didn’t have the level of polish he desired. To get to the current iteration, [Steve] designed a custom board around a PIC18F microcontroller programmed as a USB HID device. After a great deal of frustration soldering teeny SMD components, [Steve] had a functioning USB five-star iTunes rating box. With a custom acrylic case the build was finally completed.

We’re very impressed with the finished version of [Steve]‘s TuneConsole, as he calls it. We can certainly imagine other people wanting a similar device. Whether that comes from releasing the schematics and boards or selling PCBs on Seeed Studio is something we’re eager to find out.

Comments

  1. sxrguyinma says:

    Neat idea, but I still don’t see the point of rating songs on itunes. I just went into preferences and hid the ratings column. Seems useless. Nice hack though!

    • techknowledgist says:

      Ratings are useful when you have a vast music library and you want to make smart playlists with rules based on ratings. It’s a helpful way to keep your iPod up to date automatically without having to manage the playlist directly. I use several rules in conjunction with ratings, such as date last skipped, play count, date last played, etc.

      • Malikaii says:

        If the currently playing song ranks low on your rating list, it probably isn’t something you’re willing to listen to again (hit the skip button). Why wouldn’t you just delete it, instead of dealing with the hassle? Are you really going to decide to create a 2-star playlist and listen to crappy music one day?

      • eldorel says:

        @malikaii

        Nope, but I do share the main library with my girlfriend. (who doesn’t use ratings based playlists)

        This way I can have a random playlist that ignores her korean-pop and annoyingly bad techno, without having to completely duplicate 80% of our collection.

    • svofski says:

      It’s not for listening the music but for filler junk I guess. Can’t imagine myself pondering.. hmm… yeah, I fancy a 4-star genere Y song tonight.

  2. Kanein Encanto says:

    I rate songs based on how often I want to hear them. I have a smart playlist that takes higher rated songs off the list for a shorter time (A week) and lower rated songs stay off for longer (About a month) ones with a one star rating just fall off permanently.

    All I have to do is dock my iPod and it cycles out what was listened to and replaces them.

    So I’d love to have this for at home as well, when I’m listening at the computer but don’t want to be switching screens every few minutes while I’m working or playing games.

    Hope some plans get / are put up. :)

  3. BitMage says:

    It confuses me when you make a spelling error in the first sentence.

  4. echodelta says:

    Rating songs is evil, like musical contests. Like weather and moods the vote changes by day and age. When these ratings get to the Singularity it’s game over for human creativity. Just listen to the radio and this “greatest hits” drills through and through till a great song gets burnt out. There is a reason for easy listening AND great music. Delete itunes and mpee’s, and listen to untampered music unaudited with undamaged hearing while you have it.

  5. andar_b says:

    I too use ratings rarely, but mostly because it’s inconvenient. If it were more like Pandora’s “thumbs up/down” system, it would be more effective for what I listen to. Thumbs down just means I don’t want to listen to that sort of song right now, or on X playlist, thumbs up means play more like it.

  6. bigbob says:

    Good job on the project. I personally hate itunes, but this is very well executed and at least it doesn’t use an arduino.

    On an aside, can you stop making comments about how it is apparently difficult to solder surface mount parts!? With ever comment you’re feeding into this false notion that it is difficult. Once you spend 5 minutes doing it, it’s pretty clear it isn’t difficult, even on the smaller packages.

    Sorry, but if you think that soldering surface mount is hard, you should probably find a different hobby, like being a protester or looking at rainbows…

  7. Steve says:

    Saying that surface mount hand soldering is easy is just being disingenuous, and IMHO does no favors for those looking to get started with it. If a beginner knows what to expect going in, they’re much more likely to persevere through the painful parts, rather than just giving up when the going gets tough.

    Experience often trumps difficulty, so it may not be hard for you, but it *is* hard for beginners…

    That said, I’m pretty sure I didn’t make it out to be heinously difficult. I merely stated the issues I had on my first attempt. I also noted that it’s not as easy as the various videos make it appear, which is absolutely true.

    I actually built a second console, and it went together much more quickly because I’d already done it once – got a lot of the learning curve out of the way. The same will be true for anyone just starting out.

    It certainly *wasn’t* hard enough to dissuade me from future surface-mount projects!

    Thanks for the kudos on the project. :-)

    S.

    • bigbob says:

      I did kind of go overboard, at least for this article. Neither the linked page nor the writing here said it was overly hard. I chose the wrong enrty to rant in…

      My feeling on SMT soldering is that the benefits far outweigh the learning curve. If you make your own boards then surface mount is the only way to go… A few days of practice can really make a world of difference. I understand that I may have more experience in it than some.

      An interesting example, is that where I work we have a production team comprised of about 75% women who are definitely “grandmother” age. Don’t get me wrong, I say that with absolute respect, and even admiration. When they sit down and learn how to solder tiny SMT it takes a surprisingly short amount of time for them to become proficient.

      This is long winded, I realize, but I don’t want to come across as being a downer on it. I just don’t feel that anybody should go into it worrying about difficulty. It should be an exciting challenge that is met with enthusiasm, not dread…

  8. dext0rb says:

    IMHO, SMT soldering is SO fun under a high powered microscope. its like a totally different world.

  9. Malikaii says:

    Your project documentation is impressive. After watching the recommended video (5-minute acrylic box), I was recommended one on gluing acrylic using acrylic cement, and a tutorial. This is excellent information and resource for my current project. Thanks a lot, and great job on the final outcome.

  10. Ant says:

    Nice idea. I have been pondering something similar for use while on the road. I make extensive use of smart playlists in iTunes and use the rating as one of the selection parameters. I would love to be able to rate my music while driving using a simple 5 button interface.

    When listening on the mac I use tune instructor. This is an addon for iTunes which you can set-up to notify you when you’re almost finished listening to a song which is not rated yet. It lives in the menu bar, so it’s easy to get to.

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