I received my box set of the Tenth Doctor Adventures in the mail yesterday. It is GORGEOUS. I have a couple of audio box sets - Gallifrey volumes 1-3 and Charley Pollard's Companion Chronicles (which I bought at Gallifrey One because I wanted something for India Fisher to sign) - and they're just like you'd imagine: CD cases in a prettily-printed cardboard box, suitable for your shelves. The TDA limited edition box set is a sturdy box, DVD-sized, with the printing number in foil on the back. It's so gorgeous, I don't want to open it, so it's still shrink-wrapped and I may never discover what extras are in there. The set came with the copy of The Vortex (BF's monthly magazine) announcing the release of the TDAs, which I was hoping for; I have the PDF of it, but I really wanted the hard copy. I have The Vortex that was released with The Light at the End, and I'm happy to have another significant issue for my collection.
Another personal benefit of the TDAs is that trying to listen to them finally got me away from the horrible Music app that comes with iOS and into the new Big Finish audio app. I've been having a huge problem with my iPod and iTunes for a while now. I've been wanting to listen to The Widow's Assassin (another Nev Fountain story - I just can't get enough of his work), but every time I tried to load it onto my iPod, which had over 1.5 GB of free space, iTunes would complete the sync and say that the audio was on the iPod, but when I checked it, it wasn't there. After many attempts, one day I decided to delete a few audios that I'd already listened to and add TWA - and it worked! So, I thought, apparently the free space indicator wasn't working. So, I deleted a few more audios and waited for the TDAs to be released.
When May 15th rolled around, I downloaded digital copies of the TDAs and tried to put them on the cleared-off iPod - and failed, in the same way. I deleted a few more audios and tried again, and failed. Finally, I did it exactly the same way as I got TWA on the iPod - by deleting some files (this time, music, as I was down to only a few favorite audios on the iPod that I didn't want to delete) at the same time as adding the TDAs - and that worked. So apparently, I can only add something to my iPod if I'm deleting something at the same time. Grr.
Then, I believe it was dm12 who mentioned to me that she used the Big Finish audio app. I'd heard about it at Gallifrey One, when Jason Haigh-Ellery mentioned during a panel that they were completely rewriting the app, since it was actually pretty terrible. I checked the App Store, and apparently, they had just released the all-new app, and I decided I might as well try it out. And it's great!
You have to understand, the native Music app you get with iOS is terrible, and it only gets worse with every OS release. It's very obvious that the app is designed to look good, and not with any usability in mind. Here are some of the problems with the most recent versions.
- If you select a song to listen to, the display shows the album cover and the list of songs in the album or playlist. The only button to control the playback is the pause button, next to the name of the song you're listening to - no rewind or fast forward, volume control, favorite marking, etc. If you want those, you have tap the song name and swipe up to get the set of full controls, but there's no indication that you can do that (I found it by accident).
- When you do open the full control set, more than half the screen is taken up by the album cover image. The controls are smooshed in the bottom half.
- Now you have rewind and fast forward - but they take you to the beginning of the song or to the next song. There is a slider you can use to adjust your position in the song, but granularity control is terrible, so there's no way to rewind with precision or only move the slider a few seconds; this is even worse if the song is three minutes or more.
- Closing the full control interface is controlled a tiny translucent gray button in the top left corner of the album cover art. If your album cover has white or gray in that area, it's invisible.
I could go on. It's terrible. I can certainly see why people download better music apps.
The Big Finish app is well-designed for what it's intended to do. You connect it up to your Big Finish account, so it knows what you have available. There are two lists: the audios that are in your account, and the audios that are downloaded onto your device. The lists displays a small icon of each audio's album cover and the full name of the audio (or at least a very good portion if the name is long), as well as the main performers, making it easy to find what you're looking for. (The native Music app only displays about 15-20 characters of any album or file's name, which makes all of the "Doctor Who..." audios look exactly the same.) You can then download the ones you want, listen to them, then delete them to make more room, but always still have them in your account list.
The audio controls themselves are great for listening to audios, while still remaining simple and elegant. Instead of only "go to the beginning" and "go to the next track" buttons, there are also "go back 30 seconds" and "go forward 30 seconds" buttons, perfect for reviewing that thing you just missed. There's also a speed button, allowing you to speed up the playback so you can find that one section you wanted to revisit. That's all. Just a couple of well-thought-out controls to make your audio experience easy and relaxing. Good job, Big Finish!
Since the TDAs, my life's been full of audios. I've been listening to them on the way to and from work, and they've just been wonderful. At home, my husband and I have been rewatching selected Eleventh Doctor episodes; he's gotten a little over-saturated with the Tenth Doctor. (His favorite is the Ninth Doctor, but he prefers not to watch his episodes often, instead sampling them every so often, like they're a fine wine. He doesn't want them to become nothing special, which is what he feels the Tenth Doctor episodes have become.) My DW time had dwindled for a while, but I feel so much more involved again.
Which brings me to last night. I smacked my shin really hard on the bedframe (so much so that it's slightly swollen right now and aches when I walk), and I collapsed on the bed going, "Ah-ah-ah-ah!" and my immediate thought, as I'm writhing in pain, was that "Man, that really sounds like the Tenth Doctor", and then, "Boy, I'm really letting DW take over my life too much." And then, after I'd recovered, "Is there really such a thing as too much DW?" I hope not. :)