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When bad things happen to good apps, Part 1

And the Windows 8 Award for good software gone horribly wrong goes to…Tune-Up.

There are fewer disappointments worse than getting hooked on a piece of software and then, with one revision, seeing everything go wrong. Microsoft did that to us last year with Windows 8, and in 2013, I'd say Tune-Up Media takes the prize for the most fouled-up software of the year.

Tune-Up Media makes a nifty little iTunes utility called Tune-Up, which lets you "clean" your MP3 library. Over the years, you have probably built your library of MP3s through various… sources, and through various applications. Some rip MP3s better than others.

So your iTunes library is a mess. Maybe half of the albums have cover art. File and song names are wrong. Tags are all messed up. You have songs in the wrong genre. That's where Tune-Up comes in.

It attaches as a sidebar to iTunes, where you drag and drop bunches of MP3s. It examines them, and lets you check that it got any corrections right. You can select album art, since some albums have had more than one cover.

It did wonders for my library. So much so that as soon as the demo expired I immediately purchased it, no hesitation. Within a few days, my library was in excellent shape. All the albums had cover art. They all had a year, artist, track numbers, proper tags, etc. A few were in weird categories, but that was minor.

Then came the 3.0 product in September and Tune-Up users got the biggest disappointment since Windows 8. Rather than have you drag and drop a handful of MP3s at a time, the app examined your library for you, unasked, and always got stuck. After a few hours I'd get a timeout error, saying I was out of memory. On a 16GB machine.

Version 3.0 said 90% of my library had errors, when that library had been previously cleaned by the 2.4 version. Worse, a chunk of my library disappeared. Fortunately, it was just the I to K range, and I had very few musicians in that zone of the alphabet.

I wasn't alone in experiencing this. The company's Facebook page is in complete meltdown mode. User complaints piled up, and even though the company rushed out as many as 50 revisions (not every revision may have been released), the program got no better.

I looked at alternatives but they were even more broken. Rinse, from RealNetworks, worked about as well as the Real player. It completely misidentified every album I threw at it and took about 10 seconds in between each MP3 scan. MusicBrainz Picard had a rather clumsy interface that I couldn't quite understand, and I had trouble getting the AcoustID work.

Probably the worst thing about it all was that you couldn't go back to the old version. If you tried installing TuneUp 2.4.8.5, the first thing it did was an upgrade check and tried to make you upgrade to 3.0.5.0, which no one wanted. So the install would fail.

Finally, TuneUp Media relented and made a new version of 2.4.8.5 available that didn't do an upgrade check. So people like me were able to install it and get back to keeping new additions to our library in order.

I used to marvel at the utter incompetence of HealthCare.gov and figured only government would ever allow something so unusable and so broken to go live. Private industry would never let that happen, I thought. Well, I was wrong about that one. In posting the older version of Tune-Up, a staffer said "We spent many months in development, internal testing, in-house user-testing, and two public beta tests, but we realize that we weren’t able to provide a satisfactory experience for all of you." That's an understatement. It really makes me wonder about that development and testing process.

If you are a user of iTunes (I do prefer WinAMP but it is facing extinction), then I wholly recommend TuneUp 2.4.8.5. It's worth the $40. Avoid 3.0 like meningitis. Hopefully the developer will eventually get it right.

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