iTunes 11.2.1 review

iTunes 11.2 arrived on Thursday along with Apple's release of a new version of Mavericks (10.9.3). The new version of iTunes has some changes that will be welcome for podcast listeners, along with other enhancements and improvements designed to improve performance and reliability. The initial release also created a bizarre problem involving iCloud's Find My Mac feature and the local /Users folder. On balance iTunes 11.2.1 is an adequate improvements, but iTunes itself is a mess.

Podcasting support in iTunes needed a bit of a revamp, and it's finally gotten it in iTunes 11.2. The "Unplayed" tab has been revamped, to make it easier to track down new podcasts you haven't yet heard. A new Feed tab has been added to stream available episodes of the podcasts you've subscribed, or to download them to play them later.

You can save favorite episodes on your computer now, and iTunes also now sports the ability to automatically delete episodes after playback to help clean up your iTunes library and save some space.

iTunes 11.2 also gets a security update that patches a hole which could, under certain circumstances, enable someone to get your iTunes credentials. Apple has posted some info about the patch on its web site. The patch brings iTunes 7.2 in line with security changes already made in iOS 7.1.1 and Apple TV's 6.1.1 update.

If you've had trouble with Genius updates, rest assured that this update to iTunes fixes those issues. Overall performance and reliability has been improved, according to Apple. Which I guess explains why iTunes has only crashed on me once today. At least searching for content in iTunes and the App Store is a bit faster for me.

Most disturbingly, iTunes 11.2 arrived with a surprise for those of us who use the "Find My Mac" feature in iCloud. With that feature on, all of a sudden our Users folder disappeared.

Turns out this was a feature, not a bug. Somewhere along the way, Apple discovered that the /Users and /Users/Shared folders had "world-writeable" file permissions — a file security problem. The day after we discovered our Users folder went away, Apple posted iTunes 11.2.1, which corrects the problem the right way by fixing the actual file permissions issue instead of hiding the Users folder.

Pretty stupid feature if you ask me. Apple backpedaled so fast on this one it made my head spin. It smacks of sloppy QA.

Look, I'm an unabashed critic of iTunes. Poor performance with large libraries, issues with iTunes Match substituting the wrong tracks and album art, feature creep, user interface complexity — the list goes on and on.

I think iTunes is profoundly broken and has just gotten worse over the years. A bloated patchwork, iTunes tries to do too many things and does too many of them poorly. It's become Apple's catch-all for media, applications, tethered syncing of iOS devices and iPods and more. And don't even get me started on iTunes Match. I've made my case separately for why I think Apple should follow its approach with iOS and try to divide iTunes' capabilities into different applications.

iTunes 11.2.1 makes podcast management suck a bit less and fixes problems with Genius updating. Those are good things. But at this point it's just fixing what's broken and putting a bit of lipstick on a pig.

iTunes is due for a major overhaul.

Are you happy with iTunes 11.2.1? Or do you agree that this just smacks of poor form by Apple? Let me know in the comments.

In the interim, I'll be in my corner glaring at iTunes and saying spiteful things, and hoping that Apple takes a sledgehammer to this monstrosity.

Peter Cohen