Apple has pressed play on iTunes 8.1, the latest update to its music player and store. The biggest change is that the old party shuffle feature, which creates a random playlist from your music, is now called iTunes DJ.
The basic concept is still the same, but now double-clicking a track in the list jumps it to the top without affecting the rest of the order. Party shuffle used to jump to that point in the list, which meant it you saw a duff patch of songs coming up you could skip the whole selection. Apple has also added support for the Remote app on the iPhone and iPod touch. Enable the feature, and anyone with the free app installed can request songs to be added to the playlist, as well as voting for which choon to play next, all via their handsets. So that not every passing Tom, Dick and Harriet with an iPhone can monkey with your music, you can require a password as well as setting a welcome message.
Other new stuff includes Genius sidebar for films and telly, support for the happy-talkin' new iPod shuffle, AutoFill for manually managed iPods, and parental controls for the iTunes Store. Parents can stop their kids from caning the credit card by blocking the Store, but still leave access to iTunes U, the educational section packed full of free lectures, language lessons, audiobooks and other stuff that we probably should have paid attention to back in skool.
Apple has also added a shortcut to rip CDs at the same 256kbps quality as iTunes Plus. Although it's aways been possible to to copy your music at up to 320kbps in AAC format -- with larger file sizes, naturally -- this makes things a little clearer for the non-audiophile who wants decent-sounding tunes. To make the change, head for Preferences > General > Import Settings > Settings and chose iTunes Plus or select your own custom rate.
Apple iTunes 8.1 is available now. If your Windows version hasn't already prompted you, head for Help, hit Check for updates, and make yourself a cup of tea while QuickTime and iTunes' assorted bloatware creaks on to your computer. On a Mac, hit the iTunes menu. You can download it fresh here.