Almost immediately after posting my last article, iTunes stopped sending AirPlay signals to my Airport Express device. I felt a bit like the Apple ecosystem had become a petty minded sentient being who was taking the mickey. Once again I went through each and every one of the possible fixes I have accumulated over the past few weeks but to no avail. Nothing I tried seemed to work.
But then a bit of serendipity took place. I recently downloaded a small menu bar utility called Output (available from the Mac App Store - 69p) which simply allows you to easily select input/output devices from a drop down list of available devices. I regularly swap output devices so this is a godsend saving the hassle of having to either go into the System Preferences or remember to hit the Alt button when selecting the volume icon.
Output showed the Airport Express as one of the available output devices and when I selected it, lo and behold, iTunes played out through the stereo system downstairs. It's not true Airplay since you can only select a single output device at a time, but it demonstrated that my system was actually OK and that it was most likely an iTunes issue.
Once I'd established that the problem appeared to be an iTunes bug, it meant I could stop spending (wasting?) hours trying to fix it if it recurred. As if by magic, shortly after that, the problem resolved itself, and then later in May a new minor version of iTunes appeared (11.0.3) and I've not seen the problem since.
Has iTunes been fixed? No clues from Apple in that respect in the release notes. Which is another reason for disliking some of Apple's reluctance to be more open about its software. We never get to see whether bugs have been addressed (and potentially fixed for eternity), or whether they've just disappeared for a while but may reappear in the future. As a former developer, I've always tried to be open about known bugs which have been fixed, whilst trying to be clear that sometimes the little beggars will show up again. This helps prevent people from suing you, and it's a stance I wish more big companies would take - including Apple!