Random Thoughts – Randocity!

How to make iTunes 12 look and act like iTunes 10

Posted in Apple, botch, business, california by commorancy on January 17, 2015

iTunes 12 has been out since just about the release of Yosemite. In the fall, out of the box iTunes 12 looks like iTunes 11, with that horrible all new interface that Apple foisted onto us. Well, all is not lost. You can now make iTunes 12 look and act a whole lot more like iTunes 10. Though, keep in mind that it’s not a perfect reincarnation of iTunes 10, for most purposes it is still very functional. Let’s explore.

The New Interface

When you first kick off iTunes 12 (or 11 for that matter), you’ll see that it shows your albums as large icons. If you click an icon, it expands and shows track listings below it in a split screen setup.

Here’s a tutorial video that shows what can be done. This video is HD, so you should expand it full screen to see the detail.

How to set up iTunes 12 like iTunes 10

 

Obviously there are still differences between iTunes 12 and iTunes 10, such as the row of buttons moved to the top rather than in the left playlist sidebar. But, these are more cosmetic than a problem. As long as I can get to list mode that I am most familiar with using, this was my biggest gripe with the the new iTunes views. I’m glad they’re back.

Searching, Movies and Playlists

Searching has changed somewhat. When you search, you will get search results by song and by album. This is relatively handy when creating a new playlist. You simply drag the album over and drop it on playlists and it will create a new playlist. Though, the playlist info is shown on the right including renaming it. Once you click ‘Done’, it will be saved into the playlist sidebar and you can edit it there the normal way.

You can also create playlists that now contain movies. So, you can drag your favorite trilogies over and create a playlist of these films. It will them play the playlist in order. These will also show in the left sidebar under Playlists when on Movies. The Playlists view is in the center section.

Changing Art

If you highlight all of the tracks in list view then right click and ‘Get Info’, you can paste the art in the upper right corner with the keyboard (as long as it’s on the clipboard already) and then save. It will then apply the art to every selected track. This is not much different from iTunes 10 if you used the get info panel. However, if you used the drag and drop method in the lower left of the window, that method is no longer here.

Cover Flow

Unfortunately, Cover Flow is still not back in iTunes 12. It’s funny too, because Cover Flow is still available as an option in MacOS X Yosemite in Finder. I don’t fully understand why it was removed from iTunes 11, but for whatever reason was left in MacOS X. This is inconsistent and odd. Apple is usually very consistent in UI design, mirroring whatever is in the OS in the applications. For whatever reason, the iTunes engineers have inexplicably removed Cover Flow from iTunes. I know that there was a lawsuit against Apple for the use of Cover Flow. So, it’s possible it was removed from iTunes 11 to satisfy that patent lawsuit. Apple, just pay the friggin’ patent trolls off and put Cover Flow back in.

iTunes 10

While I still like iTunes 10 for many reasons (full screen artwork), the small art panel in the lower left, etc. These are small concessions when considering an upgrade to iTunes 12 when you need to manage your library and you need to sync your latest iOS devices. Most all of the functionality I used is now back in iTunes 12 and I’m glad that it’s there. The ugly horrid album view is, mostly, a memory for me. I use that view only for films because it makes sense. I want to see the movie poster to know that’s the movie I want to watch. For albums, I want the track lists in the original way that made it easier to manage.

So, there you go. It’s now easy to get your iTunes 12 install very close to the way iTunes 10 use to work. Of course, there are still some things that haven’t been added back in. Though, the list view that looks like iTunes 10 is the thing that allowed me to finally upgrade to this this latest version.

Update for iTunes 12.4+

As of iTunes 12.4, Apple has once again rearranged the UI interface in Apple’s never ending revisionist tendencies. So now they’ve have added more buttons and buried some functions. They also removed the drop down available on playlists to make for easy configuration. The option is still there, but it’s now buried in a menu.

To change the playlist look-and-feel, you must now use the View=>Show View Options menu selection or use the J keystroke to bring up the options window.

iTunesViewOptionsAs you can see in the image to the left, the top most portion is what is most important for playlist setup. Click ‘View As’ to change the way the playlist looks. This drop down was formerly at the top of the playlist bar, but has now been removed. The only place where this option is now is in the View Options panel.

I guess Apple is now taking pages from Microsoft’s book of UI design. Meaning, they are now choosing to bury things under tons of mouse clicks which is extremely inefficient from a movement and time perspective. This does not in any way make moving around in this UI interface any faster. It is now firmly more cumbersome and pointless.

I just don’t even get what Apple is trying to accomplish here with these stupid and unnecessary design changes. If Jobs were alive, he’d be not only bringing some of these people to tears, but some of them might even see the door. It’s quite clear, there is no clear direction at Apple. If this is the work of Jony Ive, then please, let’s walk him to the Apple Campus door as fast as physics allows.

There seems to be no bad design depths to which Apple will now reach. I shake my head at just how far this malus domestica has fallen.

Why does my iPhone/iPad sync all of my music every time?

Posted in Apple, itunes bugs, Mac OS X by commorancy on December 10, 2014

itunes_redI have a lot of music in my iTunes library that I have collected over the years. I also have several Apple devices such as an iPod, an iPad and two iPhones that I sync. Some people see my devices and think I have three phones. Even though it looks like a phone, one of them is an iPod. I carry the iPod for two reasons: 1) If the battery runs out on the iPod, I can still make calls. 2) I put only music on the device leaving my phone open for apps.

Though, that’s not really the problem. I also have multiple computers each running iTunes software and this is where the problems start. When I sync my iPod, it resyncs all 5000+ songs over and over again (takes far too long). Let’s explore.

iTunes and Media

Let’s understand the reason why iTunes resyncs a song to a device. The primary reason iTunes resyncs a song already on your iDevice is due to a change in song metadata. What is metadata? Metadata includes information such as play counts and last access times. It also includes other tag data such as artwork, title, artist, track number, duration, volume, etc. Basically, any changes to any portion of the IDtag associated with the song will force a resync to the device. Why is this important? It’s important because many households now have multiple computers.

For example, let’s say you purchased your brand spanking new Airport Extreme 3TB drive and you have now copied your entire iTunes library of music and movie files to to that network drive in hopes of sharing to your multiple computers. Nothing seems wrong with that, right? So, now all of the computers in your household will optimally share these same exact media files. Definitely a space saver, or so you thought. Yes, it may have solved your space issue, but now it has created an entirely new problem. That problem, last access times will change each time any of these computers sharing this folder play a song. Worse, when any single computer’s iTunes software instance updates to a new version, iTunes will scan the entire library of files. Let’s understand why this is a problem.

Shared Drives, iTunes and Last Access Times

When you have multiple computers accessing a single set of media on a shared network drive, this can lead to the multiple computers battling over which computer has last modified a specific song or movie. In some cases, as I said above, an iTunes instance might touch every file in the library. When other iTunes instances start, they will see the song last modify dates have changed from the last time it launched and mark the song to be downloaded to your device.

Let’s assume you have 3 computers in your household: one is yours, one is your spouse’s and one is your child’s. You have hooked each of these computers to a /Volumes/Music folder hooked to that brand spanking new Airport Extreme 3TB drive (where your media files now live), each of these computers will update the last file time access separately. Let’s say your spouse’s computer’s iTunes has gotten updated to a newer version. Each time an update happens, Apple ‘fixes’ the library to make it compatible with the newest version. This ‘fixing’ action touches every single file in the library and marks the last access updated.

So, you come along and plug in your iPhone to sync on your computer’s iTunes software (also sharing this same folder). Because every file has now been updated as a result of your spouse’s update to the latest iTunes version, your device will now download every song to your device. The same problem will happen when your child’s computer is updated.

How do I solve this problem?

The solutions aren’t as easy as one might hope. The easiest solution is to duplicate your entire library to a new folder and point your iTunes instance to that folder. Then do this again for your spouses computer and your child’s computer. Unfortunately, if your library is terabytes in size, this solution may not be practical. If your library is 100-200GB, that might be possible. This is really the best of all solutions. Once you separate your library into separately duplicated media folders, each iTunes instance will have exclusive access to its files only. This is the best of all worlds because the only iTunes computer that will update those files will be yours alone. This means that play counts and last access times will remain 100% accurate and are controlled exclusively by your iTunes computer. The same for your spouse and your child’s library set. The downside is that any new purchases made by your spouse will need to also be downloaded separately by you and by your child. Downloading from iTunes isn’t a problem today because they allow re-downloads from the cloud. But, it is somewhat of a hassle as what’s contained in each of the libraries will diverge.

In the case where you have a 1TB or larger sized library and this duplication solution is impractical, there is another alternative.

Home Sharing Server

Apple now offers the Home Sharing feature in iTunes. What this setup requires is a single system completely dedicated to the Home Sharing service. I might suggest, for practicality’s sake, to buy a new computer to dedicate iTunes to the Home Sharing server purpose. I might suggest a Mac mini or an iMac for this purpose, though you could just as easily use a Windows machine running iTunes. Let’s assume we’re using a Mac mini for this purpose as Mac mini’s are reasonably inexpensive and will serve this purpose perfectly. For performance reasons, I might also suggest a wired connection between the Mac mini and your shared library device (i.e., Airport Extreme 3TB). Your remote computers can access the Home Sharing library wirelessly.

This setup requires unwinding the shared drives mounted on each computer separately and abandoning that. Instead of sharing a network drive to each computer, you will now exclusively share that folder to the newly designated Home Sharing server. Then, share your iTunes library through Apple’s Home Sharing services within that Mac mini iTunes instance. This will then be the only machine that has direct access to your network drive media files. From here, you will then connect each of the other notebook computers and devices to this Home Sharing server to access playlists, music and movies.

How does this solve the problem? Because the single dedicated Home Sharing server has exclusive access to the files, only it will update metadata rather than having 3 or 4 or more computers competing to change file access times. It also means you only need to create your playlists once rather than on each computer separately. Now, a single set of playlists will reside on the Home Sharing server which can be managed centrally from that single computer.

Why is this not a perfect solution? Play counts. Because each computer accessing the Home Sharing server will update play counts for anything consumed, this can cause those songs with updated play counts to resync with your device each time your child or spouses listens to or watches a movie. On the other hand, the number of media that requires rsyncing will be substantially fewer than when each computer can potentially update every file in the library.

It is also not a perfect solution for syncing because you will need to sync your device with your Home Sharing server itself. Not the computer that’s consuming the Home Sharing library remotely. But, it will nearly eliminate the need to resync every file to your device each time you sync.

Can this be resolved by Apple?

Sure. But, it’s not something that will happen overnight. The reason this is a problem is because iTunes doesn’t fundamentally understand the concept of a multiuser environment. MacOS X does, but not iTunes. Apple has shoehorned in some pseudo multiuser features, but without fully supporting everything required for a multiuser environment. For example, to fully support multiple users on a Home Sharing library, each user would supply a set of unique credentials to identify themselves to get into the library which would then create a separate and unique profile for each user. Under that separate profile, iTunes could keep track of play counts separately for each user. In this way, what you play and what your spouse plays would be unique and different. So, if you synced your device against your user profile, your devices would only download those items that you had consumed with your device(s) only. Same for your spouse and for your child.

Implementing a full separately profiled multiuser system in iTunes is the only way to segregate devices and syncing. This is also the only way to prevent syncing extraneous songs after they have been played by someone else. Unfortunately, today this is not a reality.

Additional benefits that could come out of a multiuser system using individual profiles is parental controls. Each profile could then have a set of permissions to allow or disallow access to parts of the library. For example, if you had a playlist of R rated movies, you could set parental controls to lock out access to that playlist from children. A multiuser system offers a lot of benefits to parents for access controls in addition to solving the problem of re-syncing every song in the library to an iPhone or iPad.

If you would like to see such a feature added to iTunes in the future, I encourage you to visit Apple’s iTunes Feedback page and leave an enhancement request for a full multiuser and parental control system be added to iTunes Home Sharing feature.

Restore a Mac formatted 6th Gen iPod nano in Windows 7

Posted in Apple, botch, Mac OS X by commorancy on September 22, 2012

I recently picked up a sixth generation iPod nano refurbished from Gamestop.  When I got home and plugged it into iTunes for Windows 7, iTunes recognized it as a Macintosh formatted iPod and said that it needed to be restored.  Here’s where the fun begins.. not.  Several things happened after I plugged it in.  First, Windows recognized it as drive O: and opened a requester wanting to format the iPod.  This format panel stays open until cancelled. Second, when I tried to restore the iPod, iTunes kept showing me error 1436, which is a rather non-descript error that takes you to a mostly generic Apple help page that is only moderately helpful.  I take that back, this help page wasn’t helpful at all.

Note, Macintosh formatted iPods cannot be used with Windows.  However, Windows formatted iPods can be used on both Windows and Macs.  So, this is simply a problem that exists because this iPod was originally formatted on a Mac.  Such stupid issues that cause such time wasting problems.

How did the first restore go?

It didn’t.  I realized the above mentioned Windows disk format panel had the iPod open and the 1436 error was due to this.  However, that was just the beginning of the problems. When I cancelled that panel and I tried the restore again, I got a different issue.  Basically, iTunes opens a progress bar that keeps moving without any progress.  I wasn’t sure if this progress panel was normal or abnormal.  Although, I suspected abnormal after 3 minutes without any changes.  So, I began searching for how long an iPod restore should take.  I found that restore should complete in only a few minutes (less actually).  So, I knew something was wrong when it wasn’t making any progress.

Disk Mode

It was clear that iTunes wasn’t going to restore this iPod through its normal means.  I began searching on the net for how to recover this iPod and ran into a site that led me to Apple’s How to put an iPod in Disk Mode help page.  This page is actually very useful and where the 1436 error page should have led me but didn’t.

What is Disk Mode? Disk Mode puts the iPod into a state that allows it to be formatted as a disk.  Well, you don’t really want to format it.  Instead, in Disk Mode, it gets rid of all that pesky Macintosh formatting garbage and actually lets you restore it properly.  For the sixth gen iPod nano, to put it in Disk Mode, press and hold the power and volume down buttons until the screen turns black and the Apple logo appears.  When you see the Apple logo, press and hold both volume up and down buttons until the iPod shows a white screen.  This is the Disk Mode screen.

Recovering

At this point, I plugged the iPod back in with iTunes running and iTunes saw that the iPod was ‘corrupted’ and asked to restore it.  Well, the restoration this time went like a champ.  No issues at all.  However, after I restored it, I did have to close out of iTunes and restart iTunes.  Until I did that, iTunes kept telling me that the iPod was in ‘Recovery Mode’ even though I knew that it wasn’t based on the screen of the iPod.  After restarting iTunes, that stopped and it finally recognized the iPod as new and let me put music on it.  Yay!

So, there you have it.  Although, it should have been as simple as plug-in and restore.  But, Apple had to make this a chore because of the PC vs Mac formatting thing.  Seriously, is that even necessary?

Design

Let me take a moment to commend Apple on this design of this iPod nano.  When the first long skinny nano was first released, I thought it was kind of cool, but not worth it.  Then the smaller squatty nano arrived and I liked that design so much that I bought one.  I got my use out of that and eventually bought an iPod touch.  However, the iPod touch isn’t useful in all circumstances and I wanted something smaller and lighter.  When this nano was released, I always thought it was a great idea and well executed save for the fact that it has no application support.  So, here’s where Apple dropped the ball on this one.

The size and weight is awesome.  The look is great, especially if you get a watch band.  It just needed a refresh to add a few more features like Bluetooth, video (although, not really necessary in my book) and apps support.  I loved the square display because this is the exact image ratio of CD covers.  So, it was the perfect marriage between a music player and a user interface.  Some people complained that the touch display was overkill.  Perhaps, but I always liked it, but I have never needed one of these.  I still don’t really need one.  The reason I bought one is because Apple has discontinued this model in lieu of it’s bigger screen cousin.

The new nano, however is neither nano in size nor is it really that small.  This nano was the perfect size and perfect shape.  It truly deserved the name nano.  However, the new nano is really not deserving of that name.  The screen is too big and it’s really just a dumbed down iPod touch.  Yes, the new nano has video capabilities, but so what?  I don’t plan on ever loading video on it.  Without WiFi or streaming mechanisms, there’s no point.  I realize Apple wants to enrich their ecosystem (read, sell more videos to people), but this isn’t the device to do it.  In fact. this latest nano design to ship late 2012 is really not that great looking.  I feel that it’s stepping too far into the same territory as the iPod touch.  So, why do this?  It’s also bigger, bulkier and likely heavier.   The battery life is probably shorter even.  It’s no longer a small portable player.

The 6th generation iPod nano (this one I just bought) is truly small and light.  It can go just about anywhere and has a built-in clip even! It lacks some features, yes, but for a music player I certainly don’t miss them.  If you’re thinking of buying a 6th generation iPod nano, you should do it now while the Apple outlet still has them in stock.  Yes, they are refurbished, but they’re still quite spectacular little music players.  However, don’t go into the purchase expecting the feature-set of an iPhone or an iPod touch.  It’s not here.  If you go into the purchase thinking it’s an iPod shuffle with a display, then you won’t be disappointed with the purchase.

Apple’s ever changing product line

What I don’t get about Apple is removing a product from its product lineup that clearly has no competition in the marketplace at all, let alone having no competition even within its own product lineup.  Yet, here we are.  Apple is dropping the 6th generation design in lieu of the 7th generation design that’s bigger and bulkier (and likely heavier).  In fact, it looks a lot like a smaller dumbed-down iPod touch.

In reality, the 7th gen nano is so close to becoming a tiny iPod touch clone that it clearly competes with the Touch.  This is bad.  The 6th generation nano (pictured above) in no way competes with the iPod touch, other than it has a tiny touch screen. The 6th generation nano design clearly still has a place in Apple’s lineup.  I just don’t get why they dump products from their lineup and replace them with designs that aren’t likely to sell better (0ther than to those people who complained you couldn’t play video on the 6th gen nano). The 6th gen nano is great for the gym or while running.  However, after this newest nano is introduced, if you want a square sized small music player, you have to get a shuffle with no display.  The bigger bulkier 7th gen design just won’t work for most activity use cases.  Apple, your design team needs to better understand how these devices are actually being used before you put pen to paper on new designs, let alone release them for public consumption.  Why is it always just one device?  Why can’t you have both in the product lineup?

Of course, if they had retained an updated 6th gen model along with adding the 7th gen model, then that would make a lot more sense.  Removing the older model in lieu of this one, this is not a replacement design.  You can’t wear this one like a watch.  So, that whole functionality is gone.  What I would like to have seen is two models.  A 6th gen revamped to add more features like bluetooth and perhaps a camera and, at the same time, introducing this new video capable model.  The updated 6th gen doesn’t need to playback movies, the screen is too tiny for that.  In fact, the screen on this new 7th gen model is too tiny for that.  Even the iPod touch is too tiny for watching movies, in practicality.  It’s not until you get to the iPad does watching a movie even become practical.  In a pinch, yes you could watch a video or movie, but you’d be seriously straining your eyes.  I’d rather do that (or rather, not strain my eyes) with a much bigger screen.  No, an updated square-format touch screen iPod is still very much necessary in the lineup.  I understand Apple’s need for change here, but not for the use case that’s now lost with this 7th generation iPod. Sometimes, Apple just doesn’t seem to get it.  This is just one of a new series of cracks in the armor that is the new Jobs-less era Apple.  Welcome to the new Apple folks.

Dear TV Show producers, Let ‘V’ be a lesson to you

Posted in streaming media, TV Shows by commorancy on June 10, 2011

As was predicted in Randosity’s earlier Boycott V Series article, V has officially been cancelled by ABC as of May 13, 2011 (Friday the 13th).  This was not a good day for the V series cast and crew as they had just lost their jobs.  Oh well, such is life in show business.  However, this cancellation goes to prove yet another experiment a failure at the expense of what could have been a good series.

Since V’s second season launch in January, the producers and/or ABC had made the insane choice to not allow V back onto Hulu, iTunes, Amazon or any other streaming media service (including ABC’s very own streaming TV web site).  So, that meant no way to watch back episodes or catch up on missed V episodes.  This also meant as people began missing episodes, they couldn’t catch up and said,  “f-it” and moved on.

Lessons Learned

When your series targets the exact age demographic of people who do watch their TV series via Hulu (or any other streaming site) and also when you decide to cut these exact viewers off from your show, it’s the kiss of death.  V is, unfortunately, a perfect shining example of what not to do with streaming media and a TV series.  Don’t shun streaming media, embrace it.  Embrace it with open arms and nurture and foster its growth.  As a producer you want, no, you need viewers.  The more the better.  It doesn’t matter if you have to rip the video of each episode and personally seed the file yourself on bitorrent.  Do it!

What you don’t want is, well, exactly what the producers did to V.  Don’t bite the hand the feeds you.  Worse, the show began to feel the effects of its lower and lower viewership (and ratings) and began making more and more desperate, drastic and insane story choices to try and recoup viewership.  It didn’t work and the choices killed off main characters from the show, yet didn’t do anything to increase viewership.  This only made the show worse and more pointless.  But, these story choices were simply a side effect of the stupidity of not allowing streaming sites to stream (or back catalog) the series.  You can’t change the story to attempt make up for the ‘no streaming’ decision.  To get viewers back, the producers would have had to rescind that decision and allow the show back onto Hulu, iTunes and Amazon.  But, by April  it was already too late to rescind that decision and gain the lost viewership back.

Back Catalogs & Advertisers

Still, any show should allow a back catalog of episodes to be available on streaming sites for even just a few months to allow viewers to keep up with a show (even if the shows aren’t available to streaming for 30 days).  A back catalog of older episodes allows viewers to take their time catching up and feel good about the time when they watch.  Sure, these views may not give the immediacy of the Neilsen ratings, but so what?  That system is so antiquated, it needs to die.  Instead, we need a new ratings system that takes into account real viewers from streaming sites and next day views.  Skip the ‘night of’ viewership numbers and go with a model that resembles how people are actually watching TV today.  Internet enabled TVs are not going away and neither are mobile devices.  Hello advertisers like Proctor and Gamble, get with it.  Same day viewership of TV shows is over.  That day has passed.  The future of TV is through next day viewing or even month later views.  That’s where the advertising revenues will be had.

So Long ‘V’

It’s unfortunate that the producers felt the need to make stupid choices like ‘no streaming’.  It was a gamble that simply didn’t pay off.  It turned the series into a shambles through poor story choices.  Oh well, V has had its short-lived day.  Tomorrow is another day and with it new TV shows to sink your time slots into.  But, let’s just make sure they continue to do it on our, the viewer’s, terms.

To the producers, embrace change or perish.  That’s the prime lesson to take away from the ‘V’ experiment.  Yes, the V ‘no streaming’ experiment was truly a failure.

A call to boycott ABC’s V series

Posted in computers, entertainment, itunes, science fiction, streaming media, TV Shows by commorancy on January 20, 2011

[Update: V has been cancelled as of May 13th.  Bye ‘V’.].

I have personally decided to boycott watching the new V series. No, not because the series isn’t good. It’s a reasonably good series, so far. No, it’s also not for any creative or story reasons you might think. The reason I have decided to boycott the V series is that whomever owns the rights or produces this series has decided to no longer allow streaming of new episodes in any form or on any Internet site, like Hulu or iTunes.

No more V on Hulu?

It’s not just Hulu that’s cut out of streaming for this show. It’s all streaming sites including ABC’s very own ABC.com site. You would think that since ABC owns the broadcast rights to the series and, in fact, are the ones who make the very decision whether V lives or dies as a series, that ABC would have the rights to stream this program online. No, apparently they do not. Very odd. It’s also not available on iTunes or Amazon either.

It almost seems like the producers are biting the hand that feeds them (in more ways than just one). Seriously, not even allowing ABC.com to stream episodes of V on their own site? This seems like the kiss of death for this series.

Rationale behind this decision

I have no inside scoop here, so I really have no idea what the producers were thinking. But, I can only guess that the reasoning is to force viewers to watch the show live on ABC (the TV channel) and only on the TV channel for its first run. So, on the one hand, this seems like a ratings bonanza. On the other hand, let’s explore the downside of this decision.

Viewer Demographics

Because V is very much a long continuous story arc format, if you miss even two episodes, you’re hopelessly lost. V isn’t a one-off monster-of-the-week series where you can watch an episode now and then. No, it is a long deep story arc that needs to be watched one episode at a time in order.

On top of the long story arc format, it is a science fiction program involving heavy uses of technology and intrigue. This genre choice automatically limits the types of viewers. So, the types of viewers that V tends to draw in are those who tend to be younger, tech savvy, internet knowledgeable types. Basically, the kind of viewers who tend to watch things on Hulu and download content from iTunes.

Producer miscalculation

So, on the one hand, the appearance is that this decision should allow the program to get higher ratings by forcing people to watch it live. On the other hand, Hulu and iTunes (and others) no longer have the rights to carry the back catalog of episodes to allow people to catch up.  If viewers can’t catch up, they’ll not watch it live either. If you get lost, there is no reason to watch as you can’t understand what’s going on anyway.  So, turn the channel and watch something else.

By alienating the exact demographic who tends to watch programs on Hulu combined with the lack of back catalog of episodes on Hulu for people to catch up with missed episodes, my guess is that this decision will seriously backfire on the producers. The ratings will, instead, drop and drop precipitously as the season progresses. In fact, I’d venture to guess that this decision may, in fact, be the sole reason for the death of this series. It’s clear that ABC won’t keep V on the air without viewers.  We know that.  But, you can’t keep viewers watching V by trying to appeal to the wrong demographic or by pissing on the fan base.

The streaming and Internet genie is out of the bottle.  You can’t go back to a time before the Internet and Hulu existed.  The producers seriously need to understand this. It’s unfortunate that the producers chose V for this experiment.  So far, V appears to be a good series and is probably worth watching. But, the producers also need to realize that removing choices of where and how this program can be viewed is not the answer. You need more viewers, not less.

Underground distribution

Of course, that just means that people will create xvids or mp4s of the show and distribute them via torrents.   So, instead of seeing legitimate views on legitimate sites with legitimate ad revenue, the whole thing now gets pushed underground where there is no ad revenue and views don’t help the show or the producers at all.  Not smart.  Not smart at all.

What is the answer?

The answer lies with Neilsen Ratings. In a time where streaming and instant (day after) releases are nearly common place, Neilsen still has no strategy to cover this media with ratings. TV ratings are still and only counted by live views. This company is seriously antiquated. It still solely relies on active Neilsen households watching programs live. Hulu views, DVR views and iTunes downloads do not count towards viewership or ratings. Yet, these ‘day after’ views can be just as relevant (or even more) today than live views. Today, counting only live views is fundamentally wrong.

Change needs to come with the ratings companies, not by producers trying to force the 70s viewing style in 2011. Neilsen needs to count all views of a program no matter where they are or when they are. The ratings game needs to change and must change to accommodate the future of TV. As TVs become Internet connected, this change will become even more important. Eventually, TV programming will be seamlessly delivered over the Internet. In fact, there will come a time when you ‘tune in’ and you won’t even know if it’s streamed or over the air.  In fact, why should you care?  A view is a view whether live or a month later.

Understanding Neilsen’s antiquated system

Of course, once you understand Neilsen’s outdated model, you can also understand why Neilsen is not counting any ratings other than live TV.  Why is that?  Because counting any other medium than live TV threatens the very existence of Neilsen’s service. Once broadcasters realize they can gather these numbers through Hulu, Roku, Slingbox, Netflix and other DVR and on-demand technologies directly, there is no need for Neilsen.  That is, once we’ve moved to streaming TV 100% it’s easy to get accurate counts.  Neilsen’s service was born out of the need to track viewers in a time when the Internet did not exist.  With the Internet, it’s much easier to track viewer activity and data in real time.  It’s also easy to get this information right from the places that have rights to stream.  So, with these real-time reporting methodologies, Neilsen really is no longer necessary.

Neilsen has always used an extrapolation methodology for its ratings statistics, anyway.  That is, only a tiny subset of homes throughout the country are Neilsen households.  So, when these Neilsen households watch, these small numbers are extrapolated to the larger population, even though there is really no way to know what non-Neilsen households are watching.  So, Neilsen’s ratings systems are actually very inaccurate.  Counting the numbers of views from Hulu, iTunes, Amazon, Roku, Slingbox, Netflix and other streaming sites and technologies are exact and spot-on accurate.  In fact, these numbers are so exact, they can even be traced back to specific hardware devices and specific households, something Neilsen’s rating systems have never been capable of doing.  This is why Neilsen is scared to count online views.  This is why Neilsen is no longer needed.

Goodbye V

It was nice knowing ya. My instincts all say that the fan backlash from this decision will be swift and final. If this series manages to make it to the end of the 2011 spring season without cancellation, I’ll be amazed. However, if ABC cancels this show before June, that won’t surprise me. So, unless the producers make an about-face really fast with regards to this no-streaming experiment, this series is likely already cancelled… it just doesn’t yet know it. I’d also urge anyone reading (and especially Neilsen households) to boycott the new V series and send a message to the producers that not offering streaming options is not acceptable and that your program is dead without them. I can tell you that I won’t watch this series again until streaming options become available. This is not really a problem for me as there are plenty of other TV shows available. The problem here is for the cast and crew. These people are dedicating their time, effort and livelihoods to putting this series together only to be screwed over by the producers. Such is life in Hollywood, I guess.

Create custom ringtones from mp3s in iTunes

Posted in itunes by commorancy on October 10, 2010

You might think that creating ringtones from imported music in iTunes is complex.  It’s not.  It’s pretty simple and it’s free.  Assuming that you’ve imported your music from CD as mp3, it’s easy.  Note, this doesn’t work for AAC files (files downloaded from the iTunes store).  For this reason, it’s really a better idea to rip your music as mp3 format.  I recommend this anyway strictly because not all mp3 players can play AAC.  Yes, AAC may be a slightly better format, but it’s less compatible across the board.  There are no digital music  players that I’m aware of that don’t understand mp3 files.  Should you decide to get rid of your iPhone or iPod and go with another digital player, your AAC files may not work on your new player.  Worse, if you’ve purchased any DRM protected AAC files, these definitely won’t play.  So, buying music from the iTunes store basically locks you into an Apple music player. Anyway,  I digress.

Steps to creating ringtones

  1. Identify the music files you want to convert and ensure they are not in AAC format (use right-click Get Info and look at Where under the summary tab)
  2. Listen to the track and determine the start and end points you want for your ringtone.  You might want to choose the chorus of the song, but make sure it totals less than 40 seconds.
  3. Use right-click Get Info and then under the Options tab, type in the start and end times.  Times are mm:ss.frame format.  If you supply mm:ss only, it assumes the frame is 0 (zero).
  4. Click OK to save your start and end settings on the song.  Double click the song to ensure proper start and end.
  5. Right-click the song again and this time choose ‘Create AAC version’.  If this option is missing from the menu, you will need to change your import settings to import as AAC (to allow creation of ringtones) through the iTunes’ Preferences menu (Edit->Preferences).
  6. Once iTunes is done creating the AAC version, drag the song from iTunes and drop it on the Desktop
  7. Now, rename the song from song.m4a to song.m4r
  8. Move song.m4r into a ringtones folder somewhere on your hard drive where you remember.  Place all your created ringtones here.  From that folder, drag and drop ‘song.m4r’ onto iTunes.
  9. A ‘Ringtones’ folder will now appear in iTunes.  This ringtone will now be available on your iPhone or iPod Touch under ‘Custom’ once you sync.

For example, to create Aqua’s Barbie Girl ringtone, you would set the start to 0:26.2 and ending to 0:41.  Note the .2 frame.  The frame part allows you to fine tune exactly where the ringtone begins and ends.  This part is a little bit fiddly if you want an exact start and end. Note, after you have set the start and end times, you should double click to listen to ensure the ringtone is starting and ending exactly where you want before you convert and rename the file and before syncing with your device.

When you’re done creating the AAC file, renaming it and dropping it on iTunes, be sure to right-click the original song (not the ringtone) and choose ‘Get Info’. Under options, uncheck start and end so the track goes back to the song’s real beginning and ending. You’ll want to do this before syncing your device again. Otherwise, your music will end up clipped on your device as well.  So, don’t forget to reset the start and end times. Yeah, there’s more than a few steps, but it’s easy once you’ve done it a few times and it’s also a whole lot cheaper than buying ringtones.

If you import CDs regularly, don’t forget to change your Preferences back to mp3 when you go to import.  Otherwise, the music will import as AAC.

That’s pretty much it.  If you have questions, please leave a comment below.

Update: iTunes 9 and Windows 7

Posted in Apple, itunes by commorancy on October 29, 2009

As an update to an earlier Randosity article, I have upgraded my system to Windows 7 and then installed iTunes 9. Since making this change, I am no longer having the registry issue documented in this previous Randosity article. So, it may be worthwhile to upgrade your system to Windows 7 to alleviate this issue. Of course, it could be a fluke, but iTunes installed and started up without any issues on Windows 7. Before you upgrade, though, you’ll want to remove iTunes from your system, then run the upgrade to Windows 7, then reinstall iTunes 9. If you still experience registry issues with Windows 7 and iTunes 9, refer to this previous article for tips on what to do.

iTunes can corrupt your iPod’s iTunes library

Posted in Apple, computers, corruption, ipod, itunes, music by commorancy on January 19, 2009

As a follow up to this Randosity article, this article will focus on a specific condition when iTunes will corrupt your iPod’s music database… over and over and over.

How it all starts

About a week ago, my iPod became unrecognized by iTunes.  Because iTunes cannot ‘recognize’ the iPod, it requests that you restore the iPod using the restore feature.  As a result of a domino effect issue, this problem became more and more compounded.  Compounded to the point that I was ready to sell the iPod to someone else and get a different solution.

What is the issue exactly?

This issue started right after the first unrecognized error.  After the iPod becomes unrecognizable (we’ll get to what that means shortly), I had to restore the iPod to actually use it again.  From that point forward, I kept having to restore it about once a day.  Mind you, this is the 8GB iPod Touch and not a 60GB iPod.  If it had been a 60GB device, I would have sold it no questions asked.  I digress.  Anyway, the restores kept getting more and more frequent.

  • So, I plug the iPod Touch into the computer’s USB port and let iTunes synchronize the touch.  The synchronize progresses normally and then ends correctly.
  • I unplug the iPod and check it out.  Yep, everything is all there.
  • I plug it in again and iTunes then syncs again.  Except, this time I noticed (or thought I noticed) iTunes synchronizing some music that was already on the iPod.  I thought it was weird, but I discounted it.
  • I unplug the iPod and check the ‘Music’ app.  I see a “There is no music loaded” message…frustrating (note this was the first time it had happened).
  • I plug the iPod back into the computer.   iTunes says, “This iPod is unrecognized, please restore it”.
  • Note that the Touch’s Apps are all still loaded and the iPod works even though iTunes won’t recognize it (and the music is missing).

What does ‘unrecognizable‘ mean exactly in the iTunes?

After poking around on the Internet about any similar type issues, I’ve found others who’ve had similar behavior on their iPods.  The base problem that prevents iTunes from ‘recognizing’ the iPod is that the iPod’s music database (iTunesDB) file has become corrupted.  Basically, when the iPod’s iTunesDB file becomes corrupted internally, iTunes refuses to recognize the device or work with it forcing the user to do complete restore (even when the unit is STILL functioning).

Restore Process

There are so many problems with this restore process, suffice it to say that Apple is in desperate need of help.  Apple has designed the iPod to work under ideal conditions (i.e., never need to restore).  However, when it comes time to restore your iPod and because they didn’t really work this all out properly, the restore process is where iTunes fails miserably.

When iTunes needs to restore the unit, it places the iPod into a special restore mode.  A mode that appears to make the unit receptive to installation of firmware (a special icon appears).  After iTunes extracts and transfers the firmware over to the iPod, the iPod reboots and installs the firmware (all the while iTunes is watching the progress).  After the unit has restored the firmware to factory defaults, iTunes allows you to try to restore from a previous backup or set it up as a new iPod.  This factory reset process can take anywhere between 10-15 minutes.

iPod Backups

iTunes only allows for one (1) stored backup of your iPod at a time.  So, if that one (1) backup that iTunes has is corrupted, you’ll waste a ton of time trying to restore only to find that the iPod is still corrupted.  So, you’ll have to start the restore completely over again and then set the iPod up as a new device (wasting even more time).  This happened to me.  I also quickly realized it was simpler (and faster) to avoid using an existing backup and just setting it up from scratch again.  Apple really needs to allow iTunes to take multiple backups in dated slots and allow these backups to be stored outside of iTunes in files.

Note, if you choose to set the iPod up from scratch, you will have to completely set up your apps again.  For example, settings like your WiFi settings, your email settings and your VPN settings will all have to be manually reconfigured.  Any apps that require login and passwords will need to be re-entered.

Restoring your settings and media

If you’ve chosen to restore your iPod’s customization settings from a backup, this process will take between 10-15 minutes to complete.  And no, as slow as this process is, it doesn’t restore music, videos or any other media.  That still has yet to be done (and comes last).  After the settings have been restored, you now have a workable (and very blank) iPod again.  So, the next thing iTunes does is sync up the applications, then the music, then everything else.   The applications will take anywhere from a few minutes to over ten minutes depending on how many apps you have downloaded.  The music restore will take whatever it takes to copy the size of your unit (about 6 gigs takes at least 15-25 minutes).  So, an 8GB iPod Touch, it takes probably 15-45 minutes depending.  If you’re restoring a fully loaded 32 or 60GB iPod, your rebuild will take a whole lot longer.

Corruption

The issue I faced, however, is that something kept corrupting the iTunesDB file on the iPod.  It was either the iPod’s hardware messing up or iTunes was shuttling something over it shouldn’t have been.  I noticed that on a particular CD the artwork kept disappearing in iTunes (it would be there and then it would show the blank icon when I know that the art previously worked).  I also noticed that iTunes would randomly transfer this music over even when it already existed on the iPod and had not been changed.  I guess it thought something changed about the music file.  Anyway, after it transferred that music, I believe this is what corrupted the iPod.  Whatever was causing the artwork to disappear must have corrupted an iTunes file which was transferred to the iPod.

Fix

The fix for this issue, that I found by trial and error, was to completely delete the entire iTunes music library, podcast library and video library and reimport it.   So, I went to the ‘Music’ area and selected everything and pressed delete.  Of course, I used ‘Keep Files’ to keep them on the disk.  I also made sure to NOT use downloaded artwork on the reimported music as I believe the downloaded artwork database is what is getting corrupted.  I don’t know why the corruption happens and the guy at the Genius Bar had also never heard of this.. so much for their Genius.  He also offered to replace the iPod Touch just in case the hardware was bad, but I don’t think it is.

Arrgh.. Apple get your ACT together!

iTunes can be a hassle to deal with, as evidenced here.  Apple needs to take a long hard look at how this all works and fix these problems. One of the ways to fix this issue is to stop marking the unit as unrecognizable when the iTunesDB is corrupted.  Instead, they should simply delete the database and rebuild it.  Better yet, they should keep a copy of the iPod’s database on the computer for restoration.  Also, if Apple allowed multiple backups stored by date on the computer, it would be far simpler to roll back to a previously KNOWN working configuration.  Because of this lack of foresight of Apple and because of the simplistic backup system Apple has implemented, this leads to a complete timewaster in restoration by trial and error.

Since there is no real fix you can do to iTunes itself to manage these limitations, I recommend that you turn off automatic synchronization so you can manually sync the iPod yourself at the time of your choosing.  I should also mention that Apple decided to turn off visibility (through a drive letter) into the iTunes library files with the iPod Touch, so you can’t even use a third party utility.  I can’t imagine having to go through this restore process on a 60GB or larger iPod.  Having to go through it 5 times in 5 days because of iTunes is ludicrous and enough to make anyone want to get away from Apple as fast as possible.  Apple, you definitely need to figure out how to deal with this issue!

iTunes 8 never installs or upgrades, requests to reboot over and over in Vista

Posted in itunes bugs by commorancy on December 15, 2008

[UPDATE: 9/15/10]

This issue is back (without the rebooting part) in iTunes 10 and Windows 7. Please see my most current post describing how to resolve this issue. Note, the information contained in the article below is here for historical value only. Please see my latest post describing how to fix the most current issue with iTunes 10 and Windows 7. -Brian

[UPDATE: 10/28/09]

As an update to this Randosity article, I have upgraded my system to Windows 7 and then installed iTunes 9.  Since making this change, I am no longer having the registry issue documented in this Randosity article. So, it may be worthwhile to upgrade your system to Windows 7 to alleviate this issue. Of course, it could be a fluke, but iTunes installed and started up without any issues on Windows 7. Before you upgrade, though, you’ll want to remove iTunes from your system, then run the upgrade to Windows 7, then reinstall iTunes 9. If you still experience registry issues with Windows 7 and iTunes 9, refer to this article for tips on what to do.

[UPDATE: 4/08/09]

Note: I’ve just found that the permissions issues resurface after the upgrade to the 8.1.1.10 version of iTunes.  If it happens to you, you will want to follow the instructions below to fix the permissions problems such as to enable the use of the itms protocol (the protocol that lets you get to iTunes URLs from your browser through the iTunes app).  Note that you may be able to uninstall iTunes and reinstall it with success.  However, I wasn’t able to do this on my system.  So, I had to utilize the instructions below.  Note also that when you use the Software Update tool under Windows that it will change the permissions back to being non-functional.  So, you will, again, need to follow the instructions below.

Note that I have simplified these instructions.

[END UPDATE}

What is this all about?

I ran into this iTunes problem on my Windows Vista 64 Home Premium installation.  If you have an iPod or an iPhone, this can be extremely frustrating.  I am also using the iTunes 64 bit version.  I spent probably 2-3 days poking around on the Internet for answers to this problem.  The answer is not as easy as one might have hoped.  This fix should work with all versions of Vista, but specifically works for Vista 64.  However, there is a solution.

So, let’s describe the problems you might encounter because of this issue:

  1. iTunes upgrades and asks you to reboot.  You reboot.  You try to start iTunes and a Windows Installer says ‘configuring’ again.  It asks you to reboot again.   You do this 2 -3 times and realize this is a dead end.  iTunes won’t start from the icon.
  2. You launch an itms, itmss or itpc protocol in your browser and the browser tells you there is no application associated with this protocol.
  3. Quicktime gives you an ActiveX error and won’t run.

There have been several proposed solutions to this issue.  The easiest being, go to your Program Files folder and create a shortcut from the iTunes.exe file to your desktop (or wherever).  While this first resolution does work and will let you play your music, it will only work to a degree.  It doesn’t fix Quicktime.  It also doesn’t fix the underlying issue and it doesn’t fix the browser launching problem described above.  For that, read on.

The Reason Behind this Issue

Feel free to skip to the The Solution below if you want to get started right away.

Windows Vista adds in much stronger security protections within Windows including Windows registry entries.  So, things tend to run as the psuedo user SYSTEM (sometimes called Local System) and also apparently some registry entries get installed as the SYSTEM user.  Note, the SYSTEM user is not an actual user.  So, you cannot log in as this user, nor can you easily use RunAs on this user.  Fret not, there is a way to get an interactive session with the SYSTEM user in Vista.  We’ll come to that under the solutions section.

With the release of Windows Vista, Microsoft has completely thwarted the idea of a superuser.  No longer is there a superuser on Windows Vista.  Because of this change, there are now permissions that can be set onto objects, things and registry entries that can even prevent Administrator (the once previous superuser) from getting access to that object within Vista.  That doesn’t mean that Administrator can’t ulimately get access to the object, it means that the initial permissions prevent it.  The superuser Administrator can still change the permissions and ownerships always, but the initial permissions prevent access.  In a truly superuser system, this should never happen.  There should always be a full superuser that always has access 100% of the time regardless of set permissions.  That’s the idea behind a superuser.   Thus, Microsoft has officially broken the Windows’ superuser.

The Broken Apple Problem

Because the superuser is now broken in Vista, there are registry entries that get placed (or replaced) as a result of Apple’s inept handling of the installation of iTunes (and probably Quicktime also).   So, entries get built with only SYSTEM user permissions.  No permissions are given to Administrator, Users or any other group or user on the system.  Because SYSTEM has such limited privileges (created specifically by MS to thwart privilege escalation exploits), the installer for iTunes (actually the Windows installer) cannot reset the broken permissions that  the initial installer created in the first place!

In other words, let’s say you’re logged in as your account named ‘beaners’.  The account ‘beaners’ is not allow access to read objects that are created by the SYSTEM user (where this object has no other permissions set).  Since your ‘beaners’ account doesn’t have permissions to SYSTEM created objects, your account gets ‘Access Denied’.  That would be fine if the object were intentionally supposed to be set this way.  However, because of Apple’s ineptness, the iTunes registry entries get set up this way.  So, your ‘beaners’ account again gets ‘Access Denied’ to these registry entries.  This breaks iTunes and is probably not what Apple intended.  In fact, the permissions for these registry entries should have been set so that all users have full control over these registry entries.  Yes, there is a Users group that includes all users of Windows.

This is a fairly serious and stupid mistake by Apple.

The Solution

As of 4/08/09, I have found that the reason the script didn’t work for me initially wasn’t related the administrator account.  Instead, it was the script itself being incomplete.  I have, therefore, included a lot more registry fixes for mostly iTunes, but it also includes many Quicktime registry entries.  Because of the fixed script, I am able to present a far easier methodology to get iTunes working.  As a result of fixing this script to work better, I was able to reduce this article down to only a few steps.

Actually, the solution relies on a script that ultimately resets the permissions on the iTunes and Quicktime registry entries to give Administrator and Users (the group described above) access to all of these entries.  The script must run as Administrator to be successful.  Therefore, you will need to use the ‘Run as administrator’ feature on the script.  This fix will not succeed if the script isn’t running as Administrator.

To proceed with this fix, you will need the following things:

  • Subinacl: Download ‘subinacl.exe’ from Microsoft here.
  • Reset.cmd: You can download the script from here.

Find your script where you downloaded it.  Make sure that subinacl.exe is in your path or place this subinacl.exe in the same directory with the script.  Next, right-click the reset.cmd file and choose ‘Run as administrator’ (see image below):

Run reset.cmd as Administrator

Run reset.cmd as Administrator

Once you run it as Administrator, it will open a command shell.  You may see the security warning below:

Security Warning

Security Warning

If you see the security warning, it is just asking you to confirm that this is what you really want to do.  Click the ‘Run’ button to run reset.cmd script.  Once it runs, it will open a command shell:

Command Shell Running Reset.cmd

Command Shell Running Reset.cmd

Press any key to begin the repair or close the window to abort.  If you want to see what the Reset.cmd command does before you run it, open it in Notepad.  You will see that it simply modifies the permissions on the registry keys associated with Quicktime and iTunes to allow Everyone to access these registry keys.  Once this task is completed, your iTunes will be repaired and functional.

Good luck and let me know if you have questions or if you have a success story.

Disclaimer:  You are responsible for your use of this information.  This information is provided as-is with no warranty expressed or implied.  Use the above information at your own risk.  You should always make system restore points or backups before making registry changes so you can restore your system in the event of unexpected problems.

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