Posts Tagged computer

iTunes Match

Two nights ago, I finally decided to take the plunge and give iTunes Match a try.20130124-171511.jpg

I’ve held off for this long mostly because it didn’t seem to offer much value to me. I’m not much of an audiophile, so the upgrade to 256-bit wasn’t very tempting. My iOS devices have plenty of memory and my music library isn’t all that large, so having my music in the cloud hasn’t been compelling.

The features that ended up luring me were cloud-syncing of playlists, star ratings and newly ripped CDs. The feature that *should* have been compelling but that I hadn’t even considered was syncing between multiple computers. Pre-iTunes Match, syncing new music between my iMac and my MBP has been fairly easy via Home Sharing. (Music not bought via iTunes that is — iTunes purchases were automatically downloaded.) Syncing meta data changes, on the other hand, was nigh impossible. Finally, syncing to my computer at work — on which I just installed iTunes today — is what really makes it all worthwhile.

So, how did my iTunes Match migration go?

Pretty well, I’d say, mostly because I was prepared.

I did quite a bit of research ahead of time so that I wouldn’t be surprised. This is key as there are certainly things about the process that might be very disconcerting if they were unexpected. In particular, it seems that a lot of people expect that after a track is matched it will have its meta data normalized with the iTunes Store data. That is not the case. I can understand that many people may not want their custom metadata overwritten, but it seems like there should be some method of updating to Apple’s curated data.

Years ago, I ripped a bunch of CDs in Linux and ended up with track_names_like_this, often including the album and/or artist in the name of the track. I’ve cleaned up most of these in the intervening years, but had a handful of CDs, mostly my wife’s, that still have this. I was concerned that this might affect matching, though I don’t think that’s actually true. Even so, I preferred to clean this up beforehand. I manually fixed one or two CD’s worth and then decided to simply re-rip the rest. In the end, I’m not sure if this was the best decision. I ended up editing the names of many of the re-ripped tracks anyway as iTunes added prefixes that I didn’t like to those tracks.

Also worth noting, I had recently verified that all of my tracks had album artwork.

With my preparations done, I took the plunge. Of 2546 tracks, 347 (14%) were purchased from iTunes and thus already in the cloud and 1855 (73%) were successfully matched. Combined, that’s a bit over 86% success. All of the remaining 344 were uploaded, so arguably that’s 100% success, depending on how you measure success. Of those 344, 143 are Beatles songs, most of which are from the Mono box set that is not available in iTunes. I wouldn’t have wanted these to match the stereo versions, so that’s fine. Another 34 are from narrow distribution albums that I’m not surprised are not available in the iTunes store. Also, 4 tracks are custom recordings and 1 is a 4-second CD intro.

I looked through the final 162 tracks and nothing really jumped out at me. I know I have some songs that were acquired from a select-your-tracks CD burner vending machine, but I don’t recall which songs those were. Counting only these 162 as “maybe should have matched”, gives a 6.4% match failure rate. Not bad.

Living with iTunes Match

20130124-171822.jpgHaving fully populated iCloud with my music, the next step was to enable it on my iOS devices. Also, I knew I was going to need some new playlists as my previous go-to playlists are not supported by iTunes Match. Specifically, smart playlists that reference other playlists don’t work. While iTunes was processing my library, I worked on creating new playlists and I’m actually happier with my new playlists than my old ones.

With tracks and new playlists in iCloud and devices synced with “all music” to have all of the newest metadata (and re-ripped tracks) pre-loaded to avoid needless download, I flipped the switch on my iPhone to enable iTunes Match. As expected, my list playlists changed but my tracks were available. What I hadn’t expected was that most of my album artwork vanished. Worse, two days later and it’s still mostly missing with no obvious sign of progress. Hmm.

Perhaps ten hours later, I also flipped the switch on my iPad. Oddly, while the album artwork did appear to disappear briefly, it very obviously started repopulating and seemed to finish pretty quickly. Certainly it wasn’t missing any artwork when I more thoroughly checked it hours later.20130124-171900.jpg

I’ve tried turning iTunes Match off and back on on my iPhone, but that didn’t help.

What’s next?

I have yet to replace my matched tracks with their higher quality versions from iTunes. I feel like I need to do some level of verification that the songs are the same.

I may delete all of the tracks from my iPhone and then let them download from iTunes to see if that fixes the artwork issue. I expect it will.

Will I re-up my subscription in a year? It’s too early to tell. If I stick with listening to music at work via my computer, rather than my iPad as I’ve been doing (or my iPhone before that), then having the automatic sync between disparate devices is probably worth $2.09 per month.

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My Second Hybrid

I never got around to writing a post about the Toyota Prius that I purchased last October. Perhaps I will do so eventually. Now, however, I am writing about a different sort of hybrid. Unfortunately, it’s probably a much less interesting type. It’s a hybrid laptop hard drive, which amounts to a normal laptop hard drive with a bit of SSD thrown in for performance advantages. Wow, I’m already bored with this topic just writing it, so if you want the details, have a look at what Wayne wrote about it earlier this year.

The primary differences between my story and Wayne’s are:

  • I only paid $100 for the drive. (Score!)
  • I put it in my MacBook Pro rather than a Windows system. (Duh!)
  • I did absolutely no performance testing. (Um…)

As you may or may not know, the hard drive in a MacBook Pro is not considered an upgradeable part by Apple, and certainly not a user-serviceable part. The procedure for disassembling and reassembling the laptop is far from trivial, though certainly not brain surgery. Using thorough instructions obtained from the Internet a very special resource I use, it took me about 40 minutes to perform the procedure.

Wow, I ended up writing about it again. I thought I was done with that. On a more interesting note, here’s a picture of my first hybrid:And, just for the heck of it, here’s a graph of my mileage so far (courtesy of the Road Trip App on my iPhone):

white - MPG, blue - average MPG, yellow - gas price

The low outlier is, I think, a result of either a heavy headwind or some bad gas, or both.

Totally Unrelated AsideI’m heading to D.C. this weekend for #NoVACon2011!

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I started to Tweet this but was doubting I could really fit it into 140 characters. It then occurred to me that this would be as good a time as any to actually write something here again. I had expected my first post back to be about my new Prius, but that will have to wait.

As cool as it looks, and as much as I’d like to have one, I simply didn’t see how a MacBook Air would fit into my life. For most things I think I’d use it for, it seems I can use my iPad. Still, the gears turn…

Our single Mac is the MacBook Pro we acquired about 2 1/2 years ago. The MBP mostly stays in the family room on a laptop table. From time to time I’ve toyed with the idea of getting an iMac for the study. The Windows XP system that was technically replaced by the MBP is still in the study and gets primarily used by the kids for schoolwork. It fills this need adequately, leaving very little motivation for making a change. The only real motivation left is to improve my photo (and video, theoretically) editing process with a faster system and (much) larger display(s). In the end, it wasn’t enough motivation, at least for now.

Earlier today, I had another idea. I could move the MBP to the study, along with a new large monitor for improved photo editing, and replace it in the family room with a MacBook Air. This is an expansion of a scenario I had already considered, which was just to get a large monitor for photo editing, but only move the MBP to the study on demand. It is mobile, after all. With the pricing of Apple’s displays versus the iMacs, and with the ability to use an iMac as a second display for the MBP, this idea didn’t really go anywhere. Mostly, it was stopped by the fact that I’d really want the MBP and iMac to work together as a multiprocessing system when connected, which they wouldn’t do.

It should be readily apparent by now, if it wasn’t at the start, that I’m really just trying to come up with a justification to by a MacBook Air. So, here we go!

What if, instead of moving the MBP to the study I sold the MBP and replaced it with an iMac and a MacBook Air? Doesn’t that sound good? I wonder what an early-2008 17″ MBP is worth?

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iMac / MacBook Pro Co-op

imacAs you may or may not know, Apple recently released new iMacs (along with some other things). One of the new features of the high-end 27″ iMac is that it has a display port so that you can use it as the display for another device. In particular, you can connect a MacBook or MacBook Pro to it to use the nice large screen.

While I think this is a great idea, it immediately strikes me as being not quite enough. What I’d really like would be the ability to connect a MacBook to it and then be able to make use of the iMac’s computing resources (hard drives, CPUs, GPUs, etc.). And, vice-versa, of course — have the iMac make use of the MacBook’s resources. Basically, I’d want to be able to choose which system is the master and have the other systems resources be available.

Of course, the hard drive is presumably already available via the network, so what I’m really looking for is just the coprocessing capabilities. I want my image and video editing to be able to make use of the memory and processing capabilities of both systems.

Am I asking for too much? As things stand, it’s relatively unlikely that I’ll be purchasing an iMac. But if this additional functionality were offered, that would be a different story entirely!

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Power Interruptus

The other night we had a bit of a thunder storm and at on point a flash of lightning triggered a brief (less than a second) power hit. I have three separate UPSes (Uninterruptible Power Supplies) in the house — one for each of the two computers in the study and one by the TV, mainly for the TiVo. Well, two of the three completely failed to do their job. There’s actually a fourth UPS, but it’s already been relegated to surge protector status due to previous failures. And there’s probably a fifth (or more) in a closet. I seem to go through these things much faster than I would expect.

I can accept that they have a life expectancy that they could even be meeting it (doubt it), but my real problem is the fact that I receive no advanced warning that they are no longer providing protection. Actually, the fourth one I mentioned did give a warning when it was failing. It began emitting a high-pitched noise under heavy load, and what qualified as heavy kept getting less and less until it wouldn’t even run just the computer without complaining. Neither of the two that just failed are doing any such thing.

Luckily, everything came back up okay.

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A Goldilocks Fan

For the last two or three weeks there has been a fairly loud, nearly continuous noise in our study. At first I assumed it was a fan from one of the computers but I was later led to believe that it was actually related to our router, which appeared constantly busy. I spent some time trying to determine which system was causing or experiencing the high traffic, but was not successful.

When we got home on Sunday evening, I found that the Windows system was non-responsive. I power-cycled it and was greeted with a message about the fan having failed. Additionally, the system was running very slow — not sure if there is some CPU throttling due to temperature or what. Read the rest of this entry »


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UPS Interruptus

Well, it’s taken a number of months but the battery in the UPS for my Windows box has finally deteriated to the point that it can no longer power the system. I used to have other devices plugged into it and have been removing them over time as the UPS could no longer handle the load. Addmitedly, I was probably over-taxing it at first — 2.8 GHz P4, 19 in. CRT, HP 1600 Color LaserJet all on a 350 VA UPS.

I went to the APC web site to check for a battery replacement. They had it for $27+tax, plus $7 shipping. They also offered a trade-up program that purported to let you get up to twice the VA at up to a 35% discount. However, most of the reasonable replacements seemed to have little or no discount. Replacing it with the new version of the same model was $39+ts and moving up to 550VA was $56+ts.

I ended up picking up a new 550VA UPS at Fry’s for $70+t. I was going to get one for $60, but I liked the layout of the more expensive one better (lights and button on the side opposite of the power cable). Both were specifically not APC — Belkin instead — though Fry’s had the 550VA APC for $60 as well.

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