iTunes Nirvana…

So, I recently added a NAS to the network. I also added a new Mac mini. My goal was to have all the media stored on the NAS and shared it out to all the computers on the network. Since iTunes allows you to share your library, and the ReadyNAS has an iTunes server built-in, I thought this would be a piece of cake.

However, there were a few hiccups that delayed my achieving iTunes Nirvana:

  • You can’t create playlists from iTunes shared libraries
  • FrontRow doesn’t show artwork for items on shared libraries
  • You can’t sync your iPod to a shared library

Clearly, these limitations make the shared library approach less than ideal.

“Ok”, I thought. “I’ll simply point iTunes to the shared volume where the music and the library file reside.”

This didn’t seem to work. No music appeared in the iTunes browser window. After trying several permutations of this arrangement, I gave up.

My last thought was to make a soft link, or “alias” in Mac parlance, to the shared folder and name the alias “iTunes”. I deleted the “iTunes” folder in my home directory, “~/Music/iTunes”, and created the alias there.

The alias points to a mounted shared volume from the NAS

To my surprise, this worked (I really didn’t think it would). The only painful part is that you may have to rebuild your library, losing ratings, etc. However, all the limitations of the shared library are now gone.

I did encounter some issues where iTunes reported a corrupt library file, but I think it was due to my stopping the “importing library” process when I first started iTunes after making the library change (it was late and the import was taking a really, really long time). I also had to “consolidate library” to get some of the content that was local to one of the computers. Another issue I encountered was that startup of iTunes was slow. No biggie. I think the benefit of the remote library outweighs the performance issue. Speaking of performance, the final issue I uncovered was that FrontRow seemed to experience weirdness if iTunes is open. It claimed that there was no content in the library. I quit iTunes, and FrontRow was happy. This may have been due to the delay incurred by the network communication, but it seemed to be related to iTunes being open.

UPDATE: I continued experiencing the weirdness where iTunes on the mini would report a corrupted Library file, and recreate the Library from the Library.XML file (very time-consuming). I suspected this was due to something that the iTunes Helper application was doing. To test this hypothesis, I disabled the helper by selecting (in iTunes) Preferences->Syncing->”Disable automatic syncing for all iPhones and iPods”.

Disable auto-syncing to prevent file sharing violations resulting in Library rebuilds

I think it should be OK to have this enabled on one machine, but I haven’t tested that out. For me, manually syncing my iPod isn’t a big deal.

Also note that you should select “Copy files to iTunes Music folder when adding to library”. Sine your Music folder is on the network now, you’ll want all your content going there.

Be sure to keep all your files in the same place


“Jamcracker? Ewwwww”

My boss forwarded this article about the naming industry (those of you who weathered the dotcom bubble/bust should have just experienced a slight chill).

The article begins as a serious exposition on said industry. Slowly, the reader realizes that the serious treatment was given to set the industry up for mockery. It is definitely worth the read.

At one point, a naming company is caught off-guard when representatives of a client recoil in disgust with the name they’ve been presented, “Jamcracker”.

“There were a couple of women sitting in. One of them got up and said, ‘Oh, that’s disgusting.’ Another said, ‘This is really sick.’ I said, ‘Excuse me, what are you talking about?’ They said, ‘We can’t explain it, but that name is just creeping us out. We don’t know what it is, but could you take it off the wall, please?'” Manning remains mystified by the incident. “There’s apparently some strange, uncomfortable meaning attached to it in the minds of some women,” he says. “God knows what that could be.”

As we discussed the article, we came up with a name for the reaction to the name, “Jamcracker”. We decided to coin the term: “The Jamcracker Effect”. Here, we define “The Jamcracker Effect” as:

the situation wherein a concept is considered distasteful based on the sound of its name, despite the non-distasteful nature of any individual components of the name.

Some examples of the Jamcracker Effect might be:

  • “Meat Waffle”
  • “Street Chicken”


geek haiku #1

I’ve decided to try something new. Geek Haiku or “geeku”. I’m going to try for 1 per week, and in the future more. It’s an exercise in writing and trying to crystallize my thoughts.

cacti is set up
many php errors
timesheet is barren


did I mention I’m an idiot?

Oh, so the reason for my last post? I’m ashamed to admit this, but here goes…

One of the things that really irked me about Windows® was that there seemed to be no respect for what the user was doing. Popup windows or dialogs always took focus. This annoyed me to no end. Once I started using the Mac, I felt respected. Usually dialogs would pop up, but not take focus. Of course, this has its drawbacks, but it kept with the “OSX stays out of your way” concept that I appreciated.

Unfortunately, not all apps behave this way (Colloquy, I’m looking at you). So this morning, I’m logging in to IRC, and Colloquy pops up a dialog for my password (and it keeps *not* saving it – ugh). so I start typing. I’m not quite a touch typist, so I don’t always look at the screen. Next thing I notice is that an IRC window is up, and I’ve just typed my password into the IRC channel. Gah!!!!

So, I had to go and change passwords and update them in my passwords file. Let the comedy of errors begin.


grep saves the day…

first off, I’m a total idiot. I was updating my passwords file that I keep encrypted. However, when I went to remove the old file, I typed in the new file’s name and deleted it instead. D’oh!

well, as you might know, unix-like systems do not have an “undelete” facility. When you delete a file, it’s gone. Or so they say.

When you create a file on a unix-like system, or more specifically, an indexed file system, there are entries stored somewhere on disk that tell you (and the rest of the system) how and where to find those files. When you delete a file, that information is gone (depending on filesystem). Now, to the standard user, there is no way of knowing where that file is. In fact, parts of that file could be strewn over different parts of the disk. Things are sounding pretty grim, huh? To make matters worse, when new files are created, there’s the possibility that old files are being overwritten with new data.

“grep” is an old, old unix program that allows you to search for specified strings or regular expressions (e.g. any line containing the word `idiot`) in files. Well, those unix guys were pretty smart when they decided that “everything is a file”, including hard disks. So, you can ask grep to search the file that represents the hard drive in question and search for known strings.

The end result is that I retrieved my passwords (and thus, saving my marriage). It doesn’t change the fact that I’m a total idiot. In fact, knowing that I can recover data this way is probably going to ensure that it happens again. Oy.!