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.
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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

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Timbuk2, the continuing saga…

so, I received my Detour last week. Yay!… well, almost Yay. I didn’t like it. 🙁 It was bigger than it seemed from the dimensions on the web site. I mean, this thing is huge.

The Detour is supposed to be a 3-in-one bag, a jack-of-all-trades. Indeed, it is the master of none. as a messenger bag, the thing is really long vertically, so it has to be strapped up pretty high, but then that isn’t exactly comfortable. The backpack straps, while well-concealed, don’t fit quite right. There are many good points, and I’m sure there are users who love it, but it doesn’t work for me.

Luckily, Timbuk2 have a great return policy, and I sent the bag back on an RMA, and I will hopefully get an online store credit. So far, no problems with their service. They’ve been prompt and helpful.

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timbuk2 Rocks!

Almost 2 years ago, I received a Timbuk2 Commute from A2C. It’s been one heck of a bag. Plenty of storage, decent padding for the 15″ PowerBook, and it’s well-constructed and nearly waterproof.

About a year ago, I noticed that the stitching was coming undone around the tote handle at the top of the bag. Also, the thermal molding on the back of the bag was coming apart. I emailed Timbuk2 customer service, and they said they’d be happy to replace the bag. Awesome. So, I waited until it was convenient to send the bag out.

A year goes by. I finally decide I can give up lugging my laptop around long enough to get the bag replaced. I fill out an online form and send in the bag via UPS. Timbuk2 still honors the warrnty claim, even though it’s been over a year since I made the claim. They really stand behind their products.

My new Detour (a backpack/messenger hybrid bag) is on its way. I’m psyched. I’ve managed to acquire a strap pad, an iPod case and a phone holster since I first got the Commute. Now they’ll just be transferred over to the Detour.

Anyway, I’d highly recommend their bags for anyone looking for a good general purpose laptop bag. I know I’ve certainly been pleased not only with the bag, but with the stellar customer service from Timbuk2. It’s companies like this that continue to renew my faith in small companies.

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