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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there comes a time in everyone’s life…

when they realize they’re really getting old. The other day, I saw a Wendy’s commercial. The song being used was “Blister in the Sun” by the Violent Femmes. Back in my day, that song was an anthem for the misfits, freaks and nerds. VF was the band that embodied the struggle of the outcast in a society of jocks and cheerleaders.

And now, it’s the background track for a Wendy’s commercial. Lovely. Although I’m sure that’s how the previous generation felt when their music was used for the shameless foisting of schlocky upon the unwashed masses.

Guitar Guru

Haha! Via Music Thing, this is the funniest Flash animation I’ve seen since I first watched Homestar Runner. Mr. Fastfinger is a guru that can play M34n Lix0rz. It’s interactive, so you get to make him jam and you have to use his abilities to defeat a demon accordionist. Very funny!

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I hate iTunes music store…

because they’re going to end up with all of my money. Okay, to date, I’ve spent only about $30USD, but the fact that I’ve spent any money at all is a testament to the draw of iTMS.

For the most part, music I’m looking for is there. There are a few big examples of absent artists (the Beatles for instance), but it changes every day. Also, you gotta love the fact that you can audition a track before you buy it. And, at $0.99 per track, it’s sooo within the impulse buy range.

At first, I thought that this type of buying would severly limit my musical breadth, but there are a few things that mitigate the narrowness. First of all, the search feature tends to be “greedy” in its matching. That is, things that aren’t exactly what you were looking for appear, and I tend to investigate those results further. For the most part, I’m not interested, but every once in a while, I find something I normally wouldn’t have sought out and like. Also, these other results tend to remind me of other things I was looking for. I’m one of those people who knows exactly what music he’s looking for… until I step foot in the music store. Then my mind draws a blank. This happens in the video store as well and results in a complete sweep of the recent releases.

But I digress. The other factor that mitigates tunnel vision when purchasing music is the fact that you can audition all the tracks on an album. I used to go by the maxim of, “if there are 2 good tracks from one album, consider buying it”. I no longer need to worry about this any more. I can audition all the tracks, and if I only like one, I buy it.

So, if you haven’t yet discovered iTunes, by no means should you click this link and download iTunes. And by no means should you enter your credit card info. You have been warned.

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fixin’ maniac…

It all started with that old ADA preamp. Since then, I’ve fixed Ken’s Tobias bass (just needed to re-solder a wire to a potentiometer), and I’ve revived my old fretless bass.

Way back in 1992, I bought my first bass. I don’t even remeber what brand it was, but it had a cherry burst finish, and a small body. I really liked that bass. I had it setup by the one guy in my hometown who *really* knew how to set up a guitar. Dave Pickett was his name, and if Pickett couldn’t fix it, it couldn’t be fixed. Needless to say, when I got it back, it played like a dream.

Then a friend of mine, Jay, wanted to know if I’d trade him for his fretless. He needed a fretted bass to do some recording. He sweetened the deal by throwing in a Crybaby wah-wah pedal. This was an offer I couldn’t refuse. So, I traded my first bass for this fretless and the wah pedal.

Many years passed, and since I didn’t play enough to be good at the fretless, I really didn’t play it much at all. Eventually, I moved out to the east coast and got the itch to play again. Unfortunately, years of neglect had taken its toll on the fretless. The battery for the active electronics had corroded and took the battery connector with it. Also, the output jack corroded. I thought it was finished. “Maybe one day I could fix it”, I thought. And so, it lingered amongst my possessions until a few days ago.

With my new-found interest in fixing things, I thought I’d fix my gaze upon this old thing and give it a shot. I looked at the electronics, and it looked like I really just needed to replace the jack and the battery connector. Everything else seemed to be okay. So, this Saturday, I headed over to a local guitar shop and got the jack and the connector. A grand total of $12. I figured it was worth that much to see if it was fixable. If it didn’t work, I was out $12 and I could get rid of the bass with the knowledge that I had at least tried to fix it.

To make a long story short, after one failed attempt, I realized my mistake and rewired one of the connections. That did it! I plugged it in and I was in business. How cool is that?!

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ADA MB-1 tube bass preamp

About 5 years ago or so, I purchased a bass preamp from my bass instructor/mentor/friend, Rusty Springfield. The ADA MB-1 was a real masterpiece of engineering, and had both a tube portion as well as a solid state portion that could be mixed together for that “perfect sound”. This unit had seen a lot of use, as Rusty used it in his travels with the Big Apple Circus, and it survived roadies, tent dust, and endless use. So, when I decided I wanted to do a little home recording, he was willing to sell it to me for a good price.

All was well until about a year and a half ago. For some reason, the little guy would just stop working and dump its programming. If I could get it to work, bumping it would upset it again. I searched for a place to repair it, and after much procrastination, took it in. The guy said it would cost around $60 bucks just to bench it, and then he still didn’t know if it could be fixed. And, since ADA had been out of business for some time, he didn’t know if it’d be worth looking at.

So, I went online. There were places that could repair and service it, but it was still going to be pretty expensive. So, for the time, I gave up, and chalked it up to “well, I got good use out of it while I had it”.

Fast forward to last week. As you know, I’ve started a new job, and in the course of 5 months, I’ve learned a lot about hardware, and much has been demystified. So, armed with these new learnings, I decided I had nothing to lose by at least taking a look at the preamp and see if it could be fixed. Worst case, I’d need to replace some parts. The guys at work could probably figure out what I didn’t know, so the prospect was good in my mind. So, I opened up the case and looked around. Lots of chips and lots of other electronics that I have no clue about. So, I decide that maybe a chip is loose. I start poking around with my fingers on all the chips that are mounted on sockets. There was a lot of creaking and flexing of the mainboard, until finally, one of the chips I pushed on gave a little. Hmmm, it seems it was loose after all. So, I plugged it in, and, “voila!”, the preamp ran through its normal POST, then warmed up the tubes, and displayed its normal screen. Needless to say, I was ecstatic. I immediately plugged in my bass, and there was nothing but sweet, sweet music 🙂

WooHoo!

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