iTunes is crap

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I have a massively boring entry all about iPods. I considered not even posting it, or double posting it along with a more respectable entry (I wrote both Thursday and Friday last week, but was up late playing iPod each night and just forwent posting). Well, you’ve been warned… tech-babble ahead.

“The Timetable,” or, “Looking that horse in its mouth”: Sharaun wins iPod in radio call-in contest, tells me it’s a gift to me. She picks it up the same day, and it’s awesome, black and 30 gigs. I’m up late loading songs on it, it’s filled to capacity by 1am. The next day, I put it on Ebay, where it sells in under 5hrs for $275. Next afternoon, I use the leveraged Ebay cash to pickup a 60GB instead. Sharaun’s OK with it, after I explain. I stay up late loading songs on it, and am satisfied with the canon at around 50GB and 2am. That brings us up to date.

Saturday morning (not too early, we slept late) I set about installing my new Alpine-to-iPod interface thing (Alpine’s KCA-420i) in the Ford. Turns out the deck came out with zero effort, and the proprietary Alpine AiNet interface was just plug-and-go. I cleaned out the glove box, mounted the unit inside with velcro and ran the wires from behind the deck. Under 15min of work and the thing was discretely installed and I was browsing my iPod with the Alpine deck’s analog wheel, scrolling through artists like I was on the iPod (albeit slower than running through the list on the iPod itself). Sound is line-quality and the unit charges the iPod while it’s plugged in. I was initially impressed, and happy.

However, one trip downtown in the evening for dinner, and the unit’s drawbacks became pretty apparent: All the iPod’s controls are disabled when it’s plugged into the deck, forcing you to control it through the deck. It’s frustrating to have to learn the Alpine deck’s way of emulating the iPod’s controls (and, it’s dog-slow refreshing the on-screen text). What’s worse, the interface only supports a maximum of 255 albums or songs per playlist. Wanna listen to Led Zeppelin’s Houses of the Holy? Press ‘3’, ‘FUNC’, ‘3’ and then use the rotary wheel to scroll to ‘L’ (allow ~3min scrolling time, no joke). Then you advance song by song until you get to song #1 on the album you’re after. The process is slow, ridiculous, and conducive to running off the road for staring at the deck. Anyway, who doesn’t have more than 255 albums on a dang 60GB iPod?

So, I took back the KCA-420i and returned it for a AiNet-to-RCA adapter and 3mm-to-RCA cable. This way, I can control the iPod from its brilliantly simple click wheel, with awesome speed and ease, and I still get line sound. The drawbacks?: No ID3 info displayed on the head unit – something I can live without. Also, no charging while plugged in – also not a huge deal since there plenty of cheap cigarette lighter iPod chargers. So, it’s not as neat of a wiring scheme, but it’s overall better since you can use the iPod’s user-friendly interface and controls manage tunes. And, don’t forget the whole thing is less than half the price of the 420i.

In other iPod news, also on Saturday night the thing decided to completely flake out. Under every video sub-menu, (movies/music videos/etc.) my entire song list would show up – with the videos mixed right in. And, if I scrolled to and tried to play an actual video (all of which played fine previously) I’d get nothing but audio, just as if it were a song.

To preface the following, I need to mention that I’ve been using the 3rd-party iPod management software, EphPod, to load songs. I like the interface better than iTunes, and it seemed more “PC” and less “Mac” to me… so I felt more at home using it. However, as it stands now, you can only use iTunes to load video content – so I was switching back and forth between the two apps to load songs and videos. OK, read on.

The whole “video” part of the iPod and, especially, iTunes is kinda buggy to me. I had noticed, when first trying to get some test videos on, that iTunes seemed to add them as songs instead of videos. For that matter, adding videos is completely unintuitive. How the eff are you supposed to figure out how to get them on? I settled for dragging them to the iPod icon and dropping, seemed to work, although iTunes still said “updating songs” as the video copied over. Unplugging the iPod, the videos were under “movies,” and seemed to play OK – but the whole deal was flaky; sometimes the videos were there, sometimes they weren’t. I don’t know if this is EphPod’s doing, but I suspected as much.

Plugging it into iTunes, I got the message: iTunes cannot read the contents of the iPod. Use the iPod software updater application to restore the iPod to factory settings. Great; WTF? Running the iPod Updater would, of course, wipe all ~50GBs of music I painstakingly added just one evening prior, and it takes a damn-long time to comb through my >60GB library on disk picking-and-choosing which ones get to go on the ‘Pod. Close iTunes, fire up EphPod – all my music is there and checks out fine. Being new to this, I’m freaking out; I don’t want to lose all my music. I try a few things in EphPod: verifying the database (removed some songs whose “file size didn’t match,” whatever that means) and deleting the existing videos that had added as songs. Still getting the “cannot read” error from iTunes. Fire up EphPod again, and for some random reason decide to try and “delete all playlists,” done. I also followed some instructions on the net and renamed my active iTunesDB file to iTunesDB.old and made the .backup file the active one. Just to be safe, I also hard-reset the thing several times.

Back to iTunes, I can now see my iPod again… so one of the tricks above must’ve worked. Great! However, all the “play counts” are now set to insanely high values (most of them at 16794634, some even higher). WTF? So, I select all my songs and right-click “reset play count.” This seems to work, but every song’s “last played” value is still set to some random date in 1970… crazy; at least I can access the iPod at all using iTunes. After fiddling around some more, I narrowed the error down to a repeatable situation: if I’d added videos using iTunes, then loaded my database into EphPod and messed around before saving, the video list would get all screwy and full of songs – and iTunes would complain it couldn’t read the iPod. The solution was also always the same: load the thing in EphPod and “delete all playlists.” This enabled iTunes to again access the iPod, and loading a single video through iTunes would fix the video-showing-songs problem. Crazy.

Interestingly enough, I’d seen an article on Digg the other day entitled iPod Update Causing Major Headache for Some Video Owners, which mentioned that the v1.1 firmware was hosing some video iPods (60GB models in particular). In the Digg comments, someone posted a link to a utility that can be used to “downgrade the iPod firmware to the previous v1.0 – without losing your data. Thankfully, I didn’t have to go that route – as the palylist trick above fixed everything for me.

Still, video functionality seems flaky, and I’ve decided that I hate iTunes as a application in general. It’s bloated, loaded with BS like QuickTime, and is completely convoluted and hard to use.

And, in my last iPod-related topic, since getting the iPod and obsessing over loading it with tunes (oh, the joys of tag-cleanup), I’ve been sharply re-focused on finishing my Great Digital Migration project. I finally went through and cleaned up my master project spreadsheet, making a concise list of what discs still need to be archived. Doing so was a bit of a surprise, as I realized I’m actually farther along than I’d been thinking – basically having only live, various artists, and bootlegs left to rip (all the nasty items that won’t auto-tag and require manual work). In addition to finishing up the ripping, I’ve been trawling the music scene for new and exciting items. One of the new techniques I’ve developed is searching on the keyword “remaster,” which turns up all the newest “deluxe,” “expanded,” and “remastered” editions of classic albums. Usually, you can stumble across some great albums that’ve received the expanded treatment, and grab better sounding copies of stuff you may have or maybe even score some previously unreleased tracks.

That’s it folks, one big iPod entry. I have some more “charismatic” stuff canned from last week – y’know, the baby bit and all that – which I’ll be rolling out Tuesday and Wednesday.

Until then, love ya.


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55 Replies to “iTunes is crap”

  1. Apple, you and the idiots at oracle can be as high and mighty as you want. Us geeks see right through you and the sheep you control. I talk people out of apple on a daily basis due to your terrible company practices. Call it slander all you want, I will continue calling it facts. Douches.

  2. Itunes music downloads is a con! I spent a lot of money downloading remastered albums from itunes with my mac set to lossless…. I just discovered after buying new hifi
    and listening to music that sound quality was poor on further tests discovered that music purchased from itunes is in fact low quality compressed sound files and not lossless or wav quality it is a disgrace we are getting such when you can buy CD for the same price as a itunes download. If you rip the CD your self you get lossless quality. When I complained to Apple they could not care less. PLease understand you are not investing in a music collection suitable for playback on anything other than low fi systems.

  3. Itunes juse completely wiped my ipod for no reason whatsoever! What a load of bollocks this software is. But we’re tied into it! There are no alternatives! It is SHIT!

  4. i agree that itunes is the worst application I used .
    for those intending to buy iphone – please don’t do this mistake and reconsider maybe to buy android phone.

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