The case of the mysterious disappearing playlists…

One of the many wonderful things I’ve found myself able to do while working from home is to set up my personal computer to do some of the tedious update activities so that I can click “next” and “ok” in the background while hammering out the next great PowerPoint briefing or staff memo on my work laptop. It’s become an awfully convenient method of making sure I’m running the latest version of applications, everything is backed up, and my tired old Mac Mini is in as good an operational condition as possible. Up until today the process had been a happy and productive one.

Today, though, some combination of changes in iTunes and on my phone conspired to delete all of my hard built playlists from both the computer and the phone simultaneously. The music files are still sitting safely in iTunes, thank God, but such playlists as “Angry,” “V. Angry,” “Sleepy,” and “Depress me,” are nowhere to be found. I’m left with just the main list of everything from Music for the Royal Fireworks to songs that are so filled with pop goodness that I’m not even going to mention their names here.

I know I should just get with the program and stream my music like a normal person. You see, although I live among the millennials, I’ll never quite be one of them. My music habits were formed at a time when you went to a store for your music – and you came home with a shiny new jewel case filled with liner notes (and you got the privilege of slicing the hell out of your finger trying to get all of the security packaging off the product). Even though I don’t buy music on physical media much anymore, I do like the idea of knowing that I have all the correct files sitting on my hard drive waiting to be served up to me instead of just expecting them to live forever on someone else’s cloud. Maybe it’s the last vestigial piece of my analog self in the digital age.

So now I need to rebuild my playlists. It’s daunting, but perhaps guided by the spirit of WinAMP it won’t take five years to get things sorted and back in service just the way I like them. I know listening to music doesn’t need to be this hard… it’s just another fine example of liking what I like with all logic and simplicity cast aside. If that doesn’t give you a deep look into who I am as a person, I don’t know what will.

The post that wasn’t…

There’s a whole host of topics I would have rather write about tonight, but at the moment the one all consuming passion in my life is trying to figure out why iTunes won’t sync any music with my damned iPhone. Sure, that’s not exactly like spending the evening solving murders or tracking down Nazi gold, but it has eaten up the lion’s share of the afternoon. In fact the only reason I’m hammering out this little tract is I’m waiting for the phone to erase itself and see if starting from a blank slate will make any difference. If it doesn’t, there’s a good chance that you’ll be able to see the first ever attempt to put an iPhone into orbit using a bundle of bottle rockets. So yeah, that’s the news tonight from the future home of the Elk Neck Spaceport.

Tuning in…

photo (10)A few days ago, I went digging thought iTunes for a few songs that I hadn’t heard in a while. After years of being transferred from computer to computer, to external hard drives, and being tweaked, curated, and edited to the extreme, it seems that iTunes has been slowly leaking. Some of my favorite albums, carefully imported from CD seven or eight years ago before all my shiny plastic disks went to live in a couple of large cardboard boxes, were nowhere to be seen. Some had just one or two songs. I’m guessing that I “lost” half my music collection before I really started to notice it… as much a fan as I am of going all electronic, I’m suddenly glad that I didn’t sell those disks off for a buck or two a piece years ago.

So now, while I had planned on spending a good part of the day getting mt tax stuff together, I’m most likely going to be sitting here swapping out disks every two minutes until balance is restored. It’s ok. Once it’s done, the music will end up being saved as part of my ridiculously over complicated double redundant back up scheme. Then again, if I don’t have to do this again in seven years, it’s probably worth the effort.

Mission Complete (minus nine)…

The great heroic project of our age is more or less finished. For all practical purposes, I’m calling the effort to transfer my DVD collection to hard disk mission complete. With the exception of nine disks that I’ll need other software to rip and encode effectively, I managed to bring down the curtain three weeks ahead of my self-imposed deadline of the end of the year. As far as those couple of outliers go, well, I’ll get to them when I Screen Shot 2012-12-11 at 5.12.24 PMget to them. For the most those few disks are fairly oddball titles that you’d really only want to watch once or twice in a lifetime anyway. Still, I have them, and it would be nice to go from finished to really finished eventually.

So, you’re asking, what’s the tale of the tape? Weighing in at a grand total of 1.21 TB (1210 GB), I’ve got 123 movies and 1380 separate television episodes, and 1185 songs available for streaming to every television and iDevice in the house across my own network. Put another way, that’s 10.5 days of back-to-back movies, 44 days of television, and about 3 days of uninterrupted music. That’s certainly not the biggest personal audio-visual library out there, but I’m proud of my little collection. That should prove to be more than enough to keep me entertained during the impending apocalypse.

It’s alot like having a 24/7 commercial free television station that plays only content that you know you’re going to like. I had a real geek-out moment there when I realized just how awesome it really is. Using the Apple TV interface makes it very similar experience to actual channel surfing. When you get bored with one show you can switch immediately to another and then back again even on a TV in a different room. Basically, it’s what TV would be if television wasn’t just an avenue to put eyeballs on advertisements. It’s possible that I’m in love.

In the interest of keeping things safe and sound, I’ve got a redundant copy on site and an offsite backup ready to go into rotation. It might seem like overkill, but iTunes, as we all know, sometimes does funny things and this isn’t a process that I want to go through a second time. I’m not there yet, but I think I’ve taken a big step towards making cable television pretty irrelevant in my life.

Sadly there are still several large boxes of CDs stashed in the basement that need to be ripped since I seem to have lost alot of content dragging it from computer to computer over the last five or six years. Since I seem to have finally stumbled on a solution that’s is going to stick, it might just be time to go ahead and rebuild my audio library while I’m at it… but that’s a project for a later date. I don’t think I can stomach seeing any more shiny plastic discs just yet.

Money well spent…

Since I’ve gotten serious about converting my DVD collection over to an all digital format, I’ve been trying to limp along using the DVD player on my 2008 laptop to do the ripping and converting. Lets just say that it was not as efficient as one might like. Since Apple has decreed that no one using one of their Minis needs an optical drive, that pretty much left the option of picking up an external DVD/RW and doing the ripping and compression on the much more powerful Mini. In the space of a couple of hours this afternoon, I ripped and loaded into itunes five movies using the new drive… while at the same time ripping three TV episodes using the laptop. That’s not exactly a 1-to-1 speed comparison, but it’s a pretty good indicator that the external drive will prove to be money well spent.

If I can do one or two disks a day – usually one before I leave for work in the morning and another before I go to bed – I can have this done sometime in the early part of the new year, instead of sometime about a year from now using just the laptop. Sure, I could use the laptop to get the job done, but why put an otherwise reliable and perfectly serviceable machine through a year long stress test when I can use the faster option for $40? So far, I’ve converted hald a doze random movies, all four seasons of The Tudors, and the first three seasons of Buffy (Yeah, I know. Stop smirking out there.). When I get this little project finished, I promise I’ll envite everyone over for movie night. Based on early estimates, we should have about 200 days of interrupted viewing ready to stream to every TV in the house.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

Presented for your approval, a mélange of topics that have made me want to alternately gouge out my own eyes, bludgeon others to death where they stood, and curl up in the fetal position and just have a good cry…

1. Being a whore. I sell my body for money, well, the brain part of my body anyway. I don’t usually give any particular thought to how my John wants to use me for the eight hours he pays for, but sometimes it’s just damned hard to ignore. I’ve run across very few things in my professional life that are more annoying that spending hours, days, or months working on something only to get told “woops, looks like we won’t need that now.” Whether what I’m working on ever sees the light of day or not, my time is reasonably well compensated. Still, it would be nice to know you’re whoring yourself out for something that’s actually going somewhere. You’d think a decade on, I’d be use to just lying back, opening my brain, and thinking of England, but I don’t seem to quite have the hang of it yet.

2. DVDs. Between movies and TV show season, I’m guessing that I have something like 500 disks that spend 99.999% of their time doing nothing but taking up shelf space. For all but a few favored movies or shows, they might only see the light of day once a year or less. The logical solution to no longer wanting these DVDs sitting around occupying limited storage space is to rip them to several large hard drives and serve them up through iTunes. That would be the logical solution except, of course, for the part where no one in the world offers a convenient method of extracting large amounts of data from DVD and converting it to an iTunes-ready file… and no, I don’t consider ripping and encoding one or two at a time to be a convenient method. Sadly, a quick cost/benifit analysis telles me that with the vast amount of time and effort involved in getting my movies from Point A to Point B the hard way, it might legitimately be more cost effective to just put all my DVDs into long term storage and build a new collection from scratch when I want to watch something. Just the thought of having to go that route annoys me to no end when there’s a far far less expensive, but ponderously over complicated solution to be had.

3. Walmart Pharmacy. I don’t know who gave these jokers my office phone number, but rest assured, I will not be coming in to pick up “my” two prescriptions no matter how many messages you leave. Even if they were my prescriptions, when you told me the bill was $510.64, I’d point at you, laugh, and walk away.

Eclectic…

I was loading up some new music for my trip this week and really looked at the “Just for You” box for the first time in quite a while. According to the wiz bang Genius at Apple HQs, my recommendations include: Waylon Jennings, Social Distortion, Rodgers and Hammerstein, Skid Row, Boston, and several selections from H.M.S. Pinafore. How’s that for eclectic taste in music.

For the record, what I actually downloaded was: All-American Rejects, Relient K, Simon & Garfunkel, The Byrds, several tracks from “Punk goes Pop II,” Bob Dylan, and yes, even Britney Spears (Yeah, I’m having a hard time believing I wrote that out loud too). So, I’m expecting my next recommendations from iTunes to be even more interesting.