Tuesday, January 16, 2007

iTunes Flaws

I've slowly been digitising my classical music collection using itunes. It's no simple task but once it's done, there's no substitute for flicking through the composer list on my Sonos and hearing the music blast out throughout the house. Right now I have Vladimir Ashkenazy flooding the house with his incredible rendition of Rachmaninov's Piano Concertos. Or should that be "Rachmaninov, Sergei" or "Sergei Rachmaninov" or "S. Rachmaninov" or "Rachmaninov (1873-1943)", "Rachmaninov, Serge" or even a combination of perhaps Japanese characters that I can't quite decipher? So here are my top 3 itunes flaws 1. Labelling inconsistency. Whilst having the gracenotes CDDB service beats having to type in every album, composer, artist and track name item for every CD, the inconsistency of labels is frustrating, particularly it seems for classical music. After all, Madonna is Madonna and every one of her albums has her as the "artist" (I haven't yet seen a label of "M. Ciccone" or "Madonna, Ciccone"). Yet I have 3 variants of Ravel ("Ravel", "Ravel, Maurice" and "Ravel, Maurice (1875-1937)) and 3 of Schubert, 4 of Prokofiev (with various counts of "v" and "f" at the end) and 6 different Mozarts. Why is this important? I often search by composer rather than album and frequently want to play a range of different pieces by one composer. Is there a way out of this? Sometimes itunes offers you a choice of labels for a track but the window it presents them in isn't big enough to see what it is actually going to use, so that's no help. I thought perhaps some filters might make sense - the same way that you can filter emails in Outlook so that they route to a specific folder - so that any Mozart pieces would go to the "Mozart" folder rather than the "Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart" folder. Or perhaps it could learn from the first disc I put in by any single composer and use that as a template?
  • P.S. There's an e-government hook here, especially given all this talk of joined up data sharing. Departments don't call anything the same as each other - not even items that you might consider simple, such as the definition of "child". With complicated identifiers like national insurance number, tax reference number, NHS number and so on, bringing the records together will be lots of fun. More on that another time.
2. Using multiple computers doesn't work. I store all of my music on a big fat hard drive attached to the network. Two Macs and two PCs are attached to the network and, to speed the digitising process, I sometimes have two of three of them uploading CDs at once. Sonos handles this just fine, updating its records either when prompted or at a specific time. But itunes doesn't have a clue that there is more than one update going on. So I end up with each PC or Mac having a different sense of what is on the disc - for music, album art and gapless playback information (whatever that is). The only way to sort this out seems to be to clear down the itunes library on each machine (without deleting the files - been there, done that) and then add the folder back in. Each time you do that, of course, it goes and finds the album art and the gpi again, taking hours (20 plus gb of music over an 802.11g connection). 3. Audiobooks don't always find their way into the audiobooks folder. When I run I listen to books - it's more interesting than listening to music all the time and it doesn't seem to slow me down (and yes folks, I can run and listen to a book at the same time as well as walk and chew gum). Uploading an audiobook via itunes (as opposed to downloading one from the store) doesn't put the book in the right folder. Even changing the file extension to .m4b doesn't work. You have to run a script to move them so that you get them in the right folder and, especially, so that the bookmark functionality works. The script you need is called "Make Bookmarkable" (and, as far as I know, is only for Mac) There are other flaws - CoverFlow for all its vaunting when Jobs launched the iphone seems to have less than 10% of the covers that match my albums but then perhaps its designed for those who download everything (but I do love the CoverFlow interface). Itunes is also prone to hanging up on my Mac (which is a shiny new Intel-based machine), but it's occasional and not crippling. All this has to be put in the perspective of course that itunes is still the best at what it does and that, coupled with the ipod, it's proved unbeatable so far.

4 comments:

  1. I had the same labelling issues only last night. The same album that I copied to iTunes from CD two years ago has slightly different track (and even artist) names now than it did then.

    Surely Madonna would be found under "Ritchie, M" nowadays.

    You can copy your songs into Excel (hehe) and work out the artists' names that need changing. If you sort by Artist you should get most things appearing together, so it's relatively easy to make them consistent with one another (choose a Ravel name structure that you're happy with), along with whichever spelling of Prokofief/v floats your boat.

    BTW, it seems the album artwork is as elusive in the pop world as it is in the classical arena...

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  2. Anonymous8:12 pm

    Speaking as a cynic, I don't subscribe to the whole iTunes idea. It doesn't fit with my ethos, which is that I'll cough up any amount of wedge as a one off payment for something I can use as I see fit, but ongoing costs or restricted usage.... I'm afraid it's a mug's game.

    And speaking of mugs, it seems that government based IT project managers are picking up in ability, they must be spending much more money on them. I had a great interview at the YJB just recently, and the chap really knew what he was doing. This is (while not a first, it was at least) a surprise for me within central government.
    (I didn't get the job, he figured I was too much of a maverick, and was after a conformist. This is another reason I think he knew what he was doing, as I agree with his assessment.)

    Can't live without Mimi and Rodolfo I'm afraid, but prefer it out of the Round at the Albert.

    Ian

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  3. nice to have you back ian, wondered how your search for a new contract was going. can't believe he thought you were too much of a maverick, surely opposites attract? and who'd have thought you were an opera fan. la boheme indeed. i'm more of a fan of the arena at verona than the round at albert.

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  4. Anonymous11:39 pm

    We took her parents to Verona. We saw La Traviata and Aida there. It was so, er class, as Jade Goody might say. We had a splendid week, sailed Garda - nice but not the Bodensee - and we walked Venice, I was veel disillusioned when I discovered that you can actually get there on a train, rather than vaporetto which is my only previous way, straight from the airport. As pensioners they loved it - if only I could find some way of getting them to let us pay their domestic bills, they'd be able to do the Grand Tour themselves; alas her dad's too proud, and she won't live away from her grandchildren, otherwise we'd have already bought quelque chose en Bretagne. Mark you, Verona, and even Venice, is a long way from my coal mining village in Durham, even if I can't count the ways I love the three of them.

    We've seen quite a few at the Albert Hall. The Marriage of Figaro, for instance was another night out with her mam and dad; and Aida again, good ole Radomes eh? Besides I couldn't not go there, since it's named after my Grandfather:-). We also saw the Magic Flute at the ENO as recentlyish as sprogs allow. They always put on a good show; once coming up with "You are the man! You are the man!" for "Sono il factotem della citta!"

    On the job front, I've had a couple of interviews. I liked the YJB one, but another was (whilst stupid money) too junior, and I saw a genuine headhunter (as opposed to the usual keyword checking type) yesterday about a big job, for a very interesting e-enabled money market exchange job. (There's nothing like this product at the moment, and there's plenty of scope for innovation and complexity - both of which I love.)

    There's also a ton of government work out there, some of it really, really interesting, but with one thing or another... either my jokes about the merits of killing politicians, maybe I'm eccentric, or perhaps the current demands on the poor chaps in the dva due to people who aren't joking about wanting to kill politicians (or anyone else for that matter, if the religion of peace.com is anything to go by) - I've heard they're running around like imphalas in York hahaha, or maybe my mad relatives, or something else, getting back through the clearance door on a freelance basis is a Heller a tricky task.

    Fortunately my wife's just got her citi bonus so I can afford half a year off working on the house. Not that I want to have time off, I shake like George Best when the problems run out. I've figured out the extra rule I need to apply to quickly solve the "evil mother bastard" version of the Times killer soduko whilst waiting for the screed to dry at home, and when the kitchen rebuild's finished I don't know what I'm going to do.

    If I'd known it was going to be that hard to re-acquire SC, I'd have never gone off to redesign Avis (though the implementation's not half of the design, I've come up with an ingeniously simple and cheap mechanic for b2b enabling b2c websites, based loosely around an asynchronous verson of an SSO implementation I demonstrated to you in Farringdon one summer's day. (You send delegations for permissions of tasks via email just to give the game away. So a boss can identify his wife, secretary, hr manager, staff etc by specifying their email address to the system, and then by clicking on the link sent to them, the secretary/boss/wife/staff member can accept the offer. This then links them in at the backend, and thus now the secretary can order cars on behalf of her boss, etc. The possibilities are endless. Talk about WS-Federation. This is people-Federation

    I've also thought a bit more about my "Fire escape", ( a reel of hauser with builtin angular velocity governor - in a bergen.) This allows people to simply strap the cable to themselves (and the bag to something fixed,) and base-jump out the window of a hundred storey building, thus breaking their leg (possibly,) but crucially and cunningly avoiding death in their thousands in a collapsing aeroplane induced fireball. Lloyds would be 12 billion dollars up if they'd forced WTC to fit 20,000 of these, at a cost of no more than a couple of million.

    In the last couple of years, I've left two contracts regrettably. One, as you know, because a political operator stiffed a mutual friend with a bigger connection to opera than either of us, (and not to mention his underling, my boss) and since they both hired me, it was unfair of me to stay. The second was having my design nicked at Avis, by the chap I got in to sell it to the board, and I couldn't bear to watch it traded over the counter for a "director of web dev" post.

    So whilst almost able to recite the entire film "The Godfather," I've learned that I've learned nothing from it. I've therefore resolved to be more like a good friend of mine, and think a bit more and speak a bit less.

    I'm also on the brink of wanting to try "responsibility" in a job. I've previously loved going in at the bottom, at getting it working by doing a Keyser Soze on the people. It avoids having to write the documents, and since my documents, like my posts are loaded with ambiguities, this has been useful. Whilst ambiguity has a certain quality to it, I'm beginning to think it's a bit more open to be more honest, but higher up. I still draw the line at budget management though.

    Ian

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