Category Archives: Apple

iTunes 8, using the Genius playlist option to do what you want

iTunes 8 features a new playlist creation tool called Genius. To create a playlist with it, you find a song you like and select it in your iTunes library, then you click on the ‘Genius’ button at the bottom right of your iTunes window. iTunes then gives you a few, albeit overly simplified, options. One, select how many songs you want in the playlist. Two, ‘Refresh’ the playlist with different songs. Three, “Save Playlist”. In theory I like the idea but in practice, it’s half useless.

What if I don’t want songs rated 1 or 2 stars in this playlist? What if I only want unrated songs in this playlist? You may be thinking, “who rates songs? what’s the point?”. The answer to that is rather long and I will go into that in a later post when I explain how to create customized and dynamic playlist to vastly improve the “shuffle” ability of iTunes and your iPod.

To achieve a Genius based playlist that consist of only unrated songs, this is what I did.

1. Create a Genius playlist for a song. Select a song you like, click on the ‘atom’ looking icon at the lower right of your iTunes window. Select “Limit to 50 songs”. and click on “Save Playlist”. You may repeat this step and create an unlimited number of Genius playlist. I call each playlist “g: song title”.

I try to rate all of my music, so when iTunes creates a Genius playlist, probably about 50% are rated. This only gives me about 25 songs per playlist that aren’t rated. Depending on how many songs you have rated, and how many unrated songs you want to achieve for the final playlist, you can adjust the parameters to match your needs.

2. Create a Smart Playlist that contains “any” and for the options, select “Playlist” > “is” > (the genius playlist you created in step 2). You may continue adding any and all Genius playlist you’ve created in step 1. I called this playlist “g: all”.

3. Create another Smart Playlist that contains “all” and for the first option select “playlist” > “is” > (select the playlist you’ve created in step 2). For the second option in this playlist, select “rating” > “is” > “0 stars”. I called this playlist “g: unrated”.

Here is a screenshot of the playlists I’ve created. I named them all with “g: ” to make it easier to find them and to know what they are for just by the playlist name.

genius playlist

So now if you want to play unrated songs based on the iTunes Genius feature, just select the final playlist you’ve created in step 3. Which for me is “g: unrated” in the screenshot above.

This is also a good way to find songs that you knew you liked but for whatever reason haven’t gotten around to rating yet. As each song plays, you can easily and quickly rate it. Or you can eyeball the list and batch rate songs with a few mouse clicks.

This is how I currently rate my music:

5 stars: My absolute favorite songs that I very rarely skip
4 stars: Songs I like
3 stars: Song I’m indifferent to. They may grow on me.
2 stars: Songs I don’t like
1 star: Special case songs, “live music”, “spoken word”, self-help tracks (instructional, tutorial, etc)

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Stream your music collection to your iPhone

http://www.simplifymedia.com/

Simplify Media software connects you directly to your music with your iPhone.

Enjoy songs that are on your home computer while at work or from any WiFi location. Explore friends’ music while they are online.

Hoping to spur a strong early reaction, Simplify Media is offering the iPhone edition of its utility for free to the first 100,000 to download it but will charge $3.99 per copy afterward. The computer-based software is and remains free, regardless of platform.

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PandoraJam, a must have app for Pandora.com fans

pandorajam

PandoraJam enables fans of the fantastic Pandora.com music service to easily listen, record and stream tunes to an Airport Express. With support for scrobbling tracks to Last.fm and Twitter, PandoraJam is essential software for net music lovers everywhere.”

Features include:

  • Stream music wirelessly to a sound system (requires Airport Express)
  • Record music for iPod or iPhone playback
  • Apple Remote support
  • Tag recordings with album artwork
  • Submit songs to Last.fm (known as Audioscrobbling)
  • Native, Cocoa application.
  • Growl notifications
  • Keyboard shortcuts
  • Instant Messaging status updates (Adium, iChat, Skype)
  • Twitter support

I’ve been using this off and on for about a year now… and I’m a bit late posting about this. I’ve never been a dedicated Pandora user because there are so many options and many of them have their limitations. However, using PandoraJam to listen to Pandora provides the huge majority of features and flexibility that tech savy music lovers desire. A custom designed station (add your artists), smart new artists recommendations, audioscrobbling, Instant Messenger status updates…

listen to my custom Pandora station here

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beatunes.com

BeaTunes’ powerful inspection feature let’s you clean up your iTunes track data in a way unrivaled by any other software on the market today. Easily find typos or different spellings of artists’ names, automatically fill in the album artist names, and much more. No more R.E.M. and REM in your iPod’s artist list!

beaTunes can even help you to find the titles of tracks that have no artist or title associated with them.

And once you have a clean collection, the built-in playlist generator works even better.

Here are some more examples of what you can do with beaTunes:

  • Automatically determine BPM (beats per minute) and store the result in iTunes
  • Manually determine BPM and store the result in iTunes
  • Inspect and fix your music library (typos, wrong genre etc.)
  • Sort existing playlists so that matching songs succeed each other
  • Create matchlists, i.e. playlists based on one or more sample songs
  • Browse songs from your music collection that match the currently selected song
  • Discover albums that aren’t in your music collection, but would complement it
  • Keep up to date through Amazon™ album charts
  • Automatically set start and end times of songs based on their volume
  • Categorize songs by their sound color
  • Build playlists per drag and drop
  • Create blog entries on blogger.com with your favorite playlist or songs
  • Add del.icio.us like tags to your songs
  • Look up track metadata using acoustic fingerprints
  • Detect the language of lyrics already stored in iTunes

beatunes.com

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iPhone found in airplane toilet

On my flight home to San Francisco last night, the flight attendant came on the intercom and announced this to the airplane:

“May I have your attention. Someone found an iPhone in the toilet in the back of the plane. If you’re missing your iPhone, please come and get it.”

There was a fair amount of chuckling that went on for a few minutes afterward.

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Leopard Screen Sharing Image Quality

ScreenSharing within Leopard doesn’t give you the fine grained control over the remote screen’s image quality like Apple’s professional remote control application ‘Remote Desktop’. If you’re controlling the remote computer over a slower network, such as wifi, you’d want to change this setting to a lower image quality for faster screen refresh. Leopard’s built-in ScreenSharing only gives you two options: Adaptive or Full Quality. I haven’t tested Screen Sharing enough to understand what ‘Adaptive’ really does. I’m guessing it measures the network speed and adjust it on the fly. Whatever it means, this is good enough for me. I want to be able to control this myself.

To change this setting manually, open up the Terminal and type in the following command:

defaults write com.apple.ScreenSharing controlObserveQuality 2

This changes the controlObserveQuality setting within this plist file:
“~/Library/Preferences/com.apple.ScreenSharing.plist” file to 2, which is grey scale. To change it to a different resolution, substitute the number 2 with one of the following numbers.

1 = black and white
2 = grey scale
3 = 8 bit color
4 = 16 bit color
5 = full color

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To answer Largo’s response below, ‘Screen Sharing’ is a system CoreService that resides here:

“/System/Library/CoreServices/Screen Sharing”

It’s basically just another hidden Utility application so you can drag it to your Dock to create a shortcut. But to specifically create a shortcut to a specific computer on your subnet, do the following:

1. Open up a Safari window
2. type in: vnc://ip.address.of.computer.

This is the IP address of the computer you want to create a shortcut to.
An example is: vnc://192.168.1.2

3. Before loading that url, click on the small blue globe icon immediately to the left of the url and drag it to your Dock or any other place you want to save the shortcut.
4. To use the shortcut, just click on the icon in the Dock or double-click on the link you put somewhere.

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10.5 Leopard, Time Machine woes and how I got around them

I bought Apple’s new operating system, 10.5 Leopard, on Saturday. One of the main selling points for me was its new automated backup software called Time Machine. I have gigs and gigs of personal data that screams at me every night to take proper care of it. Movies, Photos, Music. I had one near catastrophe a couple months ago and took measures then to avoid a total loss.

At the time I had one external 250 gig drive attached to my Mac Mini. This stored all of my data that I catagorize as ‘media’ files. Music and Movies. I don’t take enough photos, yet, to feel like I need to lump those in as well so they remain on my internal drive in the default location.

One night a couple months ago my external drive just flat out locked up. I rebooted my computer because everything else I tried failed to free up the drive. Upon reboot, the drive was unreadable. Fudge! Fortunately I had the large majority of my media on my previous external hard drive, which I replaced because it was too small for my media (125 gigs), and on my iPod.

mybook hard driveI went out that weekend and bought two new 1.5 TB hard drives for $129 each. Buy them from Amazon here for $129 each! This gives me a larger external media drive and a matching external drive for backup. I also picked up a small USB 2.0 hub for about $20 to connect all of my USB devices to.

I installed both external drives on my Mac Mini. I restored most of my lost data to the first external drive. I then manually copied everything from this drive and my user folder to the second drive. Now I had a proper backup! The only problem with this plan is that it is not automated. I have to copy the data myself. Apple’s new operating system, 10.5, Leopard was coming out in about a month so I continued to do my backups by hand every week until Leopard was released.

This past weekend I installed Leopard on my Mac Mini. After completion, the first thing I wanted to configure was Time Machine to automate my data backup. I selected the backup drive and waited for it to start by itself.

Time Machine started processing a couple minutes later. Eventually it gave an error that there wasn’t enough room on the backup drive to complete the backup. I looked at the contents of the backup drive and sure enough, I forgot to erase all of the data that I manually copied. I reformatted my designated backup drive, using Disk Utility and formatted the external drive with Mac OS Extended (Journaled), and waited for Time Machine to start up again. In retrospect, this was probably stupid because now I’m running a new OS and just killed my backup. This isn’t the smartest way to go about this but I was willing to take the chance. I did copy the data from my new 500 gig drive back to my old 250 gig drive so in reality it wasn’t all that stupid but it wasn’t my most recent backup.

A couple minutes later, Time Machine started up again. Another failure. The error message was completely useless and gave no hints as to why it failed. I found two system logs that gave a little more information but they were too vague to really be of help. I opened up the Console.app application from the Utilities folder and found Time Machine (backupd) references in these two logs:

system.log
/Library/Logs/CrashReporter/backupd_[date…].crash

Console Log

 

I resorted to my old Mac skills from the old OS 9 days and did some “Extension Conflict”-like troubleshooting. Within the Time Machine preferences, in System Preferences, I told Time Machine to ignore everything on my internal drive, selecting the root of the internal drive. (/Macintosh HD) I told it to ignore everything on my external drive 1 except for one folder. I waited for Time Machine to start.

Success! It successfully backed up the one folder on my external media drive. So I removed all of the exclusions that referred to my external drive. Again it worked! So something is causing this on my internal Macintosh HD drive.

I removed the exclusion of my internal drive (Macintosh HD) and then added exclusions for all of the next level folders except for my personal User folder.

/Applications
/Library
/System

Again it worked! So something on my internal hard drive is causing Time Machine to fail that does not reside in my User folder.

While waiting for various backup test to finish or fail, I researched Time Machine on discussions.apple.com. It is recommended that during Time Machine’s initial backup that you do not let your computer go to sleep or let the screensaver come on. The initial backup is probably the most intensive because Time Machine needs to construct the required databases and other initialization files. Some people are also recommending that you exclude large files like those created by Entourage and Parallels.

/Users/[user folder]/Library/Parallels/
/Users/[user folder]/Documents/Microsoft User Data/

The Entourage database file is an absolute beast! It encapsulates all data into one file which can realistically be over 2 gigabytes! If you make one small change to your email data within Entourage then this database changes modification dates and Time Machine will have to backup the entire database again. So your options are to use another mail application instead of Entourage or backup this database file hourly, which is Time Machine’s default setting. So if you do use Entourage for email, you’ll want to back this data up but I’m just mentioning it here as another possible cause for Time Machine failing. You can also create a smart folder with the Finder to show files of a certain size to help you find files that may be larger than your preferred tolerance for what you want to backup.

————

Time Machine tip:

To change Time Machine’s default backup interval you’ll need to edit /System/Library/LaunchDaemons/com.apple.backupd-auto.plist. Open it in your favorite text editor and look for this key:

StartInterval
3600

Change the number 3600 to some other time interval in seconds. You’ll have to do this using ‘sudo’ or root. I won’t go into that here because that’s beyond the scope of this article.

————

I have a hunch that different files will cause success or failure for different users at different times but I haven’t proven this yet.

I will continue my testing with Time Machine exclusions allowing different folders within my internal hard drive to be backed up by Time Machine until I narrow it down to the folder(s) and file(s) that are causing it to fail. I will report back and update this post with my findings. I just thought that it would be better to give some people some direction to get themselves started with at least some sort of successful backup.

other Time Machine tips:

Apple info on Time Machine
Apple info article
Macfixit article

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update: 10/31/07 1:30 PM PST

Further testing has revealed that something within my iPhoto Library package is causing fits with both the Finder AND Time Machine.

If I tell Time Machine to only backup my User folder but not backup my /Users/[shortusername]/Pictures directory, Time Machine succeeds.

If I tell Time Machine to back up my entire User folder including the Pictures directory, it fails to backup about 3 gigs of data.

Using the Finder, if I try to manually copy the ‘iPhoto Library’ package from my Pictures directory to an external drive, it hangs about about the same point and eventually fails with error -36.

ioErr (-36): I/O error (bummers)

If I open this package and manually copy each folder it works. (huh?)

I discovered that some files within my iPhoto Library are JPGs but showing up in the Terminal as files with ‘extended attributes’, note the @ after the read/write/execute permissions:

-rwxrwxr-x@ 1 usershortname usershortname 3869764 May 20 19:59 CIMG0886.JPG

xattr -l CIMG0886.JPG

com.apple.FinderInfo:
0000 4A 50 45 47 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 JPEG
0010 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00

I think this is the cause of my Time Machine troubles with this particular directory. I am using the latest version of iPhoto, version 7.1.

I don’t think the ‘iPhoto Library’ is the cause of everyone’s problems but probably whatever traits my troubled files have may be the same traits others have with other files.

I tried removing the one picture folder from within ‘iPhoto Library’ that contained 4 jpgs and both Time Machine and the Finder both still failed to copy the data. iPhoto does something internally to the way it stores data to cause this.

An interesting note is that after successfully backing up everything except this Pictures folder with Time Machine, removing the exclusion for this folder and trying again produces odd results. Time Machine shows correctly that about 3 gigs of data needs to be backed up. Time Machine hangs a bit early on in the process and quickly ends with no errors/failures. It also doesn’t jump past the hang point nor does it change the “Latest Backup” date. It just flat out ends like everything was fine when obviously it isn’t.

Notice that in my original post, I reported that I had success backing up my User folder the first time I tried without backing up anything else on my internal drive. Either I made a mistake in remembering what my test was or Time Machine is spotty and succeeds or fails with different backups. I wouldn’t be surprised if it were both. :)

———–

update: 11/16/07 9:30 AM PST

I installed the 10.5.1 OS update last night. I removed the Time Machine exclusion rule for a couple of items that were failing before. “iPhoto Library” and /Library/Application Support/. I ran Time Machine and it worked successfully on all items. I wonder if this bug fix is what resolved my problem even though my external drive is less than 512 GB:

“* Addresses formatting issues with certain drives used with Time Machine (specifically, single-partition MBR drives greater than 512 GB in size as well as NTFS drives of any size and partition scheme).”

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Remote Buddy adds iPhone support

;remoteControl your Mac from your iPhone with Remote Buddy.

Watch the video demo here.

Control iTunes, EyeTV, presentations and many more applications remotely with your iPhone.

“Remote Buddy turns the remote control in your hands into a key to your entire system. No matter, whether you want to control applications and presentations, browse and playback your music- and video collection, watch TV with EyeTV, browse the web or your filesystem, make the globe turn in Google™ Earth, enter a text, move the mouse, play games or maybe just change the brightness of your screen – you can do this all with Remote Buddy! And so much more!”

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