Tag Archives: frustration

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iTunes – A Big Pile of Stink

This isn’t an article complaining about changes iTunes 11 made. In fact, I held off writing this article in the futile hope that iTunes 11 would be more than lipstick on a pig (apologies to pigs). It wasn’t, so I waited for update 1. No better. This also isn’t an article about how iTunes stinks on Windows. I run it on a Mac. So here goes…

First, I really like iTunes as a music manager. It’s what helped bring me to Apple and the iPod back when it was just for music. I rarely use it to actually play music directly but I love the flexible smart playlist feature. I make heavy use of playlists based on the date last played in order to keep playlists fresh without any effort. I also made the effort long ago to rate all my songs. This was more to manage playlists than and actual rating against other songs. For example, “Best of” for an artist or genre are 5’s. Songs that really suck and need to be kept out of playlists are 2’s. One’s are reserved for spoken audio that I’ve listened to but don’t want to delete. Three’s and fours are a mishmash and more or less the same. But iTunes has slowly beaten me down and those features aren’t worth the frustration.

Rant 1 – Video Handling

I recently returned to trying video from the iTunes store. I bought and watched the video on my Apple TV or iPad. Yet when I sync the iPad to iTunes, iTunes wants to download the video yet again.

iTunes has the option to turn off automatic downloads or purchased music, apps or books and I’ve turned them off. But the LARGEST FILES can’t be turned off. Automatic download of videos can’t be turned off and those files are measured in gigabytes. If I cancel the download and mark the library entry as watched it will try to download again sometime in the future.

But that’s not all. I tell iTunes not to sync video on my iPad. So what’s it do if it finds a video on my iPad that it doesn’t have? Ignore it since I don’t want video synced? Of course not. It asks if I want to transfer purchases. If I say no it deletes it from the iPad and enables sync of future videos. If I say yes it copies the video to iTunes and enables sync for video. In the ultimate frustration iTunes 10 would then tell me the video wasn’t playable on the iPad it just copied it from and would delete it. I don’t know if that last “unplayable video” issue exists in iTunes 11 or on my fresh, new Mac since I’ve avoided the condition that syncs video.

My current solution to both these problems is to stayed logged out of the store in iTunes and cancel the login prompt along with limiting my syncing. My ultimate solution is to dump iTunes.

Bug 1 – App Updates in iTunes

This was introduces in iTunes 11.0 and remains in iTunes 11.0.1. I’m told I have 53 app updates (and growing). Neither the “Check for updates” button or the “Get More Apps” button do anything when clicked. Others have reported this happened to them but went away. It’s been with me since I installed iTunes 11. I update my devices directly so this is more a frustration than a real problem. But new software on a new Mac, come on Apple. I already re-installed iTunes once to fix Bug 2 (listed below). Another reason to give up on iTunes.

Rant 2 – iTunes Match

Where to start? This made a mess of my library. Songs that were unchecked got checked. Songs were duplicated. Songs were deleted (a failed match update maybe?). The last played date eliminated or set to some distant past date on many sons. The only plus side is I’ve gotten a bunch of older iTunes store songs updated to non-DRM and better quality. So I consider that my money’s worth. But Match itself  is off, never to be turned on again. And I’m going through a cleanup. Thankfully CrashPlan backups never delete the deleted files so as I find missing files I can at least restore the pre-match version.

Bug 2 – Constant Firewall Prompt

After I upgraded to iTunes 11 I’d be prompted to allow it through the firewall every time I started iTunes. I deleted the firewall preferences, rebooted and saw iTunes add the exclusion but I would still get prompted at each iTunes launch. I deleted iTunes (the app, not library) and re-installed. Then the problem went away. An Apple program installing on a new Mac should just work. Yes, problems happen but they should be rare. With iTunes it’s the fixes that are rare.

Solutions?

I’m convinced iTunes is two big for Apple to handle. Or they feel the solution will cause too much pain among users.  It’s arguable whether the new interface changed much. Each screen looks better. But it it really easier to use? I’m skeptical, but even if the answer is yes it’s just not worth it. So what are my alternatives?

I took a look at Media Monkey (for Windows). The free version seems to give me nearly all the features I would want and the paid version seems to give me everything. The price is reasonable but the real cost is re-rating all my songs. Plus I’d lose the play history. I’m not sure I really want to go through the effort of recreating everything and recreating playlists. So it’s time to rethink music.

Time to simplify. I’m thinking of Synology for my local music management and player. While it has smart playlists, they are no where near as smart as the iTunes playlists so I’d use them little if at all. There’s a music player for my iPhone which is my primary music device. It also works on the iPad. There’s also apps for Android and Windows Phone (including 8) so I’m covered for any change. The Synology NAS also has several other playback options and includes Internet radio. Since I have already have it, I’ve begun to copy music to it and I’m giving it a try.

Then there’s cloud players in general Amazon and Google both have cloud experience I trust. I’m not adverse to having my music in the cloud, but I do have data caps. While the Comcast cap is suspended it will return. No sense using the data if I don’t have to. The Synology player, and most cloud players will cache songs locally and some provide the ability to pre-cache (download) songs so I won’t have to stream when I’m out and about. They do seem to stream by default so I may have to take action to play local files. I picked Amazon to give a try first, despite earlier problems with the player. It tends to be where I buy most music these days so it will add songs automatically.

I have to give up on my obsession about listening to songs I haven’t heard in a long time and keeping the play information in sync. I need to just enjoy the music.

Screenshot of my main iPad screen

iPad/iOS 6 Wireless Sync

Screenshot of my main iPad screenEver since upgrading my iPad 3 to iOS 6 I haven’t been able to do a wireless sync with iTunes. My iPhone 4S does a wireless sync just fine. I tried the usual troubleshooting things such as restarts and re-entering settings. I was pretty sure it was my iPad or iTunes that was the problem. The iPad also had a problem where the wireless network would drop every couple of days and I’d have to toggle wireless off then on (on the iPad) to get it to see the network so the iPad was my first choice as the problem source. I don’t use iTunes very much with my iPad so I wasn’t aggressively looking for a fix (my opinion of iTunes is that it’s a big ball of bugs and frustration).

I was listening to the McCast podcast (Oct 5th episode) when Adam mentioned a step I hadn’t tried. While he described a different wireless issue it was close enough. And sure enough, his suggestion to reset the network settings worked.

To reset the settings: Settings -> General -> Reset -> Reset Network Settings

The iPad will restart after confirmation. I did not have to re-enter my wireless network security settings so I expected to still have the problem. But sure enough, I was able to initiate the sync and it completed without a problem. It’s too soon to tell if the problem dropping the wireless network every couple of days is also fixed, but I’m hopeful.

For the record, I run iTunes on a Mac and OS X, iTunes and my iPad are all  on the latest versions.

Makes me glad that the MacCast is the one Apple specific podcast I still listen to on a regular basis.

 

image of WWW on gold

@#$%!@ Web Host

image of WWW on goldAbout 3:30PM ET today I got an alert that my site was down. Sure enough, it was not accessible. I logged onto my Linode management console and there was a notice that they were investigating a problem affecting my server, They problem was so recent that the status page hadn’t been updated with the incident yet, but it soon indicated a power problem was reported at the site. Long story short, utility power failed and the generators failed to kick in automatically so power was lost to some servers and equipment.

Unfortunately when my server came up about an hour later there was a problem with Apache and it was returning my default site (just a placeholder page) instead of this site and it wasn’t until I restarted Apache a little while ago that the site was being served.

I give Linode high marks for communication, although the outage still stinks. According to the logs it looks like they tried to reboot the server, probably when power came back, and that reboot failed with an “already running” error. So it looks like there was a problem with the power on reboot.

I’m still looking through the logs to see if I can see what the problem is. I also need to see if I can change my alerting to identify my site. I got the email may wite was up, but it was returning the wrong page. So properly identifying my site will be on my to do list.

While I like doing the hosting myself, on an unmanaged VPS this is the downside. Problems occur at inconvenient times and I don’t have anyone to yell at to come up with a solution. Guess I can’t have everything.

Apache logo

Apache File Does Not Exist Error

Apache logoI spent some time over the past week killing some bugs and making some adjustments to my server. One of them was a message being logged to my default Apache error log (/var/log/apache2/error.log). The error was:

[Sun May 27 22:05:03 2012] [error] [client 127.0.0.1] File does not exist: /etc/apache2/htdocs

The error was being logged exactly on every five minute mark, no matter when the server was started. The interesting parts here are that none of my sites are configured to listen on the loopback address (127.0.0.1) although some are set to run on any addresses. Also, /etc/apache2 is not the document root for any of my sites. All of my sites were working and were properly configured. A Google search showed I was not alone with the problem but had no good solutions

What I ended up doing is specifying a default document root for a directory that does exist. I used the default site for the server.

sudo nano /etc/apache2/conf.d/DefDocRoot

I put in one line:

DocumentRoot /valid/path/to/site/public

I reloaded the Apache configuration and the error went away. It seems like there’s a default site of some type configured into Apache. It might be something I configured but apache2ctl –S doesn’t show any syntax errors and all my sites seem fine.

Picture of a rainy day

The OS Quest Trail Log #70: April Showers Edition

Picture of a rainy dayApril showers held off for most of the month, so much so that there were almost daily Red Flag Warnings for brush fires. But at the end of the month a nor’easter rolled in. While it dumped snow elsewhere, it stuck to water around here.  April was also a light month on the OS Quest. It seemed to fly by. Most of my work revolved around problems.  I did upgrade the drives in my Synology 1511+. While there was a moment where I thought a drive didn’t rebuild it ended up being fine,

But Synology wasn’t about to be problem free.  I’ve configured Synology’s DDNS service on both my Synology NAS’s. Sunday morning I had a bunch of alerts from both saying they couldn’t register it’s address to the DDNS service. Long story short – the error message indicated the logon failed but I had numerous messages in the log that is was registering with their service successfully along with the failures. It was trying about every 15 – 30 minutes. Most were successful. My WAN IP address wasn’t changing and my other DDNS software wasn’t seeing changes so I figured it was Synology.  The was another recent forum post with a similar issue. I turned of DDNS temporarily. If my address doesn’t change (and it rarely changes) it will continue to work. I’ll just need to turn it back on within 30 days since Synology will delete my name after 30 days of no contact. By Monday Synology acknowledged it was a “glitch” at there end and I re-enabled DDNS. The DDNS registrations on my Synology boxes seemed to have returned to their once a day rhythm.

My Windows 7 PC has joined in the frustration fest. A while back I had a problem with Picasa needing to be re-installed.  I figured it was a Picasa issue, but the problem spread. I found it was a Windows 7 issue, the file permissions are getting changed/corrupted. If I fix them all is well and the app runs. I’ve also had other scattered disk issues. It looks like it’s time to re-install everything. The only question is will I get to it before the problem goes beyond mildly annoying.

Being an equal opportunity OS user I’ll go ahead an mention that my Mac Mini is also getting frustrating. Disk reads are getting pretty slow. To the point that if I’m watching a video I better not copy files. Other programs slow down when there’s other disk activity too. I haven’t really dug into the problem but it may be time to flatten it and re-install. At least I hope that’s all it is and not a hard drive going bad. Opening up the Mini is a real pain. On the other hand, being forced to replace the HDD would be a good excuse to put an SSD in there.

I already wrote about my Windows Home Server 2011 problems. Things have been fine since.

Operating Systems

I’ve yet to install the Windows 8 preview although I have downloaded both desktop and server. I can’t get too excited about it. I like Windows 7 and until I get hardware to take advantage of Windows 8 I don’t see much benefit. While it still remains to be seen what the hardware vendors will do with Windows 8, I am looking forward to the Windows 8 tablets.

I’m more curious about Windows 8 Server (and storage spaces) than I am about the desktop. I’m happy with Windows Home Server 2011 but I’m always interested in alternatives. Still, probably not something I’d look at before the release candidate due in June.

“Cloud” Storage

Then there was the Windows SkyDrive update and Google’s long awaited G-Drive. I already used Skydrive to a small degree so I was able to go in and claim the 25 GB. I haven’t spent much time with Google Drive (and only on my Mac), but so far I’m not impressed. It’s more like sync than cloud storage, I did see options to limit syncing at the folder level which may help. It copied all my Google Docs locally although they would only open when I was online.

Other than getting my 25 GB I haven’t done anything with SkyDrive. I use Mesh but what I like most is its ability to sync files among my computers withough having to go to the internet. I use this for videos and I don’t want to install SkyDrive and find all this video going to the internet and then back down to my other computers. So I’ll have to check it out before installing it.

Wrapping Up

I’ve been using the ipSec VPN feature in pfSense and it’s been working pretty well. I’ve been having some issues around name resolution between my local network and the internet. It seems like problems keep creeping in and I have to tweak the settings (or use IP addresses for my local network). It seems most of my remaining issues are related to specific apps, especially iPad apps.  Most of the remaining problems seem to be limited to specific iPad apps. Hopefully I can get them sorted out over the next month.

Also on tap for May is re-installing my Windows 7 desktop and my Mac Mini.  Once that’s out of the way I’ll start exploring the Synology apps to see if they’re good for more than disk storage. We’ll see hope much of that I actually get to over the next month.