Tag Archives: apple

iTunes Misbehavior (Part 934)

I still use iTunes sync my iPhone periodically to my computer (mainly so I can retrieve photos off the phone). Every time I do, I get to watch this:

It copies several hundred unchanged songs back onto my phone. This is apparently a bug. A known bug, known for years, that Apple just won’t fix because it’s Apple being Apple. Screw them.

(This bug is perhaps unrelated to a separate problem — honestly, a bug — wherein someone decided it would be a good idea to change the file’s “modification” time every time a song was played. This is an idea so stupid I simply cannot imagine how anyone thought it was clever.)

Mojave Finder Misfeature

MacOS X has a feature that nobody else has: Miller Columns. (There were evidently once a few Linux file managers that implemented it, but I’ve never seen it, and I’m too lazy to track them down. OpenStep did, which was where I first encountered them, but that was a straight knockoff of NeXTSTEP. Besides, nobody uses a bare Window Manager any more. The hipsters these days are all about desktop environments and— Hey! You kids! Get off my lawn, you kids.)

Miller Columns, we were talking about. Neat feature. It’s been there forever. Since before it was MacOS X.

So of course, in Mojave, Apple screwed it up. Behold:

The preview (right-most) panel used to provide some useful information. Now it has a button that enables you to see some useful information. THANK YOU SO MUCH, APPLE.

App Store Perils

Despite its undeniable convenience, I dislike Apple’s “App Store” for several reasons. The first is that Apple uses it to make developers dance to whatever tune Apple is playing that day. (This is part of their general philosophy of totalitarian control of everything, everywhere.) As a former developer myself, my attitude is “Screw them.”

But the other reason is that it sometimes breaks, and then the recovery mechanism is utterly opaque. Case in point.

Apple App Store Bug

This was the fourth time I downloaded 1.20 GB of Garageband content only to receive this useful message:

Apple App Store Bug

I don’t know who the intern was who coded this feature into the App Store, but they should have run this diagnostic message past someone who can speak English.

So. Google to the rescue. It turns out that not only is this a well-known bug, it’s one that’s been around for a long time. That Apple quality shining through as always.

Apple Sucks (Part 33,704 in a series)

A year ago, I wouldn’t have guessed that they could make iTunes worse. But they did. They took out useful things (like managing the apps with a mouse rather than a fingertip, and managing the order of screens). To be sure, it was always a crappy interface, more interested in showing you pictures than giving you useful data, or, better yet, a grid-based sortable interface. But that’s iTunes for you. Now it’s worse.

Obviously, there’s nobody at Apple who has more than a dozen apps on their phone. Or more likely, they’ve got some secret tool that the general public can’t use.

Oh, but they did tart up the app store (both the Mac and iOS versions) so you have to wade through commercials every time you use it. Want to find how monumentally huge that iMovie update you don’t want will be? It used to be on the first screen, but now it’s helpfully like four screens deep.

Thank you so much, Apple. You SUCK. But you knew that.

iMac Salvaged!

Mostly I’ve been blogging about my adventures in Linux-land. But I wanted to write a bit about my other project. About 9 1/2 years ago, we got an iMac, and about four years ago we replaced it with a Mac Mini.

The iMac was a mid-2007 20″ model. (This was the first Aluminum and Glass version, replacing the earlier white plastic models. You can watch Steve Jobs introduce the Aluminum Series on YouTube.)  The specs were: 2.0 GHz Core 2 Duo, 250 GB SATA, SuperDrive, and 1 GB of DDR2. It cost $1,220. The late 2012 Mac Mini that replaced it had a 2.5GHz Core i5, 500 MB SATA/5400, 8 GB DDR3) and cost $669, but we had to buy a monitor for it (a Samsung S23C570, which probably cost around $200). So the Mac Mini was definitely an upgrade.

But that wasn’t why we upgraded. It was because the iMac was barely working. The hard drive would go “tick tick tick” for the first hour or two whenever you started running it. The SuperDrive had quit working a couple of years earlier. (Technically, a DVD got stuck in it and could not be removed.) Plus the usual “I’m an old Mac so sometimes I just take forever to do things” that we’re all used to. We finally upgraded because we couldn’t trust that it would work any more.

So. Fast forward four years. I got tired of tripping over the iMac, but I couldn’t bear the thought of losing such a pretty computer. So …I fixed it. Or maybe I threw good money after bad and wasted my time fixing a ten-year old computer. Or both.

I watched a ton of how-to videos (this one was particularly helpful) and read the instructions over and over again. Oh, and before I did that, I got a set of tools from iFixit and parts from OWC (MacSales). Then, after putting it off all during Lent, I ran out of excuses after Easter. So I spent last Friday replacing the original 250 GB hard drive with a 2 GB drive and the SuperDrive with a 2.5″ 1 GB drive. Here’s what it looks like on the inside with the new drives.

iMac 20" (2007 model)

See more pictures of the work in progress on Flickr.

I will say that Apple sure doesn’t want you to make a bootable OS install disk. In spite of all the instructions they provide (here, here, and here). I own three Macs, but ((Shift+) Option+) Command+R doesn’t work on any of them. I finally dug up an old Snow Leopard install DVD and then upgraded to El Cap the slow and painful way.

Podcast Tagging

I’ve got a podcast and it’s a chore to update. I’ve built some tools to help me produce an RSS feed for the podcast, which is a good thing, since RSS = XML = too persnickety to do by hand. But I’ve had to do some of the work by hand, specifically, tagging the .MP3 files with the appropriate ID3 tags. I was using iTunes, which has never been very fun, and seems to get worse with each iteration.

Enter eyeD3. It’s a tag editor, but unlike most of them, you can operate it from the command line. Better yet, eyeD3 understands ID3 v. 2.X tags. The documentation for the classic eyeD3 interface is what I like best. You can use it to set all kinds of tags for your podcast. Like these v2.x tags here. If you want to set one of the date tags, you’ll need to know how to specify a date in ISO 8601 format.

Also, did you know that mp3info lets you get the length of an audio file from the command line? I didn’t, until I read it on the internet, and durned if it’s not true. That’s pretty nifty. And there’s even a Ruby API for it!

I also learned about something called mutagen, which is like eyed3 but for arbitrary types of audio files.

I spent the day learning all this, so my tools still need to be updated to do what I now know can be done programmatically. But I’ve done the hardest part, viz.:

Podcast Tagging

iTunes Confusion

Apple has never impressed me with their ability to have two different devices synchronize with each other. But they’ve got plenty of hubris, so they keep trying. Take the app store. (Please!) Here’s what happens when I sync my iPad: it tells me I need to authorize my computer to sync to it, I authorize it, and then it tells me never mind, because the computer is already authorized.

iPad Sync

OK. That explains it, then.

Software Update

In the mid-1990’s I worked for a telecommunications firm that was trying to make a set top box for interactive television. (This was even as the internet was exploding. Read Michael Lewis’ The Next Next Thing to find out what the “B Team” was working on.) One of the things I spent a lot of time on was “software update.” We needed a way to securely update the operating software in the device, and we wanted to do it while connected to our network, because the cost to roll a truck and have a technician do it was prohibitive.

A few years later, I was working for a different company trying to innovate in the electrical power industry. (I know, it was hopeless. But I was young and naive.) Anyway, we had the exact same problem: securely updating the software in a networked device. It’s a problem that’s fraught with difficulties.

As it happens, both of those ventures flamed out, so I never got to be part of solving that problem. But this morning, as I was eating my oatmeal, I saw that someone else seems to be doing it:


Not only solved, but untethered. Yay Apple.

Leaving iPhoto

Yesterday I did an “empty trash” command in iPhoto, to expunge 27 thousand photos I’d just deleted. Characteristically, the application hung. Well, it probably didn’t hang. After half an hour, I did a force quit, and on reopening the program and emptying the trash again, it told me there were about 5,000 photos to be deleted. Another 15 minutes wasn’t enough time for iPhoto to clean them up, so I force quit again, broke out a shell in Terminal and did:

$ cd ~/Pictures/
$ rm -rf iPhoto*
$ cd ~/Library/Caches
$ rm -rf com.apple.iPhoto

…which fixed things very nicely.

So ended a 27-month experiment with Apple’s end-user image management software. They also have a “pro” or “prosumer” product called Aperture, and if iPhoto is any indicator, I wouldn’t have it, even gift wrapped.

Between 2001 and 2009, I’d used my own set of tools to manage and manipulate my digital images, but when I got the MacBook, I decided to try iPhoto. That was two versions ago, and the things I disliked with ’09 weren’t fixed in ’10, and there wasn’t any sign they’ve been fixed in ’11 either.

What are those? Primarily two things:

  1. Speed. Or rather, its lack. The software just wasn’t very responsive. Dragging the elevator on a scroll bar felt sluggish, and if that’s not easy, what good is a photo management app?
  2. Noise. Running iPhoto was like playing Flash videos on YouTube: both cause my computer to heat up to where the fan runs. It doesn’t matter what I was doing in iPhoto; I could go away and drink a cup of coffee and it would just start overheating all by itself.

Now, I had some other complaints as well. I don’t need face recognition, and I would like text search, but Apple evidently has the opposite set of priorities. I would love to have uploads to social media sites, but the iPhoto way didn’t win me over at first blush, so I used other tools.

Sometime this summer, I gave up on iPhoto. Since then, I’ve spent my free time copying files out of the iPhoto library and renaming them and filing them elsewhere. I’d like to have tags, but what I’ve learned in 30 years with a Unix shell is that find(1) is pretty good at finding things:

$ find . -name '*whatever*'

for some really tricky things, I break out grep:

$ find . -name '*whatever*' \
	| egrep -i 'one thing|another' \
	| egrep -v 'but not this'

Yesterday, I finished the conversion and (after making lots of backups in lots of places on multiple drives), I emptied the trash in iPhoto. My fan hasn’t run since then.

I also noticed that while those 27K photos took 41 GB of space in iPhoto, they only occupy 38 GB in the filesytem. What was iPhoto doing with the other 3 GB?

Recovering eight or ten percent of a dataset isn’t chopped liver, but the space saving may prove eventually to be even more significant. iPhoto is monolithic. (By default, at least.) You put your files in there, and it’s a huge black box and you don’t need to worry your pretty head about what’s going on inside. But the filesystem gives me all kinds of options about how to manage my image files. For example, I can put different subsets of the data on different media, with symlinks connecting one part with another.

For now, I’ve stored everything in a single master folder. Within that, files are stored by year (2001, 2002, etc.). Within a year’s folder, I typically store files by the month (01-jan, 02-feb, …). Since I take the most photographs when I’m on vacation, I sometimes put vacation photos in their own folder (04-vac, etc.). Finally, I have a separate folder for video files called ‘movies‘. Those files are typically 10x or 20x as big as a photo, but I only have a handful, so I manage them as a collection.

The files themselves are typically given descriptive names (accident-minivan-01.jpg, home-oleanders-07.jpg) etc. Because I do so much work from the command line, I don’t put spaces in the names. In lieu of a space, I prefer a hyphen (-) to an underscore (_) because it doesn’t require a shift key.

In my next post, I’ll run through the tools I use to manipulate images.