On Bits of Various Descriptions and Music


I’ve been talking advantage of local holidays to take 2 4-day weekends in a row, and it’s been simply great for unwinding, even if some of the notable stuff ended up happening during work days.For instance, last Thursday afternoon I attended codebits, and besides the event itself1, most of the fun consisted of sitting in with @ppinheiro76 and @nosuchuser (obviously, after a while everyone had their Twitter handles written on their nametags) to watch the early stages of their robotics project.

For those of you who don’t know the venue, the Cordoaria Nacional was built back in 1771 for rope and sail rigging work, and besides stone walls thick enough to cool it like a meat locker, it also opens into a couple of courtyards, so despite the massed heat of 600-odd geeks and their kit (loads of which were sporting Apple gear, by the way), I thought it best to leave my overcoat on at all times.

So I left after @pedrocs and @shrike_pt had a nice mixed narrative/technical session2 on Pond – by popular demand, @chbm and I did have a go at making fun of the current color scheme, but the boys had an interesting surprise towards the end of the talk (sadly, I can’t find the video here, so I can’t share it with you).

Anyway, I left just as the “coldbits” jokes were getting a bit too real – I suppose I missed out on a lot of fun, but an afternoon’s work was as much as I could spare, and 3 day’s worth of geeking out is something best left to the folk who can fit that kind of thing into their long-term schedules.

As to other goings-on, I’ve been mostly trying to get my music library together. After two months’ worth (i.e., what would be ordinarily only a couple of days if I had enough free time) of getting all of my photos into a single, consistent backup set and handing out copies to family for safe off-site storage, I’ve been spending the past couple of weekends trying to sort out my music library (books are next, in case you’re wondering) and have reached two main conclusions:

  1. iTunes is brilliant for listening to music (i.e., the Genius stuff, the Remote app for the iPhone, etc.). I actually miss the fat, blisteringly hot Apple TV I borrowed from our TV folk for testing, since it got so much of that right3.
  2. iTunes is utter crap for actually managing it as far as backups are concerned, since getting stuff out of your Library in a coherent fashion is a mess, mostly due to the way there is a weird split between the original metadata on the files and the extra (but ultimately extraneous) stuff iTunes stores in its own database.

So I ended up writing an AppleScript to export the whole thing – with metadata built into the files themselves – into easily manageable folders (that will find its way online eventually, once I get rid of the ugly way I’m handling copying).

This last bit (cleaning up and exporting) is taking a good while, mostly because I’m doing spot checks to see whether I want to re-rip some of the original CDs and there’s a whole lot of music I haven’t heard in a long time, so I’m piping it out to my Airport Express during the weekends and bringing along huge chunks of it with me every workday.

Which is brilliant, since I am having a lot of fun that I probably wouldn’t be having if a friend of mine hadn’t given me an actual CD for my birthday – I’ve been meaning to clean up my music library for years now, and now it’s happening with a vengeance – I’m now listening to music (and paying attention to it) practically every day.

But one thing that annoys me tremendously (and has done so at least once a week for a couple of years now) is the inability to manually manage music in the iPhone on any Mac I happen to be using4.

After all, if I’ve let Apple have access to my entire music library to get Genius to work, they might as well let me manage music manually on any Mac I login with my iTunes account – I can resort to hacks like cloning library IDs, but my biggest issue is that this restriction was built in by design, which I find a completely asinine approach that has, on the whole, rendered my iPhone useless for music.

Which is only one of the reasons why I’ve been using my 360 phone as my primary device for a while now – I plug it in, it shows up as roughly 16GB worth of USB storage, I drag in whatever I want to listen to from any machine, and it just works, like the MuVo of yore. No extra software. No monkeying around. No artificial restrictions.

But never mind – I promised I wouldn’t go on about work, and it seems that I’m going to have to take some photos of actual CD covers (mostly Portuguese ones that you can’t find anywhere), so I’d better make the best of what little time I have left this weekend and get on to doing those…

1 It being organized by Sapo and their (technically) being the competition doesn’t mean we can’t get along, and they deserve credit for the fact that it’s pretty much de rigueur for anyone doing Internet-related stuff in Portugal to drop in on at least a couple of sessions – the geekier bits, quizzes and competitions are, of course, targeted to a different audience, but there’s something in it for everybody.

2 Besides, it’s a lot more interesting to know your competition face to face…

3 The PS3, sadly, is not only a mediocre music player but also lacks a credible way to control remotely (no, Remote Play via the PSP isn’t it), so all I can really do with it is watch movies and store photos there.

4 I know all about the iTunes restrictions, rights management and whatnot – but I see no reason for them to apply to stuff I own in physical format and rip to different machines as time goes by – and no, Home Sharing doesn’t cut it for me, since I don’t want to share stuff across machines – I just want to pick a few tracks from wherever they are and drop them in my iPhone, without any hacks.