iPod Classic and iTunes 10.5: Support Observations

Ever since iTunes 10.5 came out with support for “iTunes Match”, I’ve been debating whether I should upgrade my home system. I did a wide variety of web searches, and finally opted to monitoring the RSS feed of the Apple Support community for the iPod Classic. In doing so, I’ve learned a lot…

[Updated 2011-12-16;  2012-01-13;  2012-01-16;  2012-01-25; 2012-02-26; 2012-03-04]

[¶1] First and foremost, I’ve learned that many iPod users (well, at least those that go to the support forums) don’t understand how iTunes and the iPod coexist. There are numerous questions about syncing, and why something doesn’t sync. There are loads of questions on how to move an iTunes library from one computer to another. My advice in this area: Keep your digital music on an external hard drive, and back it up regularly. Also backup your .itl files (iTunes Library Files), and the XML equivalent, and recognize that paths need to stay the same if you want to use the library on a new computer.

[¶2] Second, I’m still unsure about iTunes 10.5 or 10.5.1, and wouldn’t advise moving to it unless you really need it. I’ve seen loads of posts from people using the latest version of iTunes, and the common complaint is that the new iTunes is taking forever to synchronize, or it doesn’t recognize the iPod, or thinks the iPod is corrupt. The problem appears to be (especially on Windows) that antivirus products interfere with the synchronization, the synchronization times out, and ends up corrupting the filesystem of the iPod. The iPod then mounts as a disk but isn’t seen in iTunes, with the usual recommended solution of disabling the anti-virus, doing a CHKDISK of the iPod, and then attempting to restore the iPod. This is a typical response in this vein. Here’s is more useful advice on how to break up a transfer.

[¶3] If you want to try to reinstall an older version (no guarantee it can read the library), try visiting the oldapps page for iTunes. Alternatively, you can visit the Apple Knowledgebase Search function, search for your version, and then restrict the search to “iTunes” and “Downloads”. For example, doing so I found the link to download iTunes 10.4.1 for Windows (64 bit). If you do so, I suggest making sure you have a backup copy of your iTunes database (i.e., the .itl, .itdb, and .xml files in your iTunes directory), and that you have completely removed iTunes following these instructions from Apple. It probably wouldn’t hurt to have a complete backup of your music files as well, but I’m sure you do that already. If not, here are instructions on how to backup your music to an external drive.

[¶4] ETA: Another interesting data point: If you just disconnect, the archive bit could be set resulting Windows to ask you to “Scan and Fix” the iPod. Here’s what to do if you get that message.

[¶5] For a lot of other problems, it seems that people still don’t know about the “5 Rs”. In particular, rebooting the iPod (I find) tends to be the answer for click-wheel slowdowns. Don’t know the 5Rs? Look here.

[¶6] When something goes wrong, ask yourself: Did it work before? What changed? Sometimes that can give you the clue. If you updated your iTunes, that could be the underlying cause. Although you might have to restore your iPod, you should consider going back to an older version of iTunes. This points out two other another important rule: (1) Always back up your iTunes database before you update iTunes, and (2) Always make a copy of each iTunes software download, so you have it in case you need to go back.

[¶7] I’ve learned there are some hidden modes on the iPod Classic. In particular, there is an iPod diagnostic mode. I haven’t experimented with it yet (although I will if there is a problem). This post on the forum talks about the mode. I’ve also found articles on the mode here and here. Another good discussion of disk diagnostics is here.

[¶8] A common query is how to move music from the iPod back to a computer. A lot of people refer to this post on the forum (written by forum regular Zevoneer). Myself, I’ve had good luck with Copytrans, or you can just find the music files and add them directly (of course, then you lose ratings and play counts).

[¶9] A similar common query is how to move music to an external drive. This support article indicates how. If you want to understand things better (or are moving between operating systems), this article from iLounge provides a real good explanation about how to move media the right way.

[¶9.5] Backing up your music is an important thing to do. iLounge has an excellent article on the subject: The Complete Guide to Backing Up your iTunes Library. Read it. It describes the structure of the library and how to find your files. There are lots of ways to do it: Use your backup program to backup your music files and your iTunes directory; manual copying; etc. Here is one user tip from the iTunes forum for backing up; I haven’t tried it yet. However you do it, do it regularly and to a different drive than your main music drive.

[¶10] An iPod displaying a Red X is a bad thing. In almost all cases, it appears to be a hard disk crash. Alas, the answer for that is either Apple Service, or just buying a new Classic. Here’s what Apple says. Some suggest attempting to realign the head by a gentle slap of the iPod against your thigh. It is important to remember that an iPod Classic has a spinning hard disk, not a solid state disk. Sharp bumps, drops, etc. can misalign the heads and result in a head crash, and that’s often all she wrote.

[¶11] It appears that car audio systems, especially those with dock connectors, are particularly bad for the iPod classic. If there is no transformer or fuse in the middle, some of the newer ones can corrupt an older classic. At this point, I’m only sticking with using the headphone jack to connect to a speaker system. BMWs are particularly bad here. Often, the problem is software incompatibility between the car software and the iPod software. Again, the headphone jack and an external charger is the safest approach.

[¶12] Some people don’t know the generation of their iPod. This page can help them find out.

[¶13] What else have I discovered? Error 1439 can be the wrong type of USB port. Error 69 indicates some corruption in the library. Sometimes the only answer is to start afresh–that is, completely erase and reformat the iPod disk, and then restore the iPod to out of the box status and reload.

[¶14] Lastly, it’s a bad thing to drop an iPod Classic. No duh from me: there’s a hard disk in there. But loads of folks drop their iPod Classics, and then post wondering why it is no longer working, and making a clicking sound… Water is also bad, but if your lucky and the amount of water is slight, you might be able to save it using these tricks.

[¶15]Evidently, there is an alternate OS available for some, not all, portable music players. In particular, it does not seem ready for prime-time on the iPod Classic. Information is available at http://www.rockbox.org/

[¶16] Turingtest2 has a nice post explaining how to fix album groupings in iTunes.

I’m posting this mostly for my reference–so I can find these things in the future. They may be of interest to others. For those out there that have iPod Classics (us older holdouts) and Windows 7: How is iTunes 10.5 or 10.5.1 working for you?


Good Security Analogies

I tend to like good security analogies. The one below was originally posted by at Security, privacy & accessibility. Thoughts?


The latest DDOS of LiveJournal has once again brought out cries of “Fix the security of the site!!!” I’ve made this analogy a few times, in a few different ways, and I think I finally have it nailed down.

Imagine LJ as a whole is an apartment building. Each person has an apartment (your journal) and the building has common areas like lobbies, meeting rooms and the gym (communities) & infrastructure like elevators, central heating, and plumbing (FAQs, the login system, various directories, etc…)

Now, this isn’t a perfect analogy because you do want your friends to be able to access your journal to see friends-only posts, and you want people, even anonymous people, to be able to read your public posts, but it’s good enough.

So a security breach would be like the superintendent leaving the front door to your apartment unlocked, or even worse, wide open. Anyone would be able to walk in, rifle through your stuff, take things, and even trash the place. In terms of LJ, this would be something like password failures, or someone breaking into the server directly instead of through the website.

A privacy breach would be like if the superintendent left your bedroom curtains open while he was fixing something. Anyone in the right place could look into your apartment, but they can’t steal or damage anything. In LJ terms this would be like the privacy failure of October 2011, where LJ briefly showed cached pages to people who shouldn’t have seen them.

A DDOS would be like if someone changed all the streetsigns in the city to direct every tourist to your building. They can’t get into the building because the doorman is keeping them out, but unfortunately you can’t get into the building either because the huge crowds are keeping you away from the door as well.


Writer’s Block: B.Y.O.B. Holidays

Well, I always celebrate the Annual Computer Security Applications Conference (ACSAC), which is always in December. Great people. Great technical content. A conference committee that is like family. Wonderful food. Interesting locations. What more could you want?

[Wait, you mean there are other holidays in December? Well, I don’t celebrate Christmas (I observe that it is on the calendar), and Chanukah moves around. New Years Day is in January. So I guess it is ACSAC.]


And I Thought I Was Done With Travelling for December

Some like to travel. Some don’t. I’m one of the latter folks, until I’m actually off and in the adventure. For example, I was on travel all last week to ACSAC in Orlando. I didn’t look forward to the travel, but I did look forward to the people I was with. I’m talking about travelling because last night we saw a play about travelling: “Travels with my Aunt”, based on the novel by Graham Greene, adapted by Giles Havergal. This was the fourth play in the six play Colony Theatre subscription season.

Before I came into this play, my mind was mixing up this play with a combination of “Travels with Charley” and “Charley’s Aunt” to give “Travels with My Aunt”. I was wrong. “Travels with My Aunt” is Graham Greene’s only book that he wrote for the fun of it. It starts at the funeral, where we meet Henrey, a 30-year bank manager who has just retired. The funeral is for Henrys’ mother. At the funeral, we meet his Aunt Augusta, who informs Henry that she needs a travelling companion, and that his father liked to sleep around his mother may not be his mother. From there, the travelling begins, with trips to Brighton, Istanbul, Brazil, and eventually Paraguy. As you can imagine, through all these journeys, Henry and Augusta meet numerous characters: college students, spies, nazi collaborators, police officers, porters, servents, and such.

Here’s the kicker: This show has a cast of four. That’s right. Four. They play all the parts, with two of the actors being primarily Henry and Augusta, and the other two actors playing all the other characters. Reminds one a bit of “The 39 Steps“. In some sense, this show is like that, but a little less madcap. I should mention, of course, that Aunt Augusta is played by a man. A man who does not dress like a woman. But guess what? If you give it a chance, it works (and works quite well). [Alas, about 20 audience members didn’t give it a chance, and left at intermission. Their loss.]

In a show like this, credit goes not only to the writer but to the director and the actors. Let’s start with the director, David Dean Bottrell, who does a great job of bringing out all of the different characters (20 in all) and making it clear that these are all different characters. This is done through voice, mannerisms, slight differences in costume, and actually isn’t confusing at all. This allows men to play women, women to play men, and men to even play dogs. The talented acting team helps here as well. In the lead positions we have Thomas James O’Leary as Henry (and the young Visconti). O’Leary has a friendly manner as Henry that draws you to him; he’s simple and likable, and you would want to travel with him. Mark Capri plays Aunt Augusta (and Sparrow). Capri plays August in men’s clothes, but becomes an excentric doddering aunt through mannerisms and voice alone. He does a great job with it. Rounding out the cast, playing the remaining 18 roles, as Larry Cedar and Sybyl Walker. Cedar played the Vicar, Wordsworth, The Dog, Hakim’s Assistant, Miss Patterson, O’Toole, and Yolanda. That’s right: a range that included a black African (Wordsworth), females, animals, and tourists. Walker played Miss Keane, Sparrow’s Assistant, Hatty, Tooley, an Italian Girl, Frau General, Hakim, a Spanish Gentleman, and the Older Visconti. That’s right, a range from men to women, from Caribbean to Nazi. You can imagine how crazy it could get… but it worked.
[All actors are members of æ Actors Equity ]

The technical side was strong. The scenic design by Michael C. Smith was simple: travel posters in the back, and crates and suitcases that were flexible enough (when the props and dressing by MacAndME were added) to become almost anywhere. SImilarly simple and flexible was the costume design by Sherry Linnell, which provided the merest hint or suggestion for each character. Lighting was by Jared A. Sayeg, with sound design by Cricket S. Myers. Rebecca Cohn was the production stage manager, and Robert T. Kyle was the Technical Director.

Travels with My Aunt” continues through next weekend, December 18, 2011. Tickets are available through the Colony Theatre, and should be available through Goldstar. The remaining productions in the Colony Season are “Old Wicked Songs” (Feb. 1 to March 4, 2012) and “Dames at Sea” (April 11 through May 13, 2012).

Upcoming Theatre, Concerts, and Dance: Theatre is quiet for the next few weeks; our next live theatre is at the end of December, when we see Fela!” at the Ahmanson Theatre (on 12/29). Of course, there is the de rigueur movie and Chinese food on Christmas day. January will bring the first show of the REP East season, as well as (hopefully) “Art” at the Pasadena Playhouse and “God of Carnage” at ICT Long Beach (ticketed for February 5). February will also bring “Ring of Fire” at Cabrillo Music Theatre, “Old Wicked Songs” at the Colony Theatre, and Bernadette Peters in concert at the Valley Performing Arts Center. As always, open dates are subject to be filled in with productions that have yet to appear on the RADAR of Goldstar or LA Stage Alliance.


Conference Report

I know I’ve been mostly quiet this week—that’s because I’ve been busy! I’m in Orlando FL at ACSAC, which means (as a long-time conference committee member), I’ve not only been running the training program, but I’ve been handling the setup and breakdown of projectors, distribution of room signs, and helping provide the NSS perspective in the FISMA track. In fact, I’ve spent most of the conference in the FISMA presentations, with the exception of one panel on Trusted Identities. Today should be a little different—I’ve no interesting in the 800-39 session, and will be attending some of the other technical sessions.

The conference itself has been great. What really sets this conference apart are its attendees—ACSAC has the best attendees hands down. I”ve had some wonderful lunchtime and evening discussions. The sessions I’ve been in have been good (no useless sessions), food has been excellent (and alas, quite caloric), and the hotel is lovely. We’ll be back here next year, which will be my 23rd year at the conference, and my 22nd year on the committee!