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iTunes could be better

As a follow-up to my article claiming that iTunes is awesome I have to share my gripes with the product design.

1) "All (27 artists)" shouldn't scroll in the browser. It should always be at the top of the list as it is now, but it shouldn't scroll with all the other entries. It sucks to have to scroll down, pick the right artist from a compilation, select the compilation in the albums part of the explorer, then have to scroll up the artists list manually to hit "all" again.

iTunes in it's current form.

My suggestion, "all" at the top no matter what.

2) iTunes is great with the iPod when you have less music then capacity on the iPod, it sync's EVERYTHING. It is less perfect when you have more music in your iTunes library than space on your iPod. Automatic sync stops working. What does work is that you can sync specific playlists or you can sync completely manually.

Manual syncing sucks because it is too much work, so we are left with the playlist option.

this isn't too bad as iTunes has awesome smart playlists. I can define a playlist to the capacity that I want.

What it lacks is the ability to make a smart playlist with a size setting of "whatever space is left". I want to put all of my handmade playlists on the iPod at all times. These are smart plalists where I include all the songs with high ratings and traditional playlists to match certain moods and a traditional playlist where I inserted all my "must have" albums. Thus, to finish it off, I want a smart playlist which fills the remaining space on my iPod with random full albums.

you can't define the space "remainign space" and you can't do "random albums" at the moment. If they can fix this then I will be happy forever.

...or until I think of something else that I want like the ability for ratings to be saved in the id3v2 "popularimeter" field so the ratings can stay in the file instead of the proprietary database. I also want to see a flag for "live music" so I can add my 100's of live concerts to my database, and filter them out since they aren't albums per-se.
( Permalink... | 10/27/2003 07:00:00 PM PST )

Preventitive maintenance is good

On friday I ducked out outta work early to go biking. It was a very nice day and it was even sunny outside. Not the norm in October I fear. This was, a good idea.

The bad idea is this... well first what we did.

We wnt on about a 6 mile ride up a gravel road, hoping to take a right after about 2 miles onto a mountainbiking trail, but that wasn't possible since the trail was closed for the winter (presumadely to prevent trail damage in the muddy rainy months) So we just kept cruising.

Conveniently, about 10 minutes before we needed to turn around, My bike decided to start acting up. I noticed first that It was coming out of the fastest gear awfully easily. Then, what really got me was when i saw the whole chain ring wiggling uncontrollably. It was supposed to be held on wit 5 nut/bolt combos, but 4! of them had wiggled off and disappeared. After trying to ride with the remaiing one tightened to the max and having no luck, trying to borrow one from brendan (his dont require a nut so no dice, and trying to ghettostyle it with a stick and with a rock, i gave brendan the keys and told him to go get the car.

I looked to see if i couldnt find the nut/bolt on the road, and I infact couldnt. There wasn't an obvious temporary nut/bolt to use off another part of the bike as it needs a big not to fix. So i Ghettostyled it with a pair of nits and bolts off the bike lock mount for the bike lock that I no longer have.

What it SHOULD have on all 5 connections.

My ghetto solution.

Needless to say, the ridiculous hack worked. but the moral of the story is 1) I am an idiot, and 2) preventitive maintanence is good. If i only tightened my componenets before riding (or ever...) then this shoudlnt have happened.
( Permalink... | 10/26/2003 11:56:00 PM PST )

A geeks quest for wire nirvana

I'm trying the impossible here, trying to reach a farway land I like to call wiring nirvana. This is the place where all the wires in your computer room blend into the surroundings, becoming transparent to the people in the room. And no, this doesn't mean that you cannot see the wires, Wires are far to pervasve for that to ever happen, I just want them to be out of the way, work all the time and easy to maintain when the time comes that you need to add, remove, move switch, swap or replace a wire for any ungodly reason.

The task at hand, rewire the dowstairs livingroom/den area. This room is an interesting challenge as it has a projector mounted on the ceiling, and my DataTower, the geeky set of shelves that house my gear. (made to match the size fo rack equipment)

On the tower lives 2 computer towers, a mini PC (my media center edition PC) my 5 component stereo system, 2 uninterruptible power sources and the house's main networking switch (brought into the fray today thanks to the fedex lady)

The wires were out of the way, but they were really difficult to change and it put a lot of strain on the wires. I knew i could do better.

So, needless to say all this shit has a absurd anout of wires. Today I cleaned it all up and even installed a new addition to the room, the convenient new Quickline ceiling wiring system. The quickline is basically just a piece of thick cable liek you might use on a zipline, but thinner, which is attached to eye=hooks and pulled as taught as possible. This carries the strain so that wires can be hung along the ceiling with velcro straps every 2 feet or so.

In Progress, you can see the Quickline and the velcro installed and a ethernet cable waititng to be tied in properly.

So yes, My wires are much better now, they are also easier to replace and they even stay a little more out of the way then before. The solution isn't elegant, but what can i say, the room has wood panelling from the 70's... does it really deserve better? (I wanna see "trading spaces" take on this room, I think they would just have their heads explode when they see how ugly this room is.)

( Permalink... | 10/22/2003 09:25:00 PM PST )

Apple continues to not suck

Yes, it's true, Apple does infact not suck at something. That somethign is the beautiful marriage of software and hardware that is iTunes + the iPod. ...and now, that marriage of awesomeness is available for windows.

Using the iPod on the PC had been like pulling teeth before. It could sync with MusicMatch jukebox, but like every other media library for windows, including the ever so shitty windows media player 9, MusicMatch sucks too. the iPod is my musical ying, and iTunes is my yang.

So why does it rule so much?
  • smart playlists like: "all rock and alternative songs from the 80's with a 4 star rating or higher

  • the best and most natural UI in the universe. You start out seeing everythign at once, then you can filter the music down by selecting a specific genre, artist or album. Better still, when you pick a specific genre, it limits the listing of artists to those who are within your desired genre and so forth with albums. SO, It's crazy-fast to find things.

  • syncs with iPod great. My old g4 was choking to sync the ipod, and now i'm flying high and fast with the iPod on my 2.4 ghz dell.

  • rendezvous-based library sharing is great, you can not only see your friends songs, but you see their playlists and ratigns too, it's like being in their room listening to their music, but from wherever in the house that you want.

And a few gripes: memory hog, skips sometimes on my 1ghz work laptop, bad .mp3 crashes import process.
( Permalink... | 10/22/2003 11:28:00 AM PST )

Why buy what you can make, or the Heat Shrink Tubing debacle

Today I decided I would finally replace my mess of extension cords that connects my information supertower to my Infocus X1 Video Projector. So, I'm planning an order right now for 2 25' m-m Video cables, one that comes out of my Media Center PC, and goes into the projector, and a second that goes from the projector's video out to the KVM, such that I can see the video Signal on my LCD when I don't feel like wasting bulb life time. I thought I should also get a s-video and an RCA cable so I can use those inputs as well. Now all of these come in 25' pieces through any wire retailer such as BUT, USB doesn't get longer than 15' because the spec doesn't allow it to be any longer without a active repeater. WELL SCREW SPEC, I want a 25" usb cable and I want it now.

So, I hacked open a cheap wannabe transparent iMac-looking cable and did what I alwasy do, grab some ethernet cable outta the spindle and went at it. USB is green, white (data i think) and Red, black. Ethernet is orange, white orange, blue, white blue, green white green, and brown, whie brown. I decided to cluster up all the white-color's and solder them to the shielding of the usb cable, as the twisting of a grounded signal shoud minimize interference, much as grounding around the cables in the center works. I then connected usb green to cat5 green, usb white to cat5 blue, usb red to cat5 orange and usb black to cat5 brown. I did all this on one end, having smartly remembered to slide some heat-shrink tubin on before soldering, as once you've connected the wire, it's impossible to get it over the usb-connector on the end.

then it was time for the other end, after a few hour break to play wallyball. So i jumped right in, having mastered my use fo two soldering irons to bring me up to a respectable 30w instead of just one's 15w. (i have dinky irons for fine electronics, not for soldering a blob of braided wire together.)

But! Dumbass me forgot the heatshrink tubing. grrmbl.
so i decided to keep being clever, so i sliced the one piece of heatshrink i already attached in half, and slid half of it the lenght of the cat5 to the new join. It wasn't enough to totally cover it, but coupled with some elec tape its sufficieint.

(and yes, at this point I tested the cable ant it worked fine)

And now the heatshrink debacle part two.

I don't have a heat gun. So my first try was to put the wires into a ziploc bag, with most fo the cable stickign out but just the sections of heatshrink in the bag. I then dipped the bag into boiling water. Success, no, but it did shrink a little bit it seems.

As we speak the toaster oven is climbing to 500 degrees. Will this be the answer to the heat-shrink tubing shrinking at home project? Who knows, but it sure is fun wallowing around in my own incompotence sometimes.
( Permalink... | 10/22/2003 12:41:00 AM PST | 0 comments )

Bluetooth sucks

So I decided that I would succumb to the Bluetooth hype and get a Bluetooth keyboard/mouse/receiver from the company store. 100$ seems a lot, but the Bluetooth USB adapter has some inherent value too.

So, Problem 1. I install hardware the minimalist way. Insert new hardware into PC or plug it in, it asks for drivers, I find them ont he cdrom or the web, and it works. That way I don't have to deal with the hassle of all the extra crap they like to install as a "bonus." Blah, whatever.

needless to say, the driver installs, and I hit connect on the mouse and nothing happens. As it turns out there is a wonderful little control panel called "wireless link" and I had NO FREAKING IDEA that it existed.

THEN, to install the mouse (or pair it as the Bluetooth lingo goes) you have to press connect on the mouse, then hit find on the Bluetooth section of the wireless link tab, then wait, then it finds the mouse, then hit ok, then change away from the default which is that the Bluetooth device and your machine have some sort of security code, then see that the mouse provides mousing as it's one and only service to the world (no shit sherlock) and SELECT mousing, because by default, I want to install/pair a mouse, but not actually use it as a mouse.


So it works when its set up right, and the range is pretty good in fact.

But, here I get mad again., I take my Bluetooth usb gadget and mouse and keyboard tot he apple store in the mall, so I can see if their keyboard works with windows. IT should right? it's a STANDARD isn't it? Well, no it doesnt work, infact it sucks totally. I can pair witht he keyboard or the mouse just fine, but the issue is that I don't get the option of enabling mousing or keyboarding as a service from this hardware. BUMMER DUDE, the microsoft keyboard has a hideously bad click-feel and I wanted the apple one so bad.

So that's me beign mad times two.

Final blow.

to keep it short, the microsoft driver fro the microsoft Bluetooth adapter doesn't even support standard Bluetooth audio. which means I can't go use my Bluetooth headset with the microsoft Bluetooth adapter and it's respective microsoft answer to Bluetooth drivers, but rather would need to buy the tdk Bluetooth adapter and use tdk's proprietary non-microsoft native drivers. Not even 3com's Bluetooth will work. why? because each friggin vendor has their own hardware and own Bluetooth usb converter and software which has it's own standard ways of talking to it's own proprietary drivers.

GIVE ME A FUCKING BREAK! Bluetooth can definitely go the way of the do-do bird if they can't get this right!
( Permalink... | 10/21/2003 03:17:00 AM PST | 0 comments )
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