Archive for category iTunes

My bumpy road to iOS5

It’s funny when you get an error message and you start to Google it and see the undercurrent of comments and posts about how other people have been having similar errors. It’s almost like an underground movement of fellow victims, trying to help each other out. Anyway, when I tried to update my iPhone 3GS and iPad (v.1) to iOS5, I quickly encountered an error during the backup step of the upgrade (when iTunes backs up all your info and media so that it can restore it after it’s wiped out your device and put on the new OS).

An error occured while backing up this iPad (-5000).  Would you like to continue to update this iPad? Continuing will result in the loss of all contents on this iPad.

Don’t you just love those scary parts at the end? “Oh, BTW, you can click continue if you like, but you’ll mostly likely be screwed if you do. Don’t say we didn’t warn you!” So, I didn’t click. I started to Google instead. Apparently this problem has been around for a while, going back to several updates, and has happened with iPhones, iPod Touch, etc. Since it was happening with both my devices, I figured that it wasn’t my device’s fault, but something more general.

The help on the boards was not great. There were people who found that retrying the process did the trick (but others tried it over 30 times with no joy). Some people said that turning off their Microsoft antivirus did the trick (which was useless for me, as I had no Microsoft anything). There was also some suggestion that just using the Restore to factory default would give you iOS5 as well and you could just use one of your backups to restore the rest afterward. Some people found that to be the solution, however there was a whole conversation string devoted to people complaining how backup errors wipe out your previous backups so there is no way to restore once you encounter the backup error.

Hilariously, there are often people on these boards who have too much time on their hands and like to deride others with real problems. One guy complained at having lost all his years of tweaking and customization done to his iPhone. I totally get that as my number one priority was not to lose my Angry Birds progress! So another guy responded to the first post by expressing disbelief at the amount of tweaking the first guy had done, suggesting that he’s just being a whiner. Have some sympathy, man! Don’t kick us when we’re down. We have the right to have all our tweaks (no matter how trivial) preserved if they can be.

Finally, after weeks without any luck (even waited for 5.0.1 to see if that version was any better), my plan was to do normal backups (which I could do for some reason) and copy the backups out of the backup folder (\Library\Application Support\MobileSync\Backups) into another folder. Then when the upgrade process wiped out my backup I could still copy them back after I clicked the Continue button to install iOS5, wiping out my device. Then I could restore my files and tweaks from a backup of the backup. However, in the process of backing up the backups, I discovered that the backup folders were protected (at least for me). I could only copy them, not move. And even after copying, I had to log in as administrator to rename them. This turned a light on in my brain. [Cue flashback dissolve effect] When I got my new MBP and restored my folders from Carbonite online backup, I unwittingly changed the name of my admin account from my previous iMac and so the folders that I copied over were protected in this odd way. I needed to log in to make changes to them.

Realizing the problem, I didn’t need this backup of my backup anymore. I decided to try an experiment and I renamed the original backup folders in the original location, and made a new folder called “Backups” in the same location (new folders are not protected in the same way as the other ones were). Then I went to run the update in iTunes, and voila! It worked!

Now I am happily using Notifications, enjoying the multi-touch gestures on my iPad, and trying to manage the confusion that is iCloud. Plus, ironically, I’ll be able to do future updates through the cloud, and avoid these same problems. (I wrote this post not because it’s likely that any casual reader would be having this problem, but since I found no one out there posting this exact same solution to their -5000 problem, I wanted to put my story into the ether and hopefully in future if someone else does, they will Google my blog and find this solution. Here’s to you, future backup error sufferers!)


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Suping up your iTunes experience

This all started when I was walking down the street with my iPod in “Shuffle Songs” mode. I was totally groovin’ and then suddenly a slow song came on and tanked my momentum. Yes, I know I could’ve just skipped to the next track, but it was kind of a bummer and I thought that there must be a way to make a playlist of only faster songs. There’s a BPM (beats per minute) info field on all my music tracks, but alas none of them have the info filled in. So I turn to the internet for more free software to help me supe up my iTunes/iPod experience.

bpmscreenshot_1.jpgiTunes-BPM Inspector (and Tangerine)

The solution I found for adding BPM information is called iTunes-BPM Inspector. It’s not a new program, but it’s good. A floating window appears with a button that you click while playing a song in iTunes. As you press the button to the beat, the program tells you the BPM of your clicking. Once you reach the correct number (the number turns blue), simply hit Set and iTunes-BPM Inspector will drop it straight into your track’s meta-information. It’s really very easy and iTunes-BPM Inspector even has a little graphic that switches and two little lights that toggle to the beat so you can test that you’ve got the number right. Once all the tracks have their BPM info, it’s a snap to create a smart playlist for tracks that have a certain BPM and up — pure uninterrupted strutting can commence! (By the way, it may seem like a lot of work to do this for each track, but it actually becomes kind of fun. There’s no easier way to get into a song than to tap the mouse to its rhythm.) There’s also a cool program called Tangerine which does all the BPM analysis for you (at a zippy 3 songs per second), but you have to pay $25 for it. For those of you without the time or inclination to do it all manually Tangerine’s an incredibly painless way to go (you might want to check out the free trial).

While we’re on the iTunes topic, I thought I would mention a few other little add-ons that I like to use.


Sing that iTune!

If you are interested in lyrics, this free little Dashboard widget will grab them for you every time you play a track in iTunes. (It’s a bit of a trick because you have to switch on your Dashboard for it to do the lyric search, but that’s not too tough.) You can follow along with the song as it plays, or the widget also includes the option to write the lyrics to the audio track each time it finds them so you can take them with you on your iPod.

Amazon Album Art

For those of us fond of album art (especially for using with Cover Flow, where we just can’t tolerate the generic clear square that appears when we don’t have album art for a track), this widget is perfect. Whenever you encounter a track that just doesn’t seem to retrieve any album art using the handy dandy right-click in iTunes (like Madonna’s Grammy-winning album, Ray of Light), just click on this widget and it will go to to retrieve all the different covers that it finds. Click the bar to set the album art in iTunes and voila!

Gimme Some Tune

This is another free program which you can set to run whenever iTunes is on. It will display a semi-transparent window at the bottom of your screen with the track info and album art. If you turn on a setting, it will get song lyrics for you as well. There are many other settings that you can customize to your own style (for example, one option will make the window vanish whenever the mouse pointer runs into it.)


Bottom line is that while iTunes is a great program to use for your many music needs, there are a number of add-ons to make things even better.

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iTunes 7: All the small things



Because I got the software upgrade along with my new computer (with bonus new iPod), I can’t tell whether all the changes that I’ve noticed are iTunes 7 related or not. Nevertheless, I’m really loving the new version of iTunes for all kinds of big and small reasons.

Cover Flow

This feature creates a virtual collection of album art for all your music (which doesn’t have to be purchased via iTunes music store) that you scroll through like flipping through vinyl LPs in the record store. Nostalgia aside, it’s incredibly sleek (though its practical value is questionable). Even though I think it’s much easier to find songs using the normal text-based listing, ever since I got iTunes 7, I’ve been hard at work getting all the album art for every single song I have (which numbers close to 4,000). The feature is great, but not flawless. If the name of the album or artist don’t match up with the online database, you can’t pick up the album art automatically (I found that out the hard way when I asked iTunes to grab all my art automatically but it got stalled at some problematic tracks and wouldn’t go on). Now I do it all one album at a time. I even have a dashboard widget that queries Amazon to pull up album art for ones that iTunes cannot get. My latest time-waster is that I’m trying to match all the individual tracks from my compilation CDs to their original art. Obsession, thy name is “Cover Flow”!

Skip when shuffling

One of the things I used to hate was the Shuffle Songs feature, because it always seemed super-lame to go from a song to the next track (which might be an audiobook chapter, or a podcast). Now there’s a track option that allows you to check off Skip when shuffling. So now that I’ve checked off all my audiobook chapters (and I think this might be checked off by default for podcasts), they never show up when I shuffle songs—it’s pure grooves all the way.

Remember playback position

Another track option that’s cool is that you can tell iTunes/your iPod that it needs to save the position you last listened up to on a track. This is especially useful for long audio files like podcasts. Too often I used to want to switch to a song or something at some point in a podcast, or maybe I’d arrived at work and need to turn my iPod off. Now when I go back to that podcast track, I don’t have to listen from the beginning and scan through to the part where I stopped listening. My iPod knows exactly where that spot is and starts from there—sweet.

Gapless playback

This one’s not as important to me. There was a lot of mention of this in all the hype surrounding the release of iTunes 7, but I just don’t have that many albums of continuous, gapless music. Nevertheless, when I set that option on the tracks from Madonna’s Confessions on a Dance Floor, it was cool not to have that split second gap as one song flowed into the next.

More than just for their practical value, these changes help me keep the faith that Apple’s the kind of company that really tries to understand how its customers are using their stuff and wants us to have a good experience.