May 14, 2005

firewire != USB

Warning - this post is geeky.

I don't really know exactly why... except that I can, but this week I thought it would be good to associate album art with all of my iTunes songs. Some time ago, I downloaded Fetch Art and tried to update the art on the songs that were already on my iPod, but that doesn't work due to the fact that what goes on the iPod, stays on the iPod. So there is a side benefit - adding the art requires relocating my music, and doing that also gives me the opportunity to farm out my iTunes library to an external drive instead of storing it on my measly 30GB one in the iBook.

In order to edit the songs, I used an un-Apple approved utility to move all of the songs off of the iPod onto my USB/Firewire external hard drive. Due to the deal I got, I was lucky enough to get an iPod with both the USB and Firewire cables. However, my work PC only has a USB port, so that's where that cable is. (Do you see where this is going?)

Luckily the external hard drive has two firewire ports, so I plugged the hard drive into my iBook, and plugged the iPod into the hard drive. That worked great, initially.

First I moved my iTunes library onto the external drive and ran the "Consolidate Library" command to get all of the songs moved. Then I extracted the music from the iPod. The extract takes about 2-1/2 minutes per gigabyte, so half an hour later, the songs were off. The aforementioned utitlity also automatically merges them into iTunes. I then ran the find songs w/o artwork script. In about two or three minutes, I had a nice little playlist with 2500 songs in it that needed artwork.

When I ran Fetch Art, I found that it was a three step process. The only problem is when you have to repeat steps when they fail! First, you select all the songs that need art and run a "Find." It loads all of the song info into the Fetch Art application and then goes out and does a search on Amazon for each title/artist/album combination to find the art. Once the art is downloaded, you issue a batch import command and it dumps it all into iTunes. Theoretically. Not only is this process slow (more than 6 hours,) but mine got hung up on the import to iTunes on some goofy filenames for tracks that weren't even real album tracks (podcasts, things I made, etc.) When it did, all of the work was lost. And, when I woke up in the morning, the iPod battery was dead because there's no power coming out of the six-pin port on the external hard drive.

So on Friday, I took my rig to work and while I was in a six-hour planning meeting, I let Fetch Art do its thing again, purposefully omitting the filenames that I thought were going to hang it up. It did fine for about 500 songs, but then it started giving me some odd scripting errors, so I had to abort. I was smart enough to use the USB 2.0 cable to connect the iPod, so it was putting right along (although at this point, I hadn't even used it.) At the end of the day, I decided to give up on Fetch Art and do the process manually. It turned out to be fast and easier than I thought. Fetch Art goes track-by-track, but The Human Brain™ can actually choose a group of tracks that are on the same album and drag-and-drop the correct artwork onto them. I got the remaining 1900-2000 tracks associated in about an hour!

Now this morning, the chore is to transfer the songs back on to the iPod. Here at home, I have the iPod firewire cable, and both cables for the external drive, so I thought, "duh, I'll just plug the drive in via USB and the iPod via firewire for the transfer." Not so fast. Although the drive mounts on the desktop with the same name, and the path (USB-HDD:iTunes Library) is the same, something deep inside the internal UNIX workings of OS X or iTunes doesn't like the fact that it's coming in on a different wire. I crashed iTunes twice before I figured it out.

Right now, I'm on song 2594 of 2953 transferring back to the iPod, cover art and all, and I have 119.42 GB of space on the external drive to fill up with my iTunes library... but only if I have a Firewire cable handy.

Once that's done, then, and only then will I be able to mow the lawn (wearing my iPod, of course.)

No comments: