Apr 23

Putting iTunes on my NAS

So far so good.

The tools I have used are Dupin2, TuneUp, and an interminable series of iTunes versions. Also in the mix, the embedded iTunes server on my Western Digital MyBook Live.

Briefly, I used Dupin2 to analyze my MacBook Pro iTunes library for possible duplicates.  There were a lot of false positives at this stage, because y library was all hosed from years of dumping and insufficient curation of my stuff.  Turn Dupin2 loose on your library, and then inspect the results — take no action on the first several passes.  This is a laborious process, and I had to get comfortable with tuning the thing in order to start seeing the results I wanted.  Of course, what makes this valuable is that we have the ability to tune it, unlike iTunes.  Eventually, I reached a risk/reward decision point, and pressed PURGE.  Dupes nuked.

Then, I used TuneUp to attempt to fix as many tracks as possible.  TuneUp is an awesome piece of software, and there is a reason it rakes in the dough hand over fist.  They want twenty bucks for it, and they get it every time.  You want something to fix your iTunes metadata?  THIS IS IT.  Pay up or keep suffering.

Then I used Dupin2 once again to detect dupes now that the metadata is right.  This turned up a larger number than I suspected it would, which is a testament to TuneUp’s superior ability to ferret out the true identity of tracks in your library.  Again, there are a lot of false positives, which is fine — tune and inspect, then execute.

Satisfied that the MBP iTunes library was as good as it was going to get for the time being, I restarted the machine and told Time Machine to take a backup.  I hadn’t restarted in several months, so that was a little troublesome, but there were no real problems).

The goal of this is to get my stuff up on the NAS and see if I can have a dedicated MacBook Pro run the library, while clients connecting to the network have the same collection streamed to them by the embedded iTunes server on the NAS; not from the MBP.  One very large reason for this is that I cannot sync my iPhone to the NAS.  I need the MBP as an authoritative central point.

One huge wrinkle on all of this is that I already have a very large collection of music on the NAS.  Several, in fact, with a large percentage of duplicates, many of those duped many times over.  So right now, I have satisfactorily organized the library on the MBP, and am working on the NAS itself.  Why?  I know that there is a lot of music on the NAS which was not present on the MBP, and I would like to keep it.  But only one copy, and without all the stuff that’s already present on the laptop.

So I Option-clicked iTunes to make it start up and ask me about a library, and I pointed it to the existing poorly set up one on the NAS.  If that library had not been there, I could easily have created on at this point.  But it was there, and it sits in a folder on top of a large collection of music which is A) not in the library itself (has not been processed in), and B) not even the majority of what is on the NAS.  So we’re starting small, with about 100GB of music; just the stuff in the folders under the “proper” iTunes folder on the NAS.  There’s a lot more up there, though, including other attempts at setting iTunes on the NAS (I didn’t realize how much of it was already done for me or where I had to dump the stuff), and several dumps of refugee volumes of music rescued from various dying computers.

There’s also a bunch of files collected along the way which have never been in an iTunes library.  I was a WinAmp guy for a while; had a whole shard on a USB stick with WinAmp actually ON THE STICK, so it was portable, metadata and all.  Until the stick came undone, and I lost everything.  Unfortunately, that stick had been the result of about a year’s worth of merging and pruning, so that what remained on the drives which originally sourced that material was three large collections of highly overlapping track sets.  I dug out those drives, dumped it all on the NAS, backed THAT up once to the other NAS, and trashed the drives.  Never looked back until now; hadn’t been able to get my motivation up for the task.

So-o-o-o right now the MBP is chewing through a large part of a much larger collection up on the NAS.  It has “processed” all the files in the NAS’s proper iTunes Library folder, and is now “organizing” them, which I think involves taking each file and poking in a /artist/album/file.mp3 structure.  Whatever, it’s not my problem.

Let the machine do the work.   Been running about six hours, and a thumbnail estimate of the progress bar says it’s  maybe fifteen to twenty percent done.  Tomorrow after work, perhaps it will finish.  If not, no sweat.  It will finish someday, and if it hangs, I can just restart the whole process; since the changes are being written to disk, it should do maybe an hour of “processing” to see where everything is, and then resume wherever it crashed.  if it crashes; which has not been happening recently.

Just a peek ahead: the MBP library is now in a very good state.  I’ll append the text MBPXYZ or some such in the comments field of EVERY track on the MBP as an explicit marker of the track’s “blessed” status.  The NAS iTunes proper library is getting its first cleanup.  When that’s done, I’ll back that up to the second NAS.  Then the NAS library will get the Dupin2, TuneUp, Dupin2 treatment.  This will all be run on the MBP as it administers the NAS library — during the whole NAS grooming process, the MBP’s own local native library is disconnected from the iTunes app.  Then those NAS tracks will get the TENXYZ comment (the NAS’s device name on the network is ‘Tenshi”.  I’ll begin importing the heathen tracks from the trackless wastes in all the wrong places on the NAS.  This will be done in batches (same way I did it on the MBP), which works very well, and then those will be bounced against the TENXYZ tracks; TENXYZ comment wins the dupe contest.

Finally, I’ll have to consolidate the MBP library and newly groomed NAS library.  Notice something?  So far, nothing has moved across the network.  No files, that is, only metadata about those files, which is nominally an order of magnitude or two smaller than the files themselves.  I definitely want to reduce as much as possible the sizes of the libraries involved before i start doing network moves.  I will probably move the MBP library up in chunks (ask me about magic folders, a.k.a. brilliant playlists), and do dupe checking in increments.  but we’ll see how it goes (a long time from now), and adjust as necessary.

Excited about this.  Hope it all works.  So far, so good!


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Apr 21

Home Network Progress; Backups and Servage

Been having some fun with my home network.  Fun finally, because it has been not fun at all for quite a while.  I’m now winning on both of my NAS devices, which is letting me feel a bit more optimistic about returning to a sensible backup flow.  Been sort of commando for several months now, and that’s not good.  If you’ve ever been stung by data loss, you know how important backups are.  But there’s a lot of real estate between knowing what you need and getting it to work.

My overall plan has been to do frequent backups to the first NAS, which I also want to serve content.  Then that thing should do weekly backups to a slow, bulletproof NAS.  The NAS-to-NAS backup has never worked.  I have never gotten to the point where it was possible.  I understand it may be difficult, but I’m at least to a point now where both of the NASs are accessible from all of my machines, save a bit of research on NAS-to-NAS of course.

My fast NAS (named “Tenshi”) is a WD My Book Live with 2TB total, and no RAID going on.  so 2TB, and I want to keep a great deal of that free for good luck, which is not a technical term, but will have to suffice.  After all, the objective is to avoid bad luck, which is catastrophic data loss.  Tenshi is where I would LIKE to have my iTunes library, which may still have to be managed by the MacBook Pro, a house-bound machine with a dead battery and a nearly full hard drive.  There’s nothing wrong with the machine other than the battery, and it’s still plenty powerful, but I could not get past some stage of beginner-ism with it, and hence have never really warmed up to actually using the darned thing.    More on the later.  but iTunes is difficult to run as a networked home media server. so i have come up with what I think will work: let the MBP run the library on the NAS from the point of view of making changes.  Let everybody else connect through the embedded iTunes server present on the NAS itself, in read-only.  The only issue I foresee is contention between the MBP and the NAS server for things like play counts.  Finally, I will make an “iTunes_Inbox” folder up on the NAS, and the MBP will watch that as its default “add the contents of this folder to the library”.  Then everything else will dump media into that folder.  This way, only the MBP instance of iTunes is updating the library, even if the media came in through my Amazon downloader on the Windows 7 box.

On both of the NASs, I tried to create role-oriented accounts (guest, itunes_user, macbackup, and so forth), but managing those things rapidly exceeded my give-a-darn, as when it got too complex, I just wiped them out and rebuilt.  At one point, I had forgotten how to log into my bulletproof slow NAS (“Shatura”), which had me stalled on this stuff for a long time.  Then in doing my homework, I learned that doing a factory reset on a Promise SmartStor NS2300N will NOT affect the data on the drives, just wipe out the user / group / admin configs.  Super!  Reset it was, and when I then saw “file system error” messages, I was pretty steamed.  But let’s face it; I was not about to manually backup all the stuff on there just in case a reset would hash it.  After all, that is the BACKUP itself, and I have never had enough confidence in it (that is, in my setup of the system) to remove unconsolidated versions of what I copied up to it.  And as this is supposed to be the slow backup of the backup, I felt that anything present there was already in hand elsewhere.  I knew I was never going to go to the trouble of actually verifying that, so the decision was either plunge ahead or give up altogether.

So plunge ahead it was, I did the reset, got the error messages, and then was relieved to learn that all it wanted was for me to issue the command to recover the RAID.  I used to know more about this stuff; now I just know that RAID 1 works quite well on my NAS.  Everything was there.  All I had to do was create a guest user, turn on Windows file sharing (Mac, Unix, FTP and other options are available as well), apply the sharing service to the recovered shares, and assign the guest user access to them.  Then went back to the Mac and the PC and taught them how to log in as that guest.  So there I am, up and running on both NASs, but with no clue how to automate a NAS-to-NAS weekly backup.  haven;t really done my homework on that yet; I’m sure it’s not rocket science.

About that MacBook Pro…

I’ve come largely off the Mac wagon, and while I still love the hardware and respect the tech, I’ve simply never felt at home on mac the way I did in the days of System 7.  That’s right, 8 was foreign, 9 was incomprehensible, and X should really be called about three different families of OS by now.  I loved Jaguar, which I think was 10.2, and I greatly like the 10.5 – 10.6 era.  I’m writing now from 10.6.8, but I’m coming to it using VNC Viewer from Real VNC, which I heartily recommend.  So while the MBP is running Chrome, through which I’m typing this on the blog, I’m actually typing physically on my hp Envy 14, which I adore, and which runs Windows 7, which is a high point for MS.

I have a MacBook Air, but it’s one of the early small ones, with a stunningly short battery life.  That wouldn’t be so bad except that there remain zero options for mobile power.  Once the chintzy little battery is exhausted, you cannot connect to an external battery, and you cannot swap in a fresh battery.  Sealed unit, Apple power only, put it back in the bag, you’re done.

WELL, I’m just rambling, and I do want to get back to my NAS project, so I’ll simply cut this off here.  I can’t tell you how much the prospect of success on the home server front has brightened my outlook.  Heck, I’m even writing again.  See?  There is a light at the end of the tunnel, and it is called regular backups.

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Apr 21

Apple Snobs, Quality, and the MagSafe2

I am not alone in my consternation over the ridiculous power situation of the MacBook Air.  Shelley Palmer tells Apple just where they can stick their MagSafe 2 plug in a well-reasoned blog post entitled “Dear Apple – Let Me Tell You Where To Stick Your MagSafe 2 Plug”.

As it turns out, there is a very ugly, non-Apple-like solution available from Apple.  For $9.99 you can purchase a MagSafe to MagSafe 2 converter and stick it into your new, beautiful, extraordinary MacBook Air. Really?  For $2,500 bucks?

I hear you. I have one of the early, small, sucky MBAs, and aside from my frustration at not being able to use my 2009 MBP power at home and leave the new one in the bag so it’s always ready to travel, there’s a strategic mismatch building up here. Apple customers pay through the nose for insanely great products. Not 85% of what you need, and not the latest half-baked nifty shiny junk that will be unsupported roadkill in a year. For that we have Sony.

The execrable Lightning cable for the iPhone 5 is a similar issue to this, and it is just as unwelcome a change. I can see why they want to go to it, and two of the three reasons are fairly anti-customer. But that’s where it is, and they know they have us by the apps, and we’ll suffer along with what may be a necessary “feature”. But the MagSafe2 switcheroo has none of the obvious justifications, and all of the drawbacks.

I can travel with any laptop I want connected to a little battery plate, which is pricy and heavy, but 8 more hours of juice on the go for, say, trans-Pacific flights, which I do a couple of times per year. Any laptop except one. Oh, I’m sorry, two. The MBP also doesn’t play with “foreign” power bricks. But the MBP has a removable battery! Once the MBA is conked, that’s it; you’re done.

We don’t pay for this sort of abandonment. We are paying to have problems solved, and the style is a pleasant badge to connote our focus on quality. Now we drown in style while the functionality of the products goes downward. Those who feel that anger at stupidity is misplaced may be correct in a zen sense, but as paying customers, we expect to use our tools to do great things. Those who think that the correct answer is to pay ten dollars for a piece of junk that’s either going to get lost or epoxied to the original cable probably shouldn’t be reading this anyway. They’ll never understand the quality issue. There is no place for any “Oops, I lost the adaptor and now I’m screwed” assumption in a business relationship such as Apple has with us.

There are two types of snob: one type which revels in their snobbery, and the other revels in denouncing the first type as snobs. The first type pays for quality.

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Mar 21

Dow Jones 14,000 — Sort Of

With all the huh-bub surrounding the Dow breaking its old record set immediately before the last collapse, I haven;t heard one fact pointed out: that in inflation-adjusted terms, it has to get to over 15,500 to beat the 12% cumulative inflation we’ve seen since October 2007. In inflation-adjusted (“2007 real”) dollars, the Dow is currently somewhere around 13,000.
When you take into account the pumping effect of Bernanke stuffing funny money into certain investors’ hands, the apparent value of the Dow is even less.

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Sep 26

The Meaning of Life

People say that the ultimate question is the meaning of life, but I think that;s a cop-out.  People care very little for notions as abstract as that, although it can be fun to debate at the University duck pond, in terms as sweeping as they are impersonal.

A far better question is “Do I matter?” and I think that most of human activity can be divided into two types: that which makes a person matter, and that which makes a person appear to matter.  It’s a yes/no question and everybody wants the answer to be yes.  Failing that, they want other people not to know that the answer is no.

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Sep 26

Uncomfortably Numb (part 2)

I find it difficult to write these days. I’ve little time, I’ve said it all before, and it probably doesn’t help. It’s difficult to promote one’s own writing based on “See? I wrote this a year ago, and sure enough it happened!” Heaven knows I’m wrong as well, on a number of things–well, conversation helps reveal points of interest, even if the conclusion is a whiff.

This very lack of motivation to write (internal and external) is something I spoke of earlier, in a post entitled “Uncomfortably Numb”.

It’s not getting better.

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Sep 11

9/11 Oath

For the brave FDNY and NYPD and others who gave their lives, their health, their brothers to the flames and cataclysm in the hope of saving civilians: You were civilians in your own right, ambushed in a war from overseas, overmatched, laid low by cowards.

I humbly thank you for your sacrifice. You were not victims in the end, but soldiers in a battle of unknown dimension. While the world ended around you, you won, you hear? You did not lose, but won, and we the living will repay our debt to you, will not forget, will not forgive, but will emerge victorious.

This I swear.

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Sep 03

Victoria Hen –Update– Gone?

07 June 2013, i dont see the memorial. I hope its been moved domewhere nuce.  

The bus dropped us off in front of the Tom Bradley International Terminal, and we had seven hours to kill. We wandered. I saw a crane starkly silhouetted at an impressive angle, and went to grab a shot of it. My son took the opportunity to walk along a winding concrete wall through a small triangular green space. Two female security guards or airport police stood nearby enjoying their cigarettes. It took several shots of him, practicing keeping him right on the 1:3 horizontal guide in the viewfinder, as he wound his way away.
He mentioned that some state’s flag was on the ground, and I asked him which one. He didn’t know, but picked it up and waved it at me — it was the flag of Israel.

I got a great shot of that, and several more, as he came over to me. I saw that there were several US flags visible poked into the grass a ways away from where he had found the first, and then I could make out that there were some more Israel flags among the US flags.
He brought the flag to me, and we went over to the area where the rest were. Got shots of his progress, flag in hand. There was a plaque erected in honor of Victoria Hen, who had lived from 1977 to 2002. As my son and I poked the flag of Israel back from where it had obviously come, one of the guards approached and asked me if I knew want happened to Ms. Hen. I told her I did not.

The guard pointed up into the second story of the International Terminal while describing how Victoria Hen worked the El Al counter in 2002 when a terrorist attacked the place, and Hen was killed. I vaguely recalled the incident; I remember that after 9/11, it had seemed huge.
“I didn’t know that El Al carried guns around,” the guard said, “But they sure took care of business. Took that guy down quick.” I said that being the Israeli airline, they couldn’t stay in business any other way.

She said that the wind had been strong, and always messed with the flags. The larger American flags had either not been disturbed, or had been restored. I looked around and saw that there were several more Israeli flags scattered among the low shrubs and ground cover. I mentioned that perhaps the flags had some help in getting scattered about being Israeli and all. The guard nodded as though I had said something profound, rather than obvious.

My son and I poked the rest of the Israeli flags back into the small memorial. The guards went back to work down a ramp into a restricted area. I lingered to grab a few more shots of the memorial, and noticed a HUGE vertical wall display of an American flag on the side of what I think is Terminal #4. I lined up so that the Stars and Stripes swelled over the small memorial, which nestled in a small triangle of shrubs, grass and gravel, at the counterclockwise end of the curb in front of the Tom Bradley International Terminal.

The next time you’re in the area, I’d appreciate it if you could check up on the flags there. You can even do it from inside the terminal. Before entering the ticketing counter lanes, if you walk all the way to the left, there is a sign which says something like “Nursery and First Aid”. Go through that door, and you see a window. If you look out the window at the ground below, that’s the spot.

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Apr 15

Sins of the Sister (Excerpt)

Feminism is that force in politics which enables pornographers, abortionists, womanizers, pimps and human traffickers to have their way with women. They are granted political and social cover; even a cachet that increasingly welcomes these vile practices to casual exposure and creeping approval in the popular culture.

beaten to death versus rent money. This is empowerment?

Movies like Pretty Woman portray prostitution as some sort of independent consultancy, which like many careers can pose challenges and force decisions in order to resolve conflicts. Just another job. Nothing is different, everything is relative, and women like Julia Roberts’ hooker are at their best when weighing the odds of being strangled and beaten to death versus their need for rent money. This is empowerment?

I cannot imagine a more pathetically conflicted creature than a woman who feels that she is “empowered” to receive money for sex, unless it is the supposedly respectable women walking about with their clothing on and defending the practice. This sort of thing only makes sense to those whose worldview is that all sex is either rape or prostitution. They have decided to enthusiastically promote the lesser of two evils as if it were right and good. Misogyny is a spectrum disorder, and a lot of women have it.

It is an appalling spectacle reminiscent of the scene in Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four where the pigs and the men look at each other across the table, and not only can we no longer tell the difference, but neither can they. Why bother oppressing your own people when you can get them to do it themselves?

Excerpt from an upcoming essay. –hbd 15apr2012

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