Thursday, May 31, 2007

iTunes Store audiobook debacle

If I hadn't already said goodbye to Audible.com, I'd be saying goodbye to audiobooks from the iTunes Store in this post. Early last month, I purchased "God is not great: how religion poisons everything" by Christopher Hitchens as an audiobook from the iTunes Store. It cost $A 36.99. I downloaded all four parts, and synced them to my iPod. None of the parts would play. More specifically:
  • All four parts would play in iTunes on my PC.
  • All four parts transferred to my iPod, metadata and cover art intact.
  • On pressing play on the iPod, each part behaved exactly the same way: a brief disk access was followed by the iPod returning to its main menu without playing a sound.
Disappointed, I lodged a problem report via the iTunes Store interface in iTunes, and went to bed. I never got an email confirmation of that original problem report, nor did it ever receive a response.

Without a response from Apple, I tried to troubleshoot the issue myself, and started at the seemingly appropriately-titled "Troubleshooting songs and audiobooks that won't play" page. I worked carefully through their algorithm. I deauthorised and reauthorised my computer. Multiple times. I tried recreating my iTunes library—this experience was special, because, without warning, and undocumented on that linked page, iTunes throws out some of your metadata during this process, including Play Count, and Last Played date. Playing fast and loose with user data seems to be a feature of Apple software.

Still without a response to my initial problem report, I began navigating the twisty maze that is Apple's corporatoid website: the feedback form is 4-clicks deep from the front page. On the form page I used at the time (it seems to have been corrected now), there was a very promising link about audiobooks on iTunes for Windows which points to a non-existent page. I related my woe in some detail to the form.

The support droids were stumped. They admitted defeat fairly quickly, which was about the only redeeming feature of our interaction: they had no idea why it wouldn't work, and couldn't add any suggestions beyond what I had tried. They credited my VISA card within a couple of days of my purchase. I guess that counts as a partial success for me, though I'd rather be listening to the audiobook.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Why does iTunes randomly "update" some tracks?

I connected my iPod to my PC for the first time in maybe a few weeks. I hadn't added anything to my iTunes Library—whenever I do that, I connect the iPod and sync. Despite this, iTunes decided it was necessary to "update" some 1,000 tracks (of about 3,600—not all of them) on the iPod. Why is this? The only thing I had done prior to this was update iTunes to 7.1.1.5. Does this really require the "updating" of a third of my music collection?

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Fax

I have yet another entry for the No Doubt Everyone But Me Already Knew This file. (That file is getting quite large.) A handful of times since getting a PowerBook, I've thought to myself, "It would be neat to be able to fax something directly from this machine. Maybe I should look at getting a fax modem." Now, anyone with a PowerBook would know that there's a female RJ11 socket on one side of the machine (that is, a place to stick in a phone line). It even has a little telephone handset icon next to it. I've seen it before, though I can't remember what I thought it was for. Of course, what it's actually for is plugging in a phone line so that the internal fax modem can send faxes. I discovered this two days ago, thanks to Jamie Zawinski, who apparently discovered it himself last week.