Friday, February 29, 2008

Migrating iTunes from Windows to Mac OS X

I've had an iPod since December 2004, when I received one as a gift for Christmas. It was the first Apple product I ever owned, and it was responsible for me starting to take Apple seriously, something I had not done previously for a number of reasons. Anyway, that's just background to this factoid: I had an iPod before I ever owned a Mac, so my iTunes library has been on a Windows XP box since day one.

I want to decommission the aging monolith that is my Wintel P4 real soon now, so I set about moving my iTunes library from Windows to Mac OS X. How hard could that possibly be? Five minutes on Google lead me to believe, “Not too hard”—I came across not only an article describing how to do it, but official Apple support article 300173 entitled ‘How to use your iPod to move your music to a new computer’. This was going to be easy.

Of course, it wasn't. I made it as far as the subsection entitled ‘Is all the music together?’, step 6. From the Advanced menu, I selected Consolidate Library. There was briefly some consolidation, and then this:
Outstanding. In what universe does this qualify as a useful error dialog? Déjà vu.

There are at least two problems here.
  1. The first is completely obvious: For the love of god, which file name was invalid or too long?
  2. The second you'll have to take my word for: the consolidation operation aborted at that point, leaving (as far as I could tell) some of my music inside the iTunes Library, and some of it in its original location.
If either of these problems hadn't occurred, I could have moved on. If I knew which file was problematic, I could have changed its name. If consolidation had just soldiered on or it just reverted to the original state, I could have thought about a different approach.

To say that I was disappointed with how things were going at this point wouldn't really adequately convey my mood.

I had heard about software which could extract music from an iPod, but I had never tested any. Actually, I didn't even know the names of any applications. Google sent me to Senuti. Senuti certainly had no trouble finding the music on my iPod—all listed and organised as advertised, even the metadata (rating, times played, and so on). It also had no trouble transferring that music to my Mac Pro. What I couldn't get it to do, and what was going to be a deal-breaker this time, was transfer that metadata over to iTunes on the Mac Pro. I rode the change a preference–extract–check–delete merry-go-round for a few hours. I transferred my 20G music collection off the iPod about six times. Senuti could see the metadata, it just wouldn't pass it to iTunes. Then, sometime after midnight, eyelids propped open with matches, I somehow noticed I was running Senuti 0.50.1, and there was a 0.50.2b3 (a beta release—I had downloaded the latest stable release). I downloaded. I installed. It worked.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Mouse button preferences are being silently dropped

Since discovering that my Mighty Mouse can function as a two-button mouse, I've been experimenting with other mouse preferences. I've set ‘Button 4’—squeezing (somewhat awkwardly, in my opinion) the two side buttons together at the same time—to ‘Exposé – Desktop’. This preference seems to randomly revert to plain old ‘Button 4’—that is, it does nothing. About once a day I have to reset it. Why would a system preference just fall off like that?

Monday, February 25, 2008

Keyboard Firmware Update 1.0

Despite claiming last month that the MacBook Pro keyboard issue was resolved, I suspect it wasn't and that I had just become really good at ignoring it. In any case, I installed the “MacBook, MacBook Pro Keyboard Firmware Update 1.0” today. The bug is specifically mentioned, unlike my wishful thinking last time:
This MacBook and MacBook Pro firmware update addresses an issue where the first key press may be ignored if the computer has been sitting idle. It also addresses some other issues.
To be honest, I think this should have been fixed months ago.

Setting up a new Mac Pro

After the Mac Pro finally arrived, I was faced with some migration issues.
  1. The Mac Pro is my first desktop Mac. Moreover, it's the first time I've been using two Macs simultaneously, despite it being the fourth Mac in the house. So there are some synchronisation issues: Mail, Address Book, iCal, and so on.
  2. There are some applications I want to straight-out migrate from other machines to the Mac Pro, notably iTunes from my P4 Wintel box, and Aperture from the MacBook Pro.
  3. I want to decommission the P4 Wintel box as soon as I can. There's at least one legacy Windows-only application we still need to run occasionally, though, so I need to look into getting Windows running on the Mac Pro.
The first issue seemed like it would probably be the easiest, and this is how I went about it on day one:
  1. Vanilla set-up of Leopard. This is about the fourth or fifth time I've set up Leopard in the past few months. I couldn't remember my AppleID, so I didn't enter it. I hadn't signed up with .Mac yet, so I left that blank as well. It found my wireless LAN and I signed in. I finished up by running Software Update until there was nothing left to update, which ended up being twice.
  2. I changed the hostname.
  3. (Purely to see what it looked like on a 23-inch screen, I downloaded the EVE Online client for Mac OS X. It installed and ran without a hitch. And, for the record, it looks pretty good.)
  4. I joined up for a 60 day trial of .Mac. In my opinion, the service is overpriced at $A 139.95 per year. I can't imagine I'll use it for much more than synchronising my Apple desktop applications, a service for which that price tag seems a bit steep. But anyway, I'll re-evaluate that in 60 days. Next, I synchronised to .Mac from my MacBook Pro, and then back to the Mac Pro. It worked as designed.
  5. I installed some essential applications: Quicksilver, Adium, Yojimbo and iWork '08 from the Family Pack I bought a few weeks ago. Interestingly, Yojimbo knew it was licensed as soon as I fired it up—is this stored on my Keychain? iWork didn't. Even better, Yojimbo can synchronise via .Mac, so I set that up.
That largely covered the first migration issue identified above. It was fast and painless.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

NetNewsWire: unless I'm missing something, .Mac syncing is broken

I've been using NetNewsWire for some time now. I am still running version 2.1 on my MacBook Pro—I just never saw any point in upgrading. (There didn't seem to me to be anything important that 2.1 couldn't do. And one time I did download version 3, and found the user interface changes confusing.)

This afternoon, I downloaded (the now completely free) NetNewsWire 3.1.3 for the Mac Pro. I figured I would tough it through the UI changes and see how it goes. The only reason I did it at all is because NetNewsWire claims to be able to sync your subscription lists between different instances using .Mac. So I enabled syncing on the MacBook Pro, told it to merge its list with the server's (which is presumably blank to start with), and then synchronised. Then I enabled syncing on the Mac Pro, told it to download a copy of the server's list (planning to change it to merge after this first sync), and then synchronised. Almost nothing at all happened. The only discernible change was this: the article list for Daring Fireball (to which I am subscribed on the MacBook Pro, and which I presume is one of the default feeds for a new install of NetNewsWire) seemed to update itself to mirror its status on the MacBook Pro. Nothing else happened. In particular, it didn't subscribe me to the feeds I had synced to .Mac from the MacBook Pro.

Next I tried exporting my subscription list from the MacBook Pro, and importing it on the Mac Pro. Firstly, it dumped these in a top-level folder called "Imported Subscriptions"—an option to overwrite the existing (and in my case completely unwanted) list would seem more sensible here. And secondly, none of these were updated to mirror the read/unread status on the MacBook Pro.

I had one last idea while I was typing this post. I just manually deleted the default feeds to which I'm not subscribed, put the three to which I was into their proper place in my hierarchy, then moved the whole lot out of "Imported Subscriptions" up to the top level and deleted that folder. Then I synced again. Nothing. Top to bottom, apart from Daring Fireball as mentioned above, every feed is being displayed as completely unread.

Anyone care to suggest what I'm doing wrong?

Yes, Apple does sell a two-button mouse

I bought a Wired Mighty Mouse with the new Mac Pro. Just yesterday I was asking someone if they knew whether Apple sold a two button mouse. They do. The Wired Mighty Mouse.

Friday, February 15, 2008


I was going to entitle this post “Delivery”, but, as noted elsewhere, the Mac Pro was never delivered, and I had to go pick it up myself.
The guy at the TNT depot (who, frankly, I'm getting to know quite well) pointed out, somewhat sheepishly, that there was some damage to the box en route. Note the gash above the ‘M’:
It was certainly a substantial hole, though I could feel intact polystyrene within the box as I passed several fingers in to check it out.
I hear that Macs are designed by Apple in California these days.
The accessories are bundled into a slim cardboard package that sits atop the foam surrounding the machine itself. As usual, there's a place for everything.
Two pieces of polystyrene complete the minimal packaging. I pulled out the Mac Pro itself, shrouded in one final layer of foam wrapping.
I agreed to something or other as I tore through the rather verbose sticker sealing the machine in foam, put it on my desk, plugged it in and turned it on.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

There's a Mac Pro on my desk

The mini-saga that was me ordering a Mac Pro is over. There's a Mac Pro on my desk. It is almost certainly the nicest looking computer I have ever owned. It's definitely the fastest, and by far the most expensive. Here's the TNT consignment tracker:
Mac Pro TNT delivery.png
Let me point out the interesting bits.
  • Designed by Apple in California. Assembled in China.
  • Indeed, I was not at home on 12 February 2008 at 8:19am. I was on my way to work. So was my wife. We have jobs, full-time jobs. I don't recall ever being at home for a courier delivery. Ever. I've driven to the TNT depot twice, and the Australian Air Express depot once this year. I commented on this insanity almost two years ago. For a residential address, what's so hard about calling ahead and negotiating even a rough time estimate?
  • Once you miss a delivery, there's apparently no possibility whatsoever of collecting the package that same day. None. So at 7.59am the following day, I drove to Adelaide Airport for the third time this year. And left with a Mac Pro on the back seat.
I'm planning on a series of posts about various migrations from my decrepit P4 Wintel box to the Mac Pro, as well as managing, for the first time, a laptop and a desktop running the same OS. For now, here's my initial impression: the Mac Pro is fast. It's the snappiest I've seen Mac OS X, which, in my opinion, can be a bit of a dog on my MacBook Pro.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Leopard Help: still sucking

I noted back in November that the help system in Leopard sucks. For me, the biggest problem is being unable to move it out of the way and get it back easily. Here's another reason from August Mueller.