By Dwip April 24, 2012, 4:33 am Comments (6) RSS Feed for this post

So, people are always saying how awesome Apple software is, and how slick and smooth their stuff is.

Well, I’ve got an iPod Classic and an iPhone 4, and I use iTunes a lot for both, and…iBegToDiffer.

…Sorry, won’t be doing that again.


I’ve kind of touched on this before, but the way iTunes (and my iPod Classic) handles podcasts is something of an atrocity before mankind.

I mean, the business I linked to, where if the metadata on a podcast ep is fucked up iTunes tries to file it as music, that’s bad enough. It’s dumb, but you actually don’t run into it that often.

However, then there’s the fact that iTunes, and your iPod, want to list all of your podcasts with the newest episode at the top of the list. Now, I don’t know about you, but I’ve generally got a podcast or two that I let pile up, so I can listen to them a few episodes at a time. It’s nice when I’m at work.

Now, in a proper oldest first arrangement, like, oh, I don’t know, albums, you could start the first one, and they’d just kind of automatically play in order (and if you were listening in iTunes, you could make it do this), but that’s not your iPod wants you to roll. And since this is Apple, you’re going to roll how your iPod wants to roll.

No, the way listening to groups of podcasts on an iPod works is, you listen to the first one, then you stop what you’re doing at the end, grab your iPod, click scroll up to the next one, hit play, listen through that, listen as it starts playing the one you just listened to, and repeat the process.

It doesn’t take rocket scientists to know this may not be the best UI decision ever.

Apparently it’s possible to perform some kind of voodoo with playlists to get around this, but if you’re performing voodoo with playlists, you’ve already lost.

So that’s kind of annoying.


In short, all the same problems as podcasts, except they’re filed under Music because that makes any damn sense at all. But, at least it’s not like the iTunes store has a huge audiobooks section or anything, so it’s not like anybody’s using their iPod to liste…oh wait, they do?

Well, shit.

iTunes U

You may have heard of iTunes U, the super cool thing Apple has where you can get, for free, entire college courses that you can listen to and watch. Pretty cool, right?

Well, yeah, except, and you’ll never guess this part, the iPod treats iTunes U stuff not like its own thing, like podcasts, or like anything else except…Music. Hope you don’t have a huge album collection so you can actually find things.


So that stuff is all fun, if not precisely destroying my life. So here’s the really great part, which is that iTunes is completely reliant on mp3 metadata to organize all your stuff. Did you stick all your songs by that one band in a single folder, thinking that would solve the problem?

Well, I have ten different Smashing Pumpkins categories in iTunes that say that if your metadata is at all messed up, trying to find things in iTunes starts looking pretty Wild West:

Fortunately, most people are either downloading mp3s with metadata already added, or ripping off CDs. Which works great, right up until there’s an error in the metadata and the band name is wrong. Or they got the album art wrong. Or any of a dozen minor but highly annoying problems you get when your program relies on 100% accurate data entry.

Fortunately, there are solutions, provided you’re willing to manually fuck around with metadata, which I am because I’m crazy.

This is all to lead in to the fact that, because I listen to more music than most people, I have something like 500 albums worth of music, not all of which are actually recognized by anything, not all of which had metadata to start with, and a significant number of which are concert bootlegs in various states. Which is all to say that MP3tag and I embarked a while back on a multi-year project to cleanup all my bogus metadata so I can actually find shit in iTunes again.

Because iTunes doesn’t, you know, care about file directories. And iTunes is smarter than you like that.

Unsupported Formats

Which leads me to my current problem, which is that iTunes isn’t willing to play with FLAC or WMA or a number of other things. You may have heard of these formats. They’re sort of popular in some circles, which is to say people who care about lossless audio.

So maybe you want to get these files into mp3 because iTunes doesn’t do the plugin thing, so it’s not like somebody can just write some code and fix it or anything.

As best I can figure out, you basically have two choices here:

A. Pay some fly by night operation $30 for a tool that will do the FLAC->mp3 conversion in one click.

B. Find some free open source software to do the trick, which in this case appears to involve eschewing the one click option for a work environment that looks like this:

What’s going on there is this:

1. I run a folder full of FLAC files through the FLAC frontend, which as the name suggests is a somewhat dodgy GUI frontend for a command line tool, because we’re basically rocking it Linux style, which is basically rocking it like Windows for Fucking Workgroups. This particular command line tool spits out a bunch of WAV files, which by themselves aren’t particularly useful, except…

2. I run them through CDex, which is particularly ancient and not all that special except that it happens to have functionality to convert WAV into high quality MP3. It also takes pretty much forever.

3. Unfortunately, one of the cute features of CDex is that it outputs all of its mp3 files into some subdirectory in Program Files, which means keeping a pair of Explorer windows open so you can copy whole batches of files over a couple days later when CDex finishes.

4. Oh, did I mention you’re going to have to run them all through MP3tag and manually edit in the metadata? Yeah, that’s a thing you’ll be doing. Good luck with that.


iTunes, it must be said, is sort of like democracy. It’s a terrible program, but then you look at the alternatives.

Music, Random and Ravings, Tech Comments (6) Trackback URL for this post RSS Feed for this post
Comments on iRant
avatar Comment by prettyfly #1
April 25, 2012 at 2:19 am

Well, I’d more or less come to the same conclusion on the general shitiness of iTunes but the lack of decent alternatives. Its part of the reason I only touch the program on the three monthly intervals I buy music.

But actually, what really caught my attention was that you appear to have 118 smashing Pumpkin’s albums and 1094 songs. That’s…alot.

avatar Comment by Dwip #2
April 25, 2012 at 2:58 am

A little less of the first, ultimately, and a little more of the second. As it happens, I’m a fan. Prolific and high quality unreleased material, etc.

If you add up all my SP and all my U2, it turns out to be something like 1/3 of my entire collection or so, which should give you some idea.

avatar Comment by prettyfly #3
April 26, 2012 at 1:11 am

I don’t really have such a penchant for trying to get my hands on every single piece of a bands material for some reason, probably at least in part because I don’t have a habit of pirating music and live a good distance from any decent record store (I could probably count the number of albums I’ve ever pirated on one hand). Which, interestingly, means that although three quarters of all the music I listen to is AiC (or Jerry’s solo work), the total number of songs I have in this category is 82, which kind of pales compared to your collections (in fact, you’ve only got slightly less Smashing Pumpkin’s songs than I have songs altogether). Although, I’ve also taught myself to play a lot of AiC music, so I suppose that counts for something.

Also, have you seen this? iTunes also seems to like to play games with Rotten Apple’s track listing. The ones in upper casing and no capital for the title are good (otho, I doubt you’d miss that), but the rest seem to have been swapped out for a bunch of Belly songs. Which is weird, but then, it’s iTunes.

avatar Comment by Dwip #4
April 26, 2012 at 1:30 am

Pretty sure my Rotten Apples is ok, although I rarely touch that album directly.

As to the piles and piles of Pumpkins thing goes, I actually have a pretty good chunk of stuff on CD, from back when record stores didn’t suck, lots more off Amazon. As to the rest, SP (and U2, my other big chunk of music) have open taping policies for their shows, so there’s lots of free and more or less legal concerts in various repositories. And since there a number of multi-CD compilations of unreleased material, well. It starts adding up.

I’m just fanatical about collecting stuff by bands I really like.

avatar Comment by Tarl #5
May 4, 2012 at 7:40 pm

I like mediamonkey for organising music files, personally, although I haven’t made use of it’s reputed ability to sync to iphones/ipods/ithings so can’t comment there.

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