iTunes: Hyperbole and Complaint, and a Podcast Plug

Last year I got an iPod Shuffle, Second Generation (1GB) for Christmas.

I didn’t know that I wanted an iPod, and because it came with a gym membership and an offensive turquoise warm-up suit I was sort of skeptical of the device. But I got into it and now I don’t know what I would do without it. I’m hooked! So much so, in fact, that I stress as much about not being able to update the iPod as not being able to do work for money when I am having computer problems. Priorities, right? If I knew how much I was going to like podcasts, though, I might have lobbied for a different machine. This Shuffle does not like to sort. I didn’t know that for a while, because right out of the box I was able to rearrange things to my heart’s content. For months! I had no idea that this rearranging thing to my heart’s content was a bug in the software. One day, quite by accident, Husband clicked on the title field in the iPod window in iTunes and sorted everything alphabetically. What a pain! All the podcasts got lost in the music instead of hovering at the top of the list where I put them. So I located them and put them back in order.

It didn’t take. Not only didn’t it take, when it was plugged into iTunes I couldn’t rearrange things at all. Looking around online I found mostly two lines of conversation about it:

1) Dude, which part of “Shuffle” don’t you understand? You aren’t supposed to be able to sort things. That’s the whole point of the technology. You want to sort? Buy a different iPod. Don’t be cheap.

2) Apple sucks and their stupid proprietary products suck and you suck, sucky loser.

Fortunately, I found a thread with a workaround, and it works great. It’s cumbersome, and annoying, but effective I recently accidentally sorted the songs on my iPod and had to reset it, but it isn’t hard. I’d like to thank Laurie Hanes from the Apple Discussions forum for this solution, to which I have added a step because I have a separate playlist that contains a list of all the songs I like to keep on my iPod; I share the library with my Husband and I am tired of scrolling through the entire list every time I need to copy my songs back onto it. I have also deleted a step–I don’t back up the library first. I live dangerously. I also live with Windows Vista and iTunes That’s probably important to say.

1) In iTunes, click on the “Podcast” menu selection. Export the list (it will be some text file).

2) Click on the “Library” and export that list.

3) Click on your iPod playlist (if you have one) and export that list. (I suppose if you have movies and TV shows, you ought to export those lists, too, but I’m guessing.)

4) Quit iTunes.

5) Go into the iTunes folder and delete the iTunes Music Library .xml files. Just do it. Do it now. 5… 4… 3… 2… 1… DO IT!!

6) Relaunch iTunes. You will have blank lists. It will freak you the fuck out.

7) Import your lists from the previous steps. Everything will come back, but it will take a while.

8) Plug in your iPod and put it back to the factory setting.

Voila! Now you can listen to your podcasts in your order!

All that said, I’m nervous now. When I was reinstalling my software onto the old computer after the crash, I figured it was as good a time as any to finally update to iTunes 8.0. I don’t think I could sort the songs in it, although I am annoyed now that I either didn’t do a thorough test at the time or was mucking around on the computer too late at night to remember anything. I went and got my old version off of CNET and the sorting worked fine. But we’ve been having iTunes Store song downloading problems for the past few days, and people are saying on the iTunes forums that you have to upgrade to 8.0 to download songs now. I can’t believe that would be the case, but maybe I am naive. Some bloggers suggest that the problem is on iTunes’s end because they released too many new versions of too many products and the servers crashed. I don’t know. I am sort of worried. If I can’t sort podcasts the way I want I’ll have teh sad. Yet I really, really want to download “Red Rubber Ball” by The Cyrkle.

But then maybe this is the part where I stop being pissed off at Husband’s friend who got him a silver iPod Shuffle for his birthday, thus stealing my thunder. (Husband and Friend have birthdays a week apart so they split the difference, which is why his gift got opened before my gift was even wrapped.) If the Shuffle–and I may be prematurely sour grapesing it–won’t sort podcasts in 8.0, and you can’t get songs unless you update to 8.0, then I won’t feel bad about being the person who gave an inferior gift. I’ll have to worry instead about being the person who gave no gift. Not a good person to be, especially considering that he rejected my anniversary gift to him of smaller silverware on the grounds that we already have silverware. Why he needs smaller silverware is a story I’ll let you, Gentle Reader, imagine. It’s a story much better in the untelling.

UPDATE NOVEMBER 24: The Workaround

Someone online whose post I will never find again on the Apple discussion boards offered this workaround to the downloading problem: You know that little eye icon, in the lower right corner by the “eject” icon? Clicking on that puts the iTunes Store in ultra-utilitarian mode. Click on it, and find your song by browsing Music/Genre (or All)/Artist/Album. At the Album level, the songs on the album appear below. You can purchase the song without getting that “Not enough memory” error message. My song downloaded, and I now own “Red Rubber Ball,” which is very exciting. You’ll probably want to locate the song in the regular, full-graphics view of iTunes first to see the album title and the music genre, in order to save time. It’s a pain, but it’s a workaround, and how often are you downloading songs anyway? Even if you download three a day, this is better than upgrading to a version of iTunes that might not let you arrange your Shuffle the way you want.

I’m keeping the video for you, Gentle Reader, because it’s a nice change from my text-heavy and static pictures pages.

Podcast Roundup

Well, I’ve written too much about too little, but I did want to review at least one more podcast tonight, so here’s another one I love listening to:

In Our Time with Melvyn Bragg

I am pretty sure I got the recommendation for this podcast from a member of The Skeptic’s Guide discussion forum. It’s not something I ever would have run into, not being a regular listener of BBC Radio 4. Melvyn Bragg is the host of a panel of experts, usually academics and professors, who discuss some particular historical topic for about forty-five minutes. The shows air weekly. Although I am not interested in all of the topics, I’ll listen to all the programs if I can. What sets this show apart from the others I listen to is the panel of experts. However arcane the topic or uninteresting the title seems to me, it’s really quite amazing to listen to people who have studied a topic extensively really dig into it. Most of the podcasts I listen to are enthusiasts and generalists (except for the TV show ones). Very intelligent and well-informed enthusiasts, but it’s not the same. You really do learn a lot from In Our Time. Where I think the shows get really interesting is the way the conversations touch on tangents that most people never considered because most people just don’t know enough to make connections between this specialized body of knowledge and the wider discourse about history and culture.

I am making this podcast sound awful. It’s not. It’s not boring. I actually wish it was longer, because sometimes I feel like the really interesting tangents have to be cut off for time. The last third of the show always seems slightly rushed, and there is frequently interruption and talking over people. Sometimes the host sounds a little impatient with guests who are giving too many details. I appreciate why the host prods people and why you can’t fully explore tangents, and I don’t think it detracts from the show at all. A more enterprising go-getter than me would use this as an opportunity to learn more about the subject.

The one disappointing thing about the podcast is that the shows are only in iTunes for a week. You can download them and save them on your computer, but to listen to the archives you can only stream them from the website. Because I only usually listen to podcasts when I am away from the computer, that is a sadness. The archives are sorted by topic (Arts, Culture, Math, etc.). The shows run in series, which seem to be about twelve episodes long. There is a break between series, and two weeks ago I could have told you how many and how long the break between series lasted, but I lost the old podcasts. It’s no biggie. The topics range from the “invention” of the concept of zero to Dante’s Inferno to neuroscience. It’s as interesting to see what the topic is going to be as it is to listen to the show.

There are quite a few comments on the show pages, and the caliber of comments is very high. Usually the people who write have their own subject matter expertise or back up their educated opinions, and they are worth reading. It isn’t random observations or reports of personal reactions. It’s actually information.

Tooling around on the website just now looking for a program description for the Links frame I just discovered that you can subscribe to a newsletter that the host, Melvyn Bragg, writes after each episode, providing insight on each topic. I’ve never gotten one. I’ll sign up now. I’ll tell you what I think!

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