How I spent my year-end holiday part 5 of 6: Current & upcoming events/activities

Posted: January 21, 2010 by ralliart12 in 1-hour notebook, Pod dock
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

As of the moment, I’m still on the airplane (I started drafting this post 40mins after takeoff; remembered clearly because I immediately caught one episode of “V” when I was finally allowed to meddle with my iPod Touch without disapproving stares from the air stewardess). For the time being, I’m still actively providing feedback on Ovi games in Hardwarezone forums, but I’m pessimistic as to whether anybody reads my contributions.

Ah, the beauty of properly-tagged music

The next major project I intend to embark on is gonna span a few months, even a year (I will provide the derivation of this figure later on). I intend to properly re-tag & structure my entire music library to prepare for my next system format. I have over 6500 songs (excluding podcasts) across 2400 folders worth a total of 30GB of data. Part of the impetus for this is to have a quality “CoverFlow” experience on my iPod as well as nicely-displayed album cover art within my iTunes interface. The other part of my motivation is simply due to the fact that I like to have all things “as correct as can be” & it’s way overdue for an overhaul of my unruly music library.

These 2 sets of figures reflect the net amount of songs & albums I will have to process for this overhaul

My workflow will be as follows:

UPDATE #1: To comply with my future iTunes library eco-system, whereby multiple computers are made capable of iTunes library content management & iPod sync-ing regardless of connection status of external volume, && all changes are committed to a single instance of iTunes Library database, I have created a new procedure to instantiate my new iTunes Library:

Side-bar #1: One may ask, if I import new content into the sole iTunes library using a computer that isn’t connected to my external volume, i.e. grab new podcasts/import new TV series via my netbook in school, wouldn’t I have some media files on my netbook local hard disk & the bulk on my external volume? Well, visit the following link & read from “But what happens if I import media, download podcasts or buy something from the iTunes Store?onwards:


**********START of method for new machines that I introduce onto my “portable” computing environment**********

a) Create new directory for all media, “iTunes_Media” on external volume [absolut path: I:/iTunes_Media]

b) Create new directory for iTunes library database files only, “iTunes_Library_DB_files_ONLY” within my DropBox [absolut path: irrelevant/My Dropbox/iTunes_Library_DB_files_ONLY]

There is NO need to create this folder at this early step as you will be prompted to create it when instantiating a new folder for your new iTunes library.

b) Launch iTunes with “Shift” key depressed. Create new library & browse to a directory for the iTunes folder to reside under. iTunes launched normally with empty, fresh library.

For example:

if I browse to “C/Users/your_username/Documents/My Dropbox/“, & enter “iTunes_Library_DB_files_ONLY” as the folder name, my “iTunes_library.itl” (amongst other iTunes database files) will be stored at:

C/Users/your_username/Documents/My Dropbox/iTunes_Library_DB_files_ONLY/iTunes_library.itl

However, if I store it under that folder name, when using iTunes, the title (bar) of my library window will be:

Note the library window title (bar) follows the actual folder name where you store the actual library database files

c) Without adding any content, update the path of iTunes “Home” folder to location alpha.

Check state: verify Preferences that all configuration tat conflicts with current active library is UNchecked, i.e. “allow iTunes to…”, “Copy…”, etc

d) Test import new content (1 full album) into freshly-created iTunes library, i.e. drag the album into the “Automatically add to iTunes library” folder.

Check state: Does the new content end up in:

i) I:/iTunes_Media/iTunes_Media/Music/content_artiste/content_album/song.mp3, or

ii) I:/iTunes_Media/content_artiste/content_album/song.mp3

If (ii) is true, this implies action (d) configures iTunes to recognize & accept “iTunes_Media” folder ==I/iTunes_Media“. If (i) is true, it implies iTunes is an obstinate application (becuase it die die wanna create another iTunes Media folder even though I set aside one nicely for it already).

Actual findings? None of the above!

Yes, iTunes does accept the exact location I update under “Edit > Preferences” as the new “iTunes Media” folder DIRECTLY, but it creates another “Music” folder (to store my music content) under it!

This could be confusing, so allow me to illustrate with a screen capture:

Now that the upper "Music" folder == "iTunes Media", it is 'expected' that iTunes create another "Music" folder UNDER it, when I import music content

Lastly, I noticed as long as the actual location of your “iTunes Media” folder matches the path configured in the library database, you can move your iTunes library.itl file anywhere & use the “press-Shift-key” method to launch your iTunes library & it will still be able to find all the media without issue, i.e. can playback, ratings, play count retained, etc. In other words, the location of the database files isn’t material, but the location of the “iTunes Media” folder (some call it iTunes’ “Home” folder) must be there where iTunes database expects/remembers it to be, in order for media access.

As long as the location of "iTunes Media" folder matches the path stored in your "iTunes Library.itl" file, you can launch your library from anywhere.

For any new machine, perform the following in sequence:

1. Install DropBox & ensured iTunes library DB folder is downloaded completely. Connect external volume & assign it the appropriate drive letter.

2. Install iTunes & launch it with “Shift” key depressed to select the current itl file inside DropBox folder.

3. Perform step (c) above, but this time round, configure the preferences to your liking (since at this time, my very 1st library’s preferences is arcane & irrelevant).

4. Test importing & iPod sync-ing as required.

**********END of method, back to CURRENT media overhaul workflow**********

UPDATE #2: Adhere to preceding procedures (aka “See above“)

#1. Create a new, separate library on my production laptop by pressing the “Shift key” during the launch of iTunes (to choose which library to use, follow the same step). For my next system re-format, my music content will all be stored on an external volume. Once the new iTunes_Library.itl is generated, close iTunes & shift entire “iTunes” (most top-level) folder to external volume.

Side-bar #2: When multiple libraries exist & is detected on the same iTunes installation, every launch will be initiated with the last library used.

Since now my newly created secondary library is missing, i.e. the system last remembered it as created on local  hard disk  but now it resides on the external volume, iTunes will prompt me for its location & once I referred it to the itl file’s new location on the external volume, it will re-establish within itself where my 2nd music library is. Although 2 libraries can co-exist, multiple preference configurations are not permitted on a single iTunes installation. As of the moment, my current 1st main music library has the setting, “Keep iTunes Music folder organized” Unchecked. This is because at the present moment, I do NOT want iTunes to “automatically” re-structure my music collection into its “artiste-album-songs” format. The challenge is, for my new library, I have due considerations & believe the iTunes way of organizing music files is “proper” after all; however, if I check that option, this setting will carry over to my main library with immediate effect & the next time I use my main library, iTunes will start organizing the music files on my laptop HDD into its structure which is not my choice for my current library.

So how? One may ask? How can I configure iTunes one way for my current music library usage & still have the automatic music file organization on the new, 2nd library I’m currently building for the future? Will it turns out, iTunes version 9 has this special folder function, “Automatically add to iTunes folder” (this “watched/monitored folder feature has been on other music player software like MediaMonkey for ages). So I can have “that” option UNchecked for both my libraries (so that iTunes will not mess with my current music folder structure when I use my current library) & yet when I drop a folder of songs into that special folder on my 2nd library, iTunes will STILL execute this new addition to the 2nd library using its “automatic way of organizing the folders into artiste-album-song_rename”.

UPDATE #4: Unfortunately, if you discover you tagged something wrong after importing the songs, even when you correct the tags, iTunes will not re-organize the folder hierarchy, as long as “Keep iTunes Music folder organized” is UNchecked, even if the songs were imported via the “Automatically add to iTunes folder” channel.

Example: I imported a folder of Andy Lau songs into my library, unbeknownst to me, some of the songs had their “Artist” tagged as “Andy Lau“, while some had theirs tagged as “Liu De Hua“. Naturally, the 1st time round I imported them, 2 separate folders were instantiated, since to iTunes, those were names of 2 distinct artists (this is expected, & acceptable behaviour). The downside is, even if I re-tagged all those songs with “Andy Lau” as the artist, iTunes will no longer re-organize & consolidate all them songs into a single “Andy Lau” artist folder (because I’d “Keep iTunes Music folder organized” UNchecked remember?)

Well, you may suggest that I check that option when managing my future library & uncheck it right before launching/using my main, current library. The thing is, iTunes preferences persist across libraries, & one day I will forget to uncheck that option, launch my main library & lose all my current music folder structure to iTunes’ re-organization (which I don;t want, as of yet). Which brings me to another update:

UPDATE #5: My future iTunes library has “I:/iTunes_Media” as iTunes’s “Home” folder. This setting persists even when I switch back to my main, current library. Which means, if I’d my external volume connected while launching/using my main, current library, all new content will end up in that folder on the external volume! Which messes up the whole scheme of things! Arghz!

#2. Using Winamp’s Auto-Tagger function to retrieve & embed accurate tags into a redundant set of my music collection (I will still leave my active set untouched) on my external volume. This function is preferred as it will compare the audio signature of the songs to Gracenote’s online database & hence is independent of the existing tags of each song, i.e. inaccurate/incomplete tags will not render the automatic tagging moot. In Winamp’s implementation of audio-signature-comparison, its interface also errs on the side of safety so visual review on my part is necessary & very much welcomed. It can also do multiple songs at once.

Selectively update tags of songs individually or all at one shot

Side-bar #3: There is another tool named “MusicBrainz Picard” that will first use a song’s incomplete tags (whatever it has) to ID the song against online database & populate the unfilled tag fields; if the “seed” tags are insufficient to ID the song, this tool will try to use the audio signature hash technique (like Winamp) to perform the identification. Only down-side is, Picard doesn’t populate “Genre” tag fields.


Direct link to how to tag songs with Picard official documentation

UPDATE #6: Here’re some updates with regards to ID3 tags:

  • the “Album Artist” in Windows (7) Explorer = the “Album Artist” field in iTunes 9
  • Modifying a ID3 tag field using Windows (7) Explorer will update BOTH the v1 & v2.3 version of the ID3 tags on the song (if the song has both versions of tags embedded & if the field exists in both tag versions). If you update the tags via iTunes, only the v2.3 tags get updated. This is surprising.
  • the “Contributing Artist” field in Windows (7) Explorer = the “Artist” field in iTunes 9 & the “Artist” field in ID3v1 tags (changes in any of the 3 fields will affect the other 2 respectively)
    • However, iTunes Media folder organization will only adhere to the value saved in the “Album Artist” field [if you change the value of “Contributing Artist” in Windows (7) Explorer, the “Artist” field in iTunes or the “Artist” field in a song’s ID3v1 tags, no folder re-organization will occur]

UPDATE #7: Some updates with regards to workflow:

Decided to retain all non-music content within a sub-folder named “non-music” beneath the main album folder (& take strict precautions to import songs only). The exception is “m3u” playlist files. Have read elsewhere if you import a folder of songs & there’s an “m3u” playlist inside, your library may have duplicates and/or the tags of those songs you just imported could be screwed, etc

Source 1 | Source 2 | Source 3 | Source 4 | Source 5 | Source 6

UPDATE #8: Some raw, unprocessed data on how to back up Smart Playlists & Podcasts subscriptions:

Source 1 | Source 2

UPDATE #3: I’d a hard time locating the “acoustic fingerprinting” button in Picard. The few albums I tested with it had poorly-tagged, non-recognizable Asian characters, so the look-up via existing tags didn’t work well. So I tried to use the “submit audio hash” method & after some web searches, finally know it’s the button “Scan” in the latest version of Picard. Furthermore, generating the hash for one song takes a while, & I’ll understand if the more in-depth audio signature means higher chance of getting a match, but alas! I couldn’t get matches using both methods of lookups via Picard. Winamp’s Auto-Tagger is faster & more successful, in my experience.

#3. Lastly I will use this handy software called “AlbumArtDownloaderXUI” to retrieve 600*600 cover art for my songs & use iTunes to embed the cover art into each song. It is necessary to add cover art using a specific method in iTunes to ensure it embeds the image into the song file itself. Allow me to establish the non-embedding method 1st followed by the “correct” method of embedding.

Check out the list of sources (on the right) that it "polls"

do NOT add your Album Art by pasting it onto this corner at the bottom left of iTunes

Some of you may have an “album art preview space” at the bottom-left corner of your iTunes setup. If u drag-&-drop, or copy-&-paste an image onto this space for a song, the image will NOT be embedded but added to iTunes proprietary folder cache. When you transport your song files around, the album art will not be available in other applications like Winamp, MediaMonkey, or even Windows explorer. To embed, one must right-click on a song > “Get info” > paste the image file onto the empty space demarcated for album art. To verify if the embed is successful, copy solely that song file onto another location & see if the album art can be viewed in Windows Explorer without using any fancy applications.

Only pasting via the "Get Info" context menu will EMBED the artwork into the song file itself (hence portable)

If meta-tags & album art are TRULE EMBEDDED & PORTABLE, they should be detected at the operating system-level

Side-bar #3: So what happens if some of my tags are discovered to be inaccurate after it has been imported into the new lTunes library? Well, just:

  1. update the tags using Winamp (or your tool of choice) outside of iTunes,
  2. Right-click on the corrected song within iTunes library (alternatively, you can select all the songs & proceed with Step 3 to force a refresh/”re-read” of all tags updated outside iTunes)
  3. Click “Get Info
  4. Do NOT modify any tags/values/album art from the prompt that appears (unless with intent)
  5. Click “Okay” & iTunes (library) should detect the updated tag of the corrected song & update it’s internal DB accordingly (tested & proven, on my machine)


Finally, I will process album by album using my workflow above. Probably I will process 3-5 albums per day when I have no school work & add the folder into my 2nd library’s “Automatically add to iTunes” folder on my external volume. With 2700 album folders, if I’m quick I will need close to 1.5 years to accomplish this project. In addition, any new music I obtained must be processed using this new workflow from here on, otherwise corrupting my previous effort.

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  4. […] permalink Hi Philippe Lemay, I'm currently doing what you are trying to accomplish. My sole iTunes library is accessible & "device-sync-able" from both my laptop & netbook. Basically my iTunes library database is stored in my DropBox account; the main content (music, movies, apps, etc) is stored on an external hard disk. After using iTunes on each machine, any changes, i.e. new songs added, last played timing updates, ratings, etc, will be synced to the Dropbox copy. When the other machine is booted up & has an Internet connection, its copy of iTunes library is also updated; after which I can begin using the most up-to-date library on that machine's iTunes application as well. Since it is essential the same iTunes library, I can sync podcasts, songs, etc onto my iPod from either machine. The caveats are, both machines can NOT have iTunes launched at the same time; & between alternate machine use, I have to be careful the local copy of iTunes library itl file is updated to the latest version BEFORE launching iTunes to make sure I wouldn't start using iTunes with a slightly out-of-date database file. The in-depth process is described at length in my blog entry. […]

  5. […] Any suggestions for how to make some progress would be GREATLY appreciated!!! Try going through this article (I wrote it a while back). & backup an untouched copy of all your music before you even […]

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