Posts Tagged ‘music’

I wonder if many will remember the small task I gave myself half a year ago? When I commenced that “project”, I projected 1.5 years for the entire project to be completed. Well, it is done; I had finished tagging/correcting/organizing/updating/revamping/re-ripping my music library ahead of schedule. It was frustrating at times, almost futile but I persevered. Today, I present my new iTunes library:

Go on, expand this thumbnail 😉

It took a lot of effort & perseverance, not to mention time. The irony of it all is now I literally have to search for non-western songs using the appropriate characters, i.e. I can’t easily locate my Japanese or Korean titles any more. Despite all the hassle, I’m pretty pleased with the end-result. The end of this task is succeeded by another frightening one: synchronizing my iPod to this new library. Frightening, as I have a lot of application-specific data on my iPod & I’m afraid sync-ing to a new library will wipe the iPod clean. Nonetheless, it had to be done (otherwise I clean up my library for?). So with much trepidation (& adequate backup of critical materials wherever possible), I proceed to connect my iPod to the new library for the first time. I shall share a few of my observations for anyone who likes to tinker with iTunes and iPod synchronization.


The Observations

I was perplexed why the new iTunes library didn't immediately try to overwrite my iPod with "emptiness" upon connection; then I realized I'd this option "unchecked" all this while. In fact, I'd advise everyone to leave this option unchecked to safe-guard against any unintended synchronization.


Connecting my iPod Touch to the new library does not initiate a sync automatically as I’d the “Prevent iDevice from syncing automatically” option unchecked all this while.

EDIT: I strongly advise to leave that option unchecked to prevent any “accidental” syncing. Do note however, leaving this option unchecked does not mean setting your iPod into “Manual management” mode; unchecking the option simply means a sync will not start automatically.

[ I was hoping the apps that are currently already on my iPod will not be wiped off, and then re-sync-ed afterwards. This is because once these apps are wiped, their application-specific data will be gone too. To prevent this, with my iPod connected, I right-clicked on its entry in iTunes “source list” & select “Transfer purchases“. Then I realized uploading 100+ ipa files from my iPod to my new library ain’t as speedy as I thought (even though it was done over an USB connection). I interrupted & just dragged all my 177 ipa files from my old library’s “Mobile Applications” folder, literally onto the “Apps” section (again in the iTunes “source list“). This imports those apps just fine & extremely speedily (since there’s no longer any uploading from the iPod involved; it’s simply copying the ipa files from my old library folder to my new library folder). So what will happen to the set of apps already on my iPod (associated & uploaded previously with my old library), since I didn’t “transfer any purchases”? Read on…

Amazingly, even though I’m using iTunes with a new library that hasn’t even sync-ed with my iPod once, it seems to be able to detect the sub-set of apps that I previously indicated (via my old library) I wished to sync to my iPod. Example: suppose with my old library, I’ve selected 10 apps out of the full 177 apps that I wish to sync onto my iPod Touch. Even though I haven’t sync my iPod to this new library once, it “knows” which 10 apps were previously picked to exist on the iPod. & the good news? When I select to “Sync apps” between the new library and my iPod, it does not wipe and then re-sync those apps that are already existing on the iPod. Which means all data preserved! Yeah! ]

NOTE: please read the 2 paragraphs in [ ] as a set, lest you miss out anything & your (applications) data get wiped. & I wish to iterate: the above experience relates to Mobile Applications only.

UPDATE: per my knowledge gained from iLounge forums, Apps (& Photos and PIM data) only will not have their “Sync checkboxes” checked by default when you connect an iPod to a new iTunes library. Hence the reason why the existing apps on my iPod are left untouched until I explicitly chosed to “Sync Apps” from the new library. Even then, when iTunes detects the apps that I wish to sync onto the iPod, were already on the iPod, it will not wipe them then re-upload, essentially preserving any application-specific data.

Source (look for the lines, “You’ll find that the settings for Apps, Podcasts, Photos and Info are left alone (unchecked) on the new computer, and that data will remain in place unless you specifically enable those options separately …”, & “That’s exactly it.  The warning uses the language “Erase and Sync” as that is the perception of the average user. The fact that existing content is left alone is really just to save time…“)

Another thing I learnt is that iTunes treat each type “certain groups” of content as an individual library between itself and the iPod. Example: after great success with the Apps syncing, the next thing to do will be to wipe all the existing music (with their outdated tags) off my iPod and re-upload songs from my new library onto the iPod. Naturally, since my iPod hasn’t sync music with this new library before, iTunes warned me in the rather cryptic manner, “All existing music on the iPod will be replaced with music from this iTunes library“. Yup, that’s one of the reason/warning why some folks realized sync-ing their iPod/iPhone to a new library causes all the existing songs on their iDevice to be wiped. But I’m more concerned about whether only the music on my iPod will be wiped and replaced, or will all existing data (which includes the apps that I’ve luckily preserved earlier on, my mail account settings, my notes, etc) be treated as part of one overarching “library” and be annihilated by this library replacement sync? Well, it turns out (as I’d pointed out earlier): music library is disparate from apps library, disparate from podcast library, disparate from photo library, etc. So while my music is refreshed/replaced, my apps (along with their data) are preserved. Again! Sweet!

Another very useful piece of information which I learnt from iLounge forums, is that sync decisions (unless you are doing Manual Management) made at the device’s tabs, are perpetuated at the content-group-level. Example: if you choose to sync Music with the library, your iPod music, movies, TV shows, ringtones, (audio & e-) books will be synced with the current library as well, but the sync settings that is in place for all other content types will be left “as is”/untouched. This is very important. As for which type of content are grouped together, basically it’s:

  • Music, Movies, TV Shows, Books, Ringtones
  • Apps
  • Podcasts / iTunes U
  • Photos
  • Info — Contacts, Calendars, Bookmarks, Notes (unless you are syncing your PIM information via non-iTunes channels, e.g. MobileMe, Exchange, etc)

Source (look for the line, “If you want to look at them as “libraries” then yes. It’s broken down like this:“)

Each of these tabs (representing each type of media that can be synced to an iPod Touch/iPhone) were unchecked initially when I just connect my iPod to the new library. Checking any one of them will bring up the warning prompt, "This iPod is synced with another library. Selecting erase and sync will replace all the contents of this iPod with the contents of this library". Any "erase and sync" ala a 'replace', is local to the content group. As for which content are grouped together, it's mentioned in the paragraph above.


In case I wasn’t clear, please allow me to elaborate. In the scenario illustrated above, if I “check” the “Sync Apps” checkbox, an “erase and sync” warning will appear, & if I approve it, all the apps on the iPod (that are incoherent with my new library) will be replaced with the apps from my library later when I press the “Sync” button at the bottom-right of the iTunes application. Apps that are coherent with my new library but already exist on the iPod, will not be “re-loaded. Likewise, if I want to replace all podcasts on the iPod with the set of podcasts from my (new) iTunes library, I will check “Sync Podcasts” & select “erase and sync”. Remember 3 things, however:

  1. The “replacement” (or erasing, for that matter) will not happen instantaneously when you click “Erase and sync“. This is because iTunes doesn’t know exactly what new set of media you wish to replace the iPod’s set with. Only after you select what playlists, apps, etc. you wish to put on the iPod and then click “Sync“, will the actual (erasing and) replacement commence. This point is erroneous, as per this source (look for the line, “This prompt appears only when“)
  2. Erase and sync” approvals are localized to each media type the content groupings except for “Music” and “Movies“. Any decisions you configured for music will be acted upon with the “Movies” segment as well. I think this is because Music and videos are treated as one library. UPDATE: please refer to content-grouping a few paragraphs above.
  3. If you have authorized your current library & there are purchased content on your iPod, besidesErase and sync“, there’ll be a “Transfer purchases” button which allow you to transfer purchased content from your iPod back to your current library. However, I’m not sure whether all purchased content (which means apps, songs, TV shows, etc) will be uploaded, or you will have to do it content-type by content-type. UPDATE: yup, I’m still unsure whether all types will be transferred back at once.

This is the exact sub-menu where you will import your OPML file. I'm surprised this isn't elaborated on Apple's iTunes site. Perhaps Mac veterans are acclimatised to dragging-&-dropping stuff from anywhere to everywhere.

Talking about podcast. I managed to import all podcast subscriptions into the new library without any hassle at all. I’d exported them as an OPML file previously, which is the export file type you want if you wish to “save” your subscriptions. Note though: podcasts refresh settings, how many episodes to retain, etc are controlled by your iTunes preferences and not part of this OPML file (I’d checked my OPML file for clues).

Last but not least (for this section), if you are the type of reader that desires even further details, breakdowns, elaborations, scenario explanations, you are in luck: please enjoy the back-&-forth between 1 of the administrators of iLounge forums and me. Trust me, it’s a solid read.

Source (huge thanks to jhollington of iLounge forums, for his/her relentless explanation)

Anything new (& not widely elaborated by tech blogs) with iTunes 10?

For the new “Album list” view, some folks are confused when album artwork for their albums with lesser than 5 songs do not show up in this view. To force the album artwork in this view to show up no matter how “complete” one’s album is, please tweak the setting as shown below:


Just in case you are wondering why some album artwork are displayed while others are hidden.


I also noticed with iTunes 10 (if you have been tracking this bug & it has been fixed by version 9.2 of iTunes, please notify me), the mobile applications (ipa files) will not be forced by iTunes to reside on the same drive as where the iTunes library database files are stored. This bug will be very familiar to those who store their media content in an external hard disk but have their database files retained on local hard disk. Previously, try as they might (to manually shift those ipa files to their external volume), the moment they update their mobile applications through iTunes, an (updated) copy of the ipa file will be stored locally. Now, even my ipa files are stored externally.

Smart Playlists


This light-coloured column on the left side of iTunes is commonly referred to as the "Source list". Near the bottom, one will observe the "feeder/component" smart playlists are further encapsulated into folders for cleaner organization.


As with my iTunes library, my approach to music appreciation on my iPod is revamped. At this moment, I’m using Smart Playlists to re-iterate through my song collection. Unlike a regular (more meaningfully referred to as a “static”) playlist, smart playlists generate their resultant list of songs dynamically using “conditions” the user set. I have been trying to create the ultimate smart playlist based on the best of what these sites can offer.

The tricky bit about conjuring one single ultimate from all these, is to ensure the criteria that each list is based on, wouldn't have semantic errors when all are combined.


Before I delve into the conditions, my ratings scheme are as follows:

  • ★★★★★ – very rare will a song be issued this, unless it is superb, or holds special meaning to me.
  • star – my “fail” rating for a song; this song must explicitly piss me off to be awarded this.
  • ★★ to ★★★★: so songs that “pass” can only be awarded these ratings. ★★ means a song is just bearable, 3 stars means its average while a ★★★★ title will deem it “quite good”. Again, it is very, very hard for a song to get ★★★★★

And here are the [smart] playlists:

UPDATE (11 Nov 2010): Apparently the way iTunes evaluate nested smart playlists, is counter-intuitive to conventional (boolean) logic. I realized something was going on when my master spl isn’t really updating/rotating/refreshing songs in its list. Posted my spl logic onto iLounge & 1 of the veterans were quick to point out iTunes’ flawed “logic” in this specific aspect of spl. The discussion & in-depth explanation can be viewed at this iLounge thread from this point onwards. Anyway, I’ve since corrected my master spl, as well as updated a few of my component spls to better reflect conventional “design”. In addition, the exclusion of “latest_additions” spl content (to prevent double weightage) has been surfaced from all rated component spls to the master spl level to remove “bad form/design” at the component spl-level. Updated versions of the respective spls are displayed directly below their old verions.


Short-list music that I have not rated. Purpose is to encourage me to rate my music, even songs that I'd played but didn't bother to rate.

Collects the music I acquired within the last 1 month gets uploaded, and yet not bore me too quickly by ensuring the same song do not get played twice within 3 days.

This is OUTDATED && INCORRECT. Allow me to give a 2nd listen to poorly-rated (less than 4 stars) that I actually like enough to not skip them more than 10 times. To elaborate, a 3- or 2-star song that I keep skipping will not be given any second chances.


The previous "rating < ★★★" condition isn't proper design, as it will inadvertently include unrated songs, which are already captured in another spl. The updated rating criteria implies that I'd explicitly rated these songs before. In addition, a 2 month cooling period ensures these "barely-there" tunes get a proper, unbiased re-evaluation.

This is OUTDATED && INCORRECT. Surface any music that I heard less than 10 times or haven't hear in half a year


"rarely_heard" spl has to be corrected to circumvent iTunes' flawed logic,

This is OUTDATED && INCORRECT. Super nice music that has been rated and not in latest_additions (if I leave out this part, a newly-added song that has been rated, may have double its weightage). Only songs that haven't been heard in a week can be played again. Besides this 5-star list, I also have 2-star to 4-star lists. Those other 3 lists are similar except songs in 2-star cannot repeat until 2 months later; songs in 3-star list cannot repeat till 1 month later; songs in 4-star list cannot repeat till 2 weeks later. In other words, more highly-rated songs are allowed to repeat more frequently (which makes sense, to me).


As mentioned in the "UPDATE (11 Nov 2010)", the exclusion of the "latest_additions" spl is surfaced to the master spl level as it is illogical (or more appropriately, "bad form"?) to have the exclusion at this level. This exclusion is propagated to all "rated" spls. When someone looks at a n★-list, the list should contain all the n★ songs. You may be eager to point out that if that's the case, shouldn't the "Last Played" criteria be surfaced to a higher-level list as well. Well, that is a future decision.

This middle-tier playlist is obsolete. Groups 2* to 5* songs into one sub-list for easier "integration" into master list later on

This is OUTDATED && INCORRECT. If I rate a song 1 star AND also skipped it more than 10 times, obviously I detest it.


Not only is this tweaked to account for iTunes’ flawed nested spl logic, but I have also updated the logic to be an “OR” instead of an “AND”. This is because I found that I very rarely 1-a song, which means too few songs fall into this list, hence the “OR” logic will enforce a more stringent level of quality in my final list.

This is OUTDATED && INCORRECT. Sync random picks of songs (up to 7GB) from the earlier sub-lists. Explicitly leave out detestable songs (those 1*)



As you can see, to make iTunes' flawed nested spl logic evaluate the way conventional wisdom dictates, one has to go about a very lengthy workaround. In addition, I learnt that the "Playlist IS/IS NOT" criteria can be directly applied to a folder of playlists; rendering my "rated_already" 2nd-tier playlist redundent.

Ultimately, this one single master list (sync_to_iDevice) is the only list of music I sync to my iPod. To put it succinctly, it will greatly encourage rating of songs while churning through the rated ones, & keep the hits fresh by not repeating them too often based on how much I like them. However, there’s a bug with this system that I’m unable to solve yet. For those who want to figure it out, don’t peek at the solution:

There is no guarantee that at any time, there will be songs from all those sub-lists synced to my iPod. E.g. it is possible (though very unlikely) that at any moment, there may be no songs from my latest additions on my iPod, etc.


Smart playlists are also useful for weeding out songs with incomplete tags, e.g. songs with missing artwork


However, I’m unable to use Smart playlists to isolate songs with missing lyrics (& other more advanced tags not recognized as SPL criteria). Then how? How will I know which songs are missing lyrics? Well, it’s nice to have a super powerful mp3 tagger that allows regex/boolean expressions to filter by all sorts of tags/criteria on-the-fly: the extremely powerful (in other words, verify the tagging options very carefully) MP3Tag.


For "proper/advanced" tagging purposes, can't go wrong with MP3Tag. Just need to refresh your tags within iTunes after you update/correct them externally.


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.

It has been many days since my last blog entry. System re-format of my production laptop has been completed to a satisfactory level. In a way, it proves to be a major refresh in my experience with setting up new systems; as well as a (coerced) opportunity to archive, restructure & organize my critical data. Sometimes one really need a “scorched-earth” policy to decide which data to keep on-board the laptop, which data to re-locate to an offline/external volume & well, which data that you have been accumulating for no good justification at all. I encountered the inevitable “filename-too-long” issue with Windows’ file system, i.e. the folder-levels are too deep causing an absolute  file-path of >255 characters

Windows will prevent moving/deleting certain files & folders if they are buried too deep within a directory hierarchy

Well, some data has to be trashed; it is unavoidable. Nonetheless, migrating to Windows 7 also meant the revision of my “format.txt”, which is currently in its 5th edition. I’m considering whether to publish the contents of that document, but am a bit reluctant to do so due to the amount of hard work I’d invested in it on my own time, research & painful experiences. Even if I upload, it will be a “Director’s cut” per se, as the full uncut version will have more thorough explanations of why each step is performed at which point using which approach. I don’t think anybody will be keen to read the full-length article too.

UPDATE: I was looking for screen captures of this error & chanced upon this blog entry, which lead me to a Microsoft knowledge-base article that provides a work-around (this is not a real solution in my opinion; the issue still exists within the file-system) for older versions of Windows.

Discounting the amount of time to prepare for data backup & planning an updated version of the procedures, the time expended on the actual system migration is 2 days. The user interface of the Windows 7 platform simplifies & centralizes many UI elements which made many of my steps unnecessary; yet, in other aspects of the system control, most notably the “Advanced Power Options”, Windows 7 caters for a finer-level of manipulation:

I went through the entire configuration...2~3 times on different machines I setup

…which implies more time invested to tweak those. In addition, I abandoned Media Player Classic, Ahead Nero as well as Lavasoft’s Ad-Aware applications as the former candidate was replaced by a more streamlined candidate, VLC (after considering GOM Player, KM Player, SPlayer), and the later 2 apps elevated to the status of “bloatware”. Nero is replaced by ImgBurn, which after my roaming around in various non-affiliated forums, proved to be a more reliable disc authoring app specific to the Windows 7 platform (no offense to CDBurnerXP, which is remarkable on XP systems). The most troublesome of the whole migration is a customized Firefox environment & more in part due to, the migration of my music library to the new iTunes installation. In fact, the iTunes fiasco took the better part of the 2nd day of system migration.

The reason is because I invest heavily in smart playlists, which meant I must retain my play & skip counts and individual song rating for my sole library. It is further complicated as I have both music within my “iTunes Music” folder, “My music” folder as well as podcasts and AppStore applications for my iPod Touch. As if life wasn’t hard enough, I’m moving to a different Windows system as well as a new version of iTunes (version 9). Windows XP (old system) & Windows 7 have different directory hierarchy for the “User documents” location;

The "My Documents" folders that we are so familiar with, have shifted location in Windows Vista & Windows 7

iTunes 8 & iTunes 9 have different ways of structuring their “Home” folder as well:

This is how my "iTunes Music" folder was organized originally

iTunes 9 way of structuring its Home folder

In short, because of the way I store my music & moving to a new Windows’ & iTunes version, in order to retain my music library, it takes *some* “due diligence”. As this point in time, I wish to credit 2 authors for which this iTunes migration will not be possible. The 2 tips are:

#1. “How to use a few playlists to eradicate broken links in iTunes library”. Comment: this one is really smart: link

Btw, some smart guy managed to accomplish this in less playlists than the original author of the tip, BUT! I encourage one to review my response to his tip:

[Damn! I lost my response to the smart guy’s updated method!]

UPDATE #1: found my response in an email somewhere. Here goes:

[Anyway, here’s the more relevant findings:

With regards to “UPDATE January 2009” on your tip pages contributed by Josh Watson, although right-clicking while holding down “Shift” key makes the “Delete” menu item appear in the smart playlist, clicking delete does nothing. I tried twice on my Smart Playlist, “Missing Files”. No activity whatsoever. In the end, I used your method, i.e. “To get around this, I selected all tracks in my Missing Files folder, did Files\New Playlist from Selection (since it won’t let you drag & drop the dead tracks to a playlist), and then deleted them from there.” to delete the orphan files from a static playlist.

With regards to the same update as above, specifically this section:

“Also, you need to add the following rules to the Dead Files list:
“Podcast” “is” “false” –> or it will include podcasts
“Kind” “does not contain” “Audible” –> or it will include audiobooks (nearly deleted mine!)
“Kind” “does not contain” “MPEG” –> or it will include vodcasts (nearly deleted mine!)”

I feel that it is ‘okay’ to let podcasts remain in the Missing Files, because ultimately the individual podcasts that remained ‘captured’ inside the Smart Playlist, ‘Missing Files’ will still be orphan files, & I have no idea why anyone wishes to retain entries of broken/orphan podcasts in their library. In addition, I have a ‘hunch’ that ‘MPEG’ is NOT the only type of video file supported in iTunes, hence even filtering out ‘MPEG as a Kind’ may still delete someone’s video files, although, again, I have no idea why someone wishes to keep broken entries of video files in their library UNLESS the video is already on their iPod & they wish for the video to remain on their iPod.

With regards to Lee McKay’s update on Sep 2009, his method of using 2 playlists does not have the ability to catch/filter out/pin-point orphan video files/podcasts, because of:

“2) Make a smart playlist called “Missing Files” with the rules set as ” ‘Playlist’ ‘is’ ‘Music’ ” and another rule set as ” ‘Playlist’ ‘is not’ ‘All Live Files’ ””

That’s all from me. & thank you for the smart tip.]

#2.“How-to-edit-iTunes_library.xml-to-reflect-new-music-file-path-then-corrupt-fresh-iTunes_library.itl-to-force-iTunes-to-regenerate-new-iTunes_library.itl-from-updated-iTunes_library.xml-to-retain-metadata-from-old-iTunes-music-library”. For a better understanding of this tip, pay extra attention to Part II of this article.

Nonetheless, I have to re-subscribe to all my podcasts as well as re-sync all my iPod Touch applications upstream due to my own negligence. Can’t blame nobody but just have to embrace the situation & move on.

UPDATE #2: Anyway after performing the iTunes migration & restoration, in my opinion, iTunes method of organizing multimedia definitely has room for improvement. As cloud storage plummet in costs, I suggest that each individual has his iTunes media, be it music, videos, ipod applications, etc., stored perpetually in the cloud, managed by his iTunes account. This way, any re-installation of iTunes due to technical circumstances, can be totally encapsulated from any impact to his media. Upon the fresh installation of iTunes, he just needs to login to his account, & all his previous media will be accessible. Likewise, friends can showcase their favourite songs, movies, etc., on each other’s PC simply by logging into their account on their friend’s computer. Isn’t this way more user-friendly?

UPDATE #2a: I believe the preceding implementation will resolve 2 additional problems. Having your account, profile/configurations stored in the cloud means that any system format will have your podcast subscriptions & auto-delete preferences restored seamlessly when your new system is up & running. Furthermore, although most savvy users are currently shifting their music collection off to an external volume, such volumes housing large collections of multimedia are usually non-portable 3.5″ external hard disks or even NAS devices. So if I want to synchronise my music while I’m outside with my netbook (& to a lesser extent, remove finished podcasts), I can’t do it without lugging my external storage along. If my media is actually stored in the cloud, I can sign into the same iTunes account/profile on my netbook (or any number of disparate devices) & still synchronise my iPod “properly” against a single media source (instead of having any nasty surprises as compared to if I sync one iPod against a few different external volumes of media, if that is even possible).

So besides the iTunes issue, all the rest of the system migration is not as tense as my previous system migrations; I guess my attitude towards this whole aspect of my life has become less anal-retentive”. Happily enjoying my Windows 7 Ultimate system for the time-being (except when I write this entry I was actually on a plane). Oh btw, did I mention what happened to my laptop right after the decision to migrate it was made? To find out more, read part 2 of this “holiday special”.