Tag Archives: storage

The great iTunes library migration of 2009

Last week, I finally got fed up with the constant pain of bumping up against the disk size of my MacBook Pro. The largest chunk of space on the 120Gb drive was the ~35Gb taken up by my iTunes library. It was time to move it.

Moving out, making space

I’d previously thought about moving all of my music to the network and serving it out of daap-server on Ubuntu. The issue is that I sync my iPhone with the MBP and therefore I want my music library available locally, rather than streamed. I have a smart playlist which randomly selects about 7Gb of stuff from my library, leaving room for my apps, podcasts, and photos in the rest of the 16Gb space on the iPhone.

The thought of moving my iTunes library has just been such a painful one that I’d been putting it off for ages. I finally found a really good guide to the subject that reassured me, though – I could move the bulk of the library to another drive, and iTunes would still “work” (in the sense of enabling me to rip more, or download new podcasts) even when it was disconnected. I’m not going to go into the steps in detail here, read the iLounge guide to Transferring your iTunes Library – but it was basically a case of attaching a big external disk, changing the location of the iTunes library in the preferences, and Consolidating it; then deleting the local files on the internal drive.

Once all ~35Gb of music, video and podcasts was safely relocated, I decided to try something else. I unplugged the external USB drive, and attached it to my Airport Extreme base station. It appeared as an Airport Disk (with the same name as it had as a local disk) on my desktop. I started iTunes, and… hey presto, It Just Worked. So I now have my main iTunes library on my home network, visible to the iTunes application when the MacBook is on the same network, and can sync my iPhone when I’m there.

Time to rip

Once I’d finally made space, and also got the library into a location with room to breathe, I decided to make a start on something I should have done a long time ago. Up until now, I’d ripped CDs randomly according to when I wanted to hear particular albums or tracks… now, it was time to systematically get the whole collection into digital format.  Plus, I don’t actually own a stereo / hifi with a CD player anymore, so the only way I’m consuming music is through the computer. There are about 500 CDs to rip, so this is an ongoing project.

A few people asked on Twitter what format I’m going for. Purely on the basis of convenience and accessibility of format, I’ve decided to go with high quality MP3 rather than OGG, AAC or FLAC. I know MP3s will pretty much play anywhere I might choose to put them. Sorry to the audio aficionados.

Bumps in the road

There are just a few things which continue to mildly bother me:

  • If I’m not on the home network, iTunes reverts to a temporary/default (local) library location. I tend to Sleep the Mac rather than shutting apps down, so if I go home and reconnect to the network, I have to remember to close and restart iTunes for it to pick up the “proper” library location… otherwise it continues to point itself at the internal location. Selecting “Consolidate Library” by accident when the library preference points to the local disk can have bad consequences (it tries to copy everything back from the external disk to the internal one!)
  • iTunes has a weird relationship with album art. It can find some, but not others… does it depend on what is in the iTunes store? I’m partway through the D section of my CD library right now, and in general the rippage has been fine, but none of the Beatles or (oddly) Def Leppard albums have album art that iTunes can find. AllCDCovers.com (and, sometimes, my scanner) to the rescue!
  • There’s another, smaller iTunes library on a Thinkpad that I’d like to be able to merge in. I’ve seen some third-party tools which can apparently do merges and retain play counts and ratings, and also do duplicate checking… I need to look into those.

Generally though – really happy with how this has worked out, and I wish that the solution to my full disk problem had been more obvious some time ago. Now I have some disk space to play around with iMovie 09 🙂



My colleague (and following a recent reshuffle, new office inmate) Alexis just took delivery of a hard drive adapter for his Thinkpad.

Floppy disks eh? Didn’t know they still shipped those…

Gadgets part 3: Eye-Fi

Here’s something I’ve wanted to get my hands on for a while now… an Eye-Fi SD card. If you don’t know about these things, essentially they are standard 2Gb SD cards that fit into any camera that will take the format (or others, with e.g. a Compact Flash/SD adapter). The good part is that they make the camera wireless-capable….

Pull the tab!

So I picked up my Eye-Fi card and the first thing that I noticed was the cool packaging… pull on the tab on the right-hand side of the box, and the box slides out to the left, revealing a USB dongle and the card already inserted. You need the dongle, because you need to use the computer to configure the card.

Once I plugged the dongle into the machine, an Eye-Fi item appeared on the desktop… it was pretty simple to just install the Mac software. Once I’d done that, I hit a small snag… I got a message about the Eye-Fi Manager software being unable to initalise the card. I tried running the Eye-Fi Manager a few times, but the same thing happened… until I took the dongle out of the USB port on the right-hand side of my machine, and plugged it back in on the left. That time, I got a set of dialogs enabling me to register an account. Not sure what happened there!

Eye-Fi error

Actually this seems to be an issue on my MacBook Pro… for some reason the Eye-Fi Manager software will never “initialize” the card when the dongle is plugged in on the right of the machine (although it still shows up as a mass storage device, and Lightroom sees it and offers to import images from it). Worked fine over on the left, but then the dongle is a bit too wide to enable the Magsafe power plug to be connected at the same time. Actually it seems a little random, unfortunately. I raised a problem with Eye-Fi support and they basically talked me through steps for checking that nothing else is using the port, plugging and replugging – nothing specifically useful. YMMV.

Card and card reader

Right, so here’s how this thing works. You start the Eye-Fi Manager software, which opens a web page to configure the card. Here, you can add wireless network details (it supports a whole range of network settings including WEP and WPA keys), rename the card if you want, and configure a huge variety of online services. I have configured mine for Flickr… but the software supports Facebook, SmugMug, WebShots, SnapFish, Picasa, Photobucket… and a gazillion others that I’ve not heard of before (oddly, Movable Type, Vox and Live Spaces, but not WordPress – hmm!). Once you’ve done that, you put the card in the camera, and it will automatically connect to the network and start uploading shots any time you take them.


What appears to happen, is this: the camera uploads to Eye-Fi’s site, which then transfers to your chosen / configured photo service. The next time the Eye-Fi Manager sees the Eye-Fi site, it then mirrors the photos to the local disk (you can specify a location in the Eye-Fi Manager). I’m not 100% certain that this is how it works, but that’s what I’ve observed.

So now what about the downsides to this? Well for starters, the only supported file format is JPG. That’s OK, but of course Flickr now supports video too, for instance. Oh, and by the way, this is going to upload all your photos, anytime you take any, so I’ve set the default privacy option to private for Flickr uploads so I can review and tag etc. before publishing. The photos are obviously not titled or anything when the Eye-Fi uploads them, and they get a simple tag “Eye-Fi” set, but that’s all. So you will want to go and change title, tags, description, potentially rotate and so on once the image has been uploaded. Now that Flickr has Picnik integration, you can of course do some simple editing later as well. This does all bypass my “standard” photo workflow of Lightroom import, catalog, edit, and then upload, though.

One thing that the Eye-Fi does not support is wireless networks with certificates. Other than that, Open, WEP, WPA/WPA2 are all OK. It’s only going to work with networks it knows about, too (although you can configure more than one) – there’s no UI on the camera for configuring the card, you have to use the Eye-Fi Manager software while the dongle is plugged in to the camera.

Also, because there’s no UI on the camera side, there’s no visual indication as to what is happening… the Eye-Fi will silently upload your shots, and there’s actually no way of knowing that it is doing it, or when it has finished doing it. Of course it would be amazingly difficult for this to integrate with every camera if the makers had tried to build the Eye-Fi into the camera’s user interface, so I understand why this is the case – it’s just a little bit disconcerting! One nice feature is that there appears to be support for “interrupted” uploads, I see there’s a “Receive interrupted” comment in the Eye-Fi manager UI, so I think it will support partial upload and then resume.

Overall, it’s a neat idea, and certainly pretty cool for quick shoot-and-upload scenarios. Of course I often want to catalog my shots and touch-up on the computer first, but I can see cases where this could be really cool. Very handy for conferences etc. (oh, and that USB dongle can act as a reader for any SD card, too – handy). A qualified thumbs-up!

Here’s a link to a nice review, and here’s some news about the new models coming soon.

(post updated 14th May 2008 – a couple of additional details about workflow, the card initialization error, and the screenshot of the local machine import was added)

Gadgets part 1: SATA/USB enclosure

It’s a three-part miniseries on gadgets now that I’m back from Las Vegas. If you’ve followed my Flickr then you’ll know what I’m about to talk about. Techie geekery starts here. Yes, I probably shouldn’t get quite so worked up about technology, but here I am.

One thing that I’ve not found that easy to get hold of is an external enclosure for SATA disks. IDE/USB caddies have been pretty widely-available for a while now, but most disks now use the SATA interface so I needed something that would let me backup my Thinkpad onto a spare 200Gb 2.5″ disk I’d been given.

I had a look through a bunch of enclosures in Frys and I have to say I just pretty much went with what seemed simplest (a NexStar SX from Vantec), without really spending too much time on the features… the decision was mainly based on cost ($20) and size. So when I finally (!) got around to opening the box today, I was completely astounded at the quality of the product, given the cost.

The NexStar SX packageThe box itself was solid cardboard (not the flimsy sort of stuff I’d expected). Inside was a soft carry case, and inside that was the metal enclosure itself. The product also ships with a USB cable with a “pass through” socket which seems to enable more devices to be attached, a driver disk, some screws and a screwdriver – very complete.

Once I took the enclosure out of the carry case I had another pleasant surprise. It’s metal and very compact. There are two small squeeze clips at the back… press them in and the top and bottom are released to slide off. The other USB enclosure I’ve previously purchased was really poor compared to this, with ugly screw lugs on the top and a very loose lid… this thing is really elegant. Case open

The only small issue I had was that the Hitachi drive I’d been supplied for my Thinkpad initially would not fit into the actual case, because it is so compact. The side screws made the drive just a little too wide to fit. I had to remove the top cover of the drive (see photo), but since Vantec provided a screwdriver this was no big deal.

That’s really all I have to say, but I just wanted to point out that this seems to be a really good quality bit of kit at a decent price. I probably ought to look for a 3.5″ version and then I can whip out the drives from my old Linux tower before decommissioning it!