Oh iTunes, How Do I Loathe Thee? Let Me Count The Ways (2)… aka “Your iTunes Store session has expired”

I suppose it stands to reason that the moment I write a post about the utter pile of sh1te that is iTunes, so of course iTunes would find a new and irritating way to annoy me.

Which, of course, it has.

When I set up the domain that now supports this blog, I created a whole host of mail forwarding accounts, including one dedicated to my Apple iTunes account. So, of course, I went to the three instance of iTunes I run [one on a Mac Mini, two on Windows] and changed the “Account” information. For all the good it did me: basically, every single time I now launch iTunes, I’ve been getting a prompt to re-enter my Account ID and Password. To rub salt in to the wounds, this prompt comes back a minimum of three times in a row [sometimes more] and even though I type in exactly the same details every time it seems to take several attempts to get this to “take”.

Grr…

Well, this evening I found a work-around.

First, keep typing your account details in to iTunes until the prompt goes away. This seems to be indicative of your credentials being accepted. Then, go to the Account item on the top menu bar, and select Sign Out. Because, of course, you’ve only just signed in, so that’s logical, right?

Except, in this case, the act of signing out would appear to force a synchronisation of your locally cached credentials with the Apple “back end”. Hence, the next time you Sign In, it seems to just work – first time.

 

I can see some of you reading this and thinking: ‘Well, come on, that’s obvious…’ Just to be clear, then: if you count yourself in this group, you can F#@& Off…

Oh iTunes, How Do I Loathe Thee? Let Me Count The Ways…

You might think that a flagship piece of software, something that is synonymous with its parent company, would warrant enough attention to keep it reliable and functional. In most cases, this might even be true. With iTunes, from Apple, you could not be more wrong.

Here is just a selection of ways that iTunes will cheerfully set about making your life a misery.

1. Can’t Support A Network
My iTunes library started out life on a Mac Mini that came with a 160Gb HDD. When the library outgrew that space, I moved it, first to a Time Capsule … and then, when that melted, to a QNAP NAS box. All of this was done based on guidance from an Apple Genius during a Genius Bar appointment…

However, if you’re stupid enough to launch iTunes on your Mac Mini without the NAS box mounted and the iTunes library visible, what do you suppose iTunes does? Wait? Pop up a helpful hint? No. It creates a new, local iTunes database, completely disregarding your existing one. With ZERO notice. This is bad if you just want to play content, but if you want to import a new CD, say, it will cheerfully comply, while putting the imported files on the local drive, thus splitting your library into multiple parts. Good luck with that.

2. Dangerous Defaults
When you follow Apple’s recommendations and install OS/X High Sierra on a Mini that has an HDD – only to have your Mac implode and need a complete rebuild – the default configuration for iTunes is to “automatically manage your library”. Which means: putting your media files where it thinks they should go, and not where you want them. Fail to catch this in time and your iTunes library will be utterly screwed up, assuming you’re lucky enough to not lose anything.

The least of your problems will likely be the automatic truncation of any folder or file names that are more than about 26 characters in length. And if you have anything else reliant upon the location or names of your media files, ooh I don’t know, because you want to – well,  you’re utterly screwed.

What, what’s that you asked? Doesn’t a Mac Computer know that it’s not safe to apply High Sierra to an HDD-based Mac? Ho ho ho. What do you think this is? A sensible operating system…

3. Cross-Platform Media Handling
If you decide to record your own multimedia – and this is specific to video content, not audio – and you want to do something utterly radical, like actually play it back via iTunes, well, you might well be screwed again. You see, iTunes works differently between OS/X and Windows: playback that works perfectly on Windows might not work on Mac – and vice versa.  What you end up with is surround sound on one platform, and either no audio or stereo only on the other. No idea why Apple could not have bundled a universally consistent set of media libraries with their software. Because: iTunes.

4. iDevice Incompatibility
If you manage to fight your way past the platform-specific media players – and then have the temerity to take your carefully composed video content and want to put it on your iPad, well, tough. Because even if something runs on your computer inside of iTunes, it doesn’t mean that it can be transferred to your iDevice. Oh no, that would be too easy. Much too easy. So: you’re screwed. Have fun figuring out which file formats are actually supported universally…

5. Oh, and The Bugs…
Buy a brand new iPhone, and then have your Mac completely rebuilt from scratch after the High Sierra SNAFU. Take your shiny iPhone [or iPad] and connect it to your Mac via a Lightning/USB cable, and ask iTunes to sync your iPhone. It will, of course, fail. It will tell you it’s failed, quite cheerfully, but then give you no clue as to why. Because: this is Apple. You don’t need to worry your pretty little head about anything complicated. Just sit back and watch, while your Apple devices cheerfully screw themselves up for you.

Even more interesting, when you look at all the design limitations and failure points for Apple technology these days, you realise that the problems occur because the Apple Software designers are just so utterly conceited that they cannot even conceive that you might want to operate your technology in a flexible or non-default way. [They make it possible – like network access to your iTunes library]. Then they just screw it up anyway.

 

There was a time when Apple produced technology that was expensive, of premium quality, and “just worked”. You plugged stuff together and, “it just worked”. Here, in 2018, you still pay premium prices, but the quality is absolutely shit.

“If Only” (II)

And here we continue the occasional series of posts covering more screw-ups from Apple…

Today the postman delivered a new Audio CD: “Dead & Born & Grown” by The Staves. Never mind the fact that some complete numpty had sellotaped shut a *limited edition signed copy* cardboard/paper CD sleeve [which promptly ripped, of course]…

I loaded the CD into my Mac Mini optical drive, and uploaded the content into iTunes. Fine, except connecting one of my iPod Classics to the Mac for a transfer resulted in me getting an all-too-familiar error message: “The file xxx cannot be transfered to the iPod “Car” because the file is the wrong format.” Went looking, only to discover that a total of 7 tracks were mysteriously “defunct” in iTunes.

In each case I checked the track properties, discovering that iTunes had unilaterally decided to amend/edit the song location information, pointing the database entry to a completely nonsense location. I was able to tweak each of the 7 entries, and so far everything seems OK. But there is clearly a bug in iTunes, if it can magically go about editing partial file details for random songs, just because it wants to.

A once-flawless technology from a once-reliable company is falling apart before my very eyes. Anyone know of a good FLAC player? Sigh…

“If Only” (I)

Last weekend my iTunes software [running on a Mac] and my iPad both decided that they needed software updates. Both were quick and simple procedures. Then things started to go wrong in a big way.

The iPad unilaterally decided that it was no longer going to play the 20 “Digital Copy” movies that I’d bought through “Triple Play” box sets. I tried to access the source files via iTunes, but was told that they were of the wrong format. Everything played perfectly if invoked directly from the OS/X Finder utility. In iTunes, random albums started to delete their artwork, while other random songs refused to play, again telling me that the files were the wrong format. One album lost all it’s tracks when they mysteriously vanished. (The library is on a RAID 5 NAS box, which passed integrity testing, and which has no errors. I *know* I did not delete those files…) Finally, iTunes keeps telling me that there is a problem with my iPhone. I don’t own one, and never have.

So I called Apple support and asked them how I could re-install iTunes safely. Happy to do it, but I could find no clear instructions on their web site for a Mac OS/X installation. I was cheerfully told that they could help me for the princely sum of £29.95 for a single fix, or £69.95 if I would like to buy a year’s worth of support. Or I could pack up all the gear and book a 20 minute slot at a Genius bar in a store miles away…

At which point I explained that the issue had been caused by *Apple* pushing 2 new software releases (iTunes and iOS 6) on to my kit over the weekend. It *had* all been working fine, until *they* broke it. No dice. So I pointed out that a court of law would probably say that what they were doing – a remote “wipe” followed by charging me to fix the problem – counted as a form of racketeering – a digital equivalent of charging me “insurance”, if you will. At that point I started to get passed up the chain of command. Over 2 hours I was passed through a total of 5 different people [in fairness, that was 2 calls: I spoke to 2 on the initial one, and the second person offered to call me back and didn’t… the second call I stayed on the line, refused a call-back and had to negotiate with 3 managers before I got put through to a tekkie]. In the end I was handed off to a lady with a US accent who spent 20 minutes guiding me through the peculiarities of iTunes config files, and which XML libraries need to be deleted to trick the software into thinking it was a clean installation. Even then, bless her, she made a few errors and I had to correct her statements.

We got there in the end, by which point I’d decided that the “IO” in iOS 6 stands for “If Only”, as in, “if only this worked…”

I am *hugely* disappointed with Apple’s attitude towards a problem which they caused.

(Consumer) loyalty is a hard-won thing, and in this post-Jobs era of iPhone Maps scandals, and iOS 6 woes, they seem only to happy to throw it all away. I can’t help but wonder if this is a blip or a turning point…