Size and Scale · Here’s what iTunes says; the songs are all in Apple Lossless encoding:
10823 songs, 946 albums, 31.5 days, 230.21 GB.
The search performance is pretty well instant, but when I actually click on “Play the Album”, I sometimes get many seconds of the beachball while it gets ready to go. It’s hard to get upset, because that’s still way quicker than pulling a physical CD out of the rack and firing up the old player.
iTunes’ fit-&-finish could be a whole lot better; little things, but irritating. Here’s an example: When you want to change what what you’re searching for, it seems to take one click to give the search window focus, so to select its whole contents to start typing over it requires a total of four clicks. There are more and I could list them, but it’d sound petty because they’re all low-level irritants.
By and large, it mostly Just Works.
Playing Music · With our collection, just putting it on shuffle-all is not an option. There is just no mood which in which it’s appropriate to sequence Bill Evans and Jack White and Ute Lemper and Gustav Mahler and PJ Harvey. Not gonna happen.
So first of all, I gleefully did a “select all” and blanked out the filthy misleading “Genre” column. Now I’ve started using the “Grouping” column as a “tags” field, putting in comma-separated lists of terms such as “choral” and “electric guitar” and “baroque”. Then I make “smart playlists” based on the groupings, and so far that works just fine.
And if you want to hear anything in particular, iTunes’ search function is just the ticket. My only serious regret that I still can’t convince it to show me an alphabetical-by-artist virtual CD rack organized the way I’d like.
Sound · I’m happy with the sound of the Benchmark Media DAC. The music takes a noticeably darker shade than via the Linn it replaced. Think about this logically: The Linn could either have been a little heavy on the highs, or light on the bass; the Benchmark could be a little light on the highs or heavy on the bass; or (most likely) some combination. Fortunately, should I want to find out, we have the technology. But I may not do the measurement, because I really very much like the music’s new chocolate flavor.
Artwork · Initially I relied on iTunes to find the artwork for the disks as I scanned them, but that’s a bad idea, because often it just gives up, and gets the wrong artwork for lots of others. So what I did, when I got each stack of disks out to scan, was spend a few minutes with Google Images tracking down their artwork; then you can just drag the picture from Safari onto iTunes’ album-metadata screen.
That got me partway there, but I have a lot of obscure decade-or-more-old disks that I bought in flea markets in Darmstadt or Sydney or wherever, and while the Gracenote database apparently knows the tracks on everything ever recorded, the art just isn’t out there. So I ended up manually scanning a hundred or more CD inserts. I developed a super-clever workflow so that I could do all the jewel-case wrangling while the scanner was scanning. Pity I’ll never use it again.
Backup · Once I had all the music scanned, I picked up a 500G USB disk made by, uh, someone or other, and moved all the music over. This led to a couple of pleasant surprises.
I had carefully followed Apple’s
and stored the actual tunes on my mirrored-1TB disks.
So I was worried that
I was going to have to back up both that and the metadata from
~/Music. Not so; if you follow
the instructions for
iTunes to someone else’s library, it seems that all the metadata is right there
with the music itself;
~/Music/iTunes seems only an index, which
it’s happy to rebuild.
So I took the outboard disk over to my office (off-site backup, y’know) and plugged it into the USB hub, and told my laptop to import-but-not-copy, and now I have 10823 songs, 946 albums, etc. , right there in my office too. Given the low and falling price of outboard storage these days, the mind reels at what a bad person could do to what’s left of the music industry’s business model. I’m imagining a table in a public flea-market covered with USB sticks, $50 for 50 hours of music.
New Music · Now that I’m all set up, want some new tunes. Except for I flatly refuse to buy anything which has suffered abuse via lossy compression. I checked out HDtracks, but they only sell to US credit cards. I’m sure there are alternatives but I haven’t really gone looking yet.
I went over to Linn Records and bought the high-rez Mackerras Mozart symphonies — that’s some of my favorite music — but so far, I can’t get the 24/96 FLAC converter to actually produce anything that iTunes will play. The open-source software that’s supposed to do this seems very crashy.
The Leftovers · We still have the rack full of CDs wasting space in the living room. I don’t think it’s worth the effort to pull them out of their jewel cases, so I guess I’ll just pack those into cardboard boxes and toss ’em into storage. I do, however, want to pull out the booklets and keep them around, so I can find out who played bass on track seven or sung the role of the Russian Count in Act Two. I’m not sure yet what the best way is to store a thousand or so CD inserts so they’re still useful.
Android · I went and got an 8G MicroSD card for my G1 Android phone, and have got it loaded up with a huge amount of music, using doubleTwist, from “DVD” Jon Lech Johansen and friends. That program does one thing very well; break music out of the Apple’s iTunes jail into an open format so my phone can play it.
The conversion is kind of slow, but it has a queue that seems to work properly, so you can keep dragging music out of your library and dropping them onto the phone; then go away for a couple of hours and eventually it’ll work its way through.
Unfortunately, Double Twist, as of mid-2009, doesn’t do much else very well. It doesn’t let you select stuff from your iTunes library by artist or album very efficiently, and non-ASCII characters get mangled along the way, and it doesn’t send along album art. I’m still grateful to have it and I’m hoping it’ll live up to its potential.