Monday, May 29, 2006
playing with iTunes playlists
All of a sudden iTunes lost track of all the files in a playlist I'd created for a car trip a few months ago. I believe I made the playlist in Winamp and then imported it into iTunes (after some frustration, leading to this blog entry/rant), and then synched it to my iPod. I know it's still on my iPod because I listened to it on the plane last week. It's true, however, that I hate and avoid launching iTunes, so maybe it's now gone because iTunes lost it.
Anyway, the point of this blog entry is to document for myself how I fixed it. And because I never blog (except this weekend's flurry of angry entries) and the point of blogging is to put stuff out there for yourself and hope that your audience likes that stuff and your voice and what have you. Or you don't care about your audience, which, given my lack of any sort of traffic tracking, may actually be the case. My audience is, I guess, my wife and one or two coworkers. Anyway, sorry to digress. Most of this fix came from Rob Brooks-Bilson:
1) Backed up My Music\iTunes\iTunes Music Library.xml and iTunes Library.itl to *.iTunesSux (I'm mature like that)
2) Opened iTunes Music Library.xml in TextPad, the world's greatest text editor which I encourage you all to buy
3) Searched for my playlist name
4) Found that iTunes stores songs in the playlist by TrackID, fortunately they were sequentially numbered from 1455-1528
5) Searched for 1455 to find the first track (PROTIP: you will find any given integer string often in the iTunes XML file, prefix your search with [key]Track ID[/key][integer]1455 to be accurate (and also replace the  brackets with "less than & greater than" XML/HTML brackets))
6) found that it was in the /sounds/mp3 hierarchy as per my playlists (an idea that should allow my wife and my Media Center PC to use the same playlists despite storing MP3s on different drives and in different folders as long as they maintain the hierarchy), but needed to be in the file://localhost/D:/sounds/mp3/ hierarchy because iTunes is too STUPID to choose a default music library location and build its library off of that (or I'm too stupid to find that option :)
7) searched and replaced each of the 80 tracks in the playlist
8) opened up the ITL file, zeroed it out, and saved it (Rob says this causes iTunes to think its library is corrupt, and thus will rebuild it to reflect your changes to the XML file)
9) launched iTunes, and it ran through "Importing iTunes Music Library.XML" for a minute or so before telling my my ITL file was corrupt and that it had replaced it
10) iTunes then opened up and my playlist was fine.
And after all that, I noticed that, in iTunes' defense, the playlists I'd just imported (the Witch self-titled album, which is awesome -- doomy heavy metal with J Mascis on drums and a weird folk singer on vocals; a semi-new Bolt Thrower ("Those Once Loyal"), which is like every other Bolt Thrower album so if you like Bolt Thrower, and I like Bolt Thrower a lot, you'll like "Those Once Loyal"; and the new Cat Power "The Greatest", which is very different from the prior two albums but I'm trying to find new music that I can listen to on car trips when others are in the car with me) were listed with ../ to represent d:/sounds/mp3/, so maybe iTunes does have a default file location.
Anyway, just a quick blog entry for myself into which I snuck a music review. For those who are left hanging by the prior entry, I have OneNote 2007 working fine, and have an entry I'm working on with a review. In fact, I'm going to try and blog from OneNote now…
Sunday, May 28, 2006
Office 2007 Beta 2: 2nd try's the charm
OK, so I got my computer to boot and show its desktop again.
Now I needed to find MAINSP2op.MSP so I can have a working (or uninstallable) Office 2003. My work had the Office SP2 "FullFile" available so I downloaded that and extracted it. It had MAINSP2ff.MSP instead, so Windows Installer balked when I tried launching Outlook and pointing it at that file. Oh well. I downloaded just the Client version and extracted, noting that it contained MAINSP2op.MSP as I'd been looking for. Then I had to download about six or seven more updates, extract the MSP files, and point to them, but Outlook eventually loaded. Word, too, seemed to be working just fine. Now that my system seemed to be back in action, it was time to cripple it again...
I decided that maybe Office 2007 was confused by IE 7 and that my problem with IE 6 after installation was just a fluke. I checked MS's site and found that IE 6 was a requirement for Outlook 2007. So I just installed Office 2007 again, without doing anything to IE. I created a restore point first :)
I also noticed that my restore point had reinstalled Google Desktop Search. So I uninstalled it (and had no problems this time, curious). This still left me with not enough room, so I cleaned up the temp directory.
When installing Office 2007, I chose to "Customize" rather than just Upgrade. My options were:
Remove all previous versions
Install InfoPath and Publisher on first use (which may be never)
Everything else at default
Upon completion, I rebooted. I happily noted that my desktop came up this time. I was even happier to find that IE 6 still worked. So I launched Outlook. Other than it coming up with the title bar "Inbox - <0w> - Microsoft Outlook", nothing was too weird. I also noticed that, this time, Outlook didn't crash on the way out. So far, so good.
Launched Word. I am typing in it now so it’s clearly working. So far the only thing that hasn’t worked has been Autocorrect Options (nothing happens when I press the button; I wanted to turn off smart quotes etc. so as not to put non-legit character codes in my documents / blog posts). I tried to attach an image to see if Flickr can be used for image storage, but it cannot. That’s too bad.
OK. Since I’m a glutton for punishment, I’m now going for the real reason I did all this: OneNote 2007. Wish me luck.
Office 2007 Beta 2: recovering from the damage
I noticed that Office 2007 was not in the list of actions in the System Restore list. So I guess that install didn't make a restore point. Thanks, Microsoft. So, while logged in as myself in normal boot mode, I reverted back to "Printer Driver Microsoft Office Document Image Writer Installed", hoping that maybe it was one of the IE 7 required hotfixes that screwed me, not Office 2007 itself. (Note: without a start menu, you must know that System Restore is C:\WINDOWS\SYSTEM32\Restore\rstrui.exe to run System Restore.)
This didn't fix it either. So apparently whatever happened ruined my Windows Explorer shell to a degree that was not evident when I successfully booted up after the Office 2007 install. One thing I noticed was that none of the files replaced by the System Restore were different versions. Has System Restore not been taking the snapshots? Or do I need to reboot again after System Restore for things to work? Taking the easy route, I rebooted again. I saw the taskbar appear and disappear so that didn't work.
I ran rstrui again and this time reverted my (nonexistent) changes. Then on reboot I went back to the day before ("Windows Defender Checkpoint"). This worked! Now to see how screwed up things really were…
I checked and IE had been reverted back to version 6. With some trepidation, I launched Outlook to see what version it was and received a Windows Installer message asking where MAINSP2op.MSP was located. I searched my hard drives and it wasn't on there, and when I cancelled the message box, I was told that "MAPI32.DLL is corrupt or the wrong version". Word launched, asked for MAINSP2op.MSP a bunch of times, and then failed. Well, I guess I knew I was going to mess up Office 2003 with this install, so I figured I shouldn't waste a bunch of time fixing it, but I didn't want to start off my Office 2007 install based on a messed-up Office 2003 install.
Uninstall Office 2003
Checkpoint my system in System Restore
Install IE 7
Install Office 2007 Beta 2
Great way to spend a weekend, huh?
Office 2007 Beta 2
So I upgraded to Office 2007 Beta 2 on my home computer this weekend. I wanted to blog from Word / OneNote (the Blogger add-in for Word sucks) and I really wanted to check out the new version of OneNote. I decided I could live with some incompatibility between home and work Office suites since I basically take my work laptop home with me every day.
Here has been my experience so far:
First, I find that I only have 1GB free on my C: drive and thus not enough room to install. Besides the Program Files and WINDOWS directories, the only files of significance are those of Google Desktop. I attempt to uninstall several times (shitty uninstall program tells you to restart but then immediately the MSI thinks the program that tells you to restart failed, so it reverts back) and finally follow the instructions found here. OK, I've got 2.5GB free now.
Next, I install Office 2007 Professional Plus. The install works fine, please note that I just clicked "Upgrade" (after thinking about the ramifications of this for a bit) and it did all the work.
I launched Outlook, it complained about my GoogleDesktopSearch plugin, but launched and worked fine. I have noticed now that it throws an error when I close it. I tried to remove the plugin from Tools->Options->Other->Advanced->Add-ins like in Outlook 2003, but there is no longer any such option.
I try Word. It seems to be working fine although I was a little unclear on how to apply back the normal style after choosing something else. I want to set up the blogging thing, so I click the big Office button and choose New Blog. It asks me questions about my Blogger account and about how to deal with pictures. I'd like to upload them to Flickr but I'm not sure what I would post in there, so I click the help. MHT file, so I tell Firefox (default browser) to launch IE. It doesn't launch.
I click IE on the Quick Launch bar. It doesn't launch then, either.
Looks like the Office install fucked up IE. I only use it for my work OWA and those few things that need to be in IE Tab so it's not the end of the world. I do notice, however, that Office 2007 seems to launch it for things even though Firefox is set as my default browser.
I decide to install IE 7, figuring Office 2007 would like that much better. I run the install, and restart when requested. My computer, after I log in, sits there with my background and nothing else for 15 minutes while I type this entire blog entry up to this point. Finally I get annoyed, notice that Task Manager works, and launch Explorer. I get a task bar for a second and then it disappears. I launch cmd. Then from it I do a shutdown -r -t 1 which restarts the computer. So at least that works.
On restart, I notice that the taskbar appears briefly during startup but then immediately disappears. That's where I am now. My home computer does not log in. I am fucked. It is 2AM so I am just going to go to bed and hope this thing fixes itself overnight.
Sunday, May 07, 2006
I upgraded to an X41 Tablet
I got a ThinkPad X41 tablet for work about two weeks ago, as a replacement for my Fujitsu Lifebook T3010D. After spending the weekend configuring it so it had everything my old Fujitsu did, I took it to EMC World and took notes for four days. I've had some office days and my usual weekly St. Louis trip to work with it so I wanted to get my impressions down. I'll start with the good, then let the complaining begin, and then I have a section called "The different" for those of you who wonder what it's like to switch from an older TabletPC to a new one.
- The fingerprint login makes so much more sense than anything else that I can't imagine how I lived without it on the Fujitsu. Swipe to unlock the BIOS and it lets you all the way through login. Forget typing your password on that stupid on-screen keyboard while people stare at it.
- The battery life is awesome -- four and a half hours with wireless versus two without (and, no joke, only 1.25 with) on the Fujitsu. I barely worried about running out of power during the many days I've been at EMC World and it would have been a nightmare with the Fujitsu.
- The screen is much clearer than the Fujitsu -- seeing them next to each other, the Fujitsu seemed to have a thick coating over the screen.
- The flat side of the pen feels right and helps it fit nicely into the case
- The rocker is recessed, which was not the case on the Fujitsu and led to a lot of unexpected right-clicking and erasing
- Much better engineered form factor: it's thinner and has rubberized grips in the right places for comfortable use in tablet mode.
- More generally, this is a solid piece of hardware compared to the Fujitsu (or my coworkers' Dells). Very strong case and excellent keyboard. It's really a well-designed machine.
- I'm digging the forward and back keys. I assume my reader(s?) know that these work in Outlook (to switch between folders) and OneNote (to switch between pages)...
- The utilities are fairly slick (albeit not 100% bug-free). I like the concept of Access Connections very much, in which it will switch me to my nearby Lexmark printer in my office, my LaserJet 4100 at home (courtesy of a generous individual at a downtown law firm who retired it), and the printer at my St. Louis client.
- The Client Security Solution software is not exactly right -- I have a wizard that runs every time and refuses to accept my password. This is different than (though relies upon) the IBM Fingerprint Software which does work just fine. I am not sure exactly what Client Security Solution does (besides encrypt your hard drive) but I was sort of hoping that it would get me into sites and programs for which I need to enter my password. I have a very slow and somewhat annoying email conversation going on with Lenovo tech support which I hope someday resolves this, but I have my doubts.
- My cursor sometimes jumps to the bottom right -- the effect is that all of the sudden the Time Zone applet pops up. This sounds like a hardware problem, but it only happens in Outlook, not OneNote or the various other applications I use. It's really annoying.
- ThinkVantage Access Connections sounds like it would be helpful and cool, but is actually a pain in the ass. I ended up uninstalling it because of the following:
- Drops connections if Wireless Zero Config finds them first, so you connect to something, start working, then Access Connections wants to get in on the action so it disconnects you, then takes its sweet time reconnecting you. Sometimes it doesn't actually reconnect you.
- It cannot be connected via Ethernet and wireless connections at the same time. Doesn't sound like a big deal unless you're me and you split your day between docked at your desk and wireless in a meeting. Leaving the wireless off while you're docked means that it has to turn on wireless, find it (see above since our office wireless uses slightly complicated authentication and IAC can never get it right the first time), and then reconnect all your programs which have probably crapped out while the above was happening. Much easier to leave both on so that they quickly recover when you undock or otherwise go off LAN.
- It is also buggy. Sometimes it will freeze trying to connect to something new.
- The TIP occasionally freezes when clicking an incorrectly recognized word.
- The flat edge of the pen and clip dug into my index finger when I was writing a lot at EMC World. The problem with any TabletPC pen is that the rocker switch is just in the way of proper finger placement when writing.
- I'm afraid the spring-loaded pen release mechanism is going to blast the pen into someone's eye; or at the very least, cause me to lose it. I already had an embarrassing moment in a Monday morning staff meeting in which the thing went flying.
- The Fujitsu remembered that when it was on battery, the screen brightness should be low, and then when I plugged it in, the brightness should be high. The ThinkPad, despite its fancy and separately configured power profiles, does not seem to have this feature. Weirdly, though, it does still know to jack the brightness up a bit when I plug in power, just not all the way up. So I have to remember to turn the brightness down when switching from hotel use to conference/meeting use...
- On the X41, Outlook doesn't always seem to remember (for example) the orientation of the reading pane, which I recall the Fujitsu handling just fine.
- I hated the Fujitsu's keyboard at first because the home, end, PgUp, and PgDn keys were only accessed by pressing Function plus the cursor keys. But now that I'm used to it I'm finding it a little difficult to accurately hit those keys even though they are in the normal places they should be.
- Loss of Windows key -- and the Keyboard Customizer Utility does not provide usable replacements. (I'd like to be able to use a key combination for Windows like Shift-Fn rather than lose a left or right shift, Ctrl, or Alt key.) I have gotten good with Ctrl-Esc for Start Menu functions and using Fn-F2 to lock the screen is an acceptable substitute. In general I think the Fn key utilities are pretty useful.
- I worried that my biggest adjustment would be losing the touchpad for a TrackPoint. I do not use a mouse when at work (since I work at too many different surfaces to bother to bring one, and I'd always been fine with the touchpad) so the integrated input device is a big deal to me on my laptop. I think I'm getting used to the TrackPoint now that I'm getting the hang of the scroll, tap-to-click and tap-to-drag features. I still think the TrackPoint gives you a bit less control than a touchpad does. And I am speaking as a person that remembers when my boss at IBM was given a TrackPoint keyboard hand-made by the inventor of the TrackPoint himself, and thinking, "wow, that's a really cool input device". (Of course, my next thought was, "Why would you ever not just use a mouse?" It didn't occur to me to think of laptops since at the time I'd never seen anything more portable than the PS/2 model P70...) So I've used a TrackPoint on and off since 1993.
- Different buttons on the tablet screen:
- Enter and Esc are useful
- The function ("suitcase") button has more useful functions than the Fujitsu edition
- Function button has a more useful menu than the Fujitsu
- I missed the Ctrl-Alt-Del button from the Fujitsu but now realize:
- first, there IS a button (albeit tiny and unlabeled)
- second, I don't need to press Ctrl-Alt-Del anywhere near as much because I use the fingerprint sensor to log in)
To give you a real synopsis in case you didn't want to read all those words, I'd say that thanks to the battery life and generally professional package make this a totally worthwhile upgrade for me (despite the fact that it has the same RAM, slightly better graphics, and is only 200MHz faster). I'm sorry to my TabletPC posse that I didn't get much into the tablet-specific stuff; if you are unfamiliar with TabletPC features there are plenty of reviews out there of this model. I've had a tablet for almost a year and a half and so I just wanted to compare that model (Fujitsu T3010D) to this model.
Technorati tag(s): TabletPC