Migrating iTunes windows to Mac

As part of my recent imac purchase came the chore of moving stuff over from my old hard drive which thankfully survived my old PC’s premature demise. Part of the stuff that I naturally wanted to migrate is of course my iTunes library.

Last time I moved my iTunes library is 3.5 years ago, when I bought my then new and now broken PC. At the time I wrote up a little howto on iTunes migration that over the years has gotten me tens of thousands of hits (dozens per day). Some people were kind enough to leave a message and apparently I helped out several of them with those instructions.

So, here’s the follow up.

Circumstances are slightly different now. I “consolidated” my library ages ago, which means iTunes moves all files to its own directory. Additionally, I reorganized my library, fixed tagging issues, etc. In other words, I put a lot of time into organizing my music and keeping it organized and would hate to start from scratch. Secondly, we’re several major iTunes versions down the road and they added album art fetching, genius and loads of other features.

So, I started out by following the original instructions of three years ago. This nearly works, except the music is not playable from iTunes for some vague reason. So no longer up to date despite a comment of some person who successfully managed a win to mac migration the “old” way.

Next I tried something that I didn’t believe would work but which worked anyway:

  • Copy library from former C drive to where it is supposed to be on your mac (all files & dirs)
  • Don’t modify a single file, they’re fine as they are.
  • Start itunes

Right after it starts it “updates” the library and that’s it. That’s a lot faster & easier. Play counts, play lists, ratings, you name it. It’s there. Thanks Apple, this is a lot better than three years ago and exactly the way it is supposed to work.

imac 24″

Saturday morning I turned on my PC and basically the screen did not come on (I have it on standby). Suspicious but has happened before. So I press the powerbutton to do a reset and then it did single beep followed by 8 rapid beeps. That’s the bios telling you: this pc is FOOBARRED, please try installing a new motherboard. Or something. Good luck with that. Anyway, eight beeps and nothing.

After the predictable “godverdomme, kutzooi”, which needs no translation here, I calmed down and did what I was planning to do anyway (by coincidence). Which was visiting the local Apple store. Or rather the Gravis M&S store on the Ernst Reuter Platz here in Berlin, a nice big store specialized in reselling all the nice Apple gadgets along with a helpdesk and good support options (I hate putting expensive hardware in the mail). So, I basically already decided to go for an imac. Question: which one. Eh … why go for anything less than the biggest one? Sure it costs money but it I’ll be spending the next few years glued to its screen. So 24″, 3Ghz dual core cpu, 4GB ram, a 1TB diskdrive and a nice nivida chipset with 512MB (which will no doubt run X-plane just fine).

Anyway, they didn’t have one in store with an English keyboard. So they made the order for me and told me “one and a half week”. So, to my pleasant surprise, I got the call already today that they had my new imac ready. So I fetched it, plugged it in and enjoyed the famous Apple out of the box experience, which is excellent.

Then I went to work installing the basics: firefox, adium, skype and some other essentials. I haven’t gotten around to applying all the tweaks I have on my work laptop but will of course be doing that to fix e.g. annoying home-end key behavior and a couple of other things.

I am now in need of:

  • A proper usb mouse (sorry but the mighty mouse will join its brother in a drawer)
  • A USB2 – SATA converter to read both internal drives in my old PC with all my music, photos and other essentials. I have a pretty recent backup on an external drive but had gotten a bit sloppy backing up the last few months. BTW. I noticed that NTFS is read only on macs, so any tips for fixing that are welcome. Macfuse seems to be one option, any alternatives?
  • To fix that, I will need a nice new big external drive to hook up to time machine.

Not all is great though:

  • The keyboard sucks compared to the one that came with my Mac Book Pro last year. WTF is up with the weirdly small enter key and the weird symbols where it used to say page down, page up, etc.
  • The mighty mouse still stinks
  • All the mobile me and .mac spam on first launch is kind of annoying

Anyway, happy to be online again.

Mac at home

Since I’m quite happy with the mac at work. I’m half convinced that I might want one at home. One problem though. The imacs on sale are crap. They’re nice configurations, for 2006. But why the hell would I sink money in a configuration with a maximum of 4GB and a video card that is the 2006 budget model? I don’t want a noisy mac pro. I want a silent iMac. But at the prices they are selling at, I also want specs that are worthy of the current market. My 3 year old AMD more than matches the specs of what Apple is selling as new today.

I looked at the upgrade options. For 150$ I can upgrade from 2 to 4Gb. I know for a fact that these modules sell for around 30€ here in Finland, including 22% taxes. For 250$ I can upgrade the hd to 1TB (from 0.5). 1TB drives are going around 100-120€ here, including taxes. I can upgrade to a 512 Nvidia 8600GS. Gee, do they even sell these at nvidia? These are not upgrade options but an excessive price for what should be the standard, minimum configuration of a 2000€ PC.

The point here is that for this kind of money, I want more upgrade options. I’m not buying a PC that can’t handle memory modules on sale today. 4GB and 8GB modules are commonplace, 16 & 32 GB modules are on the market as well. A decent PC should have 2-4 slots so a maximum of at least 16GB is what I expect today. Given the memory prices, I’d max the memory out too.

1TB drives should be standard in a premium PC at the current prices.

Regarding the video card. Both ATI and NVIDIA are two generations ahead with their chip architecture. A recent card from the 9×00 series should be standard and the upgrade option should be one in the current GTX range. I’d say 512GB is sort of the minimum for acceptable 3D experience right now. Apple ships macbooks with this now.

So, my plan is to wait until Apple upgrades their product line (any month now?). At that moment I will decide that either it is overpriced crap or I will sink good money in a maxed out version of the imac. Basically, the current specs are not worth my money. If I sink 2000+ euro in a PC it needs to significantly out perform my three year old AMD.

Failing power supply

In April 2007, I replaced a broken power supply in my PC with a Antec SmartPower 2.0 500W Power Supply. Check my review here. A few days ago, my pc has started producing a high pitched noise. Really annoying. So, I Google a little and what do I find: Antec SmartPower 2.0 500W Power Supplies apparently have 21% failure rate. Tell tale signs include the damn thing making high pitched noise.

I have to investigate a little further but probably this means the power supply is failing after less than one and a half year. Out of warranty of course. Damn it, really annoying to have to open that case again to replace the same part. Basically, the PC is now nearly three years old and maybe I should just replace it altogether. Something quiet, fast and reliable would be nice.

In a few weeks my new Macbook Pro should arrive at work (ordered yesterday). I was planning to wait and see if I like that and if so, just upgrade to a nice Mac at home as well. Not fully convinced yet.

Feel free to recommend a decent PSU. Has to power a Nvidia 7800, 2 drives, lots of USB hardware and a amd 4400+ dualcore CPU.

Update. I ended up installing a ZALMAN ZM600-HP. Seems to have a few good reviews http://www.tweaknews.net/reviews/zm600hp/. It’s expensive, over qualified for the job and supposedly really good and quiet. Sadly the rest of my machine is still rather noisy.

Totaled my Porsche

As you might recall I bought a pair of Lacie Porsche 500GB disks some time ago. Well, a few weeks ago the power supply of one of them began making funny noises and it was getting harder to start up the Porsche. The disk worked fine with the power supply that came with the other drive so the problem was that the power supply was broken.

This happened just outside the warranty of the disk. So the fix was to order a new power supply from Lacie. I looked up how to do that on the website and discovered that these things cost around 35€ which is quite a lot to invest in a disk that now sells under 100€. Besides, I’m kind of annoyed with all those bricks below my desk anyway.

So I went for option number two: pry open the casing and put the disk in the PC. Thanks to this post, I figured out how to do this. Unfortunately, I did end up making a few scratches on the plastic. It is indeed quite tricky to do this properly. But I’m not going to use it anyway.

A quick look in the windows disk properties confirmed that my disk indeed was a sata disk (a samsung). So I took apart my PC, plugged the disk in and put everything together (after a short trip to the store for a second SATA cable). For some reason the first drive was plugged into the second SATA port so after boot, it couldn’t find the OS. A quick trip to the bios allowed me to swap which drive is treated as the first disk and I was back in business.

Let me know if you have a use for a empty Lacie Porsche case with some minor scratches and without a power supply (you can take the broken one of course). You should be able to put in any SATA disk. For 5€ or a (nice) beer it is yours.

Modular windows

There is a nice article on Ars discussing Microsoft’s business practices regarding windows and how they appear to be not quite working lately. It used to be that your PC came with windows whereas nowadays you have to select from a around five different versions and Microsoft is rumored to go to an even more modular and subscription based model. The general idea is to be able to squeeze out as much revenue out of the market as possible. On paper it sounds good (for MS that is).

Rather than buying an overpriced OS with everything and the kitchen sink you buy what you need. There’s a huge differences between what businesses and some individuals are willing to spend and the typical home user that just wants a browser + skype + the sims. Typically the latter group ends up buying the cheapo version and the former group ends up buying the everything and the kitchen sink version. The problem is that there is unmonetized value in the latter in the sense that some owners of the  cheapo versions might be interested in getting access to some of those features in the expensive version but not in all of them.

Now to the obvious problem with the discussed solution. By selling cheapo versions with most of the value removed and factored out into separate chunks you have to pay for, you dilute the overall value of the OS. So instead of buying an OS that can do X, Y, and Z out of the box you are buying an OS that can’t do X, Y, and Z out of the box. Marketing an OS that can’t do stuff is a lot harder than trying to sell stuff that can do things.  Worse they are opening the market to third parties that might do something similar to X, Y, and Z for a better price, or in some cases for free (beer & speech). Or even worse to companies selling an alternative OS with X, Y, and Z.

That in a nutshell is what is discussed in the Ars article and why Apple Mac OS X marketshare is approaching double digit percentages. I’ve been giving it some serious thought lately and I’m also noticing the spike in Safari users in my web site statistics.

Anyway, the reason for this write up is that the article overlooks an important argument here that I believe is relevant for more markets than just operating systems. In general, the tie between OS and features such as photo galleries, online backups, or TV UIs is artificial. Microsoft only adds features like this to make the overall OS more valuable. That is, they are looking to improve the value of the OS, not the photo gallery. However, ongoing and inevitable commoditization of software actually shifts value to new features. Especially when bundled with online subscriptions, things like online photo galleries can be quite good business. For example, Flickr has many paying subscribers.

Naturally MS is interested in markets like this (which is why they are interested in Yahoo). However, the tie-in to the OS constrains the market. Why would you not want to sell these services to Apple users? Why would you not want to sell this service to Sony Playstation owners? Why would you want to want to artificially limit who can access your service just to boost sales of your OS? As long as you were trying to artificially (and apparently for MS illegally) boost value of your core OS, bundling was a valid strategy. However, as soon as your value shifts, that becomes a brake on market growth. The OS market has commoditized to the point where you can get things like Ubuntu for free, which for the low end market is about as good as what you get with the cheapo version of Vista (see my various reviews of Ubuntu for why I’m not ready to claim better yet).

So the difference between MS and Google who is eating their lunch in the services arena is that the latter is not handicapped by 20 years of Windows legacy and can freely innovate and grow marketshare without having to worry about maintaining a revenue stream from legacy software. Google doesn’t have to sell OS licenses and so they give away software on all platforms to draw more users to their services which is where they make their money.

Naturally, Google has a lot of software engineers that are working round the clock to create more value for them. Where possible Google actively collaborates with the open source community because they know that while they won’t make any money from commodities like browsers, file systems and other important software components, they do depend on those things working as good as possible and keep evolving in the right direction. Few people appreciate this but this and not ads is why Google sponsors Firefox. It’s a brilliant strategy and it is forcing their main competitor to keep investing in internet explorer rather than being able to shift resources to directly competing with Google. 50 million $ is pocket money if it is making your main competitor crap their pants and waste resources on keeping up with you in a market where you are not even trying to make money.

You might have noticed that I have carefully avoided discussing Google and Microsoft’s mobile service strategies and also noticed that yours truly is working for Nokia. Well, my readers ought to be smart enough to figure out what I’m trying to say here aren’t you :-)?

Head tracking

I stumbled on two interesting programs that effectively turn my webcam into a head tracking device. The first one is a reasonably priced commercial package called Cachya. They have a trial version available that I installed to play with. The second one is a french open source product freetrack.

Why is this interesting?

(cachya, sightseeing)

(cachya, dogfight)


(freetrack with a race game)

So, basically this stuff allows you to look around while flying around in your flight simulator. Since I spend quite some time in x-plane that is highly interesting.

Of course I installed both packages.

Freetrack is free but has one disadvantage: you need to attach a bunch of leds to your head for it to work. Since I don’t have any, am not planning a career as a Christmas tree and since the documentation is in French, I didn’t get very far with it. But it’s free and definitely tempting to give another try.

I also tried Cachya. It seems quite nice and doesn’t require any leds. Instead it works with a symbol that you can print out and attach to your cap. You will still look silly of course but not so bad as with a bunch of leds attached to your head. And considering the above videos, I might end up buying it. The only problem is that the trial version so far is not very convincing. A problem is that I have some nasty backlight from the window which tends to confuse it. Also I had lots of issues controlling the demo with my head. So altogether, I’m not quite ready to get my wallet out yet.

Then of course the expensive option is track-ir. This one apparently works but it is quite expensive and you still end up attaching reflectors to your head and connecting a bulky tracking device to your PC.

Antec SmartPower 2.0 500 Watt review

What happened yesterday was that I got home on monday and tried to restore the pc from standby (where it had been since friday morning). I then went into the kitchen to get some food and when I came back it was off. So I powered it again and it went through a weird on off cycle that kept repeating until I switched off the powersupply with its button. I then unplugged and replugged powercable and checked everything else and powered on. Same thing. By this point I was quite certain the powersupply was toast and removed it from the case. I spent the rest of the evening reading a book and watching some TV, things I normally don’t do that often.

Today I bought a Antec SmartPower 2.0 500 Watt unit. It seems my first ever attempt at connecting it to various components was successful. At least, it’s been running for fifteen minutes now (while writing this) and everything seems OK. Quite a relief that everything is working again. I’ve so far shied away from constructing my own PCs since I prefer to get the thing pre-assembled, tested and with warranty. The latter had expired and the company that did the assembling no longer exists despite doing a fine job (PC has been stable for over a year until the hardware failed). So, I had no choice but to get off my ass and fix things myself.

Connecting things is not that hard as long as you know what is connected to what in the first place. This is reasonably fool proof since connectors come in various shapes that line up nicely in only one way. To make sure I wouldn’t miss anything, I shot a few pictures of the internals of my PC before disconnecting everything. I consulted these pictures a few times to ensure everything was connected correctly during the whole procedure. So, I guess that counts as useful advice for people in a similar situation. Disconnecting things was a bit cumbersome since the case is full of sharp bits and pieces that tend to get in the way when you try to unplug stuff. My right hand has a few scratches but otherwise, I’m fine.

The package the new unit came in was quite nice, for a power supply. It has two useful features: modular cables and a two fans for improved cooling of the unit and the rest of the machine. The modular cables connect to four sockets on the unit. Several cables are provided with the package for all the usual stuff. The nice thing about this is that it allows you to minimize the amount of cable and it also provides some flexibility with respect to how you route the cables. I used three of the four sockets. One for the video card (dedicated PCI Extreme cable provided), one for the sata drive and one with three connectors which I used for the dvd burner, the frontside of the casing (power button and some other stuff) and the floppy drive, which I’ve never actually used. Having a dedicated cable for the video card seems useful since it is a nvidia 7800 card. These are notorious for sucking a lot of power (hence the 500 watt) and having a dedicated cable ensures it doesn’t have to share the cable with other devices (which presumably helps keeping things stable).

Despite the two fans, noise is quite ok (about the same as before) since only the internal fan is active most of the time. Besides, my cpu fan and video card fan can be quite noisy too. I haven’t heard the second one yet but I’m sure I will once I do some gaming. If you are looking for noise free, buy another unit but otherwise things are quite alright. The reason I chose this one was because it had a nice package, more or less the same specs and the above mentioned nice features. There’s not much more to it. Without access to a PC I sort of omitted my usual routine of doing elaborate comparison of various alternatives and trusted the nice people at Verkkokauppa to put the good stuff on the top shelf. Besides, this was one of the few 500 watt units they had.

porsche gets some good testdrive

It’s only two days ago that I bought myself a Lacie Porsche 0.5 TB usb drive. Yesterday evening, after a reboot caused by an apple security update weird shit started to happen. Basically windows informed me that “you have 3 days to activate windows”. WTF! So I dutifully click the activate now only to watch a product key being generated and the dialog closing itself, rather than letting me review the screen and opting for a internet or telephone based activation. After that it informed me that I had three more days to activate. Very weird and disturbing news! A few reboots and BSODs later (which had now also started to appear on pretty much every reboot), I took a deep breath and decided that the machine was foobarred and I needed to reinstall windows. I suspect the root cause of my problems was a reset a while back which resulted in a corrupt registry and repeated attempts by windows to repair it before booting normally. I thought the problem was fixed but apparently the damage was more extensive than I originally thought.

Considering I had a few more days to reactivat, which despite my attempts I could not do, I decided to back up everything I could think off. I.e. I have about 100 GB left on the external drive, bought it just in time :-). Copying that amount takes shitloads of time. Basically most of the backup ran overnight with the assistence of the cygwin port of rsync. After re-installing windows earlier this evening (which activated fine, to my surprise), I got to work reinstalling everything (I have a few dozen applications I just need to have) and moving back all my data. Some interesting things:

  • Luckily I thought of backing up my c:\drivers dir in which I stored various system level drivers for my motherboard and other stuff that I downloaded when I installed the machine a year ago. This included the essential driver for the lan, without which I would have had no network after the install and no way to get the driver on the machine (or to activate it). Pfew.
  • I reapplied the itunes migrate library procedure I described last year (and which still gets me loads of hits on the blog). It still works and my library, including playlists, ratings and playcounts imported fine in my new itunes install. Would be nice if Apple was a bit more supportive of recovering your stuff in a new install.
  • After installing firefox 2, I copied back my old profile folder and firefox launched as if nothing had happened. Bookmarks, cookies, passwords, extensions all there :-). Since I practically live in this thing, that pleased me a lot.
  • Then I reinstalled gaim and copied back the .gaim directory to my user directory. Launched it and it just worked. Great!
  • Same with jedit.
  • Then I installed steam, logged in and ran the restore back up tool that was created along with the 13GB backup. Seems to work fine and I’m glad that I don’t have to wait a few weeks for the download to finnish. Ok the restore was not fast either but it got the job done.

Lesson learned: backups are important. I had the opportunity to create them when it turned out I needed them. But I should have been backing up more regularly. A more catostrophic event would have caused me dataloss and much more annoyance.

So a big thank you to Bill Gates et al. for wasting my precious spare times with their rude and offensive activation crap. Fucking assholes! I’m a paying customer and very pissed. I will remember this waste of my time and genuine disregard for my rights when making any future microsoft purchasing decisions. And yes, that probably means lost revenue for you guys in Redmond. I’ve adopted opensource for most of my desktop apps by now. There’s only two reasons for me to boot windows on my PC: games and photoshop. I understand the latter is now supported by wine and I’m much less active with gaming than I used to be. Everything else I use either runs on linux or has great alternatives. But for the moment, I’ll keep using windows because I’m lazy.

reinstalling windows sucks

Luckily my parents laptop came with a windows xp pro cd and a valid product key. So, after backing up important files using ubuntu, I proceeded to install windows. I had forgotten how annoying installing windows can be.

After having seen ubuntu the experience is, well, extremely user unfriendly and extremely likely to end in disaster unless you know what to do. For the record, the ubuntu live dvd recognized all hardware out of the box without any intervention. Impressive.
The easy, but tedious, part is putting the windows cd in the tray. Then the installer gives you a few seconds to trigger it by hitting enter. Then you are confronted with a slowly loading text only wizard where you will have to do something very risky: removing a partition and creating a new one. The provided tool for this is outdated by the standards set by linux distributions. The point of this step is to start with a clean disk, so getting this right is important. 99% of the user population would at this point likely make the wrong choice and either end up installing a very old xp over their existing installation or installing it in some weird location on a harddrive that is still full of spyware. OK, been there done that so, clickety and nice clean drive.

Then it starts copying. It reboots. More copying and then some questions about where I am. More copying. Product key. More copying. Modem & Network settings. This fails but I end up being online anyway (network cable plugged in so how hard can it be)? Another reboot. Then during the first boot a wizard with an annoyingly loud shitty music in the background. At this point my laptop’s volume buttons are not yet operational (have to be logged in?). Activation and finally done. It takes about one and a half hours and it requires constant fiddling with wizards so you can’t just leave it alone to do its thing.
Oh wait. We’ve just started. This is an old windows cd, I do not yet have the billion security updates that are the whole point of this operation and that do not install themselves without manual intervention. OK, two hours later I’m patched all the way up to two years ago (sp2). Now the auto update finally kicks in. Another hour, three reboots and 50+ security updates (not kidding) later it is finally over, I think.

Oh wait. Much of the hardware is actually not working correctly. Stuff like my usb ports, pc card slot, video graphics chip are all not working correctly. Nor is my wireless card (smc pcmcia card, plugging it in hangs the system). And damn this internet explorer default page is annoying. And thanks for showing me this unavoidable welcome to windows promo again (you have to watch it to get rid of the annoying traybar icon). And no thanks for the hotmail msn thingy.
Turns out the compaq support site has a nice list of stuff you could install. The problem with this site is twofold: there are multiple things to choose from without any clear guidance on what to install and what not to install. Secondly, all downloads (and there are a lot) are conveniently named sp4325345345.exe where the number is the only thing that varies. The idiot who invented that naming scheme should be taken out and shot. Anyway, I installed half a dozen of their driver packs and everything seems to work now. At least several of the downloads there are crucial to the correct operation of the laptop.

No way my parents could have done all of this on their own. The sad truth with windows is that if it is not configured correctly out of the box, it is really difficult to get everything working correctly. My mother was asking me this weekend if she could do it herself or go to the shop to have somebody do it. If only that were possible :-). In terms of labour cost, the price is a nice low end PC just waiting for all of the above to complete. Of course there is plenty of opportunity for mistakes so realistically it is probably cheaper to just go to dell and buy new hardware & software.