Non-photo-related frustration

I spent the better part of the now-passed long weekend being immensely frustrated by my beloved iPhone & Macs, mostly in the consternations of dealing with iTunes. I know some of this will be alleviated with iCloud, but right now it appears I’m outta luck & likely so into the future.

I have an “old” 27″ iMac that currently serves duty as the main server for the house. It’s a unified front for downloading, ripping, collecting, cataloguing and serving media around the house and holding onto files for our personal Macs when required. Mostly just the media though, to the point it’s now mostly automated in its digestion. Things get downloaded, moved, sorted, catalogued and added to libraries all without much interference at all.

I have a large media collection. It’s too big to fit on an iPod. Or a MacBook Air. Or the 3rd party SSD in my MacBook Pro. But the aforementioned iMac has ~14TB of space, so it just sits there, hoarded away.

My iPhone is mated to my MacBook Pro, for obvious reasons. My MacBook is my primary machine, faster and eminently more portable than the iMac. This causes massive issues however when it comes to getting media onto my phone:

  • There is no autosync between libraries. I can manually go into Home Sharing, select items that are not in my library and import them, but this has to be done on each computer, takes a large amount of time and prevents iTunes from being used in the process. Library work blocks iTunes usage.
  • The other option is just to readd the whole media directory and let iTunes sort it out. Scanning a 360GB pile of media over WiFi takes a long, long time, that prevents iTunes from being used in the meantime.
  • iPhones are monogamous when it comes to iTunes Libraries. Since my phone has gotten hitched to my MacBook, no more syncing on the iMac. No fractional sharing. No using your device as the “golden master” for sync settings, everything needs to be purged and reuploaded from scratch each switch.
  • iTunes Home Sharing does not allow you to make, sync or copy playlists, only the music files. Cumbersome & vestigial from the DRM music days. I can autosync purchases, but not files otherwise added.
  • Sharing the iTunes DB via Dropbox is problematic as the Album Art folder can be extremely large (~3GB for me, too big for free Dropbox, not so big that a $10/mo 50GB account seems cost effective) along with the other major issue of corruption (see below).
  • Even if you get multiple Macs to all regard an iTunes library on a shared drive (via LAN or Dropbox), iTunes is not designed to have multiple Macs interacting with the library, causing corruption unless only one copy of iTunes is running.
  • The automated solutions for adding and cataloguing ensure that the iMac library is entirely up-to date, creating desynchronization almost immediately.

Between all of these issues I’ve found no solution that doesn’t require an extremely ugly kludge to make it work. Also, iCloud doesn’t seem to have any provisions for keeping my non-iTunes-Store media synched between machines (iTunes Match won’t be for Canadians & the 25,000 song limit makes it a bandaid solution at best). Also, keep in mind that I’m not the only user in the household, so I can’t monopolize the media pile.

My solution now is automated nightly sync of my iMac’s iTunes library onto my MacBook Pro, with another script for a manual sync of the files whenever I need it mid-day. Super gross kludge, very un-Apple. Plus side: I can sync against both Macs. Down side: Loss of all mobile played/skipped info for Smart Playlists (iPhone play data never makes it to the iMac), possible corruption, possible missing files & a lot of bodging. Woohoo?

I’ve been kvetching about this this morning on Twitter, so I thought I’d post it all out here, free from a character limit. People say I’m an edge case, but I can’t imagine this scenario is all that uncommon. Do families have discrete libraries for each person?

All I really want is to create, modify & synch playlists in a Home Shared library (that’s set up using my AppleID, so DRM issues should be moot) but that’s evidently too much to ask, causing this gigantic train of muck, making me keep a library of music in cumbersome synch on a computer that never plays music (it’s either off my phone or played around the house by the iMac), just so I can put it on my phone.


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