Tag Archives: itunes

Got NAS? Creating a Digital Media Solution

(Author’s note: This post is for those not as familiar with the full extent of digital media tools, apps and hardware; there are a multitude of solutions out there and this is to bring the subject to the wider audience).

In this age of digital media, everyone is taking photos (JPGs), listening to music (MP3, OGG, FLAC), taking videos (MP4, DivX, MPG, MKV) – and there are plenty of other formats for each of those to choose as an alternative. Equally, there are many ways to consume those formats – Desktop, Laptop, tablets, PDA, phone.. the list goes on.

Over time you may come to realise that you have lots of files everywhere (SD cards, hard drives, USB memory sticks, Facebook, etc). – You probably have also wondered how can you organise them a little better so you don’t have to go to one place for pictures, another for music, etc. etc.

If you’ve not heard of NAS (or Network Attached Storage) already then this might be the answer for you!

What is NAS?

A NAS drive is one or more 3.5″ hard drives contained in an enclosure along with some additional bits and pieces to make it more than just a hard drive. For the technically minded, those bits and pieces are a network port, sometimes a USB port (to enable attachment of other USB devices including printers) and typically a micro kernal flavour of Linux allowing some other features such as the ability to automatically download .torrent files, FTP access, user management, etc. If you’re wanting yet more info, check out the Wiki article on it.

The NAS drive connects to your network router and provides the ability to store and retrieve data to (almost) any other device that can connect to the same network. To give you a flavour of just what this means, take a look at the possibilities below!

From this you can see that the potential to centralise all your picture, music and movies is pretty compelling. So what’s the catch?

What’s the catch?

NAS drives are as fast as the network they are connected to and the activity they are performing. For example, if you had 3 people trying to stream 1080p (HD) video on a 802.11B wireless network they are going to have to deal with slow network speeds and (potentially) one hard drive trying to squeeze 3 HD videos down a small network pipe. You can imagine that won’t work well! Also some devices have to do some extra decoding on the fly for certain content (usually video) – again that can add an overhead.

But it’s not all bad, is it?

Not at all – personally I have a single drive NAS drive (Iomega 1TB) which serves as a central store for all my digital content. It means I can share media across any device including XBox 360, PS3, laptops and Android phone. Slight frustration is with Apple mobile products; my iPad won’t connect without downloading (buying) more software or by routing the content via a PC / Mac which would have to be on to serve the content.

What else should I know?

NAS drives can be bought with the capability to house multiple hard drives. The main reason for this is to provide failover should one hard drive fail. You may have heard the term “RAID” – this basically means that whatever is on a disk is mirrored to another disk so that if one fails, the other disk has the same data to provide backup/failover. Read more about RAID here. This means that you could have 2 x 1TB drives with only 1TB of storage space but redundancy for that capacity.

NAS drives should also come as DNLA / UPnP and iTunes compatible so you have lots of options open to you  – many do, but this is just something to look out for.

Also look out for those NAS drives that can act as a Print Server – that means you can connect your printer to the NAS drive and any device on the network potentially can use that printer.

So what NAS drive should I buy?

There are many options; if you have the budget I would recommend getting a NAS drive with RAID, plus drives as big as you’re comfortable buying. Check Amazon, NewEgg and CNET for recommendations – I’ve heard lots of good press about Buffalo; I’ve had a good enough experience with my iomega NAS too.

Like this post? Please comment!

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doubleTwist – Removing DRM still exists!

Introducting doubleTwist – a music/video sharing and sync’ing application which also removes iTunes DRM.

This application continues to progress and has a great deal of functionality which many could take advantage of – most notably….

doubleTwist can automatically convert music you have purchased from the iTunes store to MP3, a universal format supported by all devices that play digital music. doubleTwist does not delete or move the original files. 

You can only convert files that you have legally purchased and are authorized to play with iTunes.

doubleTwist desktop enables you to sync iTunes playlists with:

  • Nokia N & E Series phones, including the N95, E61i, E62, and others
  • Sony Ericsson Walkman & Cybershot phones
  • Windows Mobile 5.0/6.0 platform (e.g. Treo, HTC, Palm)
  • BlackBerry Curve and Pearl
  • LG Viewty and LG Voyager
  • Sony PSP
  • Amazon Kindle

More on how to do stuff with doubleTwist here.

iPod won’t update from iTunes; Floola rescues then breaks iPod – cue FooBar2000

iPodThe title of the post is pretty descriptive in itself, but here’s the low-down on what happened and how i fixed it.

Adding music to iTunes does not update iPod

Dragging mp3s to my iTunes library would not sync up to the iPod – No error, no clues, no indication why this was happening. Mr Google says that the only way to resolve was either to upgrade to the latest version of iTunes and firmware (already done) and failing that, do a factory reset. Ugh.

Floola to the rescue – sort of…

Floola is a great little application which lets you maintain your iTunes library without the need for iTunes. It’s damn useful when you’re in a spot – no need to install the app, just double-click; no need to register the iPod, it just works.

So Floola let me add files and then re-writes the iTunes library – but what it also does is change the sort algorithm. What this means is that any band starting with “The” will be put in the “T” section – e.g. The Mission used to be in the “M”s by iTunes. Niggle, but nothing to worry about.

However Floola (at least the version I ran) has bugs which means I would strongly recommend NOT using until the dev team fix them – namely:

  • Version 2.8 and lower could and would mix up your album art – so you’d end up with artwork for one artists being assigned to a different artists’ song – Version 2.9 and above apparently fixes this
  • Sometimes the Floola written iTunes Library file would corrupt and you’d lose all access your songs – but they’d still be on the iPod. – This is discussed here: – http://www.floola.com/modules/newbb/viewtopic.php?topic_id=570&forum=2

I got hit by both bugs – the last bug happened twice, with the first being recovered by connecting the iPod to iTunes; the second completely hosed the iPod so that no songs appeared and iTunes said the library was corrupt.

Extract using foobar2000

Because I don’t keep my songs in one location (i.e. not have my iTunes library stored on the same PC that I have iTunes installed on), iI decided to rip all the content off the iPod. To do this, I installed foobar2000, shut down both the iTunes and AppleMobileDevice services (go to Task Manager > Processes in Windows), connect my iPod and then point foobar to the drive letter that the iPod is attached to (click on File > Add Directory > (iPod Drive e.g. G:)/iPod Control/Music).

Once foobar has retrieved the music list, you can drag and drop those files to another location (e.g. your C:\ drive).  Once I did this I reset the iPod to factory settings (from iTunes) then dragged the files back to my iTunes library – Hey presto! iTunes works, iPod works, updates work!

Mojo – Download music from other people’s iTunes!

The thing about writing commercial software is that even if you put elaborate things in place to stop people copying or ripping it, someone somewhere will find a way.

Similarly, now we live in an MP3 world, people who use iTunes can now download songs from other people’s shared iTunes libraries thanks to Mojo.

“Mojo will automatically find other users on your network and allows you to easily add buddies to your roster for those who aren’t on your local network.   Select a user to share with… Songs you already have in your library are grayed out.  Also, protected songs display in red… All the songs you have selected will be automatically downloaded and added to your iTunes library…Choose any playlist to subscribe to, and Mojo will automatically download and update the latest changes”

Sounds great eh? Mac users can rejoice that this is fully functional at this time, but Windows is still in beta meaning you can only share over a local network – the Mojo guys are working on completing this work shortly.

Visit the Mojo Site for more info