4th-Generation Lanyard Solved

23 October 2008

My lanyard woes are over. My good friend wielded his mad skillz and modified a 1st-Gen lanyard. It was pretty simple in the end, but care was needed. A Dremel drill was used.

The Nano is held on principally by the headphone plug. The dock connector, which is purely plastic and contains no metal, has been cut down to provide an additional physical connection, but primarily prevents the Nano from turning on the headphone plug.

4th-Gen Nano with Modified Lanyard (Click to enlarge)

4th-Gen Nano with Modified Lanyard (Click to enlarge)

It’s not as secure as a plug plus dock connector, but tests indicate that the connection is secure as the headphone plug snaps into the jack.

The body of the plug just meets the lefthand edge of the Nano, with no unsightly hangover, although the curved body means that the corners of the metal are slightly raised. The 2nd-Gen lanyard would not be suitable as it is much wider.

Metal Corners (Click to enlarge)

Metal Corners (Click to enlarge)

This is a pretty obvious mod, but I wanted to document it as a satisfactory conclusion to this matter.

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Squaring Up Your Album Art

21 October 2008

For some time, iTunes has preferred square art. I first noticed this when the iTunes Store went live here in Australia. iTunes Store versions of landscape art would be modified to be square. In some cases, they appeared to be using a square cover from perhaps a vinyl single, in other cases, the artwork was chopped.

As a CD collector, I get a number of landscape covers in the form of CD singles, digipaks and slipcased jewel cases. About two years ago I began to produce square versions of landscape covers. If I want to be intellectual about what I do with my scanning, I would call myself a “reproduction artist”, “translating the artist’s vision from CD cover to digital image form”. I do try to reproduce, as accurately as possible, the full image and colour balance of the original. That means I scan the full landscape cover, for purists. However, given Apple’s products’ propensity to favour square art has led me to modify the landscapes into additional square forms. The iPod will either crop a landscape cover or add white bars to top and bottom. The iPhone will add the unsightly bars:

AC/DC • Black Ice Landscape Artwork on iPhone

AC/DC • Black Ice Landscape Artwork on iPhone

If possible, I merely crop either side down from 1130 x 1000 to 1000 x 1000. In some cases, this would crop text, so the elements need to be reworked. Here I’ve scanned the digipak version of ’74 Jailbreak:

AC/DC • '74 Jailbreak (Digipak Landscape) (Click to enlarge)

AC/DC • '74 Jailbreak (Digipak Landscape) (Click to enlarge)

To create this square version, I cropped the left side and shrank the artist name and title slightly to fit:

AC/DC • '74 Jailbreak (Square Version) (Click to enlarge)

AC/DC • '74 Jailbreak (Square Version) (Click to enlarge)

This is a somewhat complex cover. In most cases, you can just crop. I also refer to images on the internet to get an idea of what to modify in order to achieve a square shape. Luckily, a lot of titles still come out on vinyl, and of course they are square.

So with a little artistic licence, I can create artwork that is optimised for iTunes, iPod, iPhone and Apple TV. I post both versions on my album art site.


Refreshing Photos on iPod/iPhone

20 October 2008

After shooting at Sculpture By the Sea, I had three batches of photos: iPhone, card 1 and 2. I downloaded the first card into iPhoto, then synced my iPhone. My settings call for the last 5 iPhoto events to be synced to the iPhone. iTunes dutifully did so. These, however, were the raw files and not edited. Some hours later, after having downloaded the iPhone photos and the ones from the second card and fully editing all the photos, I synced the iPhone again to refresh it. iTunes did not re-optimise the photos, so I still had the old, unedited versions. No amount of deletion of photos and resyncing will change this.

You have to delete the optimised photos that iTunes created. iPhoto ’08 is my source of photos for the iPhone, so this procedure is specific to this application.

Make sure that iPhoto is closed. Navigate to your Pictures folder. Right-click the iPhoto Library icon and select Show Package Contents. Delete the contents of the iPod Photo Cache folder. Resync in iTunes and iTunes will optimise the photos again and you’ll have the latest versions. Note that if you’re using an earlier version of iPhoto, this folder may be in a folder called iPhoto Library or similar. Earlier versions didn’t package all the files and folders into one icon.

Moral of the story is to try to download and edit all your photos before you sync your iPod/iPhone, but this is a fix if you don’t.


Uses of the iPhone for Photo Management

20 October 2008

I don’t often talk about photos but have been experimenting with a use of the iPhone for photo management. I have a nice camera that takes good photos, but it doesn’t have GPS. When I was at Sculpture By the Sea yesterday, I began each shoot of a particular work with a photo from the iPhone. The purpose of this photo was to record two pieces of information: the GPS coordinates and the number marker so that I could look up that work in the catalogue for tagging the photo in iPhoto. I wanted to avoid this marker in any photo I took with the camera but still needed to know what it was. Here are the two photos:

“On the Beach” (Tim Kyle) (iPhone Version)

“On the Beach” (Tim Kyle) (iPhone Version) (Click to enlarge)

“On the Beach” (Tim Kyle) (Camera Version)

“On the Beach” (Tim Kyle) (Camera Version) (Click to enlarge)

I didn’t bother with aesthetics for the iPhone photo such as composition, as it was performing a strictly documentary role. As a result, all of them looked awful except for this one, which was passable. I found it easy to pull the iPhone out for the reference shot, partly because I keep mine in a holster, and partly because I took about 10 photos of each piece, so I wasn’t handling both cameras all the time. I can see that this won’t always work, but it’s a way to add GPS data to your photos if you don’t have one built in. The camera in the iPhone is unsophisticated but I find it great for two purposes. Firstly, quick and dirty recording of data, such as the above, and things I see such as DVDs I want to buy. Quality is of no concern with this usage. The other usage is aesthetic art, which is a challenge given the limitations, but no less worthwhile for it. If you can get an aesthetically pleasing photo with the iPhone, you’ve really achieved something.


Net Labels: Free Music for the Taking

16 October 2008

A net label is a website that offers free music. It is distinguished from a site that offers a random selection of tracks by these factors:

  • The music is organised into titles, analogous to singles, EPs, albums and compilations
  • Often the work of a single artist is the subject of a title
  • Artwork accompanies the title, often of high resolution and intended for printing, so that jewel cases can be created for the title if burned to CD.

The music is given away for free. There are a number of reasons for this. The artist doesn’t want to release commercially, they are a hobbyist, the free work is promotional, etc. This means it’s legally free and legal to give to others. Often a Creative Commons licence is employed.

Those raised on a diet of commercial music will ask if the music is any good. In my opinion, the music from net labels is often very good in terms of skilled technical execution and aesthetic appeal. Rarely do I feel that a track is amateur. The point of the net label is to treat an artist’s music with respect and thus the resemblance to a commercial label operation.

I like music I can chill out to, so I have focussed on net labels that provide this type of music. Here is a list of sites that I consider to be the best.

  • Alpine Chic: Swiss electronica at its best.
  • iD.EOLOGY: German electronica, dub and hip hop.
  • Mercedes-Benz Mixed Tape: Awesome ephemeral compilations released every six weeks. A marketing vehicle for Mercedes, promoting it as a lifestyle brand. Each compilation is a mix of electronica, pop, RNB and hip hop, sometimes featuring known artists, but mostly a platform to present up-and-comers. As each new compilation is released, the previous is deleted, so these are collectables.
  • Jahtari: Amazing blend of low-tech computer music and reggae and dub. It really works.
  • Lo-Kiwi: Electronica.
  • Petit Poulet Records: Electronica.

These sites vary in that they can be considered net labels for individual artists, in other words, their own label. They still present their music in titles, so I consider them net labels.

These sites are still good, but I don’t always like the music. That’s just my opinion of course. The music still has that skilled technical execution, so it’s still good.

  • Monotonik & Friends: Huge repository of electronica and glitch/bleep (scratchy-sounding music created with low-tech computers). The titles vary widely in style, thus I don’t like everything on the site.
  • Autoplate/Thinner: Sister sites that specialise in glitchy electronica.
  • Electrobel: Electronica, some glitchy.
  • Offaudio: Spanish site. Beatier, dancier electronica.
  • One: Electronica.

Tagging is the one area in which they fall down. The tags are incomplete and lack artwork. Artwork is supplied separately, of course, except in the rarest of situations, and can be reformatted for use as album artwork. The Mixed Tapes are the worst, because the album tag is different for every song and the compilation flag is not used. I like fixing these tags, however, and this, in combination with my dissemination of the music, is my contribution to their efforts.

To keep track of the various releases, I tag the Grouping field with the website and the release number. Often there will be a specific release number, such as iD049 (iD.EOLOGY). If none, I number from the earliest, starting with 01. A title may end up with a Grouping tag something like this: http://www.ideology.de (iD049). I then create a smart playlist that looks for all tracks with http://www.ideology.de in the Grouping field, and that’s my iD.EOLOGY playlist.

Net labels have serious works available to you for free. Use them well to greatly expand your music library.


“Double-Tagging” Your CD Audio Files

10 October 2008

iTunes Store audio files contain a number of tags that can’t be done in iTunes, so audio files ripped from CDs will lack these. I tag these myself in a process that I refer to as double-tagging. This is not necessary by any means but I like the sense of completion that I get from doing this. This technique only works on the Mac because of the software I use.

Open the files in the venerable Lostify. If you check the option to add a script to iTunes, then you can select a range of songs in iTunes, then select the Lostify… link in the Script menu.

I have based my selection of additional tags on what I have observed with iTunes Store files. The tags to add are Release Date, Kind, Copyright and Content Rating.

Release Date

The release date is something you will have to research. Luckily, most CDs will be covered on the internet. I use Wikipedia, Rate Your Music, official artist sites, record label sites and the iTunes Store itself. Bizarrely, the most unreliable sources for release dates are often the official artist sites and record labels. If you find more than one date, try to take the most common one.

A note on compilations and rereleases. Consider The Chemical BrothersBrotherhood. It’s a singles compilation, released on 2 September 2008. Instead of tagging individual songs with the year that they were originally released, I tag each with this release date. The thinking is that the title on which the songs appear was released in 2008, as a discrete unit, so that’s the date to go with. It has the added advantage of sorting properly in iTunes if you sort by Album By Year. If you have individual years for the songs, it will force the whole album to the front of the list, as iTunes interprets the earliest date that appears in the album as the album date.

It’s not so clear-cut with rereleases. I’ve got a 25th anniversary edition of Deep Purple‘s Machine Head. It was released in March 1972. My edition is obviously 1997. As the whole album is essentially intact and contains no new material, I have tagged this as 1 March 1972.

That’s another thing: sometimes you will not get a complete date. If you get, for example, March 1972, then make the release date 1 March 1972. If you get 1972 only, then make it 1 July 1972.

Kind

This should be set to Normal (Audio), unless you are tagging an audiobook, in which case it will be Audiobook.

Copyright

Begin this string with the Recording Copyright symbol ℗ (activate the character palette by pressing Command-Option-T, then do a search for it and add it to your favorites for ready access), then the year and the owner of the sound recording (not the artwork; these are sometimes separate), all obtained from the rear of the CD, the disc itself, or at a pinch, the iTunes Store.

That makes a very satisfying completely tagged file. You can admire your handiwork in the General tab of the Get Info dialog (copyright) and the Release Date column, which you can add to any view:


(Click to Enlarge)

Content Rating

There are three options here, Inoffensive, Clean and Explicit. The differences between these are important.

Inoffensive is the default and most iTunes Store songs are tagged as this. It doesn’t appear in iTunes. It is not possible to tag a track as Inoffensive with Lostify due to an unhandled bug, so leave it blank for now.

Explicit is self explanatory. If your CD mentions any kind of warning, then use this. Good for filtering out music that you don’t want kids to hear.

Clean is often misunderstood. It doesn’t mean Inoffensive. It is to be specifically used to indicate that it is a version of an explicit song, altered to remove explicit material. Sometimes albums in the iTunes Store are presented as both explicit and clean versions, so you can buy either. This could also apply to audiobooks and podcasts if they are altered, cleaner versions. There is very little call for this option.

I hope there are people out there that are as passionate about double-tagging as I am!


Your Music in Microcosm

10 October 2008

Do you have multiple iPods? Apart from my great love of them, driving me to collect them (I have a policy of always having the latest complete set of iPod models, broken only this year because there was no replacement for my 160Gb Classic and I got the iPhone instead of the Touch), my media library got so large that different types of iPods became a good idea.

My 160Gb Classic has every last music track on it, plus every music video (over 500). I play this at work. The beauty, of course, is the essence of the earliest iPod concept–carry all your music with you. It can be hard to select something to play. I use playlists, shuffling the whole contents and Cover Flow to aid me in this. I just wish I could get the Genius feature without having to downgrade my storage.

My Nano (8Gb) and iPhone (16Gb) necessarily cannot store much. Because of this, I have chosen to keep only the most recently added music on them. I have a playlist that keeps track of this and which forms the basis of what is to be synced. Here are the criteria:

(Click to enlarge)

This takes all the guesswork out of what to put on the iPod/iPhone. Seeing as the music is new, I probably haven’t heard it yet or it’s my latest groove-thang, so it will be at the forefront of my attention. This is another reason why I chose to add only the most recent music.

I find it interesting how much nicer it is to have this small selection of music as it is much easier to comprehend and to choose what to play.

If you have only a small-capacity iPod and you are wondering how to fill it, I recommend the last-added playlist as above.