Systems Centred Therapy

My fourth album is now on CD Baby and will be on iTunes and Amazon within hours.

Systems Centred Therapy3

You could write what I know about Systems Centred Therapy , other than what’s on Wikipedia, on the back of a postage stamp so I can neither endorse it or otherwise. I was casting about for an album name and just liked the sound of the words.



iTunes Match Part 2 … is postponed

I promised to pass on details of my triumphant and successful technique for fixing the artwork in the iTunes library, and on the iDevices you download it on. Unfortunately, although I believe I can fix problems in the library (On the Mac / PC), there are some songs where the artwork will not update on my iPhone. Even deleting and re-downloading the file only brings the old artwork back. I am only writing about this here as I know I am not alone in having this problem.

The songs concerned are all ones I imported with embedded (Poor quality) artwork. They have all subsequently been matched so the files downloaded to the iPhone are shiny new aac files from Apple and have no association, apart from the matching process, with my old files. Somewhere, in the iTunes match universe, they are being reattached to the artwork my original files had when I first imported them. My current efforts are being directed towards understanding this part of the process, and I will let you know when I have a reliable way to bring it to heel.

Some things I’ve learned about iTunes Match … Part 1

I used to buy albums on vinyl, then on CD and still think about my music in terms of albums. Before mp3 players, most portable music was on cassette in cars or on Walkman devices. Most people shunned pre-recorded cassettes and bought albums and then recorded them onto cassettes to listen to when not at home. Once people were taking their music out an about, it became a much less immersive experience, instead of listening to an album, (all of it, in the order the artist had carefully arranged), people would assemble tapes of their favourite songs rather as a DJ would, to suit a specific purpose. People had mix tapes for car journeys, for exercising to, for giving to friends. As mp3 players became prevalent you could access your music by artist, album, song, or a playlist (A replica mix tape). Space being at a premium early on, many people loaded only the songs they liked best from an album and used playlists to access them. As digital download stores appeared, the focus was less on albums than on songs. You could replicate your favourite mix tape by just buying the songs you liked from each album and using a playlist to assemble them.

When iTunes came along, the pattern was established and so the key item of data in iTunes is the song. Each song is stored with some meta data (Data about data) such as its name, the performer, the composer, the album it “belongs” to, its track number on that album, the album cover and so on).

Two interesting things arise from this :-

Albums don’t exist in their own right, they are called into existence by being mentioned in a song’s metadata.

Although songs know which album they belong to, they know nothing about which playlists they are referenced in.

Understanding these two things is a prerequisite to understanding iTunes match. It is a source of puzzlement to many that most of an album you have ripped from CD will match, but one or two songs may not. “Can’t it see ?”, we ask ourselves, “They’re on the same album, of course they should match” but it doesn’t see because it doesn’t look, because it doesn’t care.

Downloading all your favourite tracks from iCloud will not make your playlist appear, and similarly just copying a playlist to your iPhone or iPod does not ensure (Or didn’t when last I tried it) that all the tracks on it are transferred.

Album art in iTunes exists in many places, but the most important place is in the song, more specifically the copy of the song held on the PC/Mac holding the library. This may not be the same digital entity on your iPhone if your old mp3 file was matched in the iTunes store. You may hold an mp3 file with embedded art, but your iPhone/iPod has an m4a file from the store but not the album art from the store. Your preference for album art is given preference, so your old artwork is uploaded and attached to the new m4a download, in my case this is often not what I want.

Then begins the descent into the murky world of trying to outsmart the iTunes art mechanism and the near madness it engenders when it lets you change the artwork, and before you have had time to get it updated on your iPhone/iPod, changes it back to the crappy stuff you just spent ages updating.

I think I’ve got to the bottom of most of this mechanism, mostly by following guidance from those much cleverer and more persistent than I, but only via glimpses rather than a comprehensive understanding. Part of this is due to my failing to understand everything that’s going on and where, but much also is because the iTunes match / iCloud process is a complex one, which isn’t all necessarily working properly at the time you are using it, and things can only be detected from fragments of knowledge and inference.

For instance, I use iTunes match on my iPhone and as I’m writing new pieces of music I make changes, delete the old version from my iTunes library, insert the new one and update iTunes match. Usually the new file uploads and within seconds the phone updates the status of that song as needing download. Once in a while though, nothing happens after the upload and nothing I have tried can provoke the iPhone to check and update. This last happened to me about two weeks ago, so I went to the message boards to see what was up.

I read through a huge number of posts from people having trouble with iTunes match not making files available for download, interleaved with others asserting that they were having no problems so it must be something the original poster was doing wrong. This went nowhere for several pages until a grown-up entered the discussion and suggested that maybe Apple used different servers for iTunes matched content and user uploaded (Non-Matched) content and that maybe there was just a problem with this second group of servers. This seemed to fit all the facts and indeed fixed itself, (Apple fixed it) fairly soon. Nothing to do with the users or what they were doing, but a formerly hidden level of complexity revealed.

I shall write Part 2 “A definitive guide to sometimes fixing some of your iTunes artwork” presently.

Fixing an iPhone 4 home button

I’ve had my iPhone 4 for two and a half years now, and for the last year the home button has been sticky and unreliable. Multiple presses were often needed before it would work, and a double press to task switch was sometimes only attainable after about a minute of trying. Only this week did this get so bad it became more than a bit of a nuisance, and I decided to fix it.

The Apple community is very active and often almost obsessively devoted to the cult, so I always Google problems I have with some trepidation, because …

Most of the problems I’ve had in the past have been with iTunes Match a very well concealed complex system which by and large works faultlessly. When problems arise, the communities are full of people wondering what they have changed or done wrong (Cult thinking see). Most of the problems seem to resolve to temporary overloads on the servers and are resolved by Apple without fuss and everything starts working again fairly quickly. Whatever people had been trying on their own they then report to the boards as “The Fix” for the problem everybody had been experiencing. If you follow these suggestions dutifully (Reboot, log out of the iTunes store, then reboot, clear all your music, then re-login etc.), sure enough things come right. For most people, most of the time, they would have come right anyway though, when Apple fixed the temporary fault at their end. I tend, therefore, to leave things for a few hours before making any adjustments at my end when I have problems with iTunes match (More of which anon in another post).

In this case, however, the problem was clearly in my domain, so I ploughed in to the message boards to see what I could learn. Many seemed convinced that this (A sticky, non-responsive home button) was a software fault introduced somewhere in IOS 6 or 6.1 and could be fixed by opening an Apple app such as the clock, holding down the power button until the option to switch off came up, then pressing and holding “home” until it went away. Leaving aside the difficulty of implementing a cure which requires using the thing that’s malfunctioning, several attempts convinced me that this solution wasn’t for me.

I then came upon suggestions based around using cans of compressed air (The sort IT techies use to clear cigarette ash and toast crumbs out of what their users claim are faulty keyboards), and a variety of techniques and orifices by which they should be deployed. Not having a can to hand, I just blew loudly into the sync cable receptor and held the button down whilst blowing it. This didn’t work for me either.

What worked for me was to squirt WD-40 into the sync cable receptor and then wick it out with the corner of a kitchen towel. Then to build a pond of WD-40 on top of the home button, work the button many times, then turn the phone over and work the button whilst holding a kitchen towel over it. (I switched it off before doing this, probably wise).

I’m delighted to report that it’s now working as new and has been for three days. If you are having this problem it’s worth a try.