I have already ripped all of my legally purchased CD's onto my hard drive for a more convenient catalogue and playback through Windows Media Centre (which does a fantastic job BTW) so I just needed a portable device - and why not go for the king of MP3 players?
Upon arrival, the small, neat, packaging presented a shiny new iPod in a well-made perspex display case with everything packed in tidy and efficiently - the sign of things to come? The first thing I did was to turn the iPod on. Having never used an iPod before I was a little uncertain about the location of the on/off switch but when I pressed the menu button the screen lit up with a welcome sign prompting me to select my language. With that done I set about navigating the menus using the touch wheel - it took some getting used to! I find it a bit too sensitive and often move off the intended item while pressing enter.
Now I need some music on my iPod, so I headed over to Apple.com to download the latest iTunes software (my iPod Nano did not come with any) so when that finally downloaded (~60mb) I installed it and started it running, choosing a folder for my existing mp3's and let it go away and locate everything.
At this point, I must say that I was expecting it to search through the folders finding mp3's and cataloguing them in the same manner as Windows Media Center (WMC), that is it reads the MP3 tags for album/artist/genre and shows the album art.
Boy was I mistaken! I don't know what it did, but after half hour of disk thrashing I had over 2500 "albums" each with 2-5 tracks in them, some duplicates, most of the cover art was missing and everything filled under the "Other" genre. Most of the tracks had the wrong titles and albums were split up into multiple sections. The whole thing was a mess, then the program crashed.
After a bit of scouring on the web, I found that iTunes is very finicky about the tags in the mp3's and that it isn't intelligent enough to spot an extra space in an album title for example (unlike WMC), so I set about going through each and every mp3 with Windows Explorer and verifying the tags. With that done, I went back into iTunes, cleared out the library and started again. It processed most of the items correctly this time, but around 800 songs were not assigned to an album or artist, so I went through and re-assigned everyone from within iTunes.
Feeling good, now that I had sorted this out (after two days of playing with files) I started copying the files onto the iPod, but I noticed that there were a few albums missing, and I had only got to 'C'. A quick glance at the stats showed 2453 tracks listed - a little short of the 6825 mp3 files reported by Windows Explorer.
I set about manually adding these files into iTunes without luck. Apple has a policy of graceful erroring, so that if an error does occur - you don't know about it. At least Windows tells you that there was a problem importing a file!
After more net browsing I found a tip about stripping all tags from a mp3 then importing it, which does seem to work, but I now have to retag nearly 4500 files! And worse still - WMC is now totally screwed up because the tags have been changed by iTunes!
iTunes has just crashed again, and now it takes around 3 minutes after clicking on the icon to load up.
Four days of editing tags, assigning albums/artists/cover art and I still have not put anything on my iPod! Worst software ever!
So after all of this work, was it worth it? Well my new iPod Nano now has over 100 albums on it (1300 tracks) and I can now listen to my favourite music where ever I am.
Tips for Using iTunes for Windows
While tagging, converting and generally taking a long time to use a horrible piece of software to perform what should be an easy task, I learned quite a bit, including how to solve some very annoying problems.
iTunes will not import an MP3 track(s) - Firstly make sure you can play the track(s) using Quicktime player, if you can then iTunes does not like the MP3 header or tags. I used a tool called MP3 Repair Tool and removed the first 1 frame as well as everything after the last frame. iTunes would then import the file and you can set the tags manually.
iTunes will not import an album - As above, MP3 Repair Tool can work in batch mode. You can then use Windows Explorer to batch tag the files with album/artist by selecting the files, right click and select properties. On the Summary tab selects Advanced and give the files album and artist. This will group the files in iTunes where you can further name and tag.
Adding Album Art in iTunes - Not as intuitive as Windows Media Player, it took me a while to find how to do this. Select and right-click on the files to have art associated with them. Click on Get Details, and drag a jpeg image onto the artwork box. When you click on ok, iTunes will add the artwork to the files. Don't use a high resolution (I found 100x100 a good size) image as it will be added to each file. Large images will a) take ages to process and b) increase file size and album size meaning less can be stored on iPod.
iTunes splits albums up into separate albums of the same artist/title - You need to make sure that the artist and album are EXACTLY the same for all tracks. Select all the tracks that are on the same album, right click and select Get Info. Make sure that the album/album artist/artist is correct and tick the checkboxes next to them. This will tell iTunes to apply these settings to all selected files. If that still does not group them together then select them all, Get Info and change Compilation to Yes and apply the changes. They should now be together on one album.
iTunes takes ages to load - Still waiting to find a fix for this one. Each time I load iTunes it takes around 5 minutes for the program to show, even though I only have around 5000 tracks. I know people with twice this in iTunes which loads instantly.
Have you got any iTunes or iPod tips to share? Please share by leaving a comment on this post. Thanks!