Tag Archives: windows

Deleting song in iTunes Library from within a Playlist

I’m always playing songs in iTunes through a playlist (vs. navigating through the Library), so when I come across a song that I want to delete, I have always used a 2 step process since through the iTunes UI you can’t delete it from the playlist and the library at the same time. I resorted to:

  1. Look at the song title
  2. Type the song title into search box
  3. In the search results, right click and delete the song

This was such a pain in the butt that I always wished there was an easier way to do this straight from the playlist.  Turns out there is!

I found this list of Windows shortcuts on Apple’s site which shows that Shift+Delete is the answer I’ve been looking for:

Shift-Delete

Delete the selected song from your library and all playlists

So when you’re in an iTunes playlist and want to remove the song from the playlist only, use Delete.  If you want to remove it from both the playlist AND your iTunes Library, use Shift+Delete !

(There is also another undocumented shortcut – CTRL + SHIFT + Delete which will do the same thing as Shift+Delete except it will add an extra confirmation for sending the file to the recycle bin. Since you already get one prompt using Shift+Delete, there’s no reason for this extra step)

Fix for MP3 songs not playing in iTunes

The problem

About a month ago, while at work listening to music on my iPhone 3G, I noticed that certain songs weren’t playing.  The iPhone would pause for a brief moment at the start of the song and then skip to the next one.  It happens so quickly that if you weren’t looking at the screen you wouldn’t notice it.

At first, I thought it was an issue specific to the iPhone.  However, when I tried to play those same songs on iTunes 7.x, they would also refuse to play.   Since I am almost always playing music on “shuffle” (random) mode, it’s easy to see why I didn’t notice this earlier.  In fact, I had no idea how long this was occurring.

The odd thing was that these same songs would play in other media players like Windows Media Player, Winamp and Foobar2000.  It was just iTunes, and consequently the iPhone, that was giving me problems.

After researching the problem by scouring the web, I found that this was in fact a common problem hitting a lot of users.  I read a ton of suggestions, some dating back quite a few years.  Here are some of the suggestions that I found and tried in desperation:

  • Deleted the ID3v2 tag and rebuilt it
  • Disabled “Allow applications to take exclusive control of this device” from the advanced properties of my sound card
  • Re-installed DirectX
  • Removed song from iTunes Library and Re-added it
  • Completely uninstall iTunes and re-install it

None of these worked and I was making no progress.   I even tried upgrading to iTunes 8 hoping that it would be one of the hidden bug fixes.  Unfortunately, the new version of iTunes didn’t help.

Finding a solution

After quite a few more days of troubleshooting and experimenting, I finally stumbled upon the solution.  It turns out that the MP3s that wouldn’t play had out of spec MPEG headers, which I verified and repaired using a freeware tool called MP3 Validator.

(Update (2/5/2009): In the comments, “Chris” found an app that apparently works for Mac users called ID3 Editor.  Warning, I have not tried this app myself, just passing on teh recommendation. If it works for you, drop a comment a let me know.)

(Update (2/28/2009): In the comments, Vince determined that ID3 Editor on the Mac did not fix the problem.  So Mac users, don’t try that app.  Instead, the best method is to find a friend on with a PC!)

(Update (5/29/2009): In the comments, bowlerboy_jmb found out that there is indeed a Mac OS X equivalent for MP3Val called MP3 Scan + Repair which uses the same engine as the MP3Val program mentioned in this post! Mac users rejoice!

I scanned my entire library of music and turned out that about 60% of my music collection suffered from this problem.  Since only a subset of these songs wouldn’t play in iTunes (but would play fine in others), it seems that while iTunes is tolerant of some MPEG header errors it is not as forgiving as all other media players I tried.  Since I”m positive these songs played on older version of iTunes 7, something must have changed under the covers along the way in later iTunes update.

After scanning and repairing all the afflicted songs in my library, all my music happily plays in iTunes (and my iPhone).

Step-by-step guide on how to fix your music

Here’s a quick guide on how to fix this problem using free tools in case you’re suffering from the same problem.  I’ll show you how to fix one song, then you can use the same technique on your entire library if you need to.

  1. Download MP3 Tag Validator and extract it to a folder on your PC.  It doesn’t require any installation.
  2. To start the program, just run mp3val-frontend.exe. You’ll be shown a simple application window:image
  3. (Optional) First thing I did was to enable the option Keep file timestamps since I didn’t want all the timestamps to change from the repair.  Go to File | Preferences and make your configuration look like this:
    image
  4. Find one of the songs that won’t play in iTunes and add it to the MP3 Validator window.  You can either drag-and-drop it into the main program window, or you can go to File | Add File(s).  For me, one of the songs was Stealth by Way Out West. image
  5. We’ll now run a scan of the file first, to see if you are suffering from an MPEG header problem.  Click Actions | Scan all. The app is quite fast and you’ll get a modal confirmation dialog almost right away.  Dismiss it with OK.
  6. In order to see the results of the scan, you have to select the song in the main window, and then you’ll see status messages from the scan in the status area.imageHere is a copy and paste of the output, from which I’ve bolded the specific MPEG errors that are present in the file:

    Analyzing file “D:\Music\iTunes\iTunes Music\Way Out West\Intensify\06 Stealth.mp3″…
    WARNING: “D:\Music\iTunes\iTunes Music\Way Out West\Intensify\06 Stealth.mp3” (offset 0xa301a3): Garbage at the end of the file
    WARNING: “D:\Music\iTunes\iTunes Music\Way Out West\Intensify\06 Stealth.mp3”: Wrong number of MPEG frames specified in Xing header (13122 instead of 13056)
    WARNING: “D:\Music\iTunes\iTunes Music\Way Out West\Intensify\06 Stealth.mp3”: Wrong number of MPEG data bytes specified in Xing header (10711873 instead of 10658221)
    INFO: “D:\Music\iTunes\iTunes Music\Way Out West\Intensify\06 Stealth.mp3”: 13056 MPEG frames (MPEG 1 Layer III), +ID3v1+ID3v2, Xing header
    Done!

  7. Now that we’ve verified there are indeed MPEG header errors, let’s fix them.  Click Actions | Repair all files.  Similar to the scan we did in step 6, you’ll see a modal confirmation dialog informing you the repair was completed.  After dismissing the dialog, select the song and you’lll see a more detailed confirmation of the repair in the status area:

    Analyzing file “D:\Music\iTunes\iTunes Music\Way Out West\Intensify\06 Stealth.mp3″…
    WARNING: “D:\Music\iTunes\iTunes Music\Way Out West\Intensify\06 Stealth.mp3” (offset 0xa301a3): Garbage at the end of the file
    WARNING: “D:\Music\iTunes\iTunes Music\Way Out West\Intensify\06 Stealth.mp3”: Wrong number of MPEG frames specified in Xing header (13122 instead of 13056)
    WARNING: “D:\Music\iTunes\iTunes Music\Way Out West\Intensify\06 Stealth.mp3”: Wrong number of MPEG data bytes specified in Xing header (10711873 instead of 10658221)
    INFO: “D:\Music\iTunes\iTunes Music\Way Out West\Intensify\06 Stealth.mp3”: 13056 MPEG frames (MPEG 1 Layer III), +ID3v1+ID3v2, Xing header
    Rebuilding file “D:\Music\iTunes\iTunes Music\Way Out West\Intensify\06 Stealth.mp3″…
    FIXED: “D:\Music\iTunes\iTunes Music\Way Out West\Intensify\06 Stealth.mp3”: File was rebuilt
    Done!

  8. You should now be able verify that the song now plays in iTunes.  Since MP3 Tag Validator doesn’t rename the file, you won’t even have to re-import the song into your iTunes library.

In the default configuration, MP3 Tag Validator keeps a backup of the original song in the same directory with the added file extension .bak. If your library was as big as mine and spread over countless sub-directories, you’ll want to clean this up to reclaim the disk space.  In Vista (or Windows 7), this was really easy using the file search in Windows Explorer.  All you have to do is run a search in the root of your music folder for “ext:*.bak” (without the quotes) and you’ll get search results for all the backup files that were made. Just select them all and delete them and you’ll reclaim all the disk space.

image

Alternatively, you can configure MP3 Tag Validator to delete the backup files when it successfully finishes repairing the files, but I opted against this as I wanted to be absolutely certain the repaired files were OK before deleting the originals.

I really hopes this helps and saves time for at least one other person out there.  I probably wasted a total of 12 hours over the course of week trying to figure this out.

Windows Search 4.0 preview

Anyone installed the Windows Search 4.0 preview that was announced?  Seems tempting given the stated benefits:

  • fixed “most of the reported bugs” since Vista RTM
  • 33% faster!
  • Rollback recovery — allows you to rollback your index to the last known “good” state instead of rebuilding from scratch. This has hit me a few times.. (then again, not sure if this is a feature to cheer about or not.  Shouldn’t they just work on making sure my index doesn’t get corrupted in the first place?)

There are also some good enterprise features like supporting Encrypted File Systems (EFS) that won’t apply to home users.

I think I’m going to install this on one of my desktop machines at home and see how it goes 🙂

Mac Expose for Windows

After seeing the Mac Expose feature at the Apple store on the 30″ Widescreen LCD, I fell in love.   Not only does it look incredibly freakin’ cool, but also because it’s a great way to manage all my windows on my desktop in an intuitive way.

For those that aren’t familiar with Mac Expose, it’s a feature on Mac OSX that allows you to:

Instantly access any open window with a single keystroke — and stunning style that can never be imitated. Display all open windows as thumbnails, view windows of the current application or hide all windows to quickly locate a file on your desktop.

The feature in particular I love is the display of all open windows as thumbnails. I had to have this feature on XP!

I tried 5 different programs and ultimately found one that seems to fit the picture!

  1. Entbloess: This app was crazy buggy, and even crashed on me multiple times.  Needless to say I uninstall this one as quick as I could.
  2. Exposer for Windows: This had an approximately 2.5 second delay between keypress and the animation, which doesn’t sound like much, but since I’m installing this for productivity purposes, 2.5 seconds is WAY too long.  To top it off, the thumbnail animation was laughable.
  3. Winplosion: Animation is better than Exposer for Windows, but was still slow.
  4. Top Desk: More configurable options than the others including ability to have the Flip 3D Windows Vista feature on XP.  Window tiling took WAY too long. This delay was the worst yet.
  5. Admiral: This one was the winner of my tests.  Delay is sub-2 seconds on my Sony Vaio VGN-SZ381p (Intel Core Duo2 T7400 with 2GB RAM) and animation was smooth as butter.  You can even specify Window titles that should be excluded from thumbnail view.  I currently have my hot keys setup to be CTRL+Q as well as the upper left corner of my screen.  So if I’m typing, I can activate the thumbnails easily and if I’m on my mouse, I need to just mouse my pointer to top left. Sweet!
  6. New: Omar just sent me an email pointing out that the new version of Microsoft Intellipoint has an Expose like feature called “Instant Viewer”.  Once installed, pressing the middle mouse button activates “Instant Viewer”.  Wow, talk about a disappointment.  While it doesn’t have the bugs that Admiral has (see below), the feature set is basically anemic.  It shows all your windows as equal size thumbnails on the screen and when you hover over each, they don’t enlarge nor do they show you the window title like Admiral does.   This won’t be that much of a problem if you don’t have many windows open, but if you’re like me with over 12 windows open at any given time, Instant Viewer just won’t cut it.  See Keith Combs’ blog for screenshot and details.

Here’s a screenshot of the Windows thumbnails/miniaturization in Admiral (#5 above).  Notice my mouse pointer is hovered over Windows Live Writer as I author this blog post:

In my 1/2 day usage of Admiral so far, I noticed 2 bugs and have 4 requests:

  • Bugs:
    • When you unlock your computer, Admiral is activated showing all your app Windows tiled.  To top it off, all the window thumbnails are black.  While this is annoying, it’s easily overcome by using the mouse to click on a space between any of the thumbnails. Alternatively you can press <enter>.
    • When no windows are visible and you activate Miniaturization, you get an error dialog that says “Could not start SmallWindows”.
  • Wishlist:
    • Every time you show thumbnails, you get a “splash screen” that says “Miniaturization”.  Minor, but annoying.
    • While the delay is sub-2 seconds, I would like to get this faster.  I’m running 2GB of RAM and a crazy fast CPU, com’on!
    • Enable the <ESC> key to dismiss the thumbnail/miniaturization view.  <Enter> currently does this, but <ESC> is more intuitive.
    • For the “”Quick Open” feature, I’d like to be able to assign CTRL+Space bar as my hotkey.

I wish I could give you a link on Windows Marketplace to download this, but alas, we aren’t selling this specific title 🙂

PS — I confirmed that Admiral also works on Windows Vista. Just tried it on my co-worker’s Vista machine.

Simplify bluetooth on your Sony SZ series laptop

Let me start off by saying I hate bluetooth on laptops.  I love my bluetooth headset for my cell phone, but for laptops, connecting any type of device, namely a cellphone, is just a freakin’ nightmare.  When I previously had a Toshiba M200, I solved the problem by replacing the Toshiba stack with the Microsoft Bluetooth stack in XP SP2.

However, I now have a Sony VGN-SZ381p laptop for which I’m having the similar problems as I did with my M200.  The software that comes bundled with the Sony SZ series laptops is absolutely terrible.  I’ve finally found a solution in the NotebookReview.com forum’s that is worth re-iterating here.

The solution entails is installing the much friendlier Widcomm v5 bluetooth utility followed by install a modified version of the Sony SZ bluetooth drivers that will allow it to work with the Widcomm Software (Updated 2/4/2009).  Why use the Widcomm software?

  • vastly superior and easier setup than all other bluetooth software I’ve seen
  • ability to sync Outlook contact and calendar data with non-Windows Mobile cell phones
  • view and copy files on your phone in shell mode.
  • set-up virtual serial ports to use bluetooth in certain applications

In my case, it finally made it possible for me to connect my Plantronic Voyager 510 headset to my laptop so I could use it with Skype.

Step-by-step:

  1. Uninstall all previous bluetooth utilities/software
  2. Turn off your bluetooth using the Sony utilities (VAIO Wireless).  On my laptop this is Hotkey combination Fn+F1.
  3. Download the Widcomm v5 software and install it.
    1. While installing it, it will tell you that it cannot find a bluetooth device, which makes sense since we turned it off in Step 2 🙂
    2. Choose “Cancel” to continue with the installation.
  4. After installation completes, turn your bluetooth on using Fn+F1 (or whatever other method you want to use).  When prompted for drivers, you the modified Sony SZ drivers. These are only 41kb so I’ve hosted them here (Updated  link on 2/4/2009).

Now everything should work!