iTunes 9 Brings Apple TV Problems [Updated]

iTunes icon in black & white I held off installing iTunes 9 since I figured it would bring problems. There were major changes to the UI, but even more of a potential problem is the switch (or at least greater use of) from Cocoa to Webkit which has been reported by some people.

But with my new iPod Touch on its way I’d need to be upgrading to iTunes 9. I decided to do it now in case it took awhile. It hasn’t been pleasant. Here’s what I’ve encountered.

  • It’s a very long process to convert the library. I figured things were locking up but decided to be patient. Eventually things moved on. It took almost a hour to do the “gapless” processing after an earlier hour upgrading my library. Overall, it was almost 3 hours from when I ran the upgrade to when I could actually browse my library.
  • With my Apple TV turned on (but not actually doing anything or syncing) at various, but seemingly random times, I click something (menu, sing, etc…) and the pinwheel appears for a couple of minutes. That’s if I’m lucky – at the moment the pinwheel has been spinning for 7 minutes after I double-clicked a movie to play.
  • Most videos no longer sync to my Apple TV as iTunes reports they are an unsupported format. All these videos were previously on the Apple TV an several where videos purchased through the iTunes store. There are a few videos that did sync. All are those I ripped from my DVDs but I haven’t figured out anything unique about them compared to the ones that didn’t sync. I don’t sync music but others have reported similar problems with music.
  • I’m unable to stream anything through my Apple TV.
  • Starting iTunes 9 results in a pinwheel for over 10 minutes if the Apple TV is turned on. I figured this was due to the Apple TV sync but I turned off auto sync and the pinwheel still appears even though no sync appears to be happening.

All this is on OS X 10.6.1 Snow Leopard and my Apple TV has the latest update. I haven’t done much troubleshooting yet. Most problems appear to be with the Apple TV which is annoying for me but since I typically turn off the Apple TV when not is use I could live with it if I could get syncing to work.

So I’ll probably keep iTunes 9 on my iMac to use with the new Touch, but If I can’t get the Apple TV syncing to work I’ll probably set up a second iTunes library to handle the Apple TV using the older iTunes.

[Update Sept 17th – A workaround]

Here’s what I found so far:

Even newly purchased and downloaded (after the iTunes 9 updgrade) videos failed to sync on my iPod or my Apple TV due to an “can’t be played” message confirming it’s not the library upgrade or actual video format. 27 videos failed to sync while six sync’d OK. Many, many videos were not listed in the list when I wanted to strem the video.  Until I did the following…

  1. Check the “Prevent Apple TVs from syncing automatically” in the Apple TV tab of iTunes preferences.
  2. Shut down iTunes. Turn off Apple TV (further testing indicated that the Apply TV may not need to be turned off)
  3. Start iTunes
  4. Turn of the Apple TV. iTunes will see it but not sync.
  5. Manually sync the Apple TV by right-clicking it in iTunes and selecting Sync
    At this point all but six if the 27 videos synced and the number of streamable videos increased dramatically. For the remaining video I had to do the following steps.
  6. Shut down iTunes and restart it. I have found that whenever I sync to Apple TV I need to restart iTunes before I can play ANY video or sync again.
  7. Play each video (on the Mac in iTunes) that failed to sync or that fails to stream. It doesn’t need to be long, I literally stop it as soon as the video appeared. I then right-click the video and select “Mark As Unwatched” although it’s just to restore the status I want, not to fix the problem.If you have a lot of videos you may want to view the properties of them all. This fixed one video for me and can be done in bulk, but like I said, only one out of six so the success rate was low. So now I just play the video and it always works.
  8. Right-click the Apple TV in iTunes and sync again. In my case they all synced.
  9. Since I can’t play any videos after an Apple TV sync I shut down iTunes and restart it.

I also had the sync problem with my new iPod Touch. It this case just shutting down and restarting iTunes resolved the problem.

I did most of the standard troubleshooting but stopped short of the painful Apple TV factory reset (don’t see Apple TV as the problem) and an iTunes 9 reinstall. I didn’t have any problems during the upgrade and I just let it do it’s thing for as long as it’s needed. I’m tired of reinstalling Apple software so I’ll wait for the inevitable “.1” patch and see if my problem is resolved. Until then, my workaround is all I need especially since I don’t watch too much on the Apple TV these days. Which makes it more annoying – I went through all this just to get back the videos that the first sync after the upgrade removed from my Apple TV as incompatible.

[Update 2]

It looks like iTunes 9.01 has resolved my above problems. At least I no longer need to shut down iTunes after an Apple TV sync. As far as the videos, a couple new ones synced ok but that could just be a roll of the dice so my fingers are crossed.

Apple Marketing Gets Me Again

Black Apple I have to give Apple credit, they do a great job of segmenting their products into different price points and feature sets. Despite being one of the people saying no one needs that much space for music when the original iPods were announced I eventually bought one, which was my first Apple product. I’ve bought two replacement iPods since then and my current iPod is a 60GB 5th gen.

The iPod Touch/iPhone has been calling to me since it’s release but I refuse to get an iPhone as long as it comes from AT&T. As for the iPod touch, I like having all my music with me so I don’t have to worry about what’s there or not having what I want. The iPod Touches just didn’t have the capacity for my 50+GB of data. At least until last Wednesday.

As of last Wednesday there was a 64GB iPod Touch that has enough space, at least it appears to. But at $400 it requires a nice chunk of cash. So I did what I usually do. I looked at the options.

The iPod classic would more than double my capacity. Since there wasn’t any real feature change I could just wait until my current iPod died.

Then there was the iPod Touch, The low-end model keeps the old hardware and has slightly fewer features (no remote or mic on the headphones) than the larger models. The 32GB model would save me $100 but like I said, I like having everything there. Although I can use the iTunes smart playlist feature to keep the songs on the iPod fresh, it’s not ideal. So that bumps me up to the 64GB model at $399. Looking at it from the point of view of $100 for the convenience it doesn’t seem as bad as 4 bills.

I was still skeptical about how much I’d like the iPod Touch so I even though I could get free engraving I skipped it, figuring it would be easier to sell without the engraving. Of course, soon after ordering I was hit with buyers remorse but it was soon too late. Apple shipped it that night rather than the 3 to 5 days estimated in the store. So it’s currently winging it’s way here to me.

Now You Can Install Snow Leopard – It’s Finished

SnowLeopardBoxApple released OS X 10.6.1 today, updating the code they burned to DVD a couple of months ago and unleashed Aug 28th. I upgraded my iMac the weekend it was released but normally I would have waited a bit. But since I already had iMac issues I wanted to do a clean install with the new OS and see if it helped so there was no point waiting.  It has helped, no lockups under Snow Leopard even though I’ve been repeating all the things that would cause lockups in the past. Maybe it’s me, but it seems like Apple has joined the ranks of vendors where we should expect a quick patch bundle to fix the problems for newly released software. So this is that patch bundle meaning (at least to me) that Snow Leopard is done. All that’s left is to check your apps for compatibility.

On the positive side, I hadn’t been having any problems with Snow Leopard so this was a non-event for me. The 9.8MB update applied fine through software update.

I still haven’t updated my Mac Mini and it may be months before I do that one. It’s primarily an entertainment PC and it’s running just fine. Others have reported problems with Front Row and I don’t see any reason to rock the boat.

According to Apple OS X 10.6.1 includes the following updates:

    • Improves compatibility with some Sierra Wireless 3G modems
    • Addresses an issue in which some printer compatibility drivers might not appear properly in the Add Printer browser
    • Addresses an issue that might cause DVD playback to stop unexpectedly
    • Addresses an issue that might make it difficult to remove an item from the Dock
    • Resolves an issue in which the Command-Option-T keyboard shortcut would sometimes bring up the special characters menu in applications such as Mail and TextEdit
    • Addresses instances in which auto account setup in Mail might not work
    • Resolves issues when sending mail with certain SMTP servers
    • Addresses an issue in which Motion 4 could become unresponsive
    • Includes an update to Adobe Flash Player plug-in version 10.0.32.18

iTunes 9 came out too and that sounds like a major change both in the UI and in the actual code, so I’ll be holding off that update for awhile. Predictions for the first update? I say by Sept 30th.

WordPress – The Windows of the Internet

It’s been widely reported that sites running the standalone version of WordPress are under “attack” and vulnerabilities are being exploited to insert malicious code into the site. I couldn’t help but notice similarities to Microsoft Windows.

While WordPress may not have the same market share as Windows it does have greater mindshare than any other single publishing platform. (OK, I don’t have the stats to back that up so maybe I’m wrong.) There’s even a major hosting company that specifically promotes WordPress standalone hosting. So like Windows, which comes pre-installed on nearly 90% of PCs sold, the barrier to entry is rather small. Back when I was getting started 3 years ago I picked WordPress because it was easy to set up and get going.

Like Windows, WordPress is used by a lot of people who couldn’t care less about the inner workings of the system (operating or content management) but just like what they can do with it.

Like Windows, WordPress is easy to install since most hosting companies provide a script that will do the installation. Until Microsoft started turning on the firewall and auto updates by default Windows was a virus magnet. Just a year ago doing any sort of WordPress upgrade was a major effort. The ability to upgrade from within WordPress is less than a year old, introduced in December 2008, and it still must be triggered by the administrator.

There’s been a lot of blaming the user for not upgrading as a result of these attacks. I find that a bit disingenuous. On the one hand WordPress is promoted as a solution for people who want an easy website so they can concentrate on what they want to say. Now people who picked WordPress for that reason are being blamed for not spending enough time updating their plumbing. Even though I’m someone who spends a lot lot of time with the plumbing because I like it, I can hardly blame people who haven’t upgraded. People who work on and write about WordPress have it as a significant part of their lives, for the vast majority it’s just a thing they use to run their personal website. If they made a mistake, it was in picking WordPress.

I like WordPress a lot and use it exclusively. This recent attack isn’t going to change that. But every so often I look around for something to replace WordPress because I’m spending too much time doing upgrades. Sure, I like working on the “plumbing” but I don’t like logging on and seeing there’s a new security update that plugs a vulnerability and I now have an unplanned upgrade cycle. WordPress 2.8 was released in mid-June, in the three months since then there’s been four security related updates.

So if you’re going to run a standalone WordPress install you need to be a webmaster (or plumber), no matter what your hosting company and the WordPress PR tells you. Don’t want to do it, then check out WordPress.com or Blogger for free hosted solutions or pick something less prone to attack like Moveable Type. Back in Feb 2008 I moved a site to WordPress.com simply so I could avoid the maintenance time on it.

If, like me, you decide to stick with a standalone WordPress site you’ll need to devise a plan to stay current and secure. My own plan is:

  1. Enabled WordPress administration over SSL
  2. I create at least two new IDs on my WordPress site. One to be the administrator and one to use for posting. I change the built in admin ID to a “subscriber” level. Each ID gets a unique and complex password. The administrator ID created by default is useless on my sites, just like the account named “Administrator” on my Windows PCs.
  3. I’m paranoid about security so WordPress’s built-in update facility doesn’t work for me. (My web server doesn’t have the access necessary to write to the WordPress files) I set up SVN to do the updates. Since this is easily scripted it makes updating multiple sites quicker and easier than going into the admin panel for each site.
  4. I did enable the built in update for plugins. I figured the risk was worth it since plugin updates are a huge hassle without the feature.
  5. Backup, Backup, Backup! I backup my database on a daily basis. Eventually I will need this, either because of a hack or because of a system failure. Because the latest backup may not be problem free (if the problem went unnoticed) I then copy this backup file, along with the entire site’s file system to my local PC on a daily basis. From there it gets saved as a daily archive for couple weeks so I can go back to older copies and minimize the loss of data if the problem went unnoticed for a couple days. While I’m paranoid about backups I’m also lazy , so all this had to be scripted and automated as I would never do it manually.

For more information about the current attacks and a list of WordPress security resources you can visit Lorelle on WordPress.