I hope you had a good Thanksgiving. I did -- basically. Lots o' football on TV, and some basketball, too. I got to listen to my beloved Northwestern break their six-game losing streak and sneak past Illinois in the final game of the Big Ten season. And I got to see their basketball team get crushed by UCLA. (It helps having gone to UCLA for graduate school...) And see UCLA joyously beat USC. I listened to the Chicago Bears lose a heart-breaking game in overtime. And I watched as unbeaten #1 Alabama lose what will probably become one the greatest -- if not THE greatest last-second games in college football history, as they tried a long field goal with the score tied against their in-state arch-rival #5 Auburn and the clocking running out to zero, only to have the Auburn player run back the missed kick for a touchdown to win the game.
And I bought a Smartphone, which turned out to help waste most of my holiday weekend...
I won't bore you with the technical specifics, but for the longest time on Saturday I wasn't sure if I was going to return the device, a Nokia Lumia 928 Windows Phone. The problem was that I imported all my songs onto it (which had taken a couple hours) -- and when it was done and I took a look, all I could see were albums split up into individual songs. In other words, rather than display the cover for, say, 110 in the Shade, which contained 17 tracks -- it showed 17 individual "album covers" of 110 in the Shade. And not only did that look hideous, of course, but far worse it meant you could only play one song at a time, not a full album. And I saw this for album after album. Not all of them, but most it seemed.
As you might imagine, this was not A Good Thing.
I went online to search out if there were others with the same problem, or if I had a bad phone, or what. I did a whole lot of searching -- many more hours. It turns out I was not alone, there were a whole lot of people complaining. Slamming Microsoft. "Fix this already!!" The bad thing is that this means there's a big problem. The good thing is it means there is a much bigger pool from which to find a resolution. The bad thing is that I couldn't find a resolution. Just a lot of people damning Microsoft.
I thought maybe the problem was the way the default music player on the device worked, so I sought out third-party music players. It look a long time, many more hours researching the better ones. And then I started downloading, installing and trying them. Probably about 15 in all. This took a whole...well, you can guess.
Finally at 12:30 in the morning, I was getting a tad bleary, waved the white flag and went to bed. Pretty much all day gone.
The next morning, Sunday, I sent off a note to my oft-mentioned here friend Ed Bott, the brilliant, longtime technology writer for ZDNet. He had recommended this phone to me, so I wanted to let him know I'd taken his advice (no chiding involved, in most other ways I quite like the phone and said so), but that I was also having this mind-numbing issue, to the point that if I couldn't get it to play songs, I might consider returning it.
Thank goodness for having friends who actually know what they're doing. And are willing to help out on a Thanksgiving weekend.
In the first email back, Ed said he thought he knew the problem, and that it was actually an easy, though time-consuming fix. And...it had absolutely nothing to do with Microsoft -- all the complaints and cries and damns against them aside.
Over the course about about a dozen, patient emails, Ed explained the issue and how to resolve it. The problem, it happens had to do with how I had originally converted the songs to MP3 (many converted from analog LPs) for my iPod Touch and how iTunes had "tagged" them.
Side note, lest anyone be concerned about this being an issue for their own phone. It certainly can be, but generally isn't. The main source of the problem was the converted songs from analog LIPs. That's far less exact than simply converting existing CDs. Pretty much all of those transferred without a hiccup.)
This is some of the long techno-part I'll leave out, but suffice it to say that meta tagging is how software knows how to identify what a song and album, and what the software is playing. Though things were screwed up at the iTunes level, it never showed up as a problem during playback because iTunes understood itself, so everything played fine. And even when I played albums on Android devices, they seemed to accept them. But as Ed noted when he looked at the files I sent him, out in the rest of the world the tagging was so screwed up that in many places it didn't exist at all. The short version is that without an album tagged, the music player didn't know that it was...an album. Each file was therefore just an unidentified song.
This exchange took hours. (Techno whiz that he is, Mr. Bott doth not live at his computer, most especially on a holiday weekend.) Among other things, Ed recommended a variety of tagging software, which I took a bit of time (of course...), finally settled on one, installed it, tried to learn the basics, sent questions to Ed, and started the process of going through pretty much...all my music files.
By 10:45 at night, I'd finally made it through all of the "Unknown" songs that couldn't be identified. That still left a lot of work to do, needing to go through all my albums, checking to make sure everything is not only just right, but consistent for every song on the same album. It's very easy...but it's also exceedingly tedious and will take a very long -- well, you know. So, my wasted holiday weekend will spill into the coming week.
But the good news is that -- a) there's nothing wrong with the phone, which I like, and b) when I finish this time-wasting work, everything should be swell, and I'll be able to load all of my songs again on the phone. Eventually.
Should be able. We'll see. But I did load three albums that Ed tested and fixed for me, and they worked fine. Though he's Ed, and I'm me. So...we'll see. But, I do believe I can see the light. Something to be thankful for, this season o' Thanksgiving.
There's one added bonus. In going through ALL my music files, I kept coming across wonderful, obscure songs I love, and I've jotted down a few and will be posting them here during the coming days.
And on the fifth day, he rested.
Happily, I had lots of turkey and pumpkin pie. I hope you did, too. Particularly if you like them.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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