April 30th, 2005

Recovering iTunes ratings from your iPod

So I had this major breakdown before leaving for the East Coast last week. My external E drive was sounding like it was about to die, so I thought I’d better back up the stuff on it, which is mostly my iTunes music files. But I needed to make some space on my C drive to do so, and went about deleting a whole bunch of old music files that were hanging around in my My Music folder on C from before I had the external drive.

I was in a bit of a rush, and made a major error. Even though iTunes is configured to store the music files on my E drive, I didn’t realise it still keeps the “iTunes Music Library” file in your “My Music” folder on the C drive. Now, this is is the file that contains all your ratings and playlists, and I zapped it along with all the other putative junk in my “My Music” folder. And of course when I backed up all my real music files from E to C, it zapped everything in the Recycle Bin too.

So, next time I start iTunes, it tells me I have no songs. AAARGHH!! The songs I can get back easily just by dragging the E:/iTunes folder back into iTunes, but I’ve spent the last year fastidiously rating every song in my 15Gb library. By pressing the select button twice on the iPod, you can rate the song playing from one to five stars. I use the following system:

  • One star: Things I want to delete
  • Two stars: Things I don’t want to hear on shuffle, but don’t want to delete
  • Three stars: Songs that would be OK to come up on shuffle at a dinner party
  • Four songs: Songs I like a lot
  • Five stars: Songs I really love

That way, I can just use my “3+” smart playlist for a good mix of songs any time. When I’m in the car, I usually play my “unrated” playlist and rate songs as I go. I have spent ages setting this all up, and now it seems all my ratings are gone forever.

Apple support was no help. They told me that the iPod was a one-way device only, and you couldn’t get your ratings back from the iPod. Well that was worth the $60 for my extended service contract, eh? The fact that iPod automatically moves ratings from the iPod to iTunes when you use the thumbwheel to rate songs puts paid to that “one-way device” lie, but I didn’t want to risk synchronizing in case it copied the nonexistent ratings from iTunes to the iPod instead. No amount of cajoling would get Apple Support to help me make sure the ratings went from the iPod to iTunes. Bastards.

But after much experimentation and anguish I did find a solution. There is a cool little freeware app called iPodAgent that works with iTunes for Windows and will let you update iTunes with ratings and playcount information from your iPod. So all I had to do was drag my iTunes Music folder into iTunes to restore my library, and then use iPodAgent to restore my ratings. Perfect! Well, almost — I couldn’t find a way to restore my playlists, but I only had a couple and I could easily recreate those from some CD liner labels I had created. No biggie.

One final point: iPodAgent also lets you copy the actual song files from the iPod to iTunes, so there’s really no need to back up the music files, which is what caused all the problems in the first place! It also has a nifty tool for copying my Outlook contacts to the iPod.

What a relief!

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April 29th, 2005

Pissed off, and getting more pissed off by the minute

I’ve kept quiet here about the whole Microsoft position regarding HR1515, even though, of course I felt betrayed and angry that my company would take away their support for the bill. That they would give in to religious extremists like that is distressing, and certainly sends a message to their gay and lesbian employees that the crazies can even make a behemoth like MS afraid. When we start appeasing these people like this, we’re in trouble. As I said on an internal discussion list at MS the other day, so MS caves to the religious fanatics on this bill. When they start threatening to boycott unless we stop offering same-sex partner benefits, at what point does MS put its tail between its legs and cave? And when they stat demanding we fire gay employees?

I kept quiet here because I was speaking out at work, and I figured, hey, everyone here knows how I feel. MS is a company I have always been a little ashamed to work for. But never more than today when someone sent out a link to an internal petition encouraging the company to remain neutral, which a few hundred people had already signed today, many of them with just downright insulting and demeaning statements about HR1515.

And of course, I’ve gone off and shot my mouth off in the discussion aliases and pissed a lot of people off. But goddamnit, I dont’ fucking care. If you want to sign a petition encouraging Microsoft not to support equal rights for all its employees, then I want to fucking insult you. Because you fucking desserve it. Because you’re a fucking bigot, and you can spin it any way you want, but you’re a piece of shit bigot and nothing more ,and I want you to be offended and insulted because you suck. You want to tell me to respect other points of view? Shove it. I respect legitimate points of view. I don’t respect racist, sexist, and homophobic points of view, and you can act like homophobia is different, but that just proves what an ignorant fucking creep you are.

There, I’ve vented, and said what would have gotten me fired had I actually responded to any of the messages I received today with what I wanted to say. Thanks!

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April 29th, 2005

Management Training, Anyone?

I’ve been looking for work since March. It’s the oddest market I’ve ever looked for work in, though perhaps I have to take some responsibility for that because I have become very, very picky. I won’t take Microsoft contracts where the manager really wants a full time employee but couldn’t get the head count because those just lead to frustration. I won’t take long term projects (more than six months) for the same reason. I try to avoid the tobacco and napalm sector because while I can’t really afford to dedicate my income to doing good work, I can avoid being actively evil. (Luckily, that’s not too big of a problem in my market, but with the recent civil rights fiasco coming out of Redmond, one can’t help but wonder where to draw the line.)

At any rate, I’m still unemployed, though don’t cry for me Argentina, this is the lot I’ve chosen by committing to work as a freelancer, plus, it’s not like I’ve run out of leads. My phone continues to ring, emails come in… something is bound to turn up. The stress of being out of work for longer than I’d planned is difficult, but I do believe it will pass.

But that is not what I started out to write about. What I wanted to say was this: I’ve been doing a lot of interviewing lately. And I have been shocked, no really, shocked speechless by the things people have said to me in interviews over the past two months. I’ve been tracking to see if they can get any worse, and lo and behold, to my stunned surprise, they CAN.

Before I get into the finger-pointing, I should remark that I have been replaying these interviews in my mind to see if I too, perhaps, couldn’t use some pointers. I’ve decided that I should probably stop saying that “I suck at bidding entire jobs, I prefer to bill hourly because I have no idea how long your project is going to take, plus if I bid the entire job, you are going to waste my time.” I should probably amend that to “I like to work with the client to figure out how long things are going to take and then settle on a not-to-exceed amount with revisions if needed.” That sounds better, no? I’ve been pondering a way to address my philosophy around working at home. It’s not that I’m a slacker; I am a very hard working person who has a reputation delivering good work on time. It’s just that I think people waste so much time in offices and meetings and that most work could be done in a good 30% less if we could just be left alone to do it. This is tougher to figure out how to talk about because most corporate identities think that “working at home” = “playing hooky.” I’d rather bill less hours and have the 30% extra to, oh, hone my baking skills or go skating at Alki or, well, anything else. I’m pondering how to talk about that. I’m thinking that I should have handy the answer to those generic interview questions that people ask – “Tell me about a time…” or “Tell me about yourself…” because they inevitably come up. I’m fishing around in my experiences over the last two months to see if I can come up with anything else I could change about my side of the process.

So. That said, let me tell you about a handful of things that people have said to me in recent interviews that have left me, well, wondering what I am doing there.

  1. I can’t promise I won’t micromanage you.
    This will send me running for the door every single time. There is no worse manager (for me) than a micromanager and it won’t end well, no sir. Just ask that one guy. Man.
  2. I like to do spot checks on my employee’s work to see what they’re up to.
    What is this, second grade? Are there pop quizzes too? Why don’t you just ask me? You apparently do not trust me to do my job.

  3. I never meet my deadlines; I’m always scrambling at the last minute to get stuff done.
    As a person who meets deadlines religiously, it’s probably a bad idea for me to work with someone who can’t. Also, if that person is my superior in the chain of command, we’re going to have real issues around R-E-S-P-E-C-T.
  4. We never deliver our anything on time.
    See above.
  5. We hate these offices.
    There is nothing that makes a prospective employee feel less like joining in when you know that the folks that are there hate where they have to be all day.

But wait, there’s more. The rest, are here in the form of requests. Please, please, please don’t compare yourself to a remarkable figure in history. I beg you not to do this; it’s going to kill your credibility dead beyond recognition. Don’t ask me probing questions about my personal life – they’re seldom relevant and often, they’re not legal. If I’m not the right person for your job, please tell me so right away, you will not hurt my feelings and I only want to be successful at what I do, so save us both the time, okay?

After all these bad interviews, I wonder if I am ignoring my own advice. I should be putting a stop to these things right away, as soon as it becomes clear that I am not, in a million years, going to take this project, not for love or money. I should have thanked the micromanager at that very moment and said that I didn’t think we’d be a good match. I should have put a stop to the inappropriate questioning immediately instead of fishing around in my head for neutral responses. I should just put the brakes on that stuff and head for the door. Currently I’m regretting that I didn’t respond the way I really felt in a number of those situations. I try not to kill my job prospects by saying “That is the most stupid and outrageous thing I’ve ever heard in an interview.” Thing is, I have learned over the last two months that it’s probably NOT the most outrageous and stupid thing I’ve ever heard. There is probably more to come.

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April 28th, 2005

Florida – Again!

Someone please tell me why Jeb Bush and the State of Florida are trying to force a 13 year old girl to have a baby she doesn’t want?

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April 28th, 2005

Read James Wolcott’s blog every day

Because once a month in Vanity Fair is not often enough. It’s interesting… all the pissing and moaning by traditional reporters about the Evil That Is Blogs seems to come from people working in TV or dailies. For someone like Wolcott, who clearly has more venom (and wits) than ink, a blog is a perfect way to engage readers more conversationally. And man, what conversation. He’s my new favorite. From a post yesterday:

Bush’s privatization scheme is dead and too dumb to fall over, to borrow a line from Rita Mae Brown. Today in the NY Times, Congressman Charlie Rangel recounts a conversation with Bush over private accounts. Listen closely and you can hear the steel in Bush’s spine stiffening as he postures for posterity. Rangel urges Bush to take private accounts off the table, and Bush replies:

“Congressman, I am the president. [As if Rangel needed reminding which office Bush held.] And private accounts are ot coming off the table even if it’s the last day I spend in the presidency.”

Oooh, so last man at the Alamo. You know that sort of no-retreat, no-capitulation might play well with Americans when Bush is pretending to stand up to terrorists, but most voters recognize that horse-trading and compromise are part of the game in passing legislation, and taking a defiant stand on something most of them oppose (Soc Sec privatization) isn’t going to win the gallery applause Bush always expects. He’s losing his political touch to his strutting pride–a pride that increasingly takes on the shape of a pathological growth.

It’s that good every day.

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April 27th, 2005

Pete Greenberg Benefit Show

Many of you know my dear friend and former housemate, Pete Greenberg. If you do, you know that he is simply one of the best, friendliest, and funniest humans God saw fit to put on our planet. He is the #1 Honorary Nonfamous Nonstranger. [Honorary because he finds our whole blog thing kinda silly, in his young-curmudgeon way.] I think it fair to say that every single one of us who writes here knows and loves him.

Many of you may not have heard that Pete has been really, really sick. He’s definitely on the road to recovery, but you can imagine the bills. His experience has really brought home for me the ridiculous waste of time, money, and most of all LIVES that the current healthcare situation causes. That’s a longer-term issue… in the mean time, I just want Pete back on his feet in all senses of the phrase.

Luckily, his friends at Sonic Boom and the Stranger have pulled together a great benefit show. The details are below. I will be there with many friends… it will be a tremendous show and a hell of a party. If you can make it, please do!

Even if you can’t make it, please share this with anyone who might like to. There is also a fund in his name at US Bank, if you’d like to help out in a more quiet fashion. Both are greatly appreciated!

There will be another show in May at the Croc… details soon, but David and I will be in Australia then.



Sponsored by the Stranger, KEXP and Sonic Boom Records
Saturday, April 30th at Chop Suey

Carrie Akre
The Cops
Robb Benson
Graig Markel
plus Special Guests

$8 / 21+ / 9p doors

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April 27th, 2005

Get your Stripey on

It’s a new category! The addition of a fashion/design element to our site (other than, you know, Gayee McGayerson) is long overdue. We’re calling it Stylefile.

In our first Stylefile entry, I’m calling myself out. I like stripey shirts. In fact I realized upon unpacking here in New York, where I am working for a few days, that I brought three stripey shirts. While this is more of a packing error than a crisis, it was with shock and horror that I read in the Post this morning that they make me look like a young stockbroker out to get laid:

For a night on the town, it seems vertical bands are still the shirt style of choice for most men, including these clubgoers in the Meatpacking District.

When most guys in New York want to get lucky, they wear the “Stripey.” You know Stripey. It’s the goofy-looking shirt that has become as basic as a pair of socks.

Key characteristics: somewhat fitted, vertical lines, the top two buttons undone. Worn with jeans that are just the right level of tightness, not loose enough to scream “Gap!,” not tight enough to scream “Gay!”

Two years ago the Stripeys were daring. Invigorating. A funky alternative to the stale look of black pants and Banana Republic.

But now it’s everywhere. The Stripey has monopolized the clubbing wardrobe, assaulting the city with a fashion blitzkrieg, the likes of which we haven’t seen since the Trucker Hat.

For the record, mine are pretty baggy. But still. It’s always god to know that the trend dominating your closet has a year, tops, shelf life. Stripey shirts are what I started buying when I stopped buying every dark blue shirt I came across. Now I’ll just have to find my next fashion obsession. Bergdorf’s, anyone?

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April 27th, 2005

Gannon/Guckert’s special friend?

This Raw Story report is certainly interesting:

Guckert made more than two dozen excursions to the White House when there were no scheduled briefings. On many of these days, the Press Office held press gaggles aboard Air Force One—which raises questions about what Guckert was doing at the White House. On other days, the president held photo opportunities.

On at least fourteen occasions, Secret Service records show either the entry or exit time missing. Generally, the existing entry or exit times correlate with press conferences; on most of these days, the records show that Guckert checked in but was never processed out.

In March, 2003, Guckert left the White House twice on days he had never checked in with the Secret Service. Over the next 22 months, Guckert failed to check out with the Service on fourteen days. On several of these visits, Guckert either entered or exited by a different entry/exit point than his usual one. On one of these days, no briefing was held; on another, he checked in twice but failed to check out.

“I’d be worried if I was the White House and I knew that a reporter with a day pass never left,” one White House reporter told RAW STORY. “I’d wonder, where is he hiding? It seems like a security risk.”

Others who have covered the White House say not checking in or out with the Secret Service is unusual, especially in the wake of Sept. 11. The Secret Service declined to comment.

It seems clear to me that he was just doing what and good rep-whore-ter does: cultivating his sources. If it turns out that Scott McClellan, Karl Rove, or some other high-ranking administration figure has been, ahem, “leaking” to him… I will consider it proof positive that God exists and He is a Democrat.

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April 25th, 2005

Winning the war on spam comments

Just an update from the front, friends… we know that this is a long war that may not be won in our lifetime. Unlike some commanders-in-chief, we never declare our “mission accomplished” prematurely.

But since the WordPress update was fully configured, we’ve only had to manually delete a handful of comment spams. The amazing Spam Karma plug-in, which combines various Bayesian and blacklist methodologies along with common-sense tests to ensure that there’s a human and not a bot behind the “post” button, has blocked almost 400 comment spams in the past month.

By comparison, we’ve had about 70 real comments–some of the liveliest commenting in a long time. This is just a hunch, but I think when Paulette, David and I aren’t wasting time deleting trash we can actually spend more time blogging.

That was our goal. Thanks to everyone who put up with the hiccups as we switched. On that topic, I’ll ask again… everyone satisfied with the new look and feel?

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April 25th, 2005

And another thing– way to go Microsoft bloggers!

I love titling posts that–just in case anyone doesn’t notice when I get good and grumpy and up on a king-size soapbox.

I’ve spent a fair amount of time reading posts on Robert Scoble’s blog. He’s probably the most famous of the surprising number of Microsofties who blog about issues important to the company, and he has done a lot to help put a human face on what so many [read: including me] like to call the Evil Empire. This brouhaha is no exception to the rule that every time he says something controversial, other tech bloggers go “Whooo, he’s really gonna get fired now!” Let’s hope not. Because it’s bloggers like Scoble who may be the only chance for Microsoft to open up and truly interact with the world it has so much impact upon. He is a straight, white, married geek–but he has long been on the record as favoring gay marriage and gay rights. (Funny how the sheer number of gay people within Microsoft has helped make the place so tolerant… the very people whose marriages are being ruthlessly destroyed by homosexuals seem to have decided that gays are good people deserving of equality.)

Anyway, by the time I got done with it, I thought my comment on a recent post on his site was pretty good. So here it is, the first time I have ever block-quoted myself.

I think this “internal conversation” question is a silly fig leaf. Every. Single. Time. Bill or Steve ever sends out one of these “company-only” emails it is public within minutes. They are designed for this. I just think it’s really funny that blogging about one of these would be considered “airing dirty laundry.” It’s the Redmond equivalent of reading “…according to a senior Pentagon official…” in the NYT. Neither those officials, nor Steve’s PR team, are shocked (shocked!) when these get reprinted in major papers.

Beyond the transparent mechanics of such missives, it’s just reality that what happens within the walls of Microsoft has impact all around the world. Not to take anything away from the great work Robert has done or the risks he takes– but blogs have only made this more apparent, not more true. When you are the “world’s platform” there is not much chance of keeping things “in the family.” It’s a live/die by the sword kind of thing. Similarly, when you have led your corporate peers on an issue for over a decade and suddenly turn tail (presumably because the huge resources Microsoft was spending in support of equal rights lobbying was really eating into Building 18’s soft drink budget) you can’t expect your former friends not to feel like they have a right to speak up. Again, this happens every time Microsoft makes a business decision to stop supporting Protocol X, Widget Y or Standard Z. The community in question acts as if their hopes and dreams have been crushed.

Anyway, I have something of a ringside seat to Microsoft spin and I can tell you this mail raises more issues than it resolves. I’m very much waiting for the other shoe to drop. I summarize it on my blog as Your Rights, Our Silence. Not quite the warm, fuzzy or empowering message Microsoft spends millions to get out there.

This episode portends a crazy future for the once-proud company, a future in which the EU will hire Christian Evangelicals to threaten boycotts of Microsoft on the grounds that Jesus spoke out against anticompetitive business tactics in the Sermon on the Mount. I predict this tactic will be way more effective than anti-trust lawsuits.

There you have it– my theory on why future journalists will point to this whole episode as the beginning of the end, the point when Microsoft started losing credibility as a tough, take-no-prisoners company. Everyone thought it would be the lawyers that did it, but instead it turned out to be a preacher.

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