iTunes 9.1 – Smart Playlist Sort Order Still Wonky

In iTunes, I use a Smart Playlist to keep track of and to order my podcasts.

I like to order them by assigning to them a rating each morning before I head out on my daily travels. There are a few podcasts to which I assign 5 stars that take priority over everything – current news – then there are things in which I am very interested so they get 4 stars and then 3 and fewer stars are given to nice-to-hear shows.

I’ve lately taken to using the “Sort Artist” column to sub-sort the podcasts. By putting in the date (i.e. 20090924) it keeps them in order of receipt from oldest to newest. The end result is that I don’t end up listening to all my same-named podcasts clustered together but rather hear them interspersed among each other in the order in which they were published.

My expectation is that, on my iPod, the sort order will be the same as it is in iTunes. Not so anymore. Nowadays, the order somewhat follows the primary sort (I sort on “Rating” and everything else follows). On the iPod, rather than sorting from most to fewest stars, it currently sorts the opposite way and the sort within the stars follows absolutely no rhyme or reason – not alphabetically either by “Sort Artist” or by “Name”.

In fact, I took some time yesterday to experiment and it does not sort on ANY of the hidden sort fields or any visible fields for that matter.

I tried the suggestion of right-clicking on the playlist and clicking “Copy to Play Order” but this has absolutely no effect. I further tried editing the Smart Playlist and unchecking the “Live Updating” checkbox. This only resulted in NONE of my podcasts showing up in the iPod playlist, even though all looked fine in iTunes.

I understand that this is a major glitch in iTunes and have read many posts of folks complaining about this, so I suppose I’ll sit pretty while waiting for Apple to get around to fixing it. This post is mostly for folks who are experiencing the same issue to stumble across to see what I’ve tried and to know that their issue is shared.

Posted under Podcasting, Tech Stuff

This post was written by Marc
on September 25, 2009 at 7:46 am

Had to ditch WP-SpamFree

I was using WP-SpamFree to control comment SPAM.  But a few of my friends let me know that their comments were being refused as SPAM after they invested however long crafting a thoughtful message. Who knows how many others were being affected as I presume those folks who don’t even know me would just get ticked off and move on to some other part of the Internet.

I contacted the WP-SpamFree folks and all they would tell me was that the commenter’s machines had software on them that is usually associated with spammers. They declined to elaborate and wouldn’t respond at all when I suggested that a whitelist or some other override vehicle would probably be apt where you *know* the submitter and always want them to be able to comment.

I presume that, if my friends logged in, there would be no issue but it seems that a lot of folks don’t like doing that so I would be happy enough just putting in all their known addresses and then whitelisting those.

Anyway, I’ve had to switch to a different SPAM comment preventer solution so I hope the issue goes away without suddenly incurring a ton of comment SPAM.

BTW to be complete, here is the text of the error they received:

Your location has been identified as part of a reported spam network.
Comments have been disabled to prevent spam.

Posted under WordPress

This post was written by Marc
on September 24, 2009 at 6:38 pm

MagicJack + iTunes 9 + Vista Home Premium SP2 = Weird

*Updated September 23, 2009 *

After upgrading to iTunes 9.1 and rebooting, all is well. I’m pretty sure the real issue is the MagicJack. I’m seeing lots of weirdness from it. I’ll play with it for another week and then decide whether to go for Vonage instead. Had trouble verifying my phone in Google Voice. Sometimes I can’t pick up the phone (press 1 when presented with a call from Google voice) other times it picks up but one or the other end of the conversation can’t hear the other.

* End Update *

After performing a bunch of updates on my home machine beginning with the SP2 update for Vista home Premium, I went to play something on my freshly-updated-to-version-9 iTunes and… no sound.

So, while I’m trying to figure out what’s going on with that (all other sounds are playing just fine – media player, streaming videos) Michelle is trying to configure her Google Voice number to point to our new Magic Jack number. When she initiated the verification call to her phone, lo and behold, my iTunes music was playing.

Still trying to work *that* out…

Posted under Groan, Tech Stuff

This post was written by Marc
on September 22, 2009 at 7:59 pm


Twilight“Twilight” by Stephenie Meyer is a very quick read. I found the book to be on a par with the movie in terms of complexity. It pretty much takes a straight path from beginning to end.

I’m a sucker for any story that involves immortality and has some kind of “reveal” plot (where someone with a positive secret such as immortality or some other attribute is either discovered or must show their hand). This book definitely has both but explores both facets through the angst-ridden vehicle of a 17 year-old girl.

I swear, if I was ever happy to be a guy, I came away from this book positively ecstatic not to have had to experience being a girl going through her teens. Certainly not that girl (Bella).  I went through my teenage years blissfully unaware of most of the issues that are dwelled upon and excruciatingly revisited throughout this book. Not to mention the emotional games that are played throughout. If this is an accurate representation of what life is like for a 21st century girl, it’s no wonder that illnesses such as anorexia nervosa and other valium-requiring mental conditions seem so rife these days. That anybody could be so completely absorbed by the minutiae expressed in this book stunned me.

Fortunately, the print was large and the spacing wide so this is a fast read. If you’ve seen the movie, you’ve pretty much experienced the book but with the relief of not hearing the inner angst-monologue. If movies are made of the remainder of the Twilight series, I’ll likely end up watching them as my wife finds the romantic angle somewhat captivating. But I’ll be giving the books a pass.

Posted under Books

This post was written by Marc
on September 17, 2009 at 7:43 am

The unspoken truth about managing geeks

There is so much that I agree with in this article “The unspoken truth about managing geeks” that I can’t stress how much reading it in its entirety would be beneficial for every single manager and above in my (or any) company.

The only two things that I would add are:

1) A manager of an IT team, in my view, also needs to be there to champion causes embraced by the team – often IT  workers have little clout in the business / political arena and a good manager nurtures relationships that allow them to gain support for IT driven initiatives. They also need to run interference and protect team members from dreary and pointless reports and statuses demanded by upper management or business units. Allowing IT folks to do what they do best.

2) The view of IT folks is somewhat romanticized and idealized. Just like any group of people, you’ll have many walks of life. The author falls victim – just a bit – to more favorable stereotypes. Even though they are an improvement, they must also be taken with a grain of salt. Not ALL IT folks are keen on finding the best, most efficient way to do something. Some folks’ BS detectors are much better than others, etc.  But I think anybody who has actively worked with IT folks knows this and can keep that little grain of salt handy while reading the article.

Posted under Opinions

This post was written by Marc
on September 11, 2009 at 9:04 am

I can’t believe I’m going to patronize Comcast again :(

After being with AT&T for about 3 years, I find that their U-verse rollout is conflicting with my DSL connectivity. According to a guy I know at AT&T I’m far enough away from the nearest Central Office that they have a special profile for me (anybody my distance from the CO). I’m about 18,000 feet away and that’s apparently a pretty big deal.

As I understand it, this particular profile can cause interference with U-verse transmissions and so I’m being scaled back to some other profile. The long and short of it is that my AT&T DSL keeps dropping which I noted as a problem in my blog a couple of months ago. After verifying that all wires were properly attached to things they needed to be attached to, the tech changed my profile and made a few other soft adjustments and everything settled down and worked perfectly. However, he warned me that this could change at any time. It’s just that he knew that nobody was using U-Verse on my … what do you call it .. trunk? Node? Who knows?  So this wouldn’t adversely affect anybody.

This worked great for about a month but, as of yesterday, it seems that the profile has been reset again. This happened once before but then switched back on its own. My little DSL light (on my modem) has been flashing red fairly regularly whenever I want to surf the web.  I’m told my best option would be to downgrade my service to a 3 Mbps or possibly some kind of 1 Mbps connection in order to guarantee stability.

So, I checked out Satellite (why does Hughes NOT give you ANY technical details on their site?), Wi-Max (not in my area yet) and looked into various local providers but it appears that I really can only choose between my two duopoly-mates AT&T or Comcast.

Looking on Comcast’s site I saw a plan (“Performance” 15 Mbps down / 3 Mpbs up ) that would be $19.99 / month for the first 6 months and then $42.99 thereafter. Then I found that that deal only applied if you got cable too. So the price otherwise will be a straight $59.99 / month.

I found a deal that offered the same $19.99 *plus* a $125 Amazon gift card but then found that was only for 6 Mbps / maybe 1 Mbps.  To get to the “Performance” plan performance I’d end up paying $69.99 / month.  Man! Comcast definitely makes sure you will pay every last cent to them even if they offer you a deal, it seems you will repay the offer in spades.

So, I reluctantly went back to the original Comcast site and filled everything in again (I canceled the original order when I found out that the small print prevented me from getting any kind of deal) and found that this time it let me right through. So, for Internet service ONLY I now seem to qualify for $19.99 per month and $42.99 after 6 months.  I went so far as to confirm this with the Comcast rep that comes up in chat mode when you submit your order and all seems copacetic.

I get the new service installed on Tuesday (maybe) so we’ll see…

Posted under Retail Experiences, Tech Stuff

This post was written by Marc
on September 10, 2009 at 6:26 pm

“unique fields names table size” error in Lotus Domino

I recently had an issue where the mail boxes on one of my Domino servers were not compacting at all during their normal window.

My logs showed

09/03/2009 04:00:01 AM  Router: Beginning mailbox file compaction of
09/03/2009 04:00:01 AM  Switching to copy-style compaction for E:\Lotus\Domino\Data\ due to unique fields names table size
09/03/2009 04:00:02 AM  Router: Shutdown is in progress
09/03/2009 04:01:49 AM  Router: Unable to compact mailbox file Database is currently in use by you or another user
09/03/2009 04:01:49 AM  Router: Completed mailbox file compaction of
09/03/2009 04:01:49 AM  Router: Beginning mailbox file compaction of
09/03/2009 04:02:02 AM  Router: Completed mailbox file compaction of
09/03/2009 04:02:02 AM  Router: Beginning mailbox file compaction of
09/03/2009 04:02:02 AM  Switching to copy-style compaction for E:\Lotus\Domino\Data\ due to unique fields names table size
09/03/2009 04:03:49 AM  Router: Unable to compact mailbox file Database is currently in use by you or another user
09/03/2009 04:03:49 AM  Router: Completed mailbox file compaction of
09/03/2009 04:03:50 AM  Router operation resumed.

Since I haven’t had the need to monitor for failure of mailbox compaction, I was not aware of this issue until I received complaints of Non Delivery Errors. Specifically “554 Error writing message to safe storage; message could not be stored to disk“.

I was unable to find anything useful either from Lotus’ technotes online, their forums or using Google in general so I thought I’d post something to help out others who travel this path.

I contacted Lotus and opened a PMR but they were clueless as well. I really wanted to know what the “unique fields names table size” error was all about but they really didn’t know and tossed me a technote pertaining to “Database has too many unique field names” which really didn’t apply. They also focused on database corruption caused by  anti-virus programs. I figure that, if this was the issue, this should  have come up in the past 5 years on some of the 30+ other servers I’m working with so I was pretty sure this was also not a cause.

Long and short, I still don’t have an effective means to generically monitor for mail box compact failure. I *could* set up a monitor for the “unique fields names table size” string but it seems that seems like overkill.

To resolve the issue is simple enough:

  • shut down the server,
  • rename all the mail boxes,
  • restart the server (allowing new mail boxes to be created),
  • copy over any not-dead messages to one of the newly created mail boxes and
  • delete the old mail boxes

A side-effect of the above is that my name becomes the “from” address for all the copied messages.  Anybody have a simple solution for that? I haven’t actually researched it yet since it comes up so infrequently but it would be handy to know.

Posted under Lotus Domino, Work Portfolio

This post was written by Marc
on September 9, 2009 at 11:36 am