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iHate it
October 6, 2010 12:04 AM   Subscribe

Is it just me, or is iTunes the most annoying, inconvenient, fricking stupid piece of software ever created? Help me figure out how to use this piece of crap.

So I have a second computer now (its a mac, which I haven't really used before), and I plug my phone in, I stick my apple account name and password in for 'home sharing', which is supposed to let me use more than one computer with my phone.

Now, I then click on my iPhone under 'devices', and tick 'manually manage music and videos', but when I click 'apply' it says my phone is synced with another library and I'm only allowed to sync my phone with one computer at a time, and it then asks me if I want to sync it with the new computer (ie delete all the music). Wait, isn't that the point of the home sharing thing? So I can use more than one computer? And isn't the point of 'manually manage music' that I DON'T want to sync anything? AAARRGH!!!!

When I look at the music in my iPhone, I can see it all, but it's all greyed out and I can't click on it. WHY? I've googled and apparently I should be able to just drag and drop. I can't.

Anyway, it seems that I can't use my iPhone with this new computer without syncing it first, meaning that all my music will be deleted. Unless I copy the music from my old computer to the new one first using a USB drive or something (of course I can't use the iPhone as a USB because that would be too convenient).

Who designed this idiotic system? I just want to put on a couple of songs and delete a couple. Why does apple make this so damn hard? Yet somehow there are people who actually think iTunes is good. What am I missing?
posted by moorooka to Technology (30 answers total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
 
Home Sharing vs regular (streaming) sharing: Two Kinds of Sharing. The point of it has nothing to do with your phone. It's about how computers connect to other computer's libraries. If you home share from one computer to another, you can move files from one library to the other over the network, within iTunes. Big whoop, I know, you could also just mount the drive over the network and copy away, but there you have it.

You might browse the itunes tag... music management issues come up a fair bit, precisely because iTunes isn't as friendly as anyone thinks it should/could be.
posted by mumkin at 12:20 AM on October 6, 2010


Are you selecting "Manually Manage Music and Videos" on the new computer? Try selecting it on the first computer (that the iPhone is currently syncing with), and then connecting to the second computer.
posted by JiBB at 12:21 AM on October 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think the point of Home Sharing is to let you move music files between two different computers on the same home network, not to let you sync your device with multiple computers.

Not that I've found it to work particularly well at that, either. (It will let Computer 2 snag files from Computer 1, but not vice versa, in my house, no matter what I do with the settings. So annoying.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 12:22 AM on October 6, 2010


I stick my apple account name and password in for 'home sharing', which is supposed to let me use more than one computer with my phone.

That isn't what home sharing is at all. It has nothing to do with iPhones or iPods. It allows you to copy/share music and videos between computers. You can use home sharing to copy media from machine to machine on your network.

You can only sync an iPhone/iPad/iPod with a single computer at a time. Sorry, that's the way it is. It has been that way since the first iPod. Perhaps since I've been using it for years I don't have a problem with the restriction of synching to a single machine at a time. If you don't think of the iPhone as a hard drive and files in a directory and think of iTunes managing the content it is easier to swallow.

Complaining here won't help, but complaining here may help.
posted by birdherder at 12:27 AM on October 6, 2010 [6 favorites]


Yes the original computer was on 'manually manage music', and I am able to drag and drop into the phone using the old computer. It's the only way I've ever used iTunes. But I can't apply this setting on the new computer without first erasing the phone.
posted by moorooka at 12:28 AM on October 6, 2010


You can only sync an iPhone/iPad/iPod with a single computer at a time. Sorry, that's the way it is. It has been that way since the first iPod. Perhaps since I've been using it for years I don't have a problem with the restriction of synching to a single machine at a time. If you don't think of the iPhone as a hard drive and files in a directory and think of iTunes managing the content it is easier to swallow.
Thank you for clarifying this.

The thought that this might be the case crossed my mind, but after a moment's worth of consideration I found it impossible to believe that apple, with their enormous popularity and reputation for quality design, could have deliberately designed their software to be so completely retarded! One computer is just the way it is??? That is truly pathetic.
posted by moorooka at 12:45 AM on October 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


moorooka I suspect you have the RIAA and MPAA to blame for that more than Apple. It's part of the idiotic anti-piracy strategy.
posted by SansPoint at 12:51 AM on October 6, 2010 [3 favorites]


It's not one computer, it's one iTunes library.

I synchronise my iTunes library across multiple Macs with Chronosync (you could use any file bidirectional file synchronisation software as long as you're careful not to open iTunes on two computers before doing another sync) and my iPhone will sync with any of them.
posted by Mwongozi at 12:52 AM on October 6, 2010 [4 favorites]


Just as iTunes can only work on one library at a time, the iPod application on your iPhone works with one music library at a time. Sorry, that's just the way it works.
posted by floam at 12:53 AM on October 6, 2010


chronosync sounds interesting but my old computer is a PC...
posted by moorooka at 12:57 AM on October 6, 2010


I'm afraid I'm out of touch with the PC world, but I'm sure someone can suggest a way of syncing a folder across multiple PCs. (Although, just to head the suggestion off at the pass - Dropbox isn't really an option. Since it has to upload everything to the cloud, putting an iTunes library in it takes *forever*.)
posted by Mwongozi at 1:11 AM on October 6, 2010


moorooka I suspect you have the RIAA and MPAA to blame for that more than Apple. It's part of the idiotic anti-piracy strategy.
RIAA and MPAA control Apple but not Android?
posted by moorooka at 1:35 AM on October 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


"That isn't what home sharing is at all. It has nothing to do with iPhones or iPods. It allows you to copy/share music and videos between computers. You can use home sharing to copy media from machine to machine on your network."

Right, but that isn't particularly clear and even though I know this, I find this a confusing annoyance in the same way that the OP does.

So in answer to your question, OP, the software isn't bad, but there are usability issues whereby its presentation clashes with user expectations.
posted by tel3path at 3:20 AM on October 6, 2010


I share your frustration, and as a former victim of iTunes I'll share my original solution and path to recovery. Here's a lifehacker article that does something very similar to what I'll describe below: http://lifehacker.com/230605/hack-attack-share-your-itunes-music-library-over-your-home-network. That article is probably much clearer than my ramblings since it's been a long time since I did all of this:

I had the same problem where I wanted to use two different computers (laptop and desktop acting as a file server). I believe that (due to Apple's insistence that you do things their way), the issue is: if you have different libraries of music on those computers, syncing with both will confuse the hell out of the phone and won't work reliably. In my case, I had the same library of music shared by a file server over my home network, so while iTunes insisted that I was using different libraries I really had just one. That's the configuration I recommend to you - have a central repository of music on your network. If you truly have 2 libraries of music (one one each computer), I'm not sure if there's a solution.

My solution: I shared the iTunes folder on my file server and mapped a drive on my laptop to that location. I then pointed the laptop's iTunes instance to those iTunes configuration files, so whether I plugged my phone into the desktop or the laptop, the phone saw them as the same music library and synced nicely. The key is a file on every iTunes instance called iTunes Music Library.xml. If you share that file over your network, you can convince both instances of iTunes that they're one instance of iTunes. When you set up your second instance of iTunes, you can choose that preexisting iTunes library by choosing "Choose iTunes Library" instead of creating a new one.

The key is these lines in that XML file:

[key]Library Persistent ID[/key]
[string]258909JK3BNNJ258[/string]

That Library Persistent ID is the unique identifier that tells your phone that this is its home computer, and it's okay to sync. So if your two instances of iTunes share iTunes Music Library.xml, they'll share this ID and your phone will sync.

There's one really big caveat to this setup: that XML file also stores filepaths, so you must make iTunes access your music via network identifiers. So while this might work for your file server:

Location
I:Myhomeserver/My_Documents/My_Music/Music_Videos/Foggy_Mountain_Breakdown.mpg

It will not work for the remote computer. Instead, both computers have to see this network path:

Location
file://Myhomeserver/My_Documents/My_Music/Music_Videos/Foggy_Mountain_Breakdown.mpg

Now, I don't clearly remember how I got iTunes to see everything by network path. But I think Google will yield some ideas; I think you can accomplish it when you initially set up (or reinstall) iTunes by identifying your library location with a network path (//myhomeserver/Mymusic/) instead of a local path (I:/Mymusic/)

And now a little editorializing about my path to recovery:

Is it just me, or is iTunes the most annoying, inconvenient, fricking stupid piece of software ever created?

It is. And your iPhone is designed to force you to use it. If you hate iTunes, you hate your iPhone. I estimate that in the 6 months that I had an iPhone, I lost 22-24 hours fighting iTunes. That's right, an entire day of my life that could have been spent on MeFi instead.

I don't want to start an argument over mobile devices, but this is a viable and easier fix for your question: I recovered by buying an Android device, and I've never made a better upgrade before. It took one drag-and-drop, and 15 minutes later my entire library was ready to go on my phone. If you honestly hate iTunes as much as I do, then the easiest fix is to choose a device that allows you to avoid iTunes.
posted by Tehhund at 4:15 AM on October 6, 2010 [7 favorites]


It took one drag-and-drop, and 15 minutes later my entire library was ready to go on my phone.

Can you clarify this statement, please. The original poster's problem seems to be that he can't drag and drop from this iPhone on a second computer. From what you've literally written, it sounds like you just copied from a computer to an Android phone, which is exactly what an iPhone does (via iTunes).

Are you trying to say that the Android system allows the user to easily copy music and videos off the phone and onto as many computers as they like? Or just that you can manage music and videos on Android without iTunes?

Why does apple make this so damn hard? Yet somehow there are people who actually think iTunes is good. What am I missing?

There are any number of Apps that you like turn your iPod Touch or iPhone into a USB drive. I like Air Sharing.

TouchCopy might be an program of interest to you.

You can also transfer your entire library from one computer to another.

Finally, there are several applications on Windows and Mac that you use besides iTunes to sync to your iPod or iPhone. Googling should help you find them.
posted by nomadicink at 5:31 AM on October 6, 2010


Are you trying to say that the Android system allows the user to easily copy music and videos off the phone and onto as many computers as they like? Or just that you can manage music and videos on Android without iTunes?

That should be the case. When you connect an Android phone to a computer, it just shows up as a mounted drive, like a USB data key or SD card. You can even take your mini / micro SD card out of your phone and put it right into the computer. However, in many Android phones, the card is behind the battery, so you have to turn off the phone to get at it.

Now, if you wanted to use an iTunes replacement program with an Android phone, like DoubleTwist, I'm not sure if that supports syncing with multiple computers.
posted by reddot at 5:41 AM on October 6, 2010


[Comments removed. There other places to have an argument about Apple; this is a place for answering the question.]
posted by cortex at 7:04 AM on October 6, 2010


I went through similar frustrations after almost 20 years of using and advocating Macs. Apple's control obsession makes for a great product, but with minimal flexibility if you want to do something it's not designed for.

Looking elsewhere as a customer in the future is a 100% viable answer to your issues and frustration. Find hardware and an OS that lets you manage your data how you see fit. Let your tools be tools for you instead of tools on loan from the designer. Just saying.
posted by quarterframer at 7:39 AM on October 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


It took one drag-and-drop, and 15 minutes later my entire library was ready to go on my phone.

Can you clarify this statement, please. The original poster's problem seems to be that he can't drag and drop from this iPhone on a second computer. From what you've literally written, it sounds like you just copied from a computer to an Android phone, which is exactly what an iPhone does (via iTunes).


reddot covered this, but you are correct: I just dragged and dropped files onto my Android phone. OP, I thought this was relevant because you said: (of course I can't use the iPhone as a USB because that would be too convenient). Perhaps your solution is a phone that allows you to do this.

OP, I left out a key bit of information that is relevant to your question: I can connect my phone to any computer in the world via USB and drop files onto it like a USB hard drive. I can have 10 computers with different media on them, and all of that media can be dropped onto my phone in any combination I want.

However, as cortex pointed out, this is not the thread for debating Apple vs. Android, so I'm not going to say that Android is superior. I'm just saying that I had a similar problem as the OP, and while I'm proud of the tricking-iTunes-with-a-home-network solution that I described, my long-term solution was a different phone OS.
posted by Tehhund at 7:42 AM on October 6, 2010


moorooka RIAA and MPAA control Apple but not Android?

Yep. Remember: Apple sells music, video, and devices to play them. Google just sells the devices (for now).
posted by SansPoint at 8:04 AM on October 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm confused about exactly what you're trying to do, but you might try to use the "transfer purchases" option since both computers are authorized for your account. That will at least let you move things that you bought from iTunes (I think).
posted by dpx.mfx at 8:18 AM on October 6, 2010


Huh, weird. I manage my iPod from three different computers, with different libraries, all set to 'manually manage', and have no trouble adding music to the iPod from any of them. I have never "synced" the iPod.
posted by zsazsa at 8:19 AM on October 6, 2010


From what you've literally written, it sounds like you just copied from a computer to an Android phone, which is exactly what an iPhone does (via iTunes).

Part of the problem is that this is not what iPhone/iTunes does. When iTunes puts music on your iPhone or iPod, it intentionally obfuscates the directory structure and file names so that you cannot easily copy the music off in a usable way (if you access the iPod as a normal drive). This of course on top of the fact that iTunes won't copy your library off of your iPod at all. There are 3rd party tools that will retrieve your music from your iPod for you, but it's not something that Apple want you to be able to do, for whatever reason.
posted by Who_Am_I at 8:26 AM on October 6, 2010


I've used iTunes almost exclusively on my PC and Macs b/c of my use of iPods as MP3 players. I have spent (as the OP has) many hours of frustration doing so. Not in the same manner as the OP, but in losing albums, folders, directories during the seemingly interminable updates to the iTunes program.

About two months ago, I started using MediaMonkey. Reading up on it, it just seemed to be a better way to use my PC--an old legacy clunker--as a media manager. I thought that I'd have to keep iTunes around to sync or manage ouriPods. Lo & behold, MediaMonkey can do all of that, too, without (most) of the headaches. The only problem I had, and for me it was exceedingly minor, was that it would not copy iTunes purchased music to my iPod. I think I have about 12 songs, or roughly roughly 100Mb out of my 280Gb library that are from iTunes. YMMV, but iFeel free!
posted by beelzbubba at 8:51 AM on October 6, 2010


RIAA and MPAA control Apple but not Android?
Well, not exactly, but the restrictions on copying music off an iPod were probably concessions Apple had to make in order to make the iTunes Music Store not suck (before iTMS, prices for online music were much higher, DRM policies were almost too restrictive to be useful, and the selection of music was much worse). Apple apparently succeeded, because the content industries started to fear their power and have tried to compensate by giving potential competitors more leeway. For example, Amazon was able to sell DRM-free tracks when most iTMS music was still DRM encumbered.
posted by Good Brain at 8:58 AM on October 6, 2010


Use copy trans and copy trans manager. Copy trans manager is free its used for putting music onto the phone without itunes (well itunes needs to be installed for the phone driver but thats it ). Copy trans is to copy music to your pc from your phone or ipod and you need to buy it.

ITs much much much better then itunes. Theuy work on books, music,and movies just not apps . (which doesnt matter anyway because u can do that right from the phone).

So maybe try that.

The only thing you will need itunes for is firmware upgrades.
posted by majortom1981 at 9:22 AM on October 6, 2010


Mwongozi wrote "I synchronise my iTunes library across multiple Macs with Chronosync (you could use any file bidirectional file synchronisation software as long as you're careful not to open iTunes on two computers before doing another sync) and my iPhone will sync with any of them."

Repeated for emphasis. If not Chronosync (which ain't free, but in my mind it's well-worth the $40 I paid for it), then Microsoft SyncToy. Do a sync of the entire contents of the "My Music" folder on Windows and the "Music" folder on your Mac. Initial sync should be one-way (Windows to Mac), after than a two-way sync MIGHT be fine but it's honestly easier if you commit to managing your music on one machine only - that is, plug iPod into either, but only add/delete/tag/rate music on one of the computers, and let the sync handle getting the changes to the other.

Upside of SyncToy is it is free and will copy changed bits between computers. Down side is that it's a bit difficult to work with, and you'll have to enable Windows sharing on your Mac (read: Reduce your security to allow Windows to connect). Chronosync has some really, really great options for setting up syncs, it's super-easy to manage what you do and don't want to sync, but again it's $40 - although that grants you a perpetual license meaning free upgrades from now until forever, unless they go out of business. That's also $40 per license - so using it on more than one computer means you have to pay more. I do all my music management on my MacBook Pro, and use Chronosync to pass changes one-way to the other computer, both to avoid potential conflicts and to avoid having to buy a second copy of Chronosync.

When everything I used was Windows, SyncToy worked just fine. After switching to a Mac, Chronosync was my choice due to some issues with SyncToy*, and it happily copied my iTunes library between Windows and Mac computers for a long time, until I dropped Windows and replaced my home system with a Mini. Now, Chronosync copies Mac to Mac. iTunes Home Sharing is used to sync music to/from my wife's Mac. She can't plug her iPhone/iPod into my laptop or our home Mini, but I can plug my iPod/iPhone into either the Mini or my laptop.

There are a few difficulties - after every sync, the initial open of iTunes results in a "Rebuilding Library..." notice and a short wait (or a long wait, depending on the size of your library/speed of your computer). Some album art doesn't transfer (auto-added stuff; easy to fix, but it is a bit of a pain - copy art, get info for files affected, paste copied art back onto selected music to embed it into the file). But kudos to Apple for using the exact same organization method for iTunes libraries on both platforms - no conversion is needed, just a simple copy-paste to get library from Computer A working on Computer B. For all the other faults, you at least have to credit them for thinking helpfully on that one. Or for thinking selfishly, as this does make it super-easy to move from PC to Mac...

(*SyncToy specifically is a BEAST to manage - no easy way to exclude specific files, you have to INCLUDE everything else instead! It also had some real issues with file sizes; any really big files caused a failure, as some files I synced were over the max cluster size limit for FAT32 drives, and SyncToy only works well with NTFS - but Macs can't read/write NTFS out of the box... they can after installing NTFS-3G via Google Code, but unless you NEED to do that, don't bother.)
posted by caution live frogs at 10:35 AM on October 6, 2010


I tried this crazy "Google" thing and ended up here.

Rage isn't really a question.
posted by chairface at 12:56 PM on October 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


I have all my computers set up to sync with my iPhone. Just follow the instructions that chairface linked to. The Lifehacker article linked above is overly complicated.

Yeah, it's stupid, but at least it's a solution with basically no downsides. (Caveat: it only works for one iPhone.)
posted by archagon at 2:27 AM on October 7, 2010


Is it just me, or is iTunes the most annoying, inconvenient, fricking stupid piece of software ever created?

It's not just you. But I'll note, for the record, that this title rightly belongs to Microsoft Outlook.

I'm one of the few people in the world who actually likes iTunes (which I once heard described, aptly, as "a spreadsheet that plays music."). I keep my library on my iMac, easily sync it to my iPhone, and can stream it to my Apple TV and my laptop. I don't even use the "home sharing" thing. My laptop's iTunes library is empty. I only use iTunes on the laptop when I want to watch a movie that's in my iTunes library.

The sync thing as always been one way. The idea is that iTunes is the mothership, and the various iPods and iPhones that you own are just handy ways to carry your music with you. This has been complicated somewhat since the birth of the iPhone and iPod touch, as you can purchase songs (and other content) directly on those devices. But, the next time you sync, you're prompted to (and are wise to) transfer those purchases to iTunes.

Obviously, it doesn't work for everybody. People who hate it tend to really hate it. But it's never really bothered me. It took a long time to get all of my stuff ripped into it and properly organized. And it requires some curating to be really useful. (And that came around again, recently, when I decided to rip/encode all my video and add that to the library) But, I don't have to much with it much these days. I have a separate playlist for each mobile device, set to automatically sync, and I let it keep my music folder organized. It doesn't cause me any grief.
posted by wheat at 10:26 PM on November 24, 2010


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