I need these genius playlists back
September 12, 2009 3:57 PM   Subscribe

iTunes experts present? Genius stopped working on iTunes 9, solutions I found aren't helping. Detailed information after the break.

I upgraded iTunes to version 9 a few days ago, ever since the Genius function stopped working. I'm running Windows 7 Ultimate 64bit, Nod32 antivirus and the built-in Windows firewall, no other obscure "security" tools are present, the system hasn't been "improved" with any "optimizers" either. Desktop is a Intel Q6600 with 8GB ram connected to the network via wifi. There's about 33,000 files in my library and Genius was working fine on iTunes 8 when I last updated it a few weeks ago.

When I tried to update Genius to use the new mixes I got the "We Could Not Complete your iTunes Store Request. The Network Connection Timed Out" error. I disabled Genius and let it run again, step 1, collecting data on the library works fine, on step 2, when iTunes tries to transfer the collected data to Apple, I get the error after 10-15 seconds.

This problem seems to be quite widespread and has been around for a while, but none of the solutions I found are working. Things I already tried:

- Followed rule 1 and rebooted. Several times.
- Deleted the Apple Cookie folder in %appdata%
- Disabled Nod32, a few posts I found said eSet products can cause trouble with Genius, though this wasn't an issue before. Also disabled Nod32 entirely via msconfig, including self protection, rebooted, etc.
- Checked Windows internet settings in control panel, automatic configuration in LAN settings checked or unchecked doesn't make a difference, not using a proxy server
- Disabled Windows firewall, removed and readded iTunes to exceptions list, allowed all TCP and UDP connections
- Checked the integrity of the iTunes Library XML with several XML validators, no errors
- Tried the solution suggesting illegal characters in the XML might cause the error, searched the XML with TextWrangler on my Mac for illegal characters. All it found were German umlauts (ä, ö, ü) and ß, I have hundreds of tracks with these characters and they didn't cause any issues before.
- Uninstalled and reinstalled iTunes several times, nuked every iTunes related configuration files from %appdata% several times, after re-importing my files into a fresh iTunes the same error popped up again.
- Connected desktop with ethernet cable to rule out wireless issue
- Pruned all dead files with ! from the library, there where 5 or 6 links to deleted tracks, didn't help
- Changed iTunes language from English to German back to English, no difference
- Router related errors can be ruled out, I have absolutely no network issues on the Windows machine, neither on our 2 Mac notebooks (where Genius works)
- Tried running it at several times (Friday evening, night, all Saturday), so temporarily overloaded Apple servers can't be the issue either, really.
- Unlikely to be a DNS issue, Genius is working on 2 other machines, the iTunes store is working fine on Windows, updating my iPhone apps and downloading new apps is working, too. Also Genius was working in iTunes 9 for a bit, see next paragraph
- Tried nuking the library and re-adding files bit by bit, at one stage, after importing all artists starting with A, B and C genius worked, delivered results to Apple, got back genius results. It stopped working after I added artists starting with D. When I tried to narrow down the troublemaker files it crapped out with only artists starting with A and B present, before I even added more files. Also tried other letters, there doesn't seem to be any pattern.

I guess there is an issue with some files that are causing the XML file to corrupt, but as Apple in all its idiot-friendly glory decided to let iTunes pop out nothing but a generic network timeout issue I really ran out of ideas on how to troubleshoot this any further. Reverting to iTunes 8 would be a solution, then again I'd rather avoid that step as iTunes 9 is the first version in ages with a decent performance and has a few more nice features I kinda was looking forward to.

I could try to add single albums and run Genius after each, but then again I have a life and not an unlimited amount of time to deal with this stupidity. So, I'm kinda lost and frustrated now after spending most of the day on trying to fix this and I fail at googling any more possible solutions. Any ideas?
posted by starzero to Computers & Internet (12 answers total)
Yikes. I had the same problem you did, but the solution was much simpler.

First, access the itunes store. This is simply to ensure that your saved password is still correct. If not, use the "I forgot my password" feature to reset it.

Second, I went to the "store" menu and selected "Update Genius."

That was it. THERE WAS NO STEP THREE!!!!

Ok, just a Jeff Goldblum joke there. Anyway, give it a whirl.

- AJ
posted by Alaska Jack at 7:46 PM on September 12, 2009

Does the same library work on another machine? Maybe you can share the folder they are in and try importing there to see if the same behavior persists.

The thing with iTunes is that it swallows actual errors, even on Mac (that is, nothing written to the syslog, unhelpful error messages). I wonder if that particular machine might be having issues actually reading a file, either due to permission or drive issues. Maybe iTunes8 silently skipped these whereas 9 handles it less gracefully.

I doubt it is the XML file, which is UTF-8 encoded and can handle special characters just fine. That said.. I'm not sure about Windows, but on Mac the XML file is only for reference -- there is a binary db called "iTunes Library" in the same directory which is what it's actually using. You could try deleting that to have it rebuild from XML at startup.

Can't think of much else to do. :/ On Mac I would suggest running dtruss on the iTunes process while rebuilding so you could determine if it's choking while reading a certain file, but I have no idea if there's a similar utility to trace+log system calls for Windows.

Might want to open a bug with Apple if all else fails.
posted by cj_ at 8:48 PM on September 12, 2009

Actually scratch that, you can't truss iTunes. On the kernel level, probing iTunes process via dtrace is prohibited to protect their DRM from reverse-engineering.

I hate to say it, but I think you're stuck with either trying to add music in small chunks to track it down or open a bug with Apple and hope for the best. :(
posted by cj_ at 9:13 PM on September 12, 2009

Response by poster: I tried re-building the library once more, again added A, B, C, all fine, added D, crapped out. Removed D, one might think it should work with A-C, as it did 5 minutes earlier, but no luck.

Alaska Jack, your answer got me thinking about the account, I tried changing passwords and credit card data on the old one, didn't work, set up a new one, same results.

cj_, the lack of log output is bothering me too, but I guess one has to live with that. I tried one last thing, installed iTunes 9 on XP in VMWare, added my MP3s from network, didn't work either.

I'll just give up now and hope for an iTunes update that will fix this, thanks for your ideas.
posted by starzero at 6:05 AM on September 13, 2009

> I tried re-building the library once more, again added A, B, C, all fine, added D, crapped out. Removed D, one might think it should work with A-C, as it did 5 minutes earlier, but no luck.

Well, not necessarily, if it's corrupting the file in some way. It might be corrupted in such a way that it is unable to undo the damage itself. So it sounds like you possibly narrowed it down to the D's. I'd start adding individual albums in there until it breaks, start over, and then add each individual song from that album.
posted by cj_ at 2:35 PM on September 14, 2009

Response by poster: I rebuilt the whole library yesterday once more on XP in VMWare and it worked, then I completely uninstalled and purged my W7 machine of all Apple content and re-installed iTunes and got the network timeout error again. I just don't get it. Gonna play with the D-Artists album by album next weekend, if can be be bothered.
posted by starzero at 4:00 AM on September 15, 2009

On Snow Leopard, I managed to fix this problem by totally deleting all cookies and resetting Safari. (This is not as arbitrary as you'd think as iTunes uses WebKit.)

This is not such a big deal for me as I keep all my web passwords in 1Password.
posted by yesno at 2:30 PM on September 15, 2009

I spoke too soon, above. Deleting cookies makes the process seem to go along further but it still craps out. Deleting preferences has no effect.
posted by yesno at 4:18 PM on September 15, 2009

Is this the error? The article suggests the problem is Apple's servers being overloaded. Also a few problems here and their solutions. Since Genius uses ITMS, which uses the webkit framework, it could be a cookie issue. You said you purged it of apple content, but it may have left these data files laying around.
posted by cj_ at 5:06 PM on September 15, 2009

Response by poster: Not exactly the error, though the message might have a different wording on OS X. But yeah, I deleted the cookie folder, which is /Users/$myuser/Appdata/Roaming/Apple Computer/Cookies

On later tries I uninstalled and deleted everything related to Apple, which included all Safari related settings and folders, though I'm quite sure iTunes doesn't even touch these as the Safari install is optional on Windows (and it wasn't installed on my XP VM on the successful test)

/Program Files
/Program Files (x86)
posted by starzero at 11:14 PM on September 15, 2009

Response by poster: In case anyone was wondering - updating to iTunes 9.01 didn't help either
posted by starzero at 7:00 AM on September 23, 2009

Response by poster: Guess what. All of a sudden it's working again. Did I change anything system and/or iTunes related? No. Added a few new albums, that's it. Maybe one has to unrar a few gigabytes of data in the background or play a certain song or wait for a new moon, no idea.
posted by starzero at 2:38 PM on October 15, 2009

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