Dodge Retort: The iTunes Hairball


By John Dodge

Among Sun Microsystems (now Oracle something or other) founder Scott NcNealy’s favorite potshots at Microsoft was calling Windows a “hairball.” Know what? iTunes is a bigger hairball.

That a company hasn’t come along and blown the iTunes music jail out of the water is mind blowing.

iTunes is highly restrictive and unintuitive. Maybe I am unintuitive. It’s me or iTunes, but I have loathed it for some time.

Here’s what I want: to login into the cloud and access my music (photos, videos, name it) no matter what device I am using or where I am.

What I get from iTunes is music that disappears, music that won’t easily move from device to device and an interface that is hard to use.

Beware, getting a new computer risks rocking your music world and not in a good way.

The most recent saga included acquiring new desktop and an iPhone. Let me start with the desktop, which happened first and around Christmas time. I had already experienced problems with iTunes on my an iPad acquired in the middle of last year. Sometimes, the music store would not download. The menus confused me. I couldn’t easily find stuff.

So moving my 2,600 song-strong music library on iTunes from my old desktop to the new unit scared me. It turned out not to be so bad. I authorized the new desktop as one of my five allowed iTunes repositories and bingo, all my purchased music magically showed up.

That provided a new home base for all my tunes for downloading to iPad, iPod and iPhone. All the music CDs I had transferred from CDs were gone, but I could, over time, download it again.

Just as magically, all that music vanished about a month later. It wasn’t in a folders on my PC. It simply vanished. Poof. Gone.

I was perplexed. Where was it? Was changing my e-mail login responsible for my loss? How did this happen? Who could I call? I have no idea. My purchase records were all there, but the music was gone.

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10 thoughts on “Dodge Retort: The iTunes Hairball”

  1. I’ve had problems with ITunes in the past, the main problem being the dreaded “determining playback gap” in earlier versions of ITunes that would completely freeze the system. It wasn’t until I got an Itouch and went to Itunes 10 and above that the problem disappeared. What I do to avoid a potential problem with Itunes losing music is that I have the music all centrally located on my hard drive in a specified place – NOT where iTunes wants to place it. As far as purchased items are concerned, once they are purchased, I click on the “purchased items folder” and choose “show in windows explorer” and move them over to where I want them. Then I have to tell ITunes where they are moved one time only. When ITunes “loses” your music, the music isn’t gone, just the “pointer files” I think is the term they use that tell it where the music is located. I treat music like any other data source; I back it up to another external drive so I have it in the ITunes working folder on one drive, and a backup on an external drive. I guarantee you will NEVER lose music that way. Worse case, you have to reinstall ITunes and have it point to the location of the music files.

    But I agree, unless you have a bit of working knowledge of how the program works, it is a pain – and it is what it is.

  2. There’s no question that iTunes is an amazing program given all that it can do, and when it works, it’s very nice. However, when it fails, it fails badly. Again I point to the millions of hits on the Web from people that have lost ALL of their music because iTunes failed. That’s unacceptable, and just because Rich finds it easy, and Jez can sync 40,000 tracks, and MMmmm thinks we should “harden the %^& up” (whatever that means), that certainly doesn’t therefore mean there isn’t a problem. I’m running it on two similar Windows 7 systems. On one, it runs great. On the other computer, it’s not so great. On the other, it takes 2 minutes to start, and then hangs for hours. And no, there’s no Malware on the system. There’s just no explanation that I can find, and an hour on the phone with Apple support didn’t help either. They don’t know, which to me means iTunes just isn’t going to work on all systems, and that’s especially a problem if you buy any Apple hardware that REQUIRES iTunes to activate the hardware. That’s unacceptable.

  3. I have to go with Darryl on this Dave, just too much i i i i in there with a lot of haste. iTunes is a very bloated resource hog. Being in the integration industry can be frustrating at times as soon as someone asks to integrate their iProduct into the mix.
    Apple just does not play well with the others a lot of the time. Manufacturers like Crestron and RTI do fairly well whit the iStuff but still they try too much to control what you can and cannot do with your own(ed) media.

  4. Like Rich I don’t know what the fuss is about. I have 40,000 tracks in iTunes and can play them from my MacBook, Win7 PC, and iPhone. I can even play them in my car streamed to the iPhone wherever there is a 3G connection. In what way is it hard to use? Set it up so it puts your music where you want it, and will maintain it for you. Once. Done. Select what you want to play – one track or thousands. Click play. How easy do you want it to be?

  5. In more of my years I found iTunes to be the best and most easiest music program I’ve ever used. I need every thing kept organized or else I’d go crazy. I can easily organize all my music with playlists and folders. I’ve never had any issues with music disappearing on me, not had device issues. As I only own an iPhone right now, I can’t speak for other non apple devices to correctly work.. Bottom line is, when I come across people complaining and putting iTunes down, I start to wonder what they are doing wrong. As for purchased music, Back them up and throw them into a playlist. This way u can easily find them when they disappear off your purchased content playlist. Apart from that I might only get a couple issues with a bad driver or minor crash. But other than that it’s still my top used and most recommended.

  6. I’m really happy for Dave that he’s never lost anything in iTunes, but that certainly doesn’t mean it never happens. A Google search for “iTunes lost music” results in a staggering 26 million hits. To suggest that anyone that has experienced data loss did so because they are PC challenged is simply ludicrous.

    I’ve used PCs and Macs for many years, I own a Mac desktop, a Mac laptop, and an iPad, but I choose to use an HP Windows 7-based desktop for 90% of what I do, and the other 9% I like to do on an Android Tablet. I personally think that Apple’s draconian uber-control over MY devices forcing me to use a horrible product like iTunes is disgraceful. Only Sony stoops lower in my opinion when it comes to saddling otherwise good hardware with bad software.

    My advice to anyone that has to use iTunes – only let the program access your backup folders – never your primary data, unless you don’t care if your music or files are garbled or arbitrarily deleted because Apple decided you perhaps didn’t dot your “i’s” properly, and therefore you must be punished.

  7. iTunes is much worse than a hairball. At some point you get relief from hairballs… not so from iTunes. I have repeatedly had download problems. I buy a song but the download doesn’t complete. After a few emails with iTunes support it gets resolved (except for one song that would never download). Having to purchase and sync on only one computer is absurd in this day and age of cloud computing. I loved LaLa for letting me play my music from the cloud, then Apple bought and killed it. Apple is not my friend. I now buy from Amazon MP3 and use 3rd party tools to synch and manage my iPod/iPhone.

  8. If you are PC challenged, find someone to help you with iTunes instead of criticizing what you find so hard to grasp. I’ve used iTunes for many years and have not lost one song. I don’t buy DRM music and just rip my own collection of CDs to it and have enough music that I don’t need to buy more. It supports my 160GB iPod and my mp3 playing devices quite well.

  9. Well both you and NcNeally are correct sort of.

    He is correct that Microsoft is a hairball, you are correct the iTunes is a hairball.

    Where you make your mistake, is taking what McNeally said and then rather then intelligently countering his comment, or commenting about him and Oracle, for some strange reason you went off on some strange and odd direction and took a stab at Apple.

    Know what?……….

    keeping the focus where it belongs, on Oracle and McNeally

    McNeally and Oracle is a bigger hairball then both Microsoft and Apple. Not only is McNeally hairballs but he is a dirtball.

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