Searching for the Moon

Shannon Clark's rambles and conversations on food, geeks, San Francisco and occasionally economics

Tools that make simple tasks too complicated

Posted by shannonclark on July 7, 2007

I am planning on buying an iPhone later today from a friend who has an extra one she purchased for someone like me, who waited a bit too long.

However, to make the iPhone useful, I need to have my sync issues solved. Specifically I need my contacts, calendar, and current media & podcasts to be available to me on the same system (doesn’t appear that you could say sync just contacts & calendar data from one system, music & video from another).

So to accomplish this in my case means finally breaking down and moving the entirety of my media collection to the iTunes instance on my Windows Vista system (my new ThinkPad Tablet). I have been avoiding this as Vista is the worst OS I have ever used and I didn’t want to tie more of my real data to a system running a crap OS.

And this process only reinforces that sentiment.

After investigating for a while, I learned that it is possible to move iTunes library data – but that the process is FAR more complicated than it should be.

First you have to export the iTunes library which generates an XML file. So far, so good. This makes sense, is a nice format (sorta) for interchange and okay, I can probably live with this.

But this is where the combination of Apple and MSFT start to make what should be a common and easy process an utter nightmare.

First, let’s bash Apple a bit here. Apple seems to have a fundamental dislike of letting the user have access to or control over where iTunes points to for its files. So there is NO way to automatically import the exported library file and at the time of import, tell iTunes where to find all the files (i.e. how to remap the file pointers from the old computer to say a new computer).

Instead you have to edit the XML file by hand and do some form of global search and replace.

Now this is where MSFT steps in to make what should be in 2007 a trivial task into a complete nightmare. I opened up the XML file – first place MSFT crashed and burned. The process of opening up a 22MB XML file takes 10-20 minutes on my brand new, dual core ThinkPad.

I am not exaggerating here over 10 minutes to open up an XML file.

Seriously, isn’t opening up a file something we solved back in the 1990’s?

Then Word insists on opening it into a mode that is specific for XML files. And if you make the slightest change, it insists on autosaving (which takes another 10 minutes or so).

Plus it breaks the usual conventions of how a word processor UI works – it shows a hand cursor which does not appear able to actually get you to a text insert/edit point, but if you use the keyboard you can – very non-obvious.

Then my global search and replace took 20-30 minutes to complete. Along with an error message along the way that Word had encountered an error and could not undo, did I want to continue.

After more pain and waiting, it finally did complete.

So I tried to close Word.

When MSFT insisted on applying their namespace to the file because they had not detected a namespace on it.


I tried to just save it as a text file.

Crashed Word completely and utterly.

Still haven’t been able to reopen the file to see what state it is in – after another 20+ minutes of a spinning cursor while trying to open the XML file.

Unfrigging believable. In 2007. On a DUAL CORE system. This is a system with more processing power than probably all my previous laptops COMBINED. (and via my companies I have owned a fairly large number of laptops). But in daily use you would never guess that I have so much CPU power on this laptop – it is by far the slowest and most irritating laptop I have used in well over a decade.

Waking up from sleep takes 4-5 minutes. Not much of an exaggeration. Vista insists on waking up, locking my system (takes 30-45 seconds) then when I finally am able to unlock it, Vista boots into my main screen, then blacks the screen entirely, resizes everything (drops down to a much much lower screen resolution), then spins the cursor and eventually wakes up and resizes the system BACK to my full screen resolution – but as a result has usually resized all my windows as well as my desktop image to be the wrong sizes.

And all that takes 4-5 minutes most of the time.

And that’s from SLEEP – not hibernate. Sleep being the mode that is supposed to be nearly instant to wake up from.

And don’t get me started on how quite frequently when it does wake up from sleep mode, Vista manages to break something with the wifi and I’m unable to get ANY wifi connections without a reboot.

And MSFT wonders why people aren’t running out rapidly to buy and upgrade to Vista.

Now nearly three hours after starting to work on prepping my laptop for the iPhone, I’m still not ready – the laptop is spinning and not working (well) and my desktop systems are too slowly moving all my media to an external HD (which is taking far too long itself), just so I can later move them from that disk to my laptop (yup, another long delay in the process).

Annoying. Very very annoying.

(and though I did burn an Ubuntu CD this morning as well, that doesn’t solve my issues as currently there is not a way to sync Ubuntu with an iPhone, though I suspect Ubuntu, unlike Vista, would scream on my ThinkPad)

3 Responses to “Tools that make simple tasks too complicated”

  1. s said

    shit, sorry its all such a headache. and you said in the last paragraph what i was going to say: ubuntu

  2. D said

    The reason it is having trouble opening the file is because it is a 20MB text file thats thousands of times the size of a normal plain text file and your using word to edit XML.

    Sleep really is instant its like you just turned of your monitor because technically thats all you really did. But I have to admit although from a clean install Vista boots quite fast, after a couple weeks it slow down considerably and Vista as a whole is more of an attempt to catch up to the other operating systems feature wise.

    Finally, don’t import your library just move the files and add them to a new library.

  3. Well a few reactions to your comment, in a bit of reverse order.

    1. The metadata about my library IS the most important stuff. Which songs I have heard, which I have rated highly, which I have skipped frequently, when I ripped them (I unfortunately partially lost that last bit but was able to preserve everything else). I have nearly 20,000 tracks. Starting anew with them as a blank slate was just not an option. I don’t listen to all that much music in any given day, so knowing my favorites, as well as what remains unheard (well unheard digitally which means in essence unheard in many many years) was vital.

    2. Sleep is NOT instant. My tablet PC routinely takes 1-3 MINUTES to actually sleep. I have no clue why or what it is trying to do, but it definitely does not sleep quickly. Furthermore, on wake up it is EXCEPTIONALLY slow – 4-5 minutes is not at all uncommon. Sleep is NOT just turning off your monitor – far, far from it. Sleep powers most of the computer down, it should be parking the harddrive and putting the computer into a mode where the battery is barely drained. Hibernate should be literally writing memory down to disk and powering down, but I do not have Vista set to hibernate. Vista is a truly terrible OS – has some flashy features, but underneath it is a refusal to be transparent about what is happening as well as clearly not much attention to detail in the UI design.

    3. Word has a dedicated XML editing mode. This, I thought, should have implied it can handle XML files (indeed it is set by default to try to be the editor for them). Furthermore, on most other editors I have used a 20mb file is NOT all that excessive (I’ve had far, far larger files to deal with). As a writer I can easily generate very large files – and that’s before I do anything which includes objects in the file (images for example or imported tables etc). For a modern computer (heck for computers for well over a decade now) 20mbs is not all that large of a file. On my Mac I was able to find an editor online, download, install it, open up the file, do the search & replace (after spending a few minutes learning the syntax) and do all that in <5 mins – less time than Word took trying to just open up the file. The actual editing of the file took nearly no time at all – the file just opened, the search and replace took not much longer than it took to type, I typed and it said 4119 changes made. No muss, no fuss, just an editor editing text and not complaining at the very least.

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