Archive for the ‘How To’ Category

Following some discussion over on my How-to: Share a single iTunes Library between you and your wife post, I’ve decided to pull together a screencast (my first!) to walk through how iTunes organizes your music library and how you can consolidate and move your library to share it with additional users. Hopefully the video serves as a nice complement to the other post.


Let me know what you think!


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Today’s question comes from a friend of mine who asks one of the most common questions iPod users face… “How can I copy music off an iPod without syncing it to iTunes?”

A well known limitation of the iPod is that it is designed to sync with only one iTunes Library at a time. The general belief is that Apple made it more difficult to copy music between computers to prevent rampant stealing of digital music and appease the music industry.

Nonetheless, there are a number of good reasons you may want to transfer music and playlists off your iPod without breaking the law.

  1. High capactiy iPods offer a basic backup to your entire music library should something go kaputt on your computer.
  2. It’s a convenient way to copy your music from one of your computers to another (legally). You could for example copy your music to your computer at work, or copy your imported CDs from your desktop to your laptop.

Fortunately, there are applications for both Mac and PC that make this process simple.

Senuti – Mac

For the Mac, I recommened Senuti which is billed as “Works like iTunes, but in Reverse”. More detailed instructions are available on their site but it’s as easy as running the program, plugging in your iPod, and deciding which music or playlists you want to copy off.

Depending on how you set the preferences, the files will either be copied to a folder on your computer, or imported directly into iTunes.

Best of all, Senuti is free.

An app that comes highly recommended by Lifehacker for serving the same purpose on PC’s is YamiPod (Yet Another Manager for iPod). Unfortunately their site is down at the moment so I’ve not been able to try it out.

Another trick is to simply enable Disk Mode (see below) and view the hidden files on the iPod.

At first glance, your music is hidden and you can’t get at it.

Your iPod has a secret... it's hiding the Music folder from view

To view your tunes:

  1. Enable Disk Mode in iTunes
  2. Open the drive letter for your iPod
  3. Click Tools -> Folder Options -> View tab -> Enable ‘Show hidden files and folders’
    You’ll now be able to copy the iPodControlMusic folder off your iPod.

The Music folder will be incredibly cryptic with strange folders and file names, but if you are using iTunes to organize your music library anyway, it should still recognize the correct metadata (artist, album, etc) when you import them.

Your Tunes now revealed!

Disk Mode for File Transfer
In addition to above, there’s an even simpler way to move files around using your iPod. With your iPod plugged in and selected in the iTunes Source List, check the box for ‘Enable disk use’.

Click enable disk use to mount your iPod as a USB memory stick

Your iPod will show up on your computer as any other USB drive or memory stick and can be used exactly the same way. The music and playlists synced via iTunes won’t be visible, but you can use the remaining free-space to copy other files.

Copy files to and from your iPod

Just remember to manually eject your iPod before unplugging it.

There’s also one small detail of format to keep in mind. iPod’s can be formatted using a Windows or Mac file system. A Mac can read PC or Mac formatted iPod’s but the converse isn’t true so if you absolutely need to move files between the two, keep this in mind. iTunes will automatically ask you to restore (and reformat in the process) the software on your iPod if it can’t be read.

Wrap Up
Ok. That will do it for today. There’s plenty of other ways to do this as well so if you have a particular technique, feel free to post it in the comments below.

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Flickr Logo

Flickr is my favorite photo sharing site and community to be sure, but it always amazes me how much confusion there is over what should be really simple tasks like ordering prints.

The Printing FAQ on Flickr isn’t much help either so I’ve decided to roll my own. If you’re looking for a step by step to ordering prints, look no further.

Step 1 – Sign In
Before you can even add a photo to your shopping cart, you need to log into Flickr. If you don’t already have an account, you can create one for free. Having to login first always trips people up so make sure you get this out of the way before continuing.

Step 2 – Request Permission
You won’t be able to print every picture you come across on Flickr because the owner of the photo gets to control who can and can’t order prints in their account settings. Most of my photos tend to be available to anyone but if you don’t see the buttons described in the following steps, you may need to ask the specific owner for permission.

Step 3 – Part 1: Ordering Individual Photos
You can add individual photos to your shopping cart by clicking the ‘Prints & More’ button just above the image.
Click Prints & More

The first time you do this, you may be asked to confirm that you are located in the United States as Flickr unfortunately only ships to the USA at this time.

After setting this up, the next time you click ‘Prints & More’ you’ll be presented with a list of sizes and prices to choose from. Just select the quantity you want and click ‘Add to Cart’.

Rinse and repeat for other photos you want to order.

Step 3 – Part 2: Ordering A Set of Photos
Photos are often grouped together into ‘Sets’ on Flickr. You can quickly add a bunch of photos from a particular set by following the steps here.

First, browse to the particular Set you’re interested in. There are a few ways to get there but one is to click the Set Title in the box to the right of a photo.

You’ll be taken to a page with a bunch of thumbnails like shown below. Just above the pictures will be an option to ‘Make Stuff’. Click this link and then ‘Prints & more’.

You’ll then have the option to check whichever photos you want, select a size, and add them all to your cart at once.

Step 4 – Check Out
This is where things start to get easier. Just click the shopping cart icon near the top right corner of the page. You’ll be able to review the photos in your cart, change quantities, and remove particular items. When you’re happy with everything, select to pick up the prints at Target or to have them mailed to you at home. Then just enter your info and billing details and you’re all set.

Well, I hope this helps. If you’re still stuck let me know in the comments below and I’ll try to update this to make it more clear.

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People… time to secure your wireless network.

What’s that? “I’ve already done that!”, you say? Think again sucka.

I’m usually on top of the digital aspects of my life and I take particular care to ensure my data is both secure and backed up but somehow I’ve slipped and have been using WEP way too long.

ArsTechnica will guide you through the process but here are the key points:

  1. If you haven’t secured your network yet, this is foolish
  2. MAC address filtering and hiding your SSID offer little benefit
  3. WEP hasn’t been secure in years, just ask TJ Maxx
  4. You have other options (WAP) and it’s easy to setup

Strongly suggest you read the step-by-step for more.

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I’ve now been a happy paying customer for 37signals’ Backpack for well over 2 years. Over that time the app has become far more convenient and polished to use and I’ve personally found better and better ways to get value out of it.

Case in point, planning a trip. Now I’m certainly not the only one to use Backpack for this purpose but I’d like to share the ways I find it most valuable.

Glimpse of What’s Coming
The first thing you’ll find is that when travel is in the works, I create a page with a consistent naming convention and add it to my sidebar such that the upcoming trips sort chronologically. This isn’t a direct replacement for my calendar, just a quick look at where we’re pretty busy and when we have some down time. Plus it’s a great unobtrusive reminder that something is getting closer and needs to be looked at more closely.

Capture the Basics Early On
With Backpack, I can create a page far in advance to capture the basics of the trip. I was recently at a conference in Copenhagen for example where I had registered about 6 months in advance. I created the page, forwarded my registration confirmation to it, and the info was there waiting for me to polish off the details later on when the event was closer.

Flush Out the Details with Rich Content
With the ability to forward emails directly to Backpack, create links, add images, and more, Backpack is incredibly robust in capturing a range of information. You can even embed live Google Maps which is absolutely brilliant for travel. For my parents’ trip coming up we started with some basic ideas and gradually filled in the blanks.


Speaking of my parents’ trip, thanks to the newish sharing features (also brilliant), I can securely share the page with my folks so they can access and contribute to all the information without even having to sign up for an account.

All in One Place Ready to Go
Finally, and one of my favorite parts. When it’s time to head out, I open the page, embedded email attachments, and maps, and print them out to take with me. They’re all in one place so it only takes a few minutes and it saves having to hunt through old emails for reservations and flight confirmations. Easy peasy!

Even better still, as with all 37signals apps, you can sign up for a limited account for free for as long as you like and then upgrade later if you need the extra space or features.

Backpack: Get Organized and Collaborate

Full disclosure: 37signals does have an affiliate program so if you click some of the links and end up signing up, I will receive a small credit. Not to worry however, I’ve been singing the praises of Backpack long before this more recent development! 🙂

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The perfect match...

I’m a big fan of Time Machine. It’s not perfect, some like myself want to ensure they have an offsite backup as well, it doesn’t play perfectly with FileVault, and you can’t boot off the backup if you’re in a mission critical situation. Despite those few issues, with Time Machine, there’s no longer an excuse for not backing up all those digital family photos, extensive music collection, and rest of your digital life. If you haven’t been bitten yet… you will. It’s only a matter of time.

One of the frustrating things with Time Machine however can be the amount of space it starts to eat up on your external drive. Storage continues to get cheaper but I hate to toss my 500GB drive for something bigger just so I can let Time Machine do it’s thing.

Fortunately, there is a GREAT tool to help you squeeze the most out of your drive, GrandPerspective (VersionTracker, Main Site). GP is an excellent utility to graphically represent the space you’re using on disk. Better yet, it is smart enough to ignore the clever file referencing Time Machine uses to keep things in order, and in turn, can give you an accurate picture of your drive.

GrandPerspective screenshot

Just download the utility, and run it on your Backups.backupdb folder on your Time Machine drive, and you’ll quickly see if there are particularly large chunks being eaten up on your drive.

For me, GrandPerspective quickly identified a folder in Library/Application Support/Mozy which was eating up about 50% of my backup drive. It turned out, this was a temporary folder Mozy used to store files before they were uploaded to the Mozy backup server. Since this folder was always changing as Mozy gradually uploaded my system, Time Machine was dutifully preserving multiple versions of the contents of the folder every time it ran a backup. Blocking this folder from the Time Machine preferences has made my Time Machine backups far faster and far more space efficient which leaves more room for the important bits.

If you’re running out of space on your drive, give Grand Perspective a try.

Lots of backups

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We have a Mac mini, Hi-Fi, and iMac. The Apple remotes for the first two are a critical part of our home entertainment setup and they’re intentionally paired so each remote only controls 1 thing or the other. How’s a guy to keep these things in order in a clean and classy way?

Moo Stickers to the rescue!

Ambiguous Apple Remotes
Ambiguous Apple Remotes originally uploaded by -DjD-.

Now Unambiguous Apple Remotes
Now Unambiguous Apple Remotes originally uploaded by -DjD-.

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