Sunday, November 23, 2008

iTunes Music Stuttering Issue

Very recently I encountered this problem with iTunes. I was running iTunes v I was syncing my iPod classic 80 Gig fine for almost 6 months, after which I connected my new iPod Shuffle – that is when I noticed the problem. All the songs in my iPod shuffle played like a bad CD with garbled noises and kept skipping all the songs after trying to play it for a couple of seconds.

I then realized that even while playing the songs right from iTunes had the same problem. ALL my songs, which were earlier working fine, now did not, EXCEPT one particular album, which I had ripped myself from the audio CD.

I tried to remember what could have possibly caused this to happen. Maybe it was connecting another iPod device? Maybe not, I have seen people do that before without a problem.

I then remembered that I had installed Winamp just a couple of days before, after which I opened iTunes only to connect my shuffle. Maybe that installation messed up things?

I was unsure. So here are the steps I took.

  1. Tried uninstalling Winamp, did not help.
  2. Pounded the internet for fixes, looked almost everywhere and every post spoke about changing the Quick Time Player properties – tried that but nothing worked. I desperately tried setting different combinations of output rate, sample rate etc. but nothing worked.
  3. People had suggested it could be because of insufficient RAM, since iTunes has a reputation for hogging CPU for its “CoverFlow” view – but that was impossible, Mine had 3 gigs of RAM, besides, the CPU usage when running iTunes was, on an average, only about 3-4%.
  4. I then resorted to System Restore as it was driving me crazy. I tried restoring my system to as early as 3 months back – still NO DIFFERENCE!
  5. Luckily it was a Friday and I had the weekend and I decided to devote as much time to it as it takes. I backed up my songs and fully formatted my disks and got my OS reinstalled.
  6. I then installed all my onboard device drivers and then iTunes and tried playing the songs – STILL DID NOT WORK. I was totally stumped!
  7. With absolutely no other ideas in hand, I aimlessly surfed the net for some clue and stumbled upon one link where the user mentioned that sound card drivers could be a possible issue.
  8. I then searched if any sound card upgrades were available for my Intel motherboard – there was one and I downloaded and upgraded to it.
  9. This time when I tested, I loaded music from a different collection as I childishly felt that the other songs were probably jinxed. But to my surprise it WORKED! All newly added songs played smooth! And when I tried to play the old files, they stuttered. So they were jinxed in some form indeed!
My conclusion was this – the music files that initially played bad in iTunes – is damaged forever. So if you are testing any of the fixes, remember to use new music files each time.

Also I noticed yet another thing – When I tried to play music in the default windows Media Player on my newly installed Windows XP system – almost all of them caused Media Player to raise this warning – The file you are attempting to play has an extension (.MP3) that does not match the file format. That explained a few things. Plenty of my files were badly encoded mp3 files, which regular players like Winamp plays without even a warning.

Some files played fine when I clicked Yes, but some played bad even in WMP! I then took aside the files that played fine in WMP and renamed the extension to .wma and tried playing it in WMP and this time the warning went off and it played fine. So a bunch of files I had were actually .wma files with just their extensions changed to .mp3. No wonder iTunes struggled.

I am glad it works for me now, but I am still inconclusive on what exactly could have caused this problem in the first place. Anyways, I am just posting this for people who might want some ideas to try out. Trust me, I know how frustrating the problem is!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Online Groups/Discussion board ethics

I recently joined this Google groups hoping to share my knowledge and also to get some of my own doubts clarified. I posted a technical question with my piece of code showing where I was badly stuck and I got a decent and exact answer from the moderator himself. I thanked him and posted the new code. FWIW, someone else following it up might find it useful. But then as I browsed through the questions posted and the replies made to them, I could glaringly notice the tone of the people who were replying. It clearly appeared to me as totally UNETHICAL and a lot of comments were inappropriate.

 Some of them were too demeaning that it made me think they were mere racial slurs camouflaged as outbursts of a bunch of impatient self-proclaimed “Tech Wizards”. There was one too many instances where these guys refer to its subscribers as “Silly”, “Stupid”, “Idiots”, “Incompetent” etc… This is certainly not the way to go. It makes me believe that it is run by a bunch of red necks! 

I do understand that it gets really frustrating when you see a question repeated or na├»ve questions asked; questions which have answers all over the internet. But then, no one is under any obligation to reply to those posts. If you think you have an answer – go ahead answer it or else JUST SHUT UP! Do not make sarcastic comments. Don’t make fun of some guy’s ignorance or idiocy for that matter. Or if you want to discuss about someone, do it personally within a private distribution list of people who would fall off their chair laughing at your stupid dirty jokes (maybe you could call it “RedNeckSuckers”? it would be a good name to start with!)

The more professional way of handling these things would be to put points like these on the rules and regulations, terms and conditions section of the group:

  1. Avoid posting questions which have already been asked. Please search the group for similar questions, before you post yours
  2. Post your questions with some example code wherever possible. Arbitrary questions will not be entertained.
  3. Users repeatedly violating these terms will be automatically unsubscribed from the list.

Unless something like this is done, it would be hard for me to believe the group is run by professionals.

Why I hate Sun T.V.

I have never been a fan of SUN network and if there is anything that they did – It was to start a television network at the right time and nothing more.

It was the time when Doordharshan was the only available mass television channel which was drowning in complacency. DD1 and DD2 had managed to earn so much hatred from the people that they were ready to strike anytime.

This is when locally formed groups of people started this Cable T.V connecting a few houses and played 3 movies a day from VHS tapes (VHS was very popular then). 

That is roughly the time when Sun T.V started its relay, and only in the evenings - (hence the name 'Thamizh Maalai'). The same year or probably the next, it clearly decimated the DD regime, but then, DD had killed itself with its reputation, didn't it? 

Then Sun T.V was ruling the roost showing new movies for each festival, a slew of viewer participating shows. Later when the Mega Serial wave settled in they went for the kill with stellar serials which kept men, women and even kids glued to their TV sets.

But all the while one important thing going on was the "Sun T.V News" which was as biased as western education. The main purpose was to merely read out shamelessly the DMK regime's statements and accusations. The channel was cleverly used to play all the dirty politics the party wanted to do. 

Sometime around then, they expanded to start Sun Movies and Sun Music, which bombed real bad. But later it got revived with Sun Music sustaining itself with some better anchors (FM style) and Sun Movies re-established as K.TV. Same time the Sun network expanded over to other southern India states in various names. Also in a move to suck up to the party full time – they had the Sun News channel rolling. 

Political influence strongly playing the upper hand and totally biased views, always made me hate the channel, but sadly the alternatives in Tamil channels then were Raj T.V (which was so pathetic) and an unstable J.J TV which was rocked along with the former CM's reputation.

Also there was this G.E.C - later Vijay and Now STAR Vijay.

Ever since STAR network took over Vijay, there was a 100% possibility that this whole dirty SUN business could be broken down. 

And it indeed went the same way as expected - STAR networks gave food for thought and brought up some really fresh ideas to the Indian television viewers. With a lot of dubbed English classics, Singing/Dancing Competitions, Stand up Comedy, Sensible and Professional Talk Shows and a totally unbiased approach made it a perfect entertainment package. 

NOW, to look at the once popular SUN - it could not handle the competition and they faltered. They could just keep looking in awe at the growing TRP of other channels. Viewership had granulated with a plethora of private channels. The market was not the same anymore and never ever before have they seen such a big competitor. 

The next set of steps that they took saw to it that they got even more unpopular and pulled their rankings further below. They “stole” artists and performers from STAR Vijay and simply copied all the shows. J.J TV which later returned as Jaya T.V added up to the list with a few attractive shows (but then this is another biased channel, so forget it) 

The shows they copied were such colossal failures, so much so that people clearly understood that they are only capable of stealing shows and spoiling it. SUN TV could never do anything with style, even from the beginning. Anything they did had a cheap look in it and would appear too unnatural and political. Even the Movie/Music ratings that they gave would vary based on SO MANY factors. 

The already plagued network, had earned a lot of animosity among a lot of people – people who were ridiculed and humiliated, were just waiting for an opportunity to vent their anger. 

The next big blow was the internal split up. The next biggest competition - this time from inside. Enter Kalaignar T.V.

Sun TV was ousted from the “Political” family and left stranded. No ideas, No power and left with just its glory of the past to survive.  Now there is the sudden turnover and change of approach. Suddenly a lot of devotional television shows are telecasted, News is against the DMK party (STILL BIASED). People never change! 

There are some who even claim that this whole thing is a well scripted drama! I think they should be too rich and too jobless to embark on such missions. (Hang on, actually, they are!)

Unless some great attitude change happens or probably a better bunch of people take over this channel, it is destined to go down, no matter in how many countries it is telecasted.