iTunes 12.6.2.20 sync woes

I use iTunes to organise my music library, listen to music, and sync music to my iPhone. With this fairly basic usage pattern, its probably been close to a decade since iTunes added any functionality that is of use to me. And that leaves me fairly ambivalent about the regular notification that “an update of iTunes is available”. On the one hand I don’t want to upgrade and risk breaking something that is working fine, but on the other hand skipping an upgrade potentially leaves security vulnerabilities unpatched.

The cautious side of me steers me to upgrading, and usually this is unproblematic. But not last time.

In late July I updated to iTunes 12.6.2.20 on my Windows 10 PC, and to iOS 10.3.3 on my iPhone 5. Everything seemed to upgrade as usual, but when I next connected my phone via the USB cable I got an error that the phone “cannot be synced because there is not enough free space to hold all of the selected items.”

I sync music to my phone based on a smart playlist I hadn’t changed the playlist settings or added any new music recently, and the size of the playlist as displayed in iTunes was indicating that the music should fit in the available space on my phone.

I tried simplifying the playlist rules, and a few other things, but the sync operation continued to baulk with the incorrect error about available space. I was eventually able to resolve the problem with the following steps.

Firstly I turned off the “Sync Music” checkbox, and performed a sync that removed all the music files on my phone

After doing this, on the phone I went into Settings –> General –> Storage & iCloud Usage –> Manage Storage –> Music. Even though all the music files on the phone had been removed, the phone was still reporting 10.49GB of space being taken up with music. (In the music player app, a large number of songs were displaying as available, but trying to play them would fail with an error.) By swiping left on “All songs” I was then able to ‘delete’ these phantom songs.

After this I restarted the phone. I’m not sure this was necessary, but I wanted to ensure the phone was in a clean state before the next step.

Lastly, in iTunes I ticked the checkbox to sync music again, and this time the sync progressed to a successful completion after several hours.

In summary, I don’t know whether it was the iTunes update or the iOS update that broke things, but it seems that the phone ended up with an incorrect reckoning of how many music files it had. The fix was to delete all the music files and resync the music files from a fresh start.

Totally believable spam

Occasionally I open up one of the  e-mails that Google files away in my Spam folder, just to see what’s on offer. This one made me laugh, several times.

Firstly with its claim that “Your Name And Your Contact Details Was Given To This Office”, yet the e-mail is addressed to “Dear Customer” and then goes on to ask me to supply them with my name and contact details and identification documents!

But the biggest laugh is the assertion that my $7.5m USD is sitting unclaimed “Because Of Your Unbelief Of The Reality Of Your Genuine Payment”. Its funny because its true.

How long for a ULL ID confirmation?

After years of waiting, the National Broadband Network is finally available at my home address from today.  I had pre-ordered an NBN deal from a different provider than my current phone/ADSL provider which is Optus. My new soon-to-be provider rang me this afternoon to tell me that they are ready to connect me, but to do so they needed me to confirm my ULL ID with Optus.

What is a ULL ID? It seems that it is a 10 digit number (starting with 161) that uniquely identifies the copper line connected to your house. Given the frustrating and time consuming interactions I’ve had with Optus in the past, I wasn’t too excited or hopeful about extracting this information from them.

So how long does it take to confirm a ULL ID with Optus? The answer turned out to be 44 minutes.

Time Duration (minutes) Activity
18:44 – 18:50 6 Try to find a phone number on the Optus website to ring technical support. It is almost unbelievable how hard it is to find a phone number to ring a phone company!
18:50 – 19:04 14 Give up on ringing Optus and have a go with their Live Chat support. After initiating a request for live chat, wait ….

19:04 – 19:10 6 Live chat with service agent for six minutes before she decides that it would be better to ring me and have a vocal instead of written conversation.
19:10 – 19:12 2 Brief conversation with service agent where she understands what the request is and that she will need to transfer me to the technical support team.
19:12 – 19:24 12 Waiting … listening to horrid hold ‘music’.
19:24 – 19:28 4 Brief conversation with technical support agent who reasonably quickly understands what I’m asking for, confirms my details, puts me on hold for a minute or so while he looks up the ULL ID and then supplies me with the ULL ID.

Yay.

TOTAL 44

Lets see how things go now with my new provider in connecting me to the NBN.

CNET Newsletter broken

For years I have been receiving a CNET Daily News e-mail newsletter . Despite it’s US-centric view of the world, and slight obsession with reporting on Apple stories, it has been occasionally useful in alerting me to relevant IT and tech stories I might not otherwise have seen.

Recently they updated their newsletter format to a less cluttered layout with more white space and larger images. But in my view the new layout is fundamentally broken, and this is exemplified by the image below where I’m viewing a newsletter in my e-mail client.

CNET's new and worthless newsletter layout.

CNET’s new and worthless newsletter layout.

Assuming that the intent of a newsletter is to convey new, how is CNET doing? My monitor resolution is 1920×1200, giving me 2304000 pixels. And what does CNET do with those 2.3 million pixels? They show masses of empty white space, two meaningless, generic and over-large images, and just six words of actual news content! (Or only five words if you count ‘once-unthinkable’ as a single compound word.)

And those six (five) words don’t even convey what the story is about!

There’s room for improvement here – approximately 2.3 million pixels worth of room.

Unable to download podcast

I manage a podcast feed for my church, and recently had a problem where I was unable to download episodes using the iOS Podcast app on my iPhone.  The podcast would download OK on other Android devices, and it would stream on my iPhone if I tapped the play icon, but if I selected “Download Episode” then the download would appear to happen, but then at the end a message would pop up saying “Unable to download podcast”, with a “Retry” and a “Done” button.

Googling this problem shows that other people have experienced similar issues, but no amount of unsubscribing, deleting, restarting, rebooting, or switching to airplane mode would fix the problem.

In the end I discovered that the problem was due to a misconfiguration in the XML file for the podcast feed. In the <channel> section of the XML file there is an <itunes:image> tag where you can put the URL of an image. I discovered that this tag was pointing to an invalid URL, to a server that I had used several years ago. After setting the tag to a valid URL, and refreshing the feed in the iOS podcast app, I was able to download episodes.