Managing music

Kitten listening to ipod.
I just want to listen to what I want to listen to.
I have just shy of 80 gigabytes of music in my desktop’s iTunes library. I only have 54 gigabytes of music on my laptop’s iTunes library. Managing the two has become just a little bit exasperating, lately.

I’ve tried to keep it so that the music on the laptop is a subset of the music on the desktop. Since I can set my iTunes to automatically download anything I buy from the iTunes store to both machines, that works fine for new purchases when they’re through the iTunes store. But not all the music I buy comes from the iTunes store. So I have to remember to share the music from one place to the other. Which is definitely a first-world problem, but still a bit irritating.

The bigger problem is managing my playlists for managing music on my phone. Because most of my listening comes from the phone: on my way to a from work, throughout the day at work, of course. But even when I’m listening at home, I often stream from the phone to the stereo, because I want to listen to a particular playlist. Now all the playlists on the phone are also on the desktop computer, but my computer use has evolved significantly in the last five years.

It used to be that if I wanted to write or work on a publishing project, I would sit down at my desk in the computer room, upstairs. But now I do most of that on my laptop. The laptop’s performance is nearly on par with my 5+ year old desktop tower (I bought a machine way more powerful than I needed precisely so I wouldn’t need to upgrade for a while). The desktop computer has become more of a backup server. If I’m doing heavy-duty page layout and related tasks, the desktop is still faster at that sort of thing, and I’ll use if for that. But for writing, it’s much more convenient to kick back in the recliner with my laptop, downstairs.

So I’m constantly thinking, while listening to music while writing, “I should make a new playlist, sort of like this one, but also using some of the newer music…” But to do that, and specifically to make a playlist that I can then load on the phone, I need to either:

  • Stop what I’m doing, go upstairs, start working on a playlist, including trying to remember what was that cool song I was listening to from the laptop the other day that would go with this? Which may mean going back to get the laptop, sorting by date last played, and scrolling around.
  • Stop what I’m doing, opening iTunes on the laptop, create a playlist by first looking at the songs on the playlist on the phone and searching for each of them, and then start removing and adding. Then, once I’m happy with it, exporting the playlist, transferring the xml file to the desktop computer, import it into iTunes there, where I can finally start using it.

And there are always complications. Michael is usually gaming on his computer upstairs, so if I want to listen to tracks to confirm they are the ones I want to put in the list, I need to put on headphones. More likely what will happen is that once we’re in the same room, we’ll start talking, and sometimes that means by the time we’re finished, I’ve completely forgotten half the songs I wanted to put in the new playlist.

Or, if I do it at the laptop, because the laptop is a subset, it’s often the case that one or two songs on the existing playlist that I want to keep in the new one aren’t on the laptop, so I have to remember which ones Im going to need to add when I get upstairs. But, when I get upstairs there is alway at least one song on the imported list that isn’t actually in the iTunes library on the desktop. So then I have to transfer the song. And that usually gets me going on a task of looking for more songs that are on the laptop but not on the desktop, and the next thing I know it’s hours later…

Either process frequently turns into “the next thing I know it’s hours later” which also means I’ve lost the thread of what I was writing, and it’s often nearly bedtime, anyway, so it’s time to shut it all down.

…and then the next day at work, or while walking home, I’ll decide I want to listen to the new playlist, only to discover that I didn’t synch it to the phone the night before.

Any time, as a writer, that you pause to do something which you think will only take a few minutes, you run the danger of the one thing leads to another curse, obviously. But, back when I was doing most of my writing on the desktop, I paused to tweak a playlist or make a new one frequently, and it was usually just a short break. I minimize my word processor, move some songs around in iTunes, start the list playing right then, and go back to writing. I could pause later to tweak it again without completely losing the flow of the story. It was easy.

I know that the answer I’m probably going to eventually settle on will involve me making the laptop the primary music repository. I’ll start synching the phone to it instead of the desktop, I’ll manage all the music at the laptop. It can work.

I’m not looking forward to dumping another 30-ish gigs of stuff on the laptop hard drive. And I’m not sure I’m psychologically ready to let the laptop take over another task that the desktop used to manage. And I know myself well enough to know that I’m going to become irritated when I am working at the desktop and I realize a playlist I’ve been listening to a lot lately isn’t on it…

I keep thinking that I should bite the bullet and upgrade the desktop’s operating system to the server version of OS X and see if there are ways to use the server features that would make some of this stuff a bit less disruptive.

Because lord knows, I’ve never accidentally made a problem worse by throwing more technology at it. *wink*

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