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iPhone and Rhythmbox tips

December 9, 2010

I have now been syncing my iPhone exclusively using Rhythmbox since April this year, and I thought it was about time I blogged about my experiences. I am currently using Ubuntu 10.10 (Maverick) with Rhythmbox 0.13.1, and my iPhone is a 16GB 3GS running iOS 4.1 (8B117).

These are my tips:

  1. Launch Rhythmbox before connecting your iPhone. If you fail to do this then your iPhone will be mounted, Rhythmbox will launch and subsequently unmount your phone.
  2. If you are using Rhythmbox to rip CD’s then set the preferred format to mp3 (CD Quality, MP3), by default it will be set to ogg (CD Quality, Lossy). You can do this by going to Edit -> Preferences and selecting the Music tab.
  3. I personally find that Rhythmbox is incredibly slow to rip CD’s, so I use Sound Juicer instead. Rhythmbox will find any music added to your /home/<user>/Music folder if you have set ‘Watch my library for new files’ (see screenshot above).
  4. Manually add artwork to the appropriate folder in /home/<user>/Music, saving the file as cover.jpg, this will then be synced with your album.
  5. Deleting from multiple places in the music library, or deleting podcasts and music simultaneously can quite often cause album artwork to be jumbled. It is not possible to recover from this problem, except for deleting all the music/podcasts and starting again. I usually stick to the following rule: Delete one album at a time, leaving the sync to complete before proceeding. Delete podcasts seperately, again leaving the sync to complete before proceeding.
  6. If you sync multiple episodes of the same podcast then the order in which they appear on the phone appears to be entirely random. I find this very annoying. The only workaround I have found is creating a playlist, and adding the podcasts to the playlist in the correct order. You have to do this on the phone as Rhythmbox will not allow you to add podcasts to a playlist! I also find that the playlist will be destroyed by the next sync, but it works as a temporary fix. I raised the following bug to cover the problem: http://sourceforge.net/tracker/?func=detail&atid=519273&aid=3065146&group_id=67873

  7. Sometimes when you have synced music and/or podcasts to your phone they do not appear in the library (but can be seen when browsing the phone in Rhythmbox). The best way to fix this problem is to sync an extra track, and once it has copied, delete it from the device. After the sync has completed the new items will now appear in the library.

Upgrading my iPhone 3GS to iOS 4.0.2

August 19, 2010

Last night I decided to update my iPhone from iOS 3.1.2 to iOS 4.0.2. I haven’t udpated for a while because I don’t have access to a Windows PC or a Mac running iTunes. All of my PC’s run a flavour of Linux. I sync my phone using Rhythmbox (mainly podcasts and music).

I wanted to update because I had seen a friend’s phone running iOS 4 the previous evening, and I thought it was pretty cool. I also like a challenge, and I wanted to see if I could get the new version of OS syncing with Linux successfully.

I borrowed my mum’s laptop (Dell Inspiron) which has Windows 7 installed. I installed iTunes 9.2 and then launched the app (without my phone connected). Once iTunes had started I went to Edit -> Preferences -> Devices and disabled the auto-sync. I then went to Store -> Authorise Computer and added it to my authorised list. At this point I was able to connect my phone and it appeared in iTunes but did not sync. I clicked on File -> Transfer Purchases to backup my apps etc. before starting the upgrade.

The upgrade failed numerous times due to the wireless network dropping its connection. I didn’t have time to investigate, but I suspect it is the driver being used by Windows. We have 3 PC’s at home connecting to the wireless, 2 Nintendo DS’s and a Nintendo Wii, plus 2 iPhones and we don’t experience problems with wireless signal. In the end I plugged in an ethernet cable and everything went smoothly. I was happy to find that after the upgrade had finished I still had all my music on the phone. I was worried that this would be erased. The only thing I lost was my podcasts.

The next step was to attempt a sync using Rhythmbox. As my podcasts were missing I synced these first, and to my surprise it worked! I then attempted to sync some music, and the files were copied to my phone, but did not appear in the playlist afterwards. After a bit of searching I found the following on the Linux Mint forums: http://forums.linuxmint.com/viewtopic.php?f=42&t=53489&p=306886

I updated to libimobiledevice1 (removing libimobiledevice0) as suggested, and attempted to sync again. It still didn’t work, and took a very long time to perform the sync. This was bad news. After alot of playing around I have discovered that the database file doesn’t get updated correctly after a sync when you add content, but it does when you delete. The best way to sync music to the iPhone is to copy the content you want plus one spurious track, then delete the extra track. The content you copied will now be available on your phone. The speed of the sync is significantly slower than it was previously however, but I suppose I can live with it for now. I already have 9GB of music on my phone, so I will only be adding albums when I buy them, or my usual 5-6 podcasts per week.

Lucid First Impressions

April 7, 2010

I am running a Beta version of Lucid, and hopefully some of the problems I have hit may be fixed when it is officially released, but here are my first impressions:

  1. After logging in there is a hang/delay of about 5-10 seconds while loading the Gnome Desktop.
  2. I like the new button layout, and theme.
  3. iPod/iPhone does now automount correctly (this was a massive problem for me in Karmic).
  4. Rhythmbox doesn’t support the iPhone out of the box. I had to run the following manual steps before my phone would sync (it was recognised and available in Rhythmbox, but if I copied anything to the phone the sync screen did not appear, and the contents of my iPhone remained unchanged):

    mkdir <ipod_mount_point>/iTunes_Control/Device
    lsusb -v | grep -i iSerial (will show the unique uuid for your iPhone)
    ipod-read-sysinfo-extended <uuid_from_command_above> <ipod_mount_point>

    The process above will have created a new file in <ipod_mount_point>/iTunes_Control/Device called SysInfoExtended. Re-mount your iPhone and restart Rhythmbox, and it should now work. The sync screen will appear on your phone approx every 2 minutes. When you are finished make sure that you eject the phone from within Rhythmbox, and all should be good.

  5. Some tracks appear twice in Rhythmbox. Very annoying. It appears to be random, and changes (different tracks appear twice) after restarting the application.

The biggest improvement for me is the iPhone support. I no longer need to (regularly) run a Windows XP System in VirtualBox in order to sync my phone. I have still created a virtual image, but only for emergencies (when iTunes is the only option). I hope to stick with the iPhone OS 3.1.3 firmware for the next 18 months, and use Rhythmbox both at home and on my laptop at work in conjunction with a Ubuntu One account (to share my music via the cloud).

Upgrading to Lucid

April 3, 2010

Last weekend (Saturday 27th March), there was nothing on the TV worth watching, and having drunk a couple of beers I decided I would upgrade my PC from Karmic to Lucid. My initial plan was to use the upgrade process, which I started by running:

Alt-F2; update-manager -d

This told me a new release of Ubuntu was available, and I started the install. The next morning I finished the install process, and I was looking forward to trying out my shiny new system, but things started to go wrong. Here is a summary of the problems that I hit:

  • First of all, my system didn’t come back from a reboot. The Ubuntu logo appeared, and then it hung indefinitely. I was not able to access the terminal using Alt-F1/F2/F3 etc.
  • After some thought I decided the best approach would be to re-install Karmic using the manual partitioning option, meaning I could choose not to format the disk, and therefore leave /home untouched. This worked to some extent, but the system wouldn’t boot. The error this time was along the lines of /dev/shm didn’t exist!
  • I wasn’t too worried, as my /home folder was still intact on the disk, and I had another plan. I downloaded the Lucid Beta ISO, and created a USB startup disk using the startup disk creator. I set the BIOS to boot from USB and attempted an install, but having selected the install option from the menu, nothing further happened! I was stuck.
  • At this point I felt pretty pleased that I had a local backup of my /home folder, so I decided to re-install with Karmic (as I didn’t have an install CD for Lucid. I could have burnt one from the ISO, but  it may not have worked as the same imaged didn’t work on my USB stick). 30 minutes later I was back up and running with a fresh Karmic install. I then ran the update manger and upgraded to Lucid, and this time it worked without any problems. I have no idea what went wrong the first time.
  • Once the upgrade process completed and I was able to boot into Lucid I began restoring my /home folder using rsync (from my 250GB external HD). After approx 5 minutes I hit a problem; I/O errors being spat out by rsync, and the disk disappearing from the system. The activity indicator light was a solid red colour, and not changing. I couldn’t re-mount the disk, and in the end I rebooted the system. The disk appeared, but was inaccessible!
  • After panicking for a few minutes I decided to try and run fsck against the un-mounted disk. I ran it using the -y option (attempt to  fix any detected filesystem corruption automatically), and within 20 minutes I was back up and running. The only problem was all the hidden files/folders (files whose name begins with a dot (.)) were missing. This meant I had lost my VirtualB0x disks images, and all configuration data for JungleDisk. At least I hadn’t lost all my photos/music/videos.

My system was now restored, and I was much happier. I re-installed JungleDisk and started a backup. A word of warning: If you lose your client side configuration and have to take over your backup vault again, the initial backup takes ages as it is rehashing all of your files locally (so it can compare them with the server copy). I had 39.8 GB of data, and on my system it took a day and a half. During this time the JungleDisk client tells you that it is uploading files, but having spoken to the support team they confirmed that it wasn’t.

iPhone woes

February 15, 2010

On Saturday (13th February 2010) I decided to sync my iPhone with iTunes, as I hadn’t done this for about a week. I specifically wanted to update the podcasts on my phone for the coming week. When I connected my phone I was told that a new version of iPhone OS was available (3.1.3), and would I like to install it. Why not I thought. This was the beginning of the problem. The update process ran for a while (5+ minutes) and then informed me that an ‘Unknown Error’ had occured; 1604. My phone had been placed into ‘recovery mode’ and was now unusable. iTunes now suggested that I should attempt to recover my phone, which also failed with the same error message. So, I was stuck. I tried the following:

  1. Updating iTunes [from 9.0.2.25] to the latest version; 9.0.3. This stopped iTunes working at all! I found the following thread where other users of VirtualBox have the same problem: http://discussions.apple.com/thread.jspa?threadID=2322501&start=0&tstart=0
  2. Re-installed iTunes 9.0.2.25 and restore using iPhone OS 3.1.2. This failed at the verification stage as it said the firmware was not compatible with my device. I have no idea why. I downloaded it from Apple and definitely got the correct version for my iPhone 3GS.
  3. Restore using iTunes 9.0.2.25 and iPhone OS 3.1.3. Unknown Error 1604.
  4. Attempt the restore after removing the SIM card from the phone. Unknown Error 1604.

All of the above failed. In the end I assumed that the problem was probably being caused because I was unable to run the restore from the latest version of iTunes, or because of my setup (XP running in VirtualBox). I borrowed my Dad’s laptop (running XP) and installed iTunes 9.0.3 on it. The restore worked first time.

It turns out that I lost all of my contacts and photos. This is partly my fault as I didn’t have them set to backup. I have now configured my phone to use neuvasync for contact syncing with Google, and I will make sure my photos are backed up to XP. Re-installing iTunes several times didn’t affect my music library, videos or downloaded podcasts.

Thankfully I have only had my phone for 2 months, so didn’t lose too much that was irreplaceable. I have definitely learnt my lesson!

Christmas purchases

January 16, 2010

In the weeks leading up to Christmas I find myself building a master list of things I would like to buy should I be lucky enough to receive money as a present (which I usually do from Vikki’s grandparents). There have been many DVDs on the list (including Clerks and The Man Who Fell To Earth; none of which were purchased), along with an Acer Revo (to run XBMC), NHL2K10 for the Wii, and many other random things that caught my eye.

In the end I have opted for clothes and a Wii Classic Controller, the more sensible option really! Here is what I bought:

Parramatta Eels full zip hoody from Lovell Rugby:

Levi 758 Loose Fit Jeans:

Washington Redskins Replica Jersey:

Wii Classic Controller:

My experience Migrating my home PC from XP to Ubuntu (Karmic)

December 22, 2009

I have been a regular Linux user since 2002. Back in those days I had an ancient IBM ThinkPad which ran NT 4.0, used mainly for VPN connection to work, running Lotus Notes, and running a Web Browser. I also had an IBM Desktop machine (I forget the model now, but it had less than 1ghz processing power and possibly less than 512MB of RAM) on which a colleague suggested I run SuSE Linux. This was the beginning. Over the years I have played with many different flavours of Linux on both my desktop and laptop, and also on my home PC (A Novatech desktop system which I bought in 2004). For one reason or another I found myself being forced back to Windows, especially at home where I also had to consider my wife, who had no experience of Linux Operating Systems. Now in 2009 I am as close to being Windows free as I am likely to get; at least while I own an iPhone and can’t afford a Mac! I run Ubuntu Karmic on my laptop (Lenovo T61p), Fedora 11 on my desktop machine at work (thankfully an upgrade from my original system with a fast Intel processor and 3GB of RAM), and Ubuntu Karmic on my aging home PC. My wife also runs Ubuntu Jaunty (the Netbook Remix variety) on her Acer Aspire One. I got around the iPhone problem by installing XP as a virtual image running under Sun’s VirtualBox. This allows me to connect my iPhone and share the USB connection with the virtual machine (this is why I am *almost* Windows free).

I wanted to document my experience of re-installing my home PC, hopefully so that it will encourage others to do something similar.

So….. three weeks ago I decided that I would re-install my home PC with the latest Ubuntu release. I had a few reasons for doing this; It was running painfully slow, I was fed up of running anti-virus/anti-spyware software, I wasn’t happy that my backup solution (Mozy) only supported a Windows client, and I am much more comfortable working with a Linux system.

I started by backing up all my important data to two local locations, my laptop’s hard disk and an external 250GB USB hard disk. These files were also offsite on the Mozy server should anything terrible happen. Once happy that I had a copy of valuable data I formatted the drive using GParted and proceeded to install Karmic. The installation process was painless and I just accepted the defaults for everything. Once installed I ran the update manager, and I was ready to start building my new system!

  • I restored my photos (and music, and other stuff I saved) from the external hard disk and then installed Picasa 3.o Beta: http://www.ubuntugeek.com/how-to-install-picasa-30-beta-in-ubuntu.html
  • I installed Sun VirtualBox: http://www.howtoforge.com/installing-virtualbox-3.0-on-an-ubuntu-9.04-desktop
  • I setup an account with JungleDisk and installed their client software, then I performed a backup of all my important data, before closing my Mozy account.
  • I Assigned the machine a static IP Address using Network Manager so that shared folders can be easily accessed over the network.
  • I Installed Samba (sudo apt-get install samba smbfs) and shared my photos and music over the network (right click on a folder and select ‘Sharing options’ from the menu). I opted for Samba as this will allow Windows/Mac/Linux clients to access the shared data.

I was now pretty much done! I installed XP under VirtualBox, then spent ages installing all of the required service packs/updates for Windows, before I could then install iTunes. I didn’t bother with any Anti-virus software or a firewall as I already have a firewall built into the broadband router, and I will only ever use this XP image to sync my iPhone. If the worst happens and it gets infected (highly unlikely) I will ditch it and create a new image.

Here is a screenshot of my system running XP in VirtualBox:

The whole process took me a weekend, but you could easily achieve this in an uninterrupted evening (I was busy doing my normal weekend stuff with my wife and son). I hope you found this post useful or inspiring, as it can be quite daunting to undertake such a process, especially if you have lots of data to backup and move. The best piece of advice I can offer you is to ensure you back everything up to an offsite location as well as somewhere locally, just in case the worst happens.

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