Wednesday, June 3, 2009

On playlists

It was beautiful.

In the late 90's a friend introduced me to Napster. This was in it's early days, and it was incredible then. No speed controls, no ISP's limiting upload/download, no companies putting out false songs: just pure music being shared person to person with only your internet connection to limit you. Of course this was during the 56k modem days, so downloads went at about 1.3 kB/s, maybe 3 kB/s if you were really lucky and no one else was using that ISP in your town. I remember when I finally got the full version of In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida downloaded, it was 17.3 MB--took almost 4 hours (this was before you could start and stop downloads at your leisure; if the connection was lost, you started over)--and I copied it to 4 separate locations on my system so that I'd never accidentally delete it. If you were on a college campus and had a T1 for uploading, glorious light would shine down from the heaven's when you connected to Napster and songs were written about your greatness.

A decade later and I have about 282 GB worth of music on my system. (I'll leave you to determine how it accumulated.) This basically equates my computer to a miniature radio station, able to play whatever I want. When I first got my ipod nano a few years ago for Christmas I spent a good amount of time acclimating myself with iTunes and setting up playlists. At the time, I carefully went through my music--then a measly 168 GB--and took out the songs I liked and put them into a playlist entitled "good stuff." The "good stuff" playlist was about 13 GB at the time, and since my ipod was only an 8 GB it meant I needed to cut it down again. Over the next week or so the "good stuff" got refined into the "better stuff" and finally, through a process of purification usually only found in high class vodka factories, "best stuff," a 4.3 GB playlist compiling the best music I had.

The "best stuff" was easy to maintain. Whenever I added new music I'd grab a few tracks that stood out to me and add them to the playlist, whereupon a leprechaun inside my computer would quickly scribble the new songs onto a scroll and store them in the "playlists" file cabinet. This system worked well--my ipod always had a solid playlist of music (the other 3.6 GB I filled up with albums of various sorts) and the leprechaun in my computer had good job security.

Then I upgraded to a new computer and a new version of Windows: Vista 64 bit. Personally, I liked Vista. I know a lot of people hated it and said it was flawed, but it was no worse than XP upon release. XP was pretty flawed, too, until they released the service packs for it.

Upgrading to Vista came with a price (and I don't mean the $299.99 price tag). A new OS on a new computer meant my playlists wouldn't transfer over. I tried everything to get them to transfer but there is no simple way to do that in iTunes. It is not designed to save playlists easily--in order to do so you have to export each playlist individually then load them back up. While this sounds like an easy ordeal, it becomes rather complex when the file destinations are changing as well (going from an E: drive to an I: drive). It's possible to edit the XML file, but when it's cataloging 56,000 songs that takes awhile and it's easy to muck it up. Similarly, even if you do get it changed, iTunes still doesn't transfer over the content of playlists, just the names. At least it didn't when I tried.

One of these days I'll crack down and start the 2 week long journey through setting up another all-encompassing playlist. On average it takes about 30 minutes per letter of the alphabet to sort through, listen to parts of certain songs and decide if they should make the first cut. From there I do 2 or 3 more cuts of the playlist before it's down to an acceptable size. I try to keep it under 4 GB so that I can still put other stuff I want on my ipod, and making the album playlists I want will probably take another few hours.

By this time I think the previous leprechaun has moved on to bigger and better things; hopefully he has a son I can employ.


Jarannis Orranis (Chris) said...

Ah, the playlist. I make playlists all the time, some for schoolwork, some for driving, and then another general playlist just for every song I absolutely never skip.

The unskippable playlist, my favorite one, usually gets stuck on because of it's "Okay, just one more song" ability. It's like Left4Dead for some people. You want to play just ONE MORE map before bed, and instead end up playing at six in the morning going "HOLY SHIT, Where the hell did sleepy time go?"

--jeff * said...

i'm sure there's some leprechaun union you have to go through for that sort of help now....