The Peril of Surrendering Your Music Library to the Cloud

With just a few more days to go until my Apple Music subscription expires, I’ve been digging through all the remaining non-local music in my library and noting down what needs either re-ripping from CD or reacquiring. That last part is a reminder of a mistake I made long ago, one I’m going to document here so others hopefully don’t repeat it.

Many years ago, when I first got a Spotify account, I made the fatal assumption that anything I added from there would be around in perpetuity, so I didn’t need to keep local copies.

Suffice to say, that most definitely isn’t the case, and I found that out the hard way. 🙁 Much cussing (and cleaning up) followed.

That was my first burn. But worse was to come when I decided to move to Apple Music, and used an online service to transfer over my saved tracks and playlists from Spotify.

It worked… in a sorta-kinda way. I knew at the time that it hadn’t matched some of my library’s items, but not what those were.

And digging through the remaining Apple Music entries reveals that the transfer resulted in some tracks being matched to different albums. Fun! /sarcasm

So my advice to you, dear reader, is this: if you value a particular song or album, make damn sure you have a physical copy, or a digital copy that’s backed up somewhere. Anything that’s on a streaming music service should be considered as what it is, a temporary loan at best. At worst, it could disappear based on the whims of licence and/or rights holders, and may not even exist in the same form on another service.

Getting Better at Getting Things Done

I’m nearing the end of my first read-through of Getting Things Done by David Allen, a book I’d been interested in getting hold of for a while.

I read lots of articles online about GTD over the years, but most of those have been about the author’s way of doing GTD using their tool(s) of choice. It has been eye-opening to read about the thinking behind GTD direct from the source.

My current GTD system is working well for day-to-day and short-term planning, but I now realise that I need to start nailing down longer-term plans and fleshing those out into things I can start implementing.

I will definitely be re-reading the book in the near future, this time with a view to plotting out what’s missing from my current system and making a commitment to putting things in place so my long-term goals get out of my head and onto some kind of permanent record.

Twenty Years Ago

The first hint that something big was happening was when we got a call from a client based in central London, informing us that they were being evacuated from their offices as there was fear of a terrorist attack.

Radio was the only way to find out what was being reported in the news, as most websites were unreachable due to sheer weight of traffic. But all we knew was that there had been a terrorist attack in New York on the World Trade Centre.

The full impact of that had happened didn’t hit me until I reached the train station on my way home, to find loads of people milling around as services into and out of London had been halted. There was a TV on in the office of the local taxi firm, tuned in to Sky News, and I got glimpses of the footage from New York, and confirmation that two planes had been flown into the Twin Towers. I think one of the towers had collapsed, or did so while I was stuck at the station.

Eventually I got a lift home from my dad, and returned to some semblance of normality. Or so I thought.

I’m thankful now that my memory of that day is faded, and I’ve no doubt that the scars run deep for those who were closer to the event. But I wonder how many will just commemorate with “Never Forget” today and then go on with their lives, not questioning all the things that were enacted as a result of it over the last twenty years.

I have a feeling that the War On Terror, and Britain’s enthusiastic support for it (at least amongst those in government), kept alive the illusion that we are still a Great Power in the world. And that illusion fed into our foreign policies and our treatment of minorities, and ultimately into Brexit.

I find it particularly galling that the news cycle today will be dominated by those events twenty years ago, with barely a whisper of the far greater loss of life from Covid–19. Or, for that matter, the continuing carnage going on in the world thanks to the refusal to reflect on and change course on foreign policy in the wake of that terrorist attack.

But much as with climate change, fixing such problems is either someone else’s responsibility or an impediment on making lots of money.

Back when I first started buying music online, artists with their own websites were rare, and those selling their own music even more so. Now, it’s those who aren’t doing either who are the rarities.

Falling Out of Love With Apple Music

It has been two and a half years since I switched from Spotify to Apple Music for my streaming music needs. I love Apple Music the service, but I’ve become increasingly exasperated by Apple Music the software, particularly on the desktop.

The problem, in a nutshell, is that subscribing to Apple Music the service brings along iTunes Match for the ride. I’ve used iTunes Match for a time before Apple Music was a thing, but eventually abandoned it — and iTunes itself, for a time — after finding it decidedly unreliable at its stated purpose, matching songs in your music library against the iTunes catalog, and uploading those that are unique so you have copies in iCloud. The reality, alas, was that that process would either fail to complete or never even start. Worse, if you made the mistake of deleting a local music track in the belief that you’d be able to download it again from iCloud, you might not necessarily get back what you’d expected.

Unfortunately, iTunes Match hasn’t improved much over the intervening years, unless you consider not pestering with cryptic error messages an ‘improvement’. And because it also creates the data used by Genius as part of this process, if for whatever reason something goes wrong the only option is to — I wish I was making this up — turn Apple Music off and back on again in Preferences, because there’s no separate switch for iTunes Match any more.

I posted recently about bit-rot in my music library, and the culprit has been Apple Music. It finally reached the point where, just over a week ago, I decided I’d had enough. I’ve turned off the renewal for my Apple Music subscription, and I’m now in the process of cleaning up my music library and noting down what albums I need to either re-download / re-rip or purchase elsewhere.

There’s a bitter irony in this process: I’m making use of Smart Playlists to track down the music that I added to my library from Apple Music, plus a few tracks that never made it into iTunes Match and got lost along the way. That is one of the truly great features of the software, inherited from iTunes, in spite of Apple apparently not putting enough thought into updating it to work with Apple Music. (I’m not being flippant in the previous sentence: I had to resort to some reverse logic to find stuff that’s in the cloud rather than stored locally, as there isn’t a ‘Cloud Status: in the cloud’ option.)

I’m undecided as to whether I’ll stick with the Music app once my Apple Music subscription expires. While I’ll be spared the extra steps of cloud synching, I have a horrible feeling that the user interface changes that Apple made are still going to niggle. I may end up going with Swinsian again, which I used for a few years and really liked.

As far as music discovery is concerned, I’m not lacking in sources I can turn to for that, and I’m not referring to Spotify. I did briefly consider rejoining, but to be honest their Mac app felt like a tick-list item rather than something they put much effort into. Plus, from what I’ve read about Spotify these days, I’m not keen on giving them my custom.

We Need to Stop Breaking the Software People Use

Tim Bray, Apps Getting Worse:

Too often, a popular consumer app unexpectedly gets worse: Some combination of harder to use, missing features, and slower. At a time in history where software is significantly eating the world, this is nonsensical. It’s also damaging to the lives of the people who depend on these products.


Why does this happen? · It’s obvious. Every high-tech company has people called “Product Managers” (PMs) whose job it is to work with customers and management and engineers to define what products should do. No PM in history has ever said “This seems to be working pretty well, let’s leave it the way it is.” Because that’s not bold. That’s not visionary. That doesn’t get you promoted.

It is the dream of every PM to come up with a bold UX innovation that gets praise, and many believe the gospel that the software is better at figuring out what the customer wants than the customer is. And you get extra points these days for using ML.

Also, any time you make any change to a popular product, you’ve imposed a retraining cost on its users. Unfortunately, in their evaluations, PMs consider the cost of customer retraining time to be zero.

Sadly, it’s now the operating systems on our devices that are affected by this constant desire by companies to change how they work — in ways that sometimes require extra steps for the user in order to achieve what they want, either by rearranging the user interface, making it harder to distinguish controls, or even flat-out removing features and functions.

Never Underestimate the Power of Molasses!

This past week has been spent mostly resting, after I hurt my lower back. 🙁

I know the cause now — another bout of severe constipation. I’m pretty sure I’ve been dealing with this my whole adult life, but moreso in the last decade as I left full-time employment and stopped commuting, and it has only gotten worse in the last year or so as I’ve been stuck indoor with less ability to exercise plus more time spent at the computer.

My unlikely saviour has been a large jar of molasses that we don’t really have any use for. I’ve taken to having some in my porridge several weekdays, and experimented with adding a little to Ovaltine. Even a little bit works wonders to unblock things… perhaps too well, as it turns out. 💨

Next on my list of physical issues to work out are my neck and shoulder muscles. Despite getting a new office chair, I’m still finding myself tensed up in that area, a situation not helped by anxiety over various things.

Miscellanea for 2021-08-14

Been a while since I wrote a new post, mainly because I’ve not had anything big to write about, so I’m dumping a load of things into this one.

The announcement that 1Password 8 for the Mac will be an Electron app, and will no longer work without a subscription, has caused a furore and pledges to abandon it for other password managers. Personally, I’m nonplussed by the whole business. As long as it still integrates into all the places I need it, I’m fine.

Now, if they’d announced that they’re going to jack up prices by a huge amount, then I might consider my options, but that isn’t the case and as it stands now I’m happy with paying for a good product.

On the other hand, the news that Apple are going to do on-device scanning of photos destined for iCloud to help detect child sexual abuse material (CSAM), while not a concern, did prompt me to reconsider my usage of iCloud for various things, particularly as I’m currently paying for 200GB of storage and using less than a third of that amount.

iCloud Photo Library is definitely convenient, but it’s not a necessity. Neither is iCloud Drive, particularly as I already have that data backed up online with Backblaze. And iCloud in general, while greatly improved in reliability these days, is occasionally not as seamless as I’d hope.

I was pleased to discover that it’s trivially easy to import photos directly from my iPhone SE or iPad Mini 4 into Photos on the Mac, and will be doing that from now on. I had to log into my iCloud account in a browser, however, in order to dispose of all the photos stored there.

Removing my Documents and Desktop folders from iCloud Drive took a bit more work, and the dialog that pops up when you do so is a lot scarier than it needs to be.

I’ll still be paying for some extra space for now, until I see how my usage goes over next few months.

Out of curiosity, I decided to reinstall Byword, the first Markdown text editor I bought, to see how it compares against iA Writer. It is still perfectly usable, and I’m pleased to see that it’s still being updated and maintained, but overall the writing experience is just that bit easier with iA Writer, so I’ll be sticking with that.

Reluctant Amazon Customer Once Again

Towards the end of last year I closed and deleted my old Amazon account, vowing to shop elsewhere in future.

Unfortunately, circumstances have conspired to force me to create a new account. The cause of this reversal was some sleep headphones that I heard about from Erika Moen (of Oh Joy Sex Toy fame) via a comic-post she’d written about her mental health. (Be aware that rest of that sight is Not Safe For Work, though you could probably guess from the name.)

I checked some other reviews online, then looked to see where I could purchase a pair. The maker has a website and the appearance of being able to order direct, but the process of placing an order failed with PayPal complaining that no authorisation could be performed.

The only other place I could purchase these from was, of course, Amazon.

I’ve subsequently purchased the laser printer that I briefly mentioned in my previous post, the HP LaserJet Pro M15w, through Amazon — not out of choice, but because it was the only place that had any in stock.

Do I regret deleting my old Amazon account? On balance, no — as I discussed in a previous post, its age plus the sheer number of things I’d purchased over that time had rendered its suggestions meaningless, and I found its search mechanism more hindrance than help.

Stepping away from Amazon has gotten me into the habit of shopping around and looking for the best service as well as price. So in some ways it has been a worthwhile exercise.