Blog Archives

How To Keep Your iTunes Library When It Won’t Fit on Your Hard Drive [How To]

Ultraportable notebooks are finally fast enough that we can use them as our main machines. But damn, the SSDs they pack are small—how are you supposed to fit your entire music library on one of these? You're not. More »

ShowHopping Finds Upcoming Shows Around You for Your Favorite Bands [Music]

ShowHopping uses data from to map out upcoming concerts and live shows on Google Maps. Users can search by location and radius, or have the browser give their current location, and the webapp will map out all live shows in the area within a defined set of dates. Band or artist names can also be entered to narrow the search, and multiple names can be searched at once to make things easier. More »

Getting Your Stuff Off of Your iPhone

There will come a time when you realize that you want to get something off of your iPhone, and yet you don’t have access to the Mac your normally sync with, or your Mac’s hard drive has failed. That’s when getting information off of your iPhone can become a daunting task. Here are a few different ways to recover different types of data from your iPhone.

iPhone Photo Library

The good news is that you can access the iPhone photos you’ve taken from any Mac (and not just the one you sync with) using the OS X Image Capture app. In fact, you can even use the iPad Camera Adapter.  The iPhone itself will look like any other camera that you connect to either your Mac or your iPad. You also even use iPhoto or Aperture directly to perform the transfer. Some of the techniques outlined below can also be used to directly copy image files off of the iPhone when importing from iPhoto fails.Image Capture

iPod Music Files

Ever since the arrival of the iPod, there have been ways to extract music from your Apple device. These same utilities are still applicable to the iPhone. The tricky part is that the files and directory structure are not represented in human friendly text. There is a database file that Apple uses to translate the gibberish back into the artist, album, song format you are familiar with.  Many of the free solutions like Macroplant’s iPhone Explorer, will allow you to copy the music files directly from the iPhone to your Mac in the nonsense naming format they are in on the iPhone.

iPhone ExplorerSo long as you have iTunes configured to “Copy  files to your iTunes Media folder”, as well as to “Keep iTunes Media File organized”, then the file names will all be restored once you have imported the music back into your iTunes Library.  It will retrieve the names of the artist, album and song from the ID3v2 tag embedded in the music file.

iTunes Preferences

Other free solutions like HeadLightSoft’s DeTune (formerly know as expod) will perform the translation before you transfer the files. There are other paid solutions like FadingRed’s Senuti for $18.99, which are also quite good at what they do. But for the money, DeTunes offers a more than adequate solution if all you want to do is recover your device-locked music.


iOS App Data and More

Sometimes you may have to get app and data regarding iPhone usage from your phone to your computer outside of iTunes. While you can use Macroplant’s iPhone Explorer to perform this task, I have found that their Pod to Mac product for $19.95 delivers more value.  Also in this category, and my personal preference is Ecamm’s PhoneView also for $19.95. Both Pod to Mac and PhoneView offer a way to access SMS Messages, VoiceMail, Call History, Contacts, and Calendar information.  They also offer solutions to access your Photos, Media Files and even the locally stored files for each app you have installed.


Secret Location Data

There has been a lot of press regarding the storage of location information in the consolidated.db file on your iPhone. Apple recently revealed that it actually provides a database of cell and Wi-Fi tower locations in and around where you use your device, but the info is still interesting. While not part of a formal product offering, there is a crude yet effective tool called iPhone Tracker on GitHub that lets you see it.

iPhone Tracker

Extract From Backup

Sometimes something has happened to your iPhone and you need to extract a file from your iPhone backups. This includes accessing any photos you had on your iPhone at the time of your last backup. There are two utilities that I use to perform this task, SuperCrazyAwesome’s iPhone Backup Extractor which is a free utility, and addPod’s Juice Phone, also free.  Neither solution will work if you have encrypted your backup files. Both allow you to access the backed up data as if the iPhone was connected to your Mac.

Juice Phone

So until Apple comes up with a solid cloud-based solution for iOS products, the fact remains that all iOS devices are just satellites to their Mac hosts.  And so long as you need to sync between your Mac and your iOS device, there is a chance that either your Mac will fail, or your iOS device will fail.  The above solutions will have you covered until Apple comes up with a better solution of its own.

Related content from GigaOM Pro (subscription req’d):

The Best Mac Apps Exclusive to the Mac App Store [Video]

When the Mac App Store launched in January, we debated whether it sucked or not based on the store’s conveniences and annoyances. We avoided judging it on available apps, since the store had just been launched. Now that the App Store has had time to mature, we’re taking another look at what the Mac App Store offers that you can’t get anywhere else. Here are our favorite apps exclusive to the Mac App Store. More »

mSpot Ups Its Streaming Music Storage to 5 GB [In Brief]

mSpot, the stream-your-own-music service that covers Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS, has raised the online storage for its free accounts to 5 GB. It is, of course, a challenge to Amazon’s Cloud Drive/Cloud Player debut, but mSpot does have more developed apps, both in uploading and mobile streaming, than Amazon at the moment. [mSpot] More »

Turn a Pair of $30 Headphones into a $300 Pair [DIY]

If you want high-quality music but don’t feel like shelling out hundreds of dollars for a decent pair of headphones, blogger Stacy D shows us how to turn a cheap pair of knock-offs into a legit set of audiophile headphones. More »

How to Preserve Your Music CD Collection on a Mac

Music CDs take up space, break easily, get lost and aren’t nearly as easy to organize and manage as a hard drive-based iTunes collection. But if you want to back up your existing CD collection on your computer, it’s not as simple as just sticking the CD in your computer and hitting “Import,” especially if you’re concerned about audio quality.

You’d be mistaken for assuming that copying a music CD couldn’t be more complicated than copying a data disc. Well, it is, especially on a Mac. While Windows solutions like Exact Audio Copy (EAC) have long been cited as the gold standard for audio backups, a Mac version doesn’t exist. But I’ve come to find the abilities of the awesome, free X Lossless Decoder (XLD) on the Mac to be on par with those of EAC on the PC. XLD is the star of the first two methods below, while iTunes rounds out the list.

XLD: Best for Audiophile Digital Packrats

The big difference between using XLD and just using iTunes to rip a CD lies in the implementation of what is called Secure Ripping. Put simply, all optical discs (CDs, DVDs, Blu-rays) can become damaged.  Inherent in the design of a disc is the ability to rebuild lost data segments due to physical damage.  This built-in error correction capability can be exploited to make extremely accurate reproductions of the original audio stored on the disc.  The technique employed to securely rip a CD typically involves reading each segment of the disk multiple times, comparing the results of each read over and over until the ripping software is satisfied that it has an accurate representation of the original audio data.  When there’s an error, the ripping software attempts to rebuild the missing data segment. These results can be further analyzed against a database of other ripped tracks such as AccurateRip. Both EAC and XLD employ these secure ripping techniques and verify their results via AccurateRip for the best possible audio fidelity.

To decode a disk using XLD on the Mac you need to:

  1. Download, install and launch XLD.
  2. Open XLD Preferences (From the menu bar, XLD > Preferences).
  3. On the General tab, select the output format you want the disc ripped to. Choose a format like Apple Lossless to retain the full quality of the original music.
  4. On the CD Rip tab, select the ripping options you want to rip the disk with. Here you have the choice between CD Paranoia III 10.2 and XLD’s own Secure Ripper implementation. Either should be fine. Be sure to check the “Use C2 error pointers” option if your drive supports it.
  5. Insert your album and select Open Audio CD from the File menu, you should see the name of the CD in a sub menu. Select it.
  6. From the CDDB menu, click on Get CD Track Names to retrieve the album information from
  7. Select “Include pre-gap for all tracks” and click on Decode. You’ll be prompted for a location to save your ripped music to.

Note that in order to add album art, you’ll need to download the image file separately and add it manually. Ripping in this secure manner will take a little longer than other ripping methods.  This is, again, due to how the information is being read, verified and corrected before decoding.

Now you have backups of your music on your hard drive, ready to add to your iTunes collection. But Unlike EAC, XLD can’t take your backed-up music files and perfectly recreate a disc-based copy complete with the same file structure and sound quality. But just because XLD can’t do it doesn’t make it impossible.

XLD + Toast: Best for Audiophiles Who Want It All

Enter Roxio Toast, a program that allows you to make copies of audio CDs or back them up as image files. You have several copy options available to you with Toast.  You can copy the CD directly, save the album as a Sound Designer II image file, or save the CD as a binary copy with a cue sheet (BIN/CUE).  If you choose to create a BIN/CUE copy of the music CD on your hard drive, you can then use XLD later to decode the image and create individual music files for each track, or use your BIN/CUE version to create an exact replica using a CD-R. That way, you’ll have a burnable perfect copy of your disc, and files for your iTunes library. To do this, you need to:

  1. Download, install and launch Toast.
  2. Select the Copy tab in Toast and choose Disc Copy.
  3. In Toast’s Options box in the bottom left hand corner of the window, check “Use Disc Recovery”.
  4. From Toast’s File Menu, choose Save as Bin/Cue…
  5. Choose the save location for the resulting image files.
  6. Once this process is complete, launch XLD and open Preferences from the XLD menu.
  7. On XLD’s General tab, select the output format you want the disc ripped as.
  8. From XLD’s File menu, choose Open Raw PCM (bin+cue)…
  9. Navigate to the image file you saved from Toast in step 5 above.
  10. From the CDDB menu, click on Get CD Track Names to retrieve the album information from
  11. Select “Exclude pre-gap (incompatible with AccurateRip)” and click on Decode, you will be prompted for a location to save your ripped music to.

Again, in order to add album art, you will need to download the image file separately and add it manually.

iTunes: Best for the Casual Music Fan

The final, and simplest option, is to use iTunes and simply encode a music CD using Apple’s Lossless encoder directly from within iTunes itself.  iTunes can be configured to export many of the same audio formats as XLD.  iTunes also has the option to use error correction when reading Audio CDs. This is all relatively easy to configure via the Import Settings of the General tab within iTunes Preferences.  You can even burn a high-quality Music CD from within iTunes.

While it may all sound very good, this method likely won’t result in an exact copy of the original music CD.  Any time you decode an album and then take the decoded files in some other audio format and burn it back onto a CD-R, you jeopardize the integrity of the disc’s structure as well as the audio quality itself. Which method you end up choosing really boils down to how exact you want your copies to be.

How to Sync iTunes Across All Your Computers with Dropbox [How To]

If you run iTunes on multiple devices, chances are you’ve had trouble keeping your libraries in sync. Maybe you’ve even tried Dropbox but ran into syncing conflicts. Here’s how to sync iTunes with Dropbox problem-free, on Windows or Mac. More »

How to Narrow Down Exact Duplicates in iTunes [ITunes]

We’ve mentioned iTunes’ “show duplicates” feature a few times before, but on its own, you might still have to sift through a lot of songs. With the ever-useful Option key, however, you can narrow down those results to show exact duplicates only. More »

Aethyr Downloads Music from Shared iTunes Libraries [Downloads]

Windows: Ever since ourTunes stopped working after iTunes 7, many iTunes users have been looking for ways to easily download music from shared libraries over the network. AIR app Aethyr fills that gap, once again eliminating the need for an external drive. More »

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