Wednesday, July 19, 2006

More Firewire Wackiness

Recently I had some lockups on the hard drive that holds my iTunes library (the song files, not the library data files with all the ratings and playlists). Must be the killer heat lately, or the number of devices all hanging off the same power strip.

One of my big OS X gripes is how any sort of device problem tends to lock up every application, including the system GUI (Finder, Dock, file dialogs). To get things moving again, I had to turn the drive off and then on, leading to the usual "you didn't eject the device properly" warning. Although the system started working again, the drive icon didn't reappear in the Finder drive list. I noticed a new strange Firewire wrinkle. If I clicked on a symbolic link or alias that normally points to the rebooted drive, the window that opened actually displayed the contents from the next hard drive over.

Didn't think anything more of it, until I went to play something in iTunes. "iTunes can't find the song file", and an exclamation mark appeared next to the song. What the...? The same happened for any song. iTunes preferences showed a blank setting for the library directory. OK, that I could live with, but when I viewed the contents of the "iTunes Music Library.xml" file, all locations pointing to the old drive had been replaced by the name of the other drive, producing thousands of incorrect paths!

I was kinda looking forward to the opportunity to try out modifying the .xml file. This is the trick where you back up the "iTunes Library" and .xml files just in case, nuke the original "iTunes library" file, edit the .xml file to have updated path names, and start iTunes which rebuilds its library using the data from the modified XML file.

However, when I rebooted the computer, cycled power on all the hard drives, and started iTunes again, it once more found the songs in the right locations. Very strange how it would record completely wrong paths in the XML file, then reconsider once the files were once more available at their former locations. Just another reason to be cautious about anything involving OS X and a Firewire drive.


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