Friday, 29 August 2008

iTunes: The song could not be played because the original file could not be found

This morning I awoke to an iTunes nightmare, one which has happened to me a few times before and one that has caused me to lose whole days trying to fix in the past. The problem goes like this:
  • Boot up iTunes
  • Select some tunes to play only to see an exclamation mark beside the track name
  • A dialogue box appears telling me that the song could not be played because the original file could not be found. I've added a screen shot below (click through for full screen):
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I scanned through the rest of my library and little exclamation marks popped up everywhere.

Now I have a library of over 25,000 tracks the vast majority of which were missing. If you only have a few tracks missing then, okay, you can merely locate each individual track by double clickiing it and locating the file in Explorer/Finder which shouldn't take you too long. However, 25,000+ tracks is a serious time suck.

I will detail an easy solution to this problem in a moment, but before I do that I will detail exactly what happened.

It seems like iTunes had took it upon itself to create a subfolder within my user designated music folder and was only looking in there for my music, hence it couldn't see the larger library - see the image below:

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iTunes had created a new directory at D:\My iTunes\iTunes Music when it should have been D:\My iTunes\ as it had been 24 hours prior. You can find where iTunes stores your music by hitting [ctrl+,] on a PC or [⌘+,] on a Mac. Alternatively click Edit - Preferences - Advanced - General.

I have only recently just reinstalled XP on my office desktop, cleaned up all my files and created multiple partitions - one for system files and programmes, one for data, and one specifically for music in the event that if something went wrong on one, the others would be fine.

Solution

My solution to this nightmare was rather straightforward. I've learned from previous mistakes you see. In the past I had been told in the Apple forums (by some noob!) to select all my files in iTunes and hit delete, then reimport them again (be selecting File - Add Folder to Library). Be warned, this is a laborious process which takes an age and also erases all your ratings, playlists, and sometimes even your ID tags. Not ideal. Apple have a related article on their support site which advises similar, but is more a touch more cautious and involves the import command.

Other solutions I have seen involve hunting down your iTunes Library.itl file and rebooting iTunes by clicking on its icon (either in XP's Quicklaunch Toolbar or from OSX's Dock) whilst holding down the Shift key. You can then point iTunes to the library file. This solution only works if that file is intact and not corrupted in any way. It is a good idea to make regular backups of your important files - I have a folder set up in which I keep a weekly backup of the iTunes Library.itl file in the directory above my iTunes folder (see below):

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This has saved my music collection a few times and I can't recommend it enough! It's well worth backing this file up to an external source somewhere too, in case you have a total hard drive failure.

Anyway, like I said, my solution to restoring my iTunes collection was pretty straightforward. I selected Preferences - Advanced - General, changed the location of my iTunes Music Folder back to where it should have been (D:\My iTunes in this specific instance) and iTunes automatically did the rest. I had to do a quick scan through the library to see if there were any outstanding exclamation marks or duplicate files, which took a few minutes.

There were between 10-15 tracks which did just seem to have vanished from my hard drive, for which I have no explanation. As I said above, it is good practice to regularly backup files - I use the free version of SyncBackSE from 2BrightSparks to schedule a regular backup of my music to an external drive. It's easy to use and a godsend. It was a simple matter of dragging files from my external to the correct location on my internal with iTunes open - they played straight away.

I did notice some other strange behaviour within iTunes' preferences. I always have iTunes make a copy of the music it imports into my music folder but this option had been disabled - see below:

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I have no idea how or why all this happened but I'm glad I spotted it as files recently imported from utorrent had stayed on my E: drive which I usually erase very frequently. I did recently uninstall Adobe CS3 using a WinCS3Clean Script before reinstalling. I have had a few system problems since then, notabley utorrent reporting its inability to downloadsome files (error: requested operation cannot be performed on file with user-mapped section open).

Problems like this are few and far between but they do happen (too often!) and it makes me wonder why I persist with iTunes. However, being a PC and Mac owning household, the benefit of seamless file sharing from the PC into Front Row is just too good to give up on. I love being able to port my music around the house via the Macbook, connecting it up to any of the amps in the different rooms without having to clutter my smaller hard drive.

System: XP Pro SP3
Software: iTunes 7.7.1.11

If you've had similar nightmares, or if this advice has been of some help, be sure to let me know in the comments section.


Friday, 22 August 2008

Heavy Rain: The Origami Killer and narrative drives

I stumbled over a short piece on the CVG website which was previewing some early footage of a forthcoming PS3 adventure game, Heavy Rain: The Origami Killer (Quantic Dreams), which seemed very interesting. The game places the player in the position of a female investigative journalist who discovers the house of a suspected murderer.

There were two major things mentioned in the article which piqued my interest - how the player negotiates the game world and how the narrative progresses in relation to the former.

Apparently the game has a lot in common with classic titles like the Sega Dreamcast's Shenmue, in that the player has a great deal of control over how their avatar negotiates the game world, with multiple approaches to numerous problems and encounters they face. The degree of interaction with the world afforded to the player is supposedly unparalleled:
The whole game places emphasis on choice and making true-to-life decisions. For example, when you approach the house you get the choice of whether to knock or ring the doorbell. Speech appears around a SixAxis-shaped icon and you can choose to speak as you knock by tilting the pad in the direction of the phrase you want to say.
One sequence features a scenario where the journalist penetrates the killer's house and makes a grisly discovery, only for the killer to return home. The outcome of this scenario depends on how the player tackles this situation. Should they decide to make a run for it, then the killer may hear and give chase, or should they decide to tackle him, then a fight may ensue. They could even kill him there and then which would typically lead to the conclusion of a typical narrative adventure, however,
The real interesting thing is that Quantic Dreams promises that, no matter what happens, the story will progress, whether you kill him, escape or are killed yourself. Yes, even the main character can be killed and the story will continue, says Quantic.
Now, an immersive environment is one thing, but this type of story developemnt points to what might be a unique experience, and has an ally in the forthcoming game, Far Cry 2 (Ubisoft). The CVG article suggested that the developers of Heavy Rain were remaining tight lipped at the moment although "the whole plot is effected by every scene that you play, and your actions have consequences on the entire story" which bears a striking resemblance to some of the claims made about Far Cry 2. Michael Abbott post an interesting article on a similar theme recently and is well worth reading.

The potential for games to create new forms of immersive storytelling are looking brighter and brighter. This is another game I'm going to have to keep my eyes on in future.



Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Are the Daily Mail suitable moral guardians?

Of course, the answer is emphatically "no!" but I have to ask this question after being alerted to another game-hating article from them. C&VG highlighted that fact that the forthcoming game, MadWorld from Platinum Games, has come under fire from watchdog pressure groups who are calling on the title to be banned. The monochrome title has an adult-appropriate level of violence interspersed with comic book style moments of excess. Think Sin City mixed with the 1960s TV version of Batman & Robin.

Which pressure group is behind the push? It's only Mediawatch-uk. They are favourite moral guardians for the Daily Mail so no surprises there. The report reads:
A new computer game tipped to be the most violent ever is being released exclusively on the so-called 'family friendly' Wii console.

Nintendo will dramatically transform Wii's image with the release of ultra violent video game MadWorld which, 'revolves around the themes of brutality and exhilaration', according to its creators.
Fantastic. Just when the Wii was beginning to diversify and offer content for the more mature gamer, the pressure groups decide that this isn't acceptable on a 'family friendly' platform. Great. I wonder whether the Wii is a victim of its own success in that Nintendo tried to change the public perception of gaming only to limit itself to games that look, er, cute (for want of a better word).

The Wii does already have some adult orientated titles, some of which are damn good. I'm thinking of Resident Evil 4, No More Heroes, Manhunt 2, etc. Okay, so maybe Manhunt 2 is not so good - I wouldn't know saying as it isn't available in the UK yet despite heavy cuts in order to meet the BBFC's demands. All of these titles are third party releases for the Wii - Nintendo doesn't need to make these titles in order to be successful.

I'm a little angry at not being able to even try Manhunt 2 because it deemed too much. No More Heroes, with its excessive gore was cut in the UK market with the executions toned down. When I learned of that, it actually made me not want to buy the game. I want to play adult titles on my machine but the morale opprobrium which besets such titles, often from a moralising media, acts to stifle choice. This was one of the reasons I ended up buying a PS3. That machine isn't beset by the problem of the family friendly title and can get away with more.


Sunday, 10 August 2008

Twitterfeed


I have been trying to get the RSS feed from my Google Reader posts to appear in my Twitter feed. I stumbled across Twitterfeed, a site which purports to do just that with a limited if fair amount of customization options.

However, I have struggled to get the stories to feed through which is odd. I'm not sure whether the issue is with Twitter, Google Reader or Twitterfeed itself. I was getting a few 404 errors with Twitterfeed yesterday when I tried to signup for it using my OpenID.

I have set it to update every 3 hours. I guess I'll have to wait and see....
[edit] It seems like the URL for the Google Reader page couldn't be parsed so I went back and found the correct atom RSS link and that still had issues. Oh well, looks like I'll give up on this one.

Also, Twitter addicts might want to have a look at TweetDeck, an application based on the Adobe Air platform. Looks interesting and full of features.
TweetDeck's killer feature is its ability to separate the people you follow on Twitter into groups—like "Don't Miss," "Co-workers," and "Chatty types." That way while tweets by the prolific folks fly by in one pane, infrequent tweets from people you don't want to miss stay bookmarked on top in another
Sounds pretty useful.


Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Let's start at the beginning...

For someone who loves technology I have to admit to being part technophobe. By this I mean that I neverhttp://www.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gif ever really got around to learning the basics of writing for the web. I have enrolled on a free very short HTML course ran via about.com. I have always been a WYSIWYG kind of guy but I figured this road does lead to empowerment. This will be the third attempt at this kind of thing that I've embarked upon. I never finish anything.

The course should last 10 weeks and will hopefully make my sufficiently conversant with the basics that I can spruce up the template for this blog (although I'm not quite convinced of this point myself). I have no desire to setup and maintain my own site at a cost so I opted for the free Yahoo/Geocities route. Tight, eh? For anyone who is interested, but really more for myself that anything else, you can see the work in progress over on Geocities:

http://www.geocities.com/robjewitt@ymail.com/