2006 01 29

Base | Lab | iTunes


Brainless backup

I recently had an email conversation with an otherwise happy user of my tip on how to manually move your music files, whilst retaining track usage data in which he mentioned backing up his files.

For one thing it has never occured to me to do that, but that is not uncommon for some other Best Practices that I can often be found beating mere mortals over the head with. What can I say... physician heal thyself, it seems.

Anyway, the conversation prompted me to think of ways in which one could have iTunes help out in this mundane task. Below are some thoughts, which are clearly just the ramblings of a sleep-deprived geek. Enjoy them as such. :)

Option 1: Full backups. For people with DVD-RW hardware or media to spare who also enjoy the sound of spinning burners in the background. (Or whose music collection is ludicrously modest by today's everyone-is-a-pirate standards.)

  1. Create a Smart Playlist that has everything in it. This might be 'Kind contains MP3' or 'Bit Rate is greater than 0 kbps' Whatever works for you.
  2. Burn your playlist to DVD. iTunes will ask you for more media if the file content is bigger than what can fit one disc.

I would suggest you always keep two sets of backup discs and toggle them.

Option 2: Full incremental.

This is basically the same idea as option 1, but by maintaining a Playlist that selects on 'Added after [date of your last backup]', you can save yourself the trouble of backing up everything for the sheer excitement of it.

Option 3: Automatic

Now this is the actual no-brainer I mentioned in the title. Works like this:

  1. Set up a Smart Playlist selecting on everything. (see above)
  2. Limit it to whatever medium you intend to use, say 4.6GB for DVD. (you may have to experiment a bit to get a good number; the 4.7GB on the DVD case is a bit misleading) and do so by most recently added.
  3. Burn away.

What this will do is grab the track you added most recently. If you merely buy a track every now and then or rip the occasional CD, this will result in a stack of DVDs that will have a fair number of tracks backup up several times over, as they get pushed along the queue when new files come in.

Caveats: if you add more than (say) 4.5GB inbetween backup sessions, you obviously miss out on some tracks. Increasing either the size of the playlist (for instance to the size of 2 DVDs) or the frequency of your backups may help.

Also, you may find that one track might be backed up dozens of times, where others exist on only one DVD. That may bother some, but not others.

To the question why you would even consider using iTunes to do your backups, rather than some file-based tool to just grab directories off disk, I would say that outside of niftiness and convenience, you will not have to hunt across your disk to find your files; iTunes will do that for you. Also, creating multi-disc backups is not the easiest thing in the world in some burn apps..

A definite downside is that you may or may not be able to control any form of directory structure on the backup discs, unless you agree to having iTunes manage your music files.

2006 01 19

Base | Home | Steven


Steven Smulders enters world

I am very pleased to be able to announce the birth of another family expansion unit, specifically a son. He was born January 19, 2006 at 04:53am, weighing in at 3350g. (I don't know why, but many people seem oddly focused on these statistics).

Steven can be reached via his email address: steven.smulders@pobox.com. He'll not be able to read his own email for some time, but his parents will happily read any congratulations to him.

At this time, I would like to disclose a decision that his mother and I made years ago already, but have never been able to implement, which is the reasoning behind his name.

Whereas his two older sisters have names that we picked on the sole basis that we liked them, Steven's name has a story behind it and this is it:

In my life, there have been a number of people that (especially in hindsight) have been very influential on me and my life in a way that I still cherish to this day. It is safe to say that neither of the two that I'm about to highlight did so with that precise intention, but that does not diminish the value of the end result. Coincidentally, they share (more or less) the same name. (about which smarter readers can safely hazard a guess)

In no particular order, they are Stephen Shanks and Steve Clover. (note to Mr. Cotton: lucky coincidence, mate. ;)

Mr. Shanks was the person who decided to hire me for my first job in London. Had he not done that, it would be fairly safe to say that I would probably have hit financial rock bottom some weeks after that, which would have meant the end of my London adventure. The total impact of those four and a bit years on who I am as a person and as a professional is difficult to overestimate.

The thing is, Stephen never hired me on the basis of my skills, because to be honest, I had just about no relevant ones. He hired me on what I guess is gut feeling alone. Sure, someone probably signed off on it, but he put my name forward as the guy to get. Furthermore, he has been best manager that I could have ever wanted, just as much as I could wish on any technology-infected worker. Along the way he taught me everything I know about (office) politics, although it took me years more to actually take his lessons to heart. When we parted professional ways, I said I would really enjoy working with him again, which I actually did at a later time. The sentiment still stands.

Mr. Clover taught me drumming through the Music School in Tilburg, Holland. I reckon I can pass for a halfway decent drummer still, although I never did even a fraction of the amount of practice that he insisted I do and I haven't played in almost 8 years. The drumming part of his lesson is not what got him on this honour roll of sorts. (although he is rightfully considered a guru by many very scary drummers)

What got him here is the fact that he turned me on to Blues and Jazz. I don't even remember the kind of music I was into before, but it most likely wasn't worth remembering. My current music taste spans a stupendously wide range and I like to think that it all started with this man opening my (previously glued shut) eyes and ears.

I could try to describe the amount of enjoyment I get from music in general, but it would be a waste of words as I could not even do justice to the sheer scale of it, let alone to anything specific.

Between the two of them, they have had an influence on a very large part of who I am today; a part for which I am thankful on a daily basis in one way or another. Thankful enough to name my firstborn son after it.

Base | Home | Steven


Fast progress

About an hour ago, shortly after concluding that the contractions were not quite doing their job, the midwife was called away to another birth in progress. She left us, secure in the knowledge that it would be some hours before the going got rough anyway.

When Audrey and her mother concluded that things were in fact very much heating up and thus called the midwife, she was actually doing paperwork in her car parked out front. At the same time, I had finally managed to get Nikki to sleep. I emerged from Nikki's room at more or less the same time as the midwfie was rushing up the stairs--just in time, as it turned out.

A quick check (I won't go into unnecessary detail about these checks, but there are only a limited number of ways in which one can gauge dialation, so I will leave that to the readers imagination) showed that the contractions, unproven yet possibly spurred on by a subconcious motivation to not end up in hospital today had resulted in full dialation and we were ready to go.

At that point, things suddenly went reallly fast: blankets, towlets various equipment and rubber gloves appeared and Audrey went to work. Minutes later, she was holding a small human.

Base | Home | Steven


Too little, too slow

The midwife punctured the embryoid membrane (someone who knows what I mean please send me a correction in terminology) about an hour ago. This is common procedure to increase the uterus' attempts at opening up through contractions. However, at this time, the level of opening up (dialation?) was rather below the expected curve.

Nothing to worry about at this precise moment, but unless the uterus decided to considerably pick up the pace, it would become a problem in two hours time. The kind of problem that meant relocating to a hospital mid-delivery. Besides the fact that Audrey very much values giving birth at home, getting into a car halfway dialated is nobody's idea of fun.

Audrey is visibly upset, but we agree that we'll have to take it as it comes. Besides, if there is medical indication that we ought to be in a hospital, cultural preferences do not hold much truck with yours truly. I'm not saying I relish the thought, but we would be getting in a car and that's that.

Base | Home | Steven


Professional help is here

The professional in question (i.e. the midwife) is here and has done some checking. The good news is that yes, there is going to be a birth today. The bad-ish news is that dialation is only 20-30% at most. Meaning: several hours of contractions to go at the very least.

The midwife settles in downstairs with some paperwork (these people must be used to killing time in spades) whilst I take on the unenviable task of getting Nikki back to sleep.

She usually wakes up somewhere between 23:00 and 02:00, at which time a small bottle, a little light massage of het bowels, some cuddling and rocking tends to be enough to put her right back to sleep. Except, off course, this time.

I have tried the usual routine without avail; she's just too awake to slide back into blissful sleep. Being only slightly awake means that she'll fight the feeling of drifting off (the same feeling most parents miss dearly... :). The normal next step up in measures in our household is to take her into our bed, so that she is able to maintain physical contact with daddy whilst lying down. Dunno why, but it is a sure-fire recipe for deep serene sleep in minutes.

Alas, at this time, that option was blocked by the fact that there was a woman in labour in said bed. Not a shred of serenity in sight. So I took her downstairs to pull off the same trick in a darkened room with a couch. Again, no luck. All the while, hours were passing by when I really had wanted to be with Audrey.

Base | Home | Steven


Start counting

Audrey wakes me up, so that by the time she needs me, I'll actually be able to help out. This is not a factor of laziness on my part; I am diabetic and the artificially regulated blood glucose levels during the night make for a really, really deep sleep. Don't ask me why, but it started when I started using insuling furing the night; I used to be a very light sleeper before. Anyway, it takes me a few minutes between waking up and getting up, lest I like to fall off my own legs.

We start (or resume, rather) taking note of the time between contractions and their duration. This 'measurement' is used as a criterium for when to call the midwife.

Untypical in countries outside of The Netherlands, most babies are delivered in the comfort of one's home. This implies that at some point, you have to call in professional help. Given that (in my limited experience at least) most babies are born in the dead of night, it is at least civil to not call the pros before you actually need them.

Base | Home | Steven


And waking up again

I'm still asleep (this record has obvioulsy been backdated--no-one in their sane mind tells a wife in labour that 'I'm just quickly going to blog this'). Audrey dozed off at best, until just now, when more powerful contractions started.

2006 01 18

Base | Home | Steven


Going to bed

We decided undemocratically that the better option is to go to bed and hope for the best.

Base | Home | Steven


Feeling ill

A rather overwhelming feeling of illness is not uncommon for women in labour (I'm told by one) but Audrey has been suffering more than a fair share of it and it's not getting any better over time. Also, the contractions are not coming in a steady frequency (which would indicate a countdown of sorts).

By now, the mother-in-law support backup has been summoned, despite her stomach flu.

We are trying to decide whether to stick it out to the end or go to bed (and to sleep), risking that the contractions whittle down to nothing, implying that the whole process will have to regain momentum tomorrow. (at least we think that it might just work that way)

Base | Home | Steven


Ready to rumble

It looks like things are on the move, albeit in the same sense as global tectonic shift: over time, the results are (literally) earth moving, but within a limited time frame you wouldn't notice it.

In any case, I thought it best to cancel my appointments and attend to Audrey's needs.

To complicate matters, our support backup (mother-in-law) is currently suffering a rare bout of stomach flu and really should not be out and about.