Rebuilding the library

I finally bit the bullet. After months pf procrastination hoping for an unlikely saving find, I accepted the fact that more than half of my music library is gone, either deleted by accident or eaten by the iTunes gremlins. Luckily this old fetishist has all the CDs neatly stacked in more or less alphabetical order in a ten Ikea drawers. All I need to do is pull out a drawer, go though the records one at a time, check out whether the record is already in the database, if not re-rip it. Simple and tedious.

2013-08-06 16.58.43

Despite my well rooted hatred for iTunes, its simplicity when ripping is truly unparalleled, but for managing iPods and other devices I have moved to Clementine, which also allows for powerful manipulation of tags and metadata.

While I am sitting here, sweating my ass off as I plod through the 500-odd CDs, I thought of recording my impressions, as if I was tweeting:

DAY 1 (drawers #1-6)

  • Off to a bad start – why do I have TWO copies of “Back in back”?
  • The Beatles all gone, except for “Rubber Soul”
  • Chuck Berry under Various Artists? go figure…
  • yes, iTunes, you already ripped this album! (and again, and again, and again!)
  • Gawd! there is actually another possibility. Record’ jewel case in drawer, digital files AND CD missing: “Wish” (The Cure) is the first MIA
  • so Annie Lennox goes under “A”…
  • Wot? no early Dire Straits records? Must fix. Now.
  • David Bowie (all of it): MIA. I suspect evil influence of daughter
  • good find – all but forgotten about this collection of the Animals
  • restored all of Clapton, Foo Fighters, but where is the rest of Zappa? MIA
  • MIA 3 or 4 early Genesis records – nobody listens to prog anymore, what happened to these?
  • half of the Killers are here, half missing
  • Jaysus, Leo is all gone, that’s 20 or so CDs to redo…
  • MIA: “Raccolti” (MCR)
  • The MTB collection: one disc here, one gone
  • three different records of MC Hammer? must’ve been drunk…
  • Manhattan Transfer gone, Mama’s and Papa’s gone
  • Argh! I only own one CD for Madonna, and it’s MIA!
  • will never criticize my “Directioner” teenager daughter again: New Kids on the Block – had removed them altogether !

DAY 2 (drawers #7-8)

  • Great find – a triple Phish album!
  • PJ Harvey is MIA, and why two copies of “Philadelphia” ?
  • Yikes! No Lou Reed and all Stones gone except “Exile on Main St.”
  • “Kid A” is MIA
  • I knew it! a thorough search of my daughter’s room delivered over 50 CDs that had been missing from the archive, although, sadly, only a few of the MIA list
  • #7 was the “lost drawer from Hell”: every single CD in there was missing!


of course! What could possibly go wrong in a tedious, long process that can only done by hand? Let’s see, what about a momentary power failure? Which does not affect the fully redundant NAS folder where the ripped files are stored, of course, but destroys the Clementine SQL database which – of course – is stored on the iMac which I am using to do the ripping (reminder to self: I MUST buy a UPS for cases like this).

A quick perusal at the Clementine developer boards reveals that this is an open issue with no timeline for solution. Thanks for nothing!

Can’t I simply rebuild the database from the MP3 files? Not so fast, buster! Upon close inspection, I find that iTunes has created a new “Music” directory one level below the target directory (also called “Music” of course) I assigned: as usual, Apple trusts its users not to be smart enough to point iTunes to an existing directory and so it creates one for itself – obviously without telling you. And simply copying the directories in Music II back into Music I won’t work, as when Finder finds another with the same name, it will overwrite it and not merge its content.

So I managed to get myself an extra couple of hours of manually merging the directory trees of Music II and Music I on a separate drive, at which point I will delete the originals, create a new one and point Clementine to the new one hoping it will rebuild the database.

<goes away for a few hours>

OK, that was a little more time consuming than I thought. It places a premium on storing a copy of the clean, complete database on another drive. The trick I devised worked only partially: Clementine on my MBA rebuilt a clean database, but the instance on the iMac still sees a corrupt database. There is probably an Application Support file that needs deletion somehere.

It also bear some additional research to avoid using iTunes even for ripping, as there’s no way to tell it NOT to build the iTunes database. It is easier said than done, however – all I want is to rip my own CD to straight MP3 files, nothing fancy. But there is a dearth of software for this, at least for the Mac. After several tries I finally find Switch, an app by an australian company which seems OK – they are even so nice to give it away for non-commercial purposes. Unfortunately it also comes with a slight problem I have been unable to solve, as the resulting files should be placed in a rather simple file hierarchy <Artist> \ <Album> \ <TrackNumber> – <Title>, but they are not; in particular the backslash used to go down one folder level for some reason is unacceptable. I can however write all the data on the file ID3 tag and using then another app, Big, Mean Folder Machine, convert the ID3 tags to the appropriate folder hierarchy. Clumsy and long-winded to say the least, and there’s probably better options out there, but I just haven’t been able to find them.

So now I resume my toiling.

DAY 3 (drawers #8 – 9)

  • Spirit was gone, and so was half of the Boss’ “Tracks”
  • New system is a little slower, but at least I think I am now in control of my files
  • Bingo! a second copy of “Stand Up” filed under “Tull”
  • Clementine’s player is VERY good, clean design with everything you possibly need. Seem to be losing cover art every now and then – wonder if it’s dynamic
  • thanks God the U2 block was all there
  • #9 is the doubles drawer: Tommy, Quadrophenia, Woodstock, WZ, Zabriskie Point soundtrack, Frank’s bootlegs – all gone, as well as some Tom Waits

DAY 4 (drawer #9)

I thought this would never end; I just launched a backup of the full library on another drive, this will take a few hours to complete.

Final count is 190 artists, about 500 records and nearly 5,000 songs for a total of around 40 gig. I hope I don’t have to do this again, ever!


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