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The iTunes Guy Looks at Changes in iTunes 12.4 and More

itunesguy-thum-100004188-gallery.jpgiTunes 12.4 is out, and there are lots of questions about the major and minor changes to this version of the app. In this week’s column, I discuss one question about a podcast view that has been removed from iTunes. I also look at a question about backups, and explain how I got my iPad Pro to load my iCloud Music Library library.

Read this week’s Ask the iTunes Guy at Macworld.

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“Game-Changing” Study Links Cellphone Radiation to Cancer – Mother Jones

It’s the moment we’ve all been dreading. Initial findings from a massive federal study, released on Thursday, suggest that radio-frequency (RF) radiation, the type emitted by cellphones, can cause cancer.

The findings from a $25 million study, conducted over two-and-a-half years by the National Toxicology Program (NTP), showed that male rats exposed to two types of RF radiation were significantly more likely than unexposed rats to develop a type of brain cancer called a glioma, and also had a higher chance of developing the rare, malignant form of tumor known as a schwannoma of the heart.

This is one of those subjects that has been hotly debated, but this multi-year study suggests that there is indeed an increased risk.

Personally, I use a headset whenever I make a call more than a minute or so; not because I’m worried about radiation, but because holding a phone to my ear for a long time hurts my shoulder.

I’ve also wondered about Bluetooth radiation. Those wrist computers many of us are wearing now; could they be dangerous?

Source: “Game-Changing” Study Links Cellphone Radiation to Cancer – Mother Jones

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The Next Track, Episode #2 – To Stream or to Own Music?

The Next Track Blue Flat Button2 400pxIn episode #2 of The Next Track, Doug Adams and Kirk McElhearn take a brief look at the iTunes 12.4 update, and then discuss streaming music versus owning it. Do you want to have access to most of the recorded music available or do you want to own your music, listen to it when you want, even if labels or artists decide they don’t want to play with streaming services?

Listen to The Next Track: Episode #2 – To Stream or to Own Music?.

Find out more, and subscribe to the podcast, at The Next Track website. You can follow The Next Track on Twitter at @NextTrackCast, to keep up to date with new episodes, and new articles from the website.

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Removing Duplicate Files on Mac OS X: The Complete Guide

Your Mac is full of files: big ones, small ones; documents, music files, photos, videos, and system files. A quick check of my iMac’s 256 GB SSD shows that it contains more than 60 million files. You can see this number on your Mac by opening Disk Utility (which is in your /Applications/Utilities folder), selecting your drive, and then clicking the Info button in the Disk Utility toolbar—then scroll down to the File Count entry.

Naturally, you haven’t created all those files. Most of them are system files, preference files, bits of applications (an OS X application is actually a bundle, or a sort of folder containing thousands of files), and more. Most of the files you’ve created are in your Documents folder, or in other media-specific folders inside your home folder: Music, Pictures, or Movies. And some of your personal files may actually be in your Library folder; this includes your email messages and their attachments, for example.

Among these millions of files, your Mac may contain many duplicate files, and there are two types of duplicates: intentional duplicates and accidental duplicates.

Read the rest of the article on The Mac Security Blog.

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iTunes 12.4 Applies Song Ratings to Albums and Destroys Smart Playlists

In iTunes, you can rate songs and albums separately. For example, you can rate a song five stars, and an album four stars. If you do this, iTunes considers that every track that is not rated specifically inherits the album rating. And the album rating – if you have not set it expressly – is computed from any song ratings you’ve applied. This can be good or bad, depending on how you manage your iTunes library.

When iTunes 12.2 was released, the app changed some song ratings to album ratings. This means that if you have smart playlists that look for, say, five-star songs, iTunes will add all the tracks from the album with the five-star rating to those playlists. After iTunes 12.2 was released, this happened occasionally; but with iTunes 12.4, my entire library was changed. Every single song rating in my library got changed to an album rating. (Note that neither iTunes Match, iCloud Music Library, nor Apple Music are active on this Mac, so these services are not responsible for the changes.)

Obviously, this broke my smart playlists.

Empty smart playlist

What is particularly annoying is the fact that I use playlists like the one above to sync music to my iPhone. I had noticed that my iPhone had more free space, but I hadn’t thought to check how much music had gotten synced.

Yesterday, when looking in my iTunes library, I spotted the problem. Here’s one example: each of the following albums had a number of tracks rated five stars, some rated four stars, and some with no rating. iTunes decided to change the album ratings to match the highest song ratings.

Album ratings five

You can see that these albums now have five-star album ratings (the black stars next to the album names), and the songs have “computed” ratings (the gray stars). But none of them have actual song ratings, so smart playlists looking for those ratings will not find anything.

So, I set out to fix this. It wasn’t easy. Since I have Time Machine backups, I went back to an older iTunes Library.itl file, from before the 12.4 update. I loaded that, and created smart playlists for each rating: one stars, two stars, etc. I then selected all the files in each playlist, and created new “dumb” playlists from them. I exported those playlists as XML files.

I then re-loaded my newest iTunes library. I deleted all the album ratings using Doug Adams’ Album Rating Reset AppleScript. I imported the rating playlists, and manually applied song ratings to them. This process took quite a while. I had over 3,500 songs rated.

That first playlist above now contains 88 songs, and other playlists contain hundreds of songs that were missing before the fix.

Fixed playlist

When I synced my iPhone, 279 songs were copied, because many of the songs in those playlists are already synced from other playlists. But if I had depended only on ratings playlists to sync music, my iPhone would have been empty.


And here’s how the two albums in the screenshot above should have looked; you can see I had only rated a few songs on those albums:

Correct song ratings
So, if this happens to you, I hope you have Time Machine backups. Because otherwise, there’s no way to get back the ratings that you meticulously applied to your music. iTunes, you’ve failed me again.

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Writings about Macs, music and more by Kirk McElhearn