Saturday, April 13, 2013

How iTunes Match Is Preparing Me to Become an Angry, Elderly Luddite

Not that I want my fear of age to become a recurrent theme on this blog, but here I go anyway.

Back when I worked at the newspaper, we once had a meeting during which we got sidetracked by the arrival of self check-out lanes at the grocery store nearest the office. Initially, we talked about whether these cashier-less lanes might mean the elimination of jobs — the store eventually said it wouldn’t, and the grocer’s union never objected, and since they go on strike at the drop of a hat, I suppose the store wasn’t lying — but the conversation veered into ranting about how these lanes never work properly. Three different co-workers, all of them women older than fifty, swore that they’d never proceeded through the self check-out lanes without the intervention of a store employee. I said this had never happened to me, and a few twentysomething colleagues agreed. The first group insisted that self check-out lanes just don’t work, and without thinking much of it, I pointed out that “maybe this is a generational thing.”

Now, if you want to be beloved by your co-workers, perhaps female ones in particular, it’s maybe best not to point out that their ineptitude with technology may stem from the fact that they’re old as dirt and basically a bad cold away from inevitable embrace of death. People don’t like to hear that — directly or implicitly. I suppose it doesn’t speak well of me that I didn’t inherently know this, but I didn’t, and I do now.

That’s why it pains me to admit that one specific form of technology is making me feel horrifically old and inept, and I may have to abandon it just to preserve my self-confidence. It’s iTunes Match, and holy fuck does it baffle me on a regular basis. (Again, I don’t mean to dwell on the correlation between getting older and not being able to appreciate music, especially on Coachella weekend, yet I’m clearly setting up camp on this miserable foggy hill.) On paper — or in an emailed PDF, in this case — the system sounds simple: Access all your music, even if it’s not stored on your iPhone. In practice, it’s not that simple, and I’d like to think that’s because mice need to spin wheels that turn gears that agitate some elaborate device that puts the needle on some far-away record-player that finally beams your song to your phone so you can make the fifteen-minute drive to work slightly less awful through the magic of Electric Light Orchestra.

In the early stages, I had a lot of problem getting play counts to sync with those on my home base computer’s iTunes. Once I figured that out, I tackled the problem of Match pulling weird album art and sometimes the incorrect version of the song. Then I figured out how to force upon it songs that it deems incompatible. (The secret is “Create AAC version” in the right-click menu.) And with that, I finally established a cordial working relationship with this strange service.

Until last week. Now I’m back at “Either I’m stupid or iTunes Match is just the worst.”

I couldn’t tell you what happened, but my iPhone iTunes now petulantly insists on playing a different song than the one the iPhone screen says it’s playing. Even when I get the song I ask for, it only takes a few plays before it jumps into one of a tracks that it seems to have decided are its favorite. They are as follows:
  • the first track to Todd Glass’s comedy album, which may eventually push me to hate Todd Glass solely on grounds that sentence “Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the Tempe Improv and the George Carlin Room” now sends me into a panic
  • Raymond Scott’s “Powerhouse,” which, let me tell you, does not make you feel any saner when you listen to it in heavy traffic
  • and A.C. Newman’s “On the Table,” which I would really rather keep liking, if I could
I tried reloading all the songs, I’ve asked questions in forums, and if tinkered with the system in every way I can imagine. So far, I’ve achieved no result worth mentioning. I’m actually not writing this for tips. I think I may just be done with iTunes Match altogether. It won. It made me feel old and feeble. “Fine,” I say, “I’ll just listen to stupid Terry Gross interview some fucking cello player. That’s how mad I am right now, iTunes Match.”

In lieu of troubleshooting advice, answer a simple question for me: Is this just the first of increasingly many technological battles that I will lose simply because I was born too late?

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