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And not in a good way.

One of the paramount features of computer software–or any automation–must be to absolve the user from having to perform tedious or confusing (or worse, both) actions which the computer could perform with just a little bit more of logic or rules.

I’ve been spending time re-importing my CD collection into iTunes, both to RIP them at 320 kbps and to get all my music stored on my NAS media server. Naturally, this process has exposed all the ugly warts of iTunes user interface and behavior.

Aside from the quite confusing process of moving a music collection and the files that index it, my biggest issue has been failure to read some CDs completely.

I believe these failures have been a combination of scratched discs, incompatibility between some CDs and the multi-multi-multi disc reader in my laptop, and interactions between all these and the error correction in iTunes.

This last point is the annoying one. I prefer to import all my music with error checking on, to avoid the various half-song imports that have annoyed me in the past. But for some discs, it causes an endless re-reading of the suspect data on the disc. In many cases the problematic track can be successfully read simply by turning of the error checking. But to do this requires you to abort the import (which I’ve never seen get out of the CRC viscous cycle) or eject the CD, then reinsert the CD and re-rip the entire disc with the changed setting. And then turn error checking back on before loading the next CD.

And worse yet, what if both methods fail? You’re left with a partially imported CD that will drive you nuts whenever you listen to it ending sooner than you know it should.

iTunes should avoid both problems. The first by automatically re-trying to rip the track with error correction off, and the second by providing some means of deleting partially imported CDs. Or better yet, it could keep a log of all problems during ripping, and provide you with a list of CDs that you need to inspect and clean or replace.

I won’t even get to the side issue of the confusing dialog and lacking options when you start to rip a disc that you’ve already ripped before, or one which contains tracks that exist on another album, but which need to be re-ripped for album continuity.

Author: Peter Sheerin

Peter Sheerin is best known for the decade he spent as the Technical Editor of CADENCE magazine, where he was the acknowledged expert in Computer-Aided Design hardware and software. He has a long-standing passion for improving usability of software, hardware, and everyday objects that is always interwoven in his articles. Peter is available for freelance technical writing and product reviews, and is exploring career opportunities in interaction design. His pet personal project is exploring the best ways to harmonize visual, tactile, and audible symbols for improving the effectiveness of alerting systems.

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