Category Archives: tutorials

Giving up iTunes for iPod management and moving to Linux- a how-to

I’ve been using a 120gb iPod Classic for years and had only managed it with iTunes. Finally, I’d just had enough with iTunes hogging more and more ram, and the interface becoming more labyrinthine and less useful, I finally decided to get an iTunes and Windows divorce at the same time.

I didn’t walk into it cold turkey- I’ve been a Linux user for years. I’ve managed to move most of my work and entertainment needs over to Linux.The only thing that kept my foot in the Windows world was my iPod and iTunes.

It may an anachronism in today’s streaming world, but my iPod is still essential to my quality of life and active engagement with new music. It’s easy to let an algorithm decide a new song fits your prescribed likes, let it come and go and possibly never make a dent in your long-term memory. In contrast, adding new artists to my library and building playlists takes some effort, but in the process I learn about bands and really get to know their music. The upside of really getting into the music in depth vastly outweighs the downside of lesser convenience, for me.

Moving away from iTunes was stressful. One of the main stressors was just choose where to go from there. GTKPod is frequently the gateway app, but I ultimately decided to go with Banshee. GTKpod is really only a manual manager, and I like to completely redo things periodically. Banshee does have complete iPod sync as a feature.

I encountered some preventable pitfalls along the way that even people sticking with iTunes can benefit from, so I thought I would share.

— If you are going to make the transition, I suggest you manually convert ID3 tags. Some iTunes users report Get info changes ID3 tags, or seems to, then they revert. The safest is manually initiate that conversion for any tracks you update yourself. I DID NOT DO THIS and spent about a week correcting data that made it into iTunes XML and was NOT saved to ID3 tags.

–Convert to MP3, if you haven’t, and override iTunes CD importing defaults, which are set to an ear-shredding 128kbps. It should at least be 192, although for maximum quality I chose 320kbps. This is something I didn’t do for a long time and wondered why my songs sounded dull, sometimes like total crap. I spent a lot of time going back to CDs and re-importing them at 320. Not fun!

Once my library was shored up, I mounted the ipod and made note of the mount point in a file manager. Then I started up Banshee.

Note, I have learned from the wisdom of others, when importing a large collection (I have 44,000 files) at first, do NOT choose the root of your music folder. Rather, go into that folder and CTRL-A all of the subfolders. Banshee got locked in some kind of infinite loop looking for files, went all gray and blank and this was the solution.

Also note, Banshee has a lot of plugins activated by default- some of which need to go out and get data from the web. I disabled all plugins except for the ones needed by the iPod. It ran a lot faster then.

After importing the library, I set about creating some playlists. For my purposes, I have a big catch-all playlist, and a subdued playlist called Sleep. The big catch-all playlist turned out to be more useful than just use basically as a big Shuffle.

When you sync the iPod for the first time, just choose to sync by playlist, and choose the big catch-all list. This is what Banshees uses as the base sync. I had read if you want to have more than one, you’d have to make the second playlist, save it as an m3u, then import that using GTKpod! As it turns out, it’s NOT NECESSARY. ANY playlist you create in Banshee will get imported along with the main one! I guess let that be a caveat as well as a hidden benefit.

So far sync has been blazing fast compared to iTunes on Windows. I am especially impressed with the auto-sync-a feature I had to disable in Windows because it was slow and tedious. It forces you to go to a special screen, even though it’s a process that could take place in the background, interrupting you only if necessary. I always found that irritating. In Banshee, auto-sync happens in a polite little status area below the main window with the number of tracks being transferred and progress info. Fantastic!

All in all, this has been a very positive experience. If you are the kind of person who is fastidious about metadata, and are sick of the interface overhead and bloat in iTunes, this might be a great solution for you.