Thumbing my nose at Big Brother Apple

Before I dive into the subject of the post title, an observation:

Tuesday, January 8th, is Stephen Hawking’s 71st birthday – amazing given that 50 years ago, he was told he’d have maybe two more years to live. I just finished rereading A Brief History of Time in December and hope to get to both The Universe in a Nutshell and The Grand Design this year. The picture/graphic below appeared on a Facebook page (as quoted in John Boslough’s Stephen Hawking’s Universe) and it made me rethink a position I’ve held for many years.

Hawking - Simple Goal

I generally think that “why” is not a question science need answer. If someone really wants to explore “why”, then take on religion or philosophy. The word I prefer is “how”. “Why” seems to lead to meaningless queries such as “Why am I here?” followed by time-wasting searches for answers beyond the obvious fertilization of an egg by a sperm. I have little use for philosophy as an adult. Just the facts. Opinions are like… (Including mine.)

“How”ever, I can understand the use of “why” in the context of “why the universe is as it is”. I am a little concerned over Hawking saying “…why it exists at all.” Oh, I see that as a consequence of examining time arrows and singularities, but I fear that such a simple phrase can be perverted by the ignorant, much the same as Einstein’s dicey objection to quantum physics and uncertainty. Still, it is an admirable goal, although one he knows is impossible. At least from a 2013 perspective.


I sometimes wonder what criteria people use when they deem a book “good”? Ask a literature professor and you might get a lengthy lecture. An armchair critic might pontificate, but is the amateur analysis any less or more accurate or valuable than an “expert’s”?

Perhaps a good book is well written – certainly bad writing is rather obvious, but I admit I haven’t been able to distinguish what is proclaimed as brilliant prose from ordinary good writing and I do read quite a bit. Something I never learned and don’t seem to get even when patiently explained to me.

I suppose a good book might inspire or move or shock the reader. One measure for me is whether I’d want to read the book again. The more I like to reread, the better the book…that is, the better the book is for me. I’ll reread some fantasies and science fiction several times because they entertain me every time. So they’re “good” but wouldn’t make it to a freshman lit class. Informative nonfiction deserves the “good” tag, but I imagine that “good” means “I learned something” whereas a literature “good” might relate to composition, style or something else.

And what makes a good book great? More of the same? I haven’t yet figured out why many of the “great” classics I have in my library are considered great – Hemingway, Fitzgerald… mundane writing, shallow stories… but great? Regardless of how I see them, they are there for my children in the hope that they might be able to recognize why.

Is a great book memorable? I’d like to think so. If that is the case, then Frank Herbert’s Dune or James Loewen’s Lies My Teacher Told Me qualify for me. But what about the books I’ve read that are memorable for negative reasons? I saw “Life of Pi” in the theater this past week and it was close enough to the book I read a couple of years ago to bring back my irritation with Yann Martel’s story. Yes, that book irritated the hell out of me with its “Are You Kidding Me?” conclusion – which apparently still gnaws at me. I don’t know why. I thought it was a so-so book, but if I redefine those terms, then maybe it is “good” or even “great”. Food for thought.

Books of the Week

On current readings, I finished a carry over from last year – Piers Anthony’s On A Pale Horse and I started Nate Silver’s The Signal and the Noise. Anthony is one of the more imaginative fantasy writers and the premise of the Incarnations of Immortality series is engaging. I’m still not very fond of his style – comes off as smug to me – but I’ll try fit in the rest of the series as the year permits, for I found out a few years ago that he wrote an eighth (Under a Velvet Cloak, 2007) and I like to refresh memories of long ago read book series should another be written that I want to read. Silver’s book is far more readable than I expected. I’m about a quarter through it and enjoying it very much. Good sense of humor.

The Great Crash of 2012

Around Thanksgiving my barely three year old HP desktop computer had some strange symptoms…problems loading a couple of services. I use Microsoft’s Security Essentials antivirus and Malewarebyte’s Anti-Malware as well as Spybot Search & Destroy and even tried Windows 7’s system repair. But, it wasn’t a virus or malware and Windows found nothing wrong. The problem went away when I booted to a different profile, then switched to the normal one (one forum suggested trying a different profile to see if the primary had become corrupted). When it happened more frequently, I ran diagnostics, which also indicated no problems. Sometime in the second week of December, the PC started randomly rebooting. I ran a motherboard diagnostic and this time the drive failed a S.M.A.R.T. test. Uh oh.

Now, I had been backing up some files to our new net drive, but wireless problems, router replacement and time made it slow going. My mistake was not shutting it down and getting a new drive right then. We went away for a family outing on Dec. 16th and when we came back on the 17th, the drive was toast. I tried a couple of tricks, but it was clicking when I tried cloning and that is never a good sound. I opened the cover a saw two grooves on the top platter. Unrecoverable. Thousands of songs and ebooks gone. The lesson here is back up your data. A lesson I failed to heed once before. Twice bitten. I know better and yet…

Anyway, I set about rebuilding the OS over New Year’s weekend. I had my recovery disks (Vista) and Win 7 upgrade DVD. Note to folks attempting this: newer drives have something called “advanced format” – 4 kB sectors instead of the older 512 byte sectors – and neither flavor of Windows could configure on that hardware. Took me a few rounds (hours) of trying before I found about about the hardware change/problem and the recommended Intel driver that never worked, with several many more hours lost trying. My solution was to use an old 300 GB drive as the primary and the new 1 TB drive for data. More files were lost in that process due to a baffling installation quirk, but enough mourning for now.

Big Apple and the persistent evil grip of Steve Jobs

[If you just want the steps on how to restore and don’t want to read my delightfully entertaining editorializing, go here – it has a few more screenshots – otherwise, read on!]

Reinstalling apps went reasonably okay…re-downloading apps and tracking down serials, etc. Until I got to iTunes.

[Cue: dunt dunt duh ominous music]

That’s a nasty bit of substandard coding that I’ve ranted about many time but it’s a necessary evil because I’ve got a iPhone, iPad and my son’s iPod Touch bound to it. My 4th and 5th gen iPods never see iTunes. I use Winamp, but I can’t get away with that for the others.

I have around 600 ebooks and 200 songs on my iPad that I could have used to restart the iTunes library. Except… that’s not allowed. iTunes can’t transfer files off of a device. Sure there’s a “Transfer purchases” function, but that only copied the iStore apps and five or so ebooks that were free downloads but not DRM free (I don’t like not being able to share like a real book…don’t ask, don’t tell), so I was still stuck with a lot of stuff in jeopardy of vaporizing like the rest of my data. Syncing would wipe the device because it was sync’d “to a different library.”


Uh oh. Again. No syncing yet. I don’t jailbreak my devices – call it worry that I may not recover and end up with a brick – so the nose thumbing in my title isn’t that. What I needed was a way to get iTunes to not wipe my stuff.

But I wanted to grab everything off the devices and save it in a safe, non-iTunes-backup place. I found two programs that can read and transfer files from an iDevice and went with Wide Angle Software’s TouchCopy. It could see the books and podcasts that the other couldn’t. That’s the one I used to pull the books and music – and export playlists – off of the iPad so they could be re-introduced to the iTunes library. I should have mentioned earlier that one can backup a device in iTunes without syncing. That comes into play in the next step. But I had to do more research…surely somebody has come across this before.

Hacking iTunes

I found the answer here on Felipe Corsino’s blog. A couple more tools and I could get at the Persistent Library ID that iTunes uses to prevent a device from connecting to if it is the wrong library. Corsino explains it well, but in a nutshell:

  • backup your device, and find your info.plist file in the backup subdirectory
  • upload your info.plist file to here and their script app is supposed to be able to extract the ID

OR, as the magic space site didn’t work for me,

  • find the iTunesPrefs key using a text editor (info.plst is an XML file)
  • copy the stuff between the <data> tags
  • paste it in this base64 decoder which will output a DecodedBase64.bin file that you will save
  • use a hex editor to find the 8 bytes starting at offset 12 (0x0c); I used the free Hxd Hex Editor
  • reverse them (because Apple is backwards…um, they code their bytes backwards) to get your ID

Then use Corsino’s sweet little program iTunes DB Cloner to hack the iTunes library so it now thinks it is the old library and won’t want to wipe your iPad or whatever when you sync it. Of course, if the new library doesn’t have any of the data, music etc, you might lose the stuff off of your device anyway unless you can extract it and reload into your new iTunes.

Steve Jobs’s obsession with control is infuriating. But one can beat it while still playing in their possessive sandbox. I still had to rebuild my special DJing playlists in iTunes, but now I should be able to sync and not lose…much. All is not lost, though about 400 gigabytes was in my case. The good thing is that it’s a one time (multi-step) hack and I just need to grab those extra files/songs from my phone, Dylan’s iPod, etc. before syncing.

Heed the lesson…back up your data!


3 responses to “Thumbing my nose at Big Brother Apple

  1. Pingback: On weather, creating art, and other general thoughts | Random (or not) Musings

  2. Im gone to inform my little brother, that he should also pay a visit this webpage on regular basis to take updated from newest reports.

  3. Pingback: Dear Apple | Random (and not) Musings

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