Thursday, October 09, 2008

Apple iTunes Genius Network Timeout

I was unable to turn on the Genius feature of my new iTunes 8.0x. Every time I tried to turn on this feature, I was met with frustration as the transfer stopped around 80% of the way. A Network Tiomeout error was usually the report. Sometimes I would get the message that the servers are too busy. After digging through the many replies to support forums. I did as many of the fixes as I could... they seemed to work for others but not for me. Last night, I hit the jackpot! Here is what I did.

  • I ran the scripts to weed out dead links to songs. (found none)
  • I ran my iTunes Library.xml file through Validator to check for spurious UTF-8 characters (found none)
  • I rebuilt my library several times; as a whole and incrementally.
  • I retried at different times of the day to rule out network congestion in Cupertino.
  • I verified that my AirPort and iMac had no firewall settings to get in the way.
Strangely, I was able to take some tracks and use my MacBook to turn the Genius feature on there while at work. This was unsettling to me and I couldn't give up the fight. So, I took the principle of a few of these fixes and decided that just maybe there are some characters that the Genius servers do not like but are not being flagged by Validator.

Here is what I did....

I found my iTunes Music Library.xml file and opened it in TextWrangler. Remember that it passed when run through Validator. The file looked good in TextWrangler, too, but TextWrangler has a wonderful tool included - Zap Gremlins. This function scours your file looking for odd characters that do not belong there. Apparently, it is much more stringent than Validator. My XML file was roughly 15Megs in size, so it really bogged down my system once loaded. I chose to replace the gremlins with a unique character. I copied that character to my clipboard and let it find gremlins to zap. After a few minutes TextWrangler came back to tell me I had 80 gremlins to replace!

I had TextWrangler show me the list of gremlins by searching for that unique character. I was then able to see all the offending tracks. What I found is that each of those tracks had a strange apostrophe in it. The apostrophe in each of those tracks was sharply angled; much different than the apostrophe on the keyboard next to your Enter key / under the double quotes. (Yes I know technically it is a single-quote).

I opened iTunes again and did a search for that strange apostrophe to get a list of tracks to work with. I then did the low-tech process of manually changing the strange apostrophe with the apostrophe next to my Enter key. For good measure, I deleted the files "iTunes Library Extras.itdb" and "iTunes Library Genius.itdb" from my "Music/iTunes" directory. Then closed iTunes, opened it again, and started the Genius feature.

This time it worked!

Now, your mileage may vary. You may find a different gremlin. But after weeks of effort, I finally got Genius to stop acting so retarded.

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