Fixing iTunes Match on iPhone and iPad

A couple weeks ago, I noticed that iTunes Match wasn’t working properly on my phone. I could play music if I downloaded it, but I couldn’t get most of the songs to stream. It would immediately start going through the list of items pausing for less than half of a second on each one before moving on. Eventually it would hit a song it liked and it would wait long enough to stream the beginning and start playing. The only way I found to fix it was to turn off iTunes Match, delete all the music stored on my device, perform a hard reset, and then turn on iTunes Match again. I did this on two devices without restarting the phone and it did not help anything. Here are the steps in iOS 8.2:

  1. Open the Settings app.
  2. Navigate to Music.
  3. Scroll to the bottom of the list to iTunes Match.
  4. Tap the toggle switch to deactivate iTunes Match.
  5. Navigate back to Settings.
  6. Navigate to General > Usage > Manage Storage and wait for the list of apps to load.
  7. When it appears in the list, tap Music.
  8. Tap Edit and red circles will appear next to the items.
  9. Tap the red circle next to All Music and tap Delete.
  10. Wait for the music to be deleted from your device.
  11. Perform a hard reset by holding the home button and the lock button down simultaneously for about 5 seconds until the screen turns black and the goes to the Apple logo screen.
  12. If the device turns off at this point, hold down the lock button to turn the device back on.
  13. After the device finishes loading, unlock the device and navigate to the Home screen.
  14. Open the Settings app.
  15. Navigate to Music.
  16. Scroll to the bottom of the list to iTunes Match.
  17. Tap the toggle switch to activate iTunes Match.
  18. Press the Home button.
  19. Open the Music app.
  20. Wait for iTunes Match to resynchronize your music.
  21. Play some songs to make sure that it worked.

I hope this helps you if you are having issues with iTunes Match on your iOS device. I will report back here if I find that it’s stopped working again.

List the sys_id of all Group Records in ServiceNow

It is difficult to get a report with sys_id listed in ServiceNow. I had an issue where some of our Group records between instances had differing sys_ids. To audit the records between instances, I used the following background script to quickly get a list of Groups with Group Name, sys_id, and whether or not the group was Active. I formatted the output as a CSV file so Excel can open it.

You can use this same technique to get the sys_id of any record type in ServiceNow.

var group_gr = new GlideRecord("sys_user_group");
var csvString = '"Name","sys_id","Active"\n';
group_gr.query();
while (group_gr.next()) {
    csvString += '"' + group_gr.name + '","' + group_gr.sys_id + '","' + group_gr.active + '"\n';
}
gs.log(csvString);

CrashPlan Follow-up Review

I have been using the CrashPlan family plan now for a few months and all I can say is that I couldn’t be happier. My review might not be taken as objective anymore, though, since I was one of their 50 winners in a Twitter contest to get 25 months of free service. I would have gladly continued to pay for the service each month (I was paying month-to-month), but now that it’s free for me and up to 10 of my household’s computers until September 2014 I am ecstatic!

Thank you CrashPlan! I would recommend the service to anyone who is looking to back up their personal computers reliably and cost-effectively. I don’t have that nagging feeling in the back of my mind that I could lose all of my photos at any moment.

Microsoft SQL Server Installation Issue Fix

I was installing Microsoft SQL Server 2012 on a development server and kept getting an annoying error message:

Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Install Error Message

The following error has occurred:

An error occurred during the installation of assembly ‘Microsoft.VC80.MFC,version=”8.0.50727.4053″,publicKeyToken=”1fc8b3b9a1e18e3b”,processorArchitecture=”x86″,type=”win32″‘. Please refer to Help and Support for more information. HRESULT: 0x800736CC.

For help, click: http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink?LinkID=20476&ProdName=Microsoft%20SQL%20Server&EvtSrc=setup.rll&EvtID=50000&ProdVer=11.0.2100.60&EvtType=0xDF039760%25401201%25401

KB Article 2688946 describes a very similar issue. I eventually found a fix in the form of Cumulative Update 2 (KB2703275) Here is what you need to do to fix it:

  1. Completely close the SQL 2012 installer (it might just crash and close itself).
  2. Use Control Panel to uninstall Microsoft Visual C++ 2010 x64 Redistributable and Microsoft Visual C++ 2010 x86 Redistributable.
  3. Download Cumulative Update 2 from http://support.microsoft.com/hotfix/KBHotfix.aspx?kbnum=2703275&kbln=en-us (449398_intl_x64_zip.exe)
  4. Create C:\Updates
  5. Extract 449398_intl_x64_zip.exe to C:\Updates to get SQLServer2012-KB2703275-x64.exe
  6. Run the Installer again from the command line with the following (all on one line):
    setup.exe /Action=Install /UpdateEnabled=True /UpdateSource="C:\Updates"
  7. Install as usual and the issue goes away.

Let me know if this worked for you by leaving a comment. I’m curious to know how widespread this issue is.

CrashPlan Free Trial: Day 1

Yesterday I was listening to Steve Gibson and Leo Laporte on Security Now talking about cloud storage solutions. Ever since a friend of mine lost all the pictures from the first year of his daughter’s life due to hard disk failure, I have wanted to set up my own backup server in my home. Carbonite always seemed like the best option because they advertise all over the place, but they are kind of expensive. Also, I don’t use computers like most people, so a plan that only allows backups of a single computer just won’t work for me.

On the show, they talked a little bit about CrashPlan and it sounded too good to be true. They offer a cloud storage solution that allows backups from up to 10 computers for just a little over double what they charge for 1 computer, and it’s unlimited storage and bandwidth. It turns out that Carbonite, Mozy, and many others throttle downloads from their servers if you transfer too much data in a given period of time. To top it all off, CrashPlan costs less than everyone else for unlimited storage and they offer a 30-day trial that doesn’t require a credit card (read that as: no automatic billing if you let it expire).

I am uploading a total of about 400 GB and so far today I’ve uploaded 26 GB. It should only take about 10 days at this rate, assuming my ISP doesn’t start throttling my upload bandwidth sometime along the way.

CrashPlan offers some other interesting features for free like backing up to another hard disk locally or having a friend allocate space on their computer for you to backup files to. I probably won’t use the friend backup feature, but it could be a good solution if you have friends or family members that want to participate. They also never delete anything, including multiple versions of each file. No more worrying about accidentally deleting a file or hitting Ctrl-A, Delete, Ctrl-S on your 100-page research paper.

Steve Gibson was concerned about some of the security implications, since that is the primary subject of the show, but I am comfortable with the security that they offer. Next will be to find out how fast they let me download and recover my data once it’s all uploaded. My hope is that this will let me sleep a little better at night.

Drupal Poised to Move into the Enterprise

Last night I was about to go to sleep when I saw a tweet from Dries Buytaert, creator and benevolent dictator of Drupal, saying that he was about five minutes from delivering his State of Drupal Keynote. I really wanted to see it, so I stayed up for another hour to participate with the Londoners.

Most of the keynote revolved around the results of a survey of Drupal users and developers. Drupal’s core developers tend to follow the priorities of the community. Listed among the top opportunities for the future of Drupal was replacing legacy applications in the Enterprise. According to Dries, many large organizations grew their intranet and web presence organically and they now find themselves with multiple incompatible and expensive systems that support the main website, the CFO blog, the internal wiki, maybe a few microsites for special events, and let’s not forget SharePoint. I agree with Dries that this situation presents an excellent opportunity for companies to standardize on a single platform—Drupal—that can replace all of them. Standardizing on a single platform would make it easier and cheaper to maintain these sites.

I have been a Drupal user since 2003. I am really impressed with Drupal 7 and have been able to use it for many projects. Drupal is well-documented and extremely flexible. It is an excellent platform for small to medium-sized websites. It’s flexibility means it can do almost anything. It is extensible through plugins and the thriving developer community means that there is a plugin already available that allows Drupal to be used for almost anything.

I am looking forward to seeing where Drupal 8 takes us, but Drupal 7 is an amazing thing already. The user-centric development model Dries has embraced will continue to propel Drupal to ever-higher levels of notoriety and adoption in the Enterprise.

The Pomodoro Technique

On Sunday I discovered the Pomodoro Technique to get more done in less time. The concept is simple: working without interruptions is more effective than multitasking. The implementation is not always as easy as understanding the concept. The Pomodoro Technique is choosing a task and working for 25 minutes on it, taking a short break, and then choosing another task and working for 25 minutes on it, followed by another short break. Each block of uninterrupted concentration and work is called a pomodoro. If you let the pomodoro get interrupted or you interrupt the pomodoro yourself, then it doesn’t count and you have to start the pomodoro over again after the interruption is over. After four consecutive pomodoros, a longer break helps to keep from getting burned out.

I used the Pomodoro Technique on Sunday night to finish up a paper that I did not have very much desire to complete. You don’t need a computer to implement the Pomodoro Technique. Its creator started with a kitchen timer shaped like a tomato—that’s where the name of the technique comes from. I found a great Mac application called Pomodoro Desktop that is basically a timer that sits in the menu bar and makes a ticking sound each second similar to a real kitchen timer. The benefit of the ticking sound is that it reminds you that you should be focusing on the task at hand. The technique worked wonders for me. I was able to easily force myself to continue working rather than giving in to the compulsion to check email or my Twitter feed when I got bored. Since the timer is always visible, I could glance up at the timer to see how many minutes I had left. The first 5 minutes are pretty easy. The next 5 minutes are kind of difficult if the task is boring, because it starts to feel like a long time is left on the clock. After the first ten minutes, there are only 15 minutes left, which always seems to go by too fast. By the time I got to the end of a pomodoro, I wanted to keep working—that is the beauty of it. If you stop working while you feel like you want to work, then you will be compelled to start the next pomodoro as soon as the break timer finishes. This keeps you from getting burned out.

Pomodoro Desktop can be set up to execute scripts when a new pomodoro is started or stopped. I use this functionality to automatically set my Adium chat status message to away when a pomodoro starts and back to available when it ends. This alerts people that I am in the middle of a pomodoro and that I will get back to them later. The status message tells what time I will be finished with the pomodoro I am working on. There are more advanced techniques to tracking pomodoros and how many distractions threaten to interrupt the concentration and focus of the pomodoro, but this is enough information to get started.

Pomodoro can be useful in teams as well. Sometimes it is difficult to get a small group of peers to all focus on a task at the same time. If everyone is on board with the Pomodoro Technique, then all it takes is an announcement and agreement of the group and a pomodoro can begin, which will help everyone focus on the task for 25 minutes. Everyone knows when to work and when to take a break. No one has to feel like the one who wants to take away the fun of goofing off. No one needs to feel guilty for wanting to take a break. When the pomodoro is over, then everyone can take a break. Then the break time is over, another pomodoro is started and everyone focuses at the same time again.

One instruction in the free ebook is not to use the Pomodoro Technique to govern your free time. Work time is the time for pomodoros, but free time should be free. Keeping these aspects of life separate is becoming increasingly difficult, but the Pomodoro Technique makes it a little bit easier. Most of the time that I work at home in the evening, it is because I had too many interruptions at work to get some difficult or complex task finished. I bring the work home because it is quiet and free from the interruptions of the office. Using the Pomodoro Technique helps you get more work done at work and allows you to spend time at home relaxing with family and friends.

750 Words Per Day

I started a new effort today to write three pages worth of writing every day as an exercise to jump-start my brain in the morning and get my ideas out of my head. I have a lot of ideas that I am not ready to express to anyone, so they usually remain unexpressed. Writing is something I am expected to do every day, but not usually in a very creative capacity. 750 Words is a relatively new project that promotes daily free-writing. It can be difficult to establish a new habit when so many other things demand attention and time. 750 Words turns daily writing into a game by awarding points for each completed day. They use a bowling-like scoring system that adds consecutive days’ points together, which further encourages a daily writing routine. I set it up to send me daily reminder emails, too. After each day it analyzes your writing session providing statistics about the speed of the writing and the topics discussed for that day.

I am trying to get coworkers and friends to join me and write together. I think this is something I can keep doing for a long time. Now that LOST is over, I can finally use the extra few hours I used to spend watching LOST, thinking about it, and discussing it with other people.

Using Social Media Boosts Productivity

When I’ve got a particularly difficult problem and I’m trying to figure out my options or puzzling over which option is the best, the answer rarely comes while I’m straining to get it right. The answers come through diversions or performing menial tasks. Sometimes the best way to figure things out is by communicating with someone else about it; that’s where using social media comes in.

My job is inherently creative. While most of the people in my department have prescribed tasks that they do over and over again using the same prescribed tools, I am often asked to do things that no one has ever done at our company before. This kind of work requires access to as many research tools as possible. In the February 2002 issue of Wired, Brendan I. Koerner wrote an article called How Twitter and Facebook Make Us More Productive. While I agree that Facebook is probably not very productive, I argue that Twitter is one of the best resources I have for innovative ideas. I have a network of creative contacts who will respond within minutes to requests for ideas. Some workers might waste time, but creative, passionate workers will use these tools to get their job done.

Twitter is also an outlet. Sometimes I just want to let someone know what I’m thinking, feeling, or doing. Instead of bothering my coworkers while they are working away, Twitter is an easy way to take a quick step back and summarize what I’m currently doing. If I’m not getting much done, I don’t have much to say. One reward for hard work is being able to post something meaningful to Twitter. It might seem silly, but it is true for me.

Knowledge workers should be trusted to get the job done. Don’t worry if they seem like they’re spending a lot of time away from what is strictly called work. Typing faster doesn’t make me more productive. Having more ideas makes me more productive, and using social media helps spark my creativity.

Quick File Sharing for Linux and Mac OS X

This is a great little trick to quickly make a directory of files accessible to anyone. You can do it in any OS that has Python installed, which most Linux distros and Mac OS X do. Windows does not have python installed by default, but the same thing should work from there if python is installed.

First, open the terminal and navigate to the directory you want to share. While in that directory type the following command:

python -c "import SimpleHTTPServer;SimpleHTTPServer.test()"

This will start a web server on port 8000. This is a very simple and quick way to share a file over the network. Just send a link to the IP address of the machine.

If you are behind a NAT router or firewall, port 8000 needs to be forwarded or opened, but if you are on the same network all you need to do is send them a link to http://<your_ip_address>:8000 and they can easily browse the directory you ran the command from and download any file there. When you’re finished, go back to the terminal and use Ctrl+C to end the process.