Tag Archives: technology

Spending Money On A Silly Idea

One of the more dangerous things in this world is a man with extra time and extra money.  A danger to himself and to the world at large.  If it’s not an actual, you know, danger, then it’s just stupidity – a different kind of danger.  Semantics aside, I have some extra time and some extra money and wanted to get an answer on something.  With the entire knowledge and experience of the Internet failing me, or at least failing to convince me, I set out to get my own answer.  Am I going to change the world with my soon-to-be-found knowledge?  Fuck, no.  It’s so trivial, it hardly even matters to anyone.

To even appreciate what I am seeking, you have to be pretty involved in my hobby of CD collecting.  If you’re not, then the rest of this post won’t even really interest you.  Further, you have to be fairly experienced with technology and computers, otherwise, this won’t really make much sense.  So, warnings provided, now for the explanation.

In the early days of CD manufacturing, some CDs were pressed with “pre-emphasis”, which is a special equalization.  CD players as part of their manufacturing specification had to be able to detect pre-emphasis and apply a reverse equalization (de-emphasis) when playing back these early CDs.  Sounds pretty simple, right?  Over time (actually very quickly), pre-emphasis use was discontinued, so all CDs today don’t have pre-emphasis anymore.  That’s fine for the general public, but somewhat of a nuisance for early CD collectors like myself.

Now that you understand the situation, here is the problem in a nutshell: CD players – and especially computer CD-ROMs – do not have the capability to detect pre-emphasis anymore.  So if you play back an early CD, you do not get the corrective equalization applied to the music, which makes it sound thin and harsh.  This also applies to CDs that you rip on your computer.  There are software plug-ins that can apply de-emphasis to the files after they have been ripped, so the problem can be somewhat mitigated.  But aside from using your ears, because the CD-ROM cannot detect the pre-emphasis, you can’t know for sure if the CD you ripped has pre-emphasis.  Again, not a problem for anyone but early CD collectors.

And so what I am looking to know is:  I want to be able to detect pre-emphasis on CDs in my computer.  Thus, my project.

I’ve discussed the CD history, now for the computer history.  Early computer CD-ROM were literally mini-cd-players.  They had a headphone jack and a volume control and some even had a play button in addition to the eject button.  Additionally, on the back of the drive, there was a jack to run the audio from the CD drive to the computer’s sound card.  These old drives played audio CDs in analog.  They had build in DACs (digital-to-analog converters), but you can be pretty certain they were not of the quality found in home stereo CD players.  Still, because they were doing the digital conversion, they also had to support handling pre-emphasis.

As technology moved on, pre-emphasis was no longer a concern and also, Windows began reading the audio from CDs digitally.  So drive makers dropped the headphone jack, dropped the DACs and dropped analog output completely.  It made the devices cheaper and audio could be read at the drive’s full speed instead of the 1X speed of analog.  Technologically, a great step forward.  But in the process of simplifying the device, they removed the capability to read pre-emphasis at all – it wasn’t needed.

But now, I want to get an old CD-ROM that has a DAC and analog output so I can hopefully detect pre-emphasis when ripping a CD.  The problem is that all those old drives use the IDE interface, which is long, long obsolete.  Computers now use the SATA interface.  But that’s only a stumbling block because of course someone has made an IDE-SATA interface converter.  So, technically, everything is still possible.  I don’t have to go to the extreme of building an old Pentium computer from parts salvaged from the 90s, thank god.

Naturally, EBay is the order of the day.  Because this project is only for curiosity, I’m buying stuff as cheap as possible.  For $16, I have a 19-yr old CD-ROM and an interface kit coming by next week.  Then it will be a challenge to see if I can get my computer to see the new (old) drive, then it will be a challenge to see if the ripping software will talk to the new (old) drive, and if it does, will the drive report the pre-emphasis information to the software.

So, there’s still some unknowns.  For the $16 I’ve spent, I’ve purchased a lottery ticket for either frustration or a jackpot of, “oh, neat.”  What will I do with this incredible information?  Well, obviously, I’ll share it whenever I can.  It will be a good data point for my posts on Relative Waves and I’m sure some other collectors would like to know which CDs have pre-emphasis.

More Words, Now With More Security

I got my lock!  If you don’t see it, you need to go to https://anachostic.700cb.net.

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Thanks to the regular march forward of technology, I can now get a free SSL certificate for my websites.  The process isn’t exactly simple, and it’s not convenient, but the results are effective.

The process is more geared towards Linux servers, but with a few additional steps you can create a certificate for Windows servers.  I’m sure I’ll figure out a way to simplify/automate the process and make it easier over time.  The lack of convenience is that the certificate expires every three months instead of every two years.  That’s a fairly significant investment of effort to keep this going.

But, I am a believer in security and privacy, so you can now rest easy knowing that the pages you’re requesting here are not being snooped on by anyone else.

Leaving Flickr

Now that my blogs are on my own server, I’m going to have to content myself with much lower traffic.  That’s not really too much of a concern of mine.  But at the same time, there are some things that I do want to share, and I would hope they get some exposure.

I’m not a self-promoter.  I prefer to be discovered naturally, without any artificial boosts or bumps.  I guess it would help with credibility, like "oh, he’s only famous because he spammed Reddit every day for a year with links to dumb posts."  That’s like the opposite of what I want.  But really, I don’t want fame.  I just want to be helpful.

And on that topic, I have a few albums on Flickr that I consider helpful.  Some, based on views, might actually be helpful.  And I fear, when I move them here to this network, they won’t be discovered as easily or at all.  But, looking at it from another perspective, I am moving them here in case Flickr goes away completely, so there’s that threat as well.

Anyway, in the coming days, there’s going to be a new menu item for articles.  These are things that don’t really have the same meaning as blog posts, to be chronologically placed.  Maybe they’re like "sticky posts".  But these pages will have the content that was previously hosted on Flickr.  Specifically, some repair articles for keyboards I’ve owned.  The article format will be much better suited for the purpose than a photo album.

I’m going to have to figure out exactly how I will manage my CD Artwork collection as a series of pages.  I’ve looked for other places to host them and for one reason or another, it’s just never worked out.  And you know what they say, if you don’t like it, you’re free to do it yourself.  And I guess that’s the whole point of bringing my blog network in-house.

Becoming A Network Executive

It sounds so important.  I’m running a “network”.  A network of blogs, that is.  That’s what WordPress calls it, anyway.  I have at this point, created the blog network on my web server and created each of the five individual blogs.  How did I end up with so many?  Oh, well, one is just the landing page, so I actually only have four blogs.  Still, it’s a network.  My blogus.

My installation wasn’t a success right off the bat.  In fact, it was very painful and has taken one of my blogs offline until the new network starts up.  Not really a big deal; it’s not like I’m Facebuuk.  But there was a lot of outdated software that needed to be updated and along the way it was just decided to remove it all and start over.  Then it was a matter of permissions, not that I should be complaining since my server hasn’t been hacked in the many years it’s been up and running.  Now it’s just a matter of content.

Getting the posts onto the new server is actually a very easy task.  You can export from one site and import to the other.  But then, all of the images of those posts still point back to the original places, in my case, wordpress.com.  So I will need to edit each post that contains pictures and switch out the image with a fresh local copy, which will upload to the new server.  It’s not such a bad thing, because a lot of my early posts didn’t give consideration to the way Live Writer handled images.  By default, it will create a link to the full-size version, so your media library gets a full-size image and a resized image to display in the post.  If you don’t need that, it’s just a waste of space and really clutters up your media library.  So I’ll be able to address that in my post revisions.

I’m going to lose a couple of things by moving to my own server.  On the plus side, I’ll lose advertisements, since I’ll be using my own server.  On the negative side, I’ll lose stats, which are really interesting if you have a popular blog, but are rather depressing if you don’t.  For better or worse, I fit in the latter camp, so my loss isn’t too bad.

You know, it seems like a holiday ritual for me to do some sort of revision to my website(s).  Maybe it’s the domain renewal that reminds me to look at what I have.  Maybe it’s the promise of a new year.  Maybe it’s the extra free time with the holidays.  Of course, this year I am on my own and just now I’m realizing, this website revamping is something I hadn’t done in many years.  Huh.

2020 – Taking Care Of Myself

Technologically-speaking, that is.

A couple days ago, I got an email from the new owners of Flickr.  They were asking for money because they are losing money, despite their best attempts at making Flickr self-sufficient.  I use Flickr to host images for a few different purposes and over the years I’ve had a paid account with them on and off.  Currently, I’m off because I don’t need that much.  Their email sent me into an extended evaluation of self-sufficiency.  It’s pretty well-known anymore that if you want something on the Internet, you’re going to have to pay for it.  If you’re not paying for it, you really are paying for it in ways you may not be taking seriously. 

Having been on the Internet for a very long time, I’ve seen plenty of websites come and go.  Some of the changes have impacted me directly and others haven’t.  Some websites I’ve been forced off of (mostly Microsoft stuff), and some I’ve left voluntarily.  But in this new era of the Internet, I’m going to start viewing anything I’m getting for free as a potential risk.  You have to consider that at any time, it could be taken away from you.

So my first train of thought was, I’ll get a paid account at Flickr.  But then I thought, I am already paying for a web/email server already, why don’t I just use that?  Why don’t I use that?  Well, the primary reason is that images take up a lot of space and my server doesn’t have a lot of space to spare.  Just to verify, my server has a 60GB hard drive in it and I have 36GB free.  I’m so stingy, crying poor with bread in each hand.  But hey, 30GB can go FAST if you don’t watch out.  And my mentality at the time was to put the burden on other services where I could as long as it didn’t cost me.

So, I did some quick research to see if I could add more space to my server for the same or less than paying for an account at Flickr.  Short answer: no.  I could move up to a 60GB drive for about $120 extra a year.  That’s like 2 Flickr accounts.  So Flickr is still the better choice.  However, after reading some commentary online, I started to think, will it matter?  If Flickr is in financial trouble now and has been in trouble for a very long time, maybe it’s just time to call it a day.

Ok, so let’s have a look at exactly how much space I’m using here.  I downloaded all my Flickr images for my blog and that’s 20mb.  I looked at the images in my media section for this blog and it’s about 30mb.  I have less than 100mb of images and I’m worrying about blowing 30GB of space?  I’m so pessimistic.

Knowing I have so little media on my blogs, I could just host it with WordPress.  WordPress offers 3GB of media hosting per account and I wouldn’t be even close to touching that on either blog, so that’s a viable option… except, WordPress is a free site.  That’s what I’m trying to get away from.  Granted, I’ve never heard that they have ever been financially strapped, so bravo for them.  Still, the Internet is evolving, what is true today may not mean anything in a couple of months.

So again, that points me in the same direction I was looking at earlier.  Hosting the blogs, with all their respective images on my own server.  They will certainly fit in the 30GB of space I have available.  The one thing I will lose is the power of the WordPress domain name and the followers/community that goes along with it.  The other thing I’m going to lose is all of my content when I die.  When I die, my web server isn’t going to get paid for anymore, so it will all go goodbye.  It’s actually kind of comforting in some ways, that whole “right to be forgotten” stuff that’s big in the EU right now.

So that’s the plan for 2020, moving on.

FML

Fuck MyLife.

If you’ve ever taken a moment to search for your name on the Internet, then you know what I’m talking about.  There are plenty of websites that collect public data about people and aggregate it all together, then conveniently make it available to anyone that wants to search for your name.  MyLife is one of them.

A couple of days ago, I figured I would try and take control of my public information in 2020.  The first step I figured would be locking down these public profiles of me.  Should be easy, right?  Create an account, verify your identity, then set the account to private.  That’s how I thought it should work, anyway.

So the first site I went to was MyLife.  I searched myself, and on my profile page, I click the link that said something like “this is me”.  It brought me to the fake “searching for data” page, which I cancelled out of.  On a form that was displayed next, I provided my email address (as is my policy, a unique email address just for them) and clicked “Show background report”, which is a strange way of saying “create account”.

Immediately, at my “dashboard” (please note I never verified any of my info.  you can seemingly create an account for any name you want), I was shown a popup to enable or disable sections of my profile, with a button to “save changes”.  After clicking the button, I was taken to a screen showing different subscription options.  Yeah, no thanks, a free account is all I need.  But no, a free account is not what you need at all.  The “save changes” button does nothing.  Nothing unless you have a paid account, that is.  Fucking seriously?  So fine, these motherfuckers won’t let you lock down your account unless you pay them.  Fine.  You’re assholes, goddamn assholes.  But you are not getting my money.

But, ohhhhh, they have my email address now.  And now the emails have started.  Day 1: the welcome email, which reminds me if I upgrade to Premium, I can lock sections of my profile.  And in big type it says “Keep Your Info Private”.  Assholes.  Day 2: an email trying to warn me about how bad people are and how I need to be able to find out everything I can on everyone otherwise I or my family might get hurt.  Assholes.  Day 3: an email warning me that my online reputation affects my life.  Everyone is going to see my information online (after encouraging me to find everyone I know in the previous email).  ASSHOLES!  (post-publish update: 2 more emails came in on Day 3, one an ad for Experian Boost and another reminding me that there are other sites exposing my info.  I can’t stop them, but I can see who they are – for $$, of course.)

I have enough experience in web site development to have conversed with people who would create a website like MyLife.  They are scum.  There is absolutely nothing positive about the “service” they are offering.  It’s simple blackmail.  Just like those websites that supposedly list “cheaters” and make you pay to have your name taken off. 

Now, fortunately, my “reputation” on MyLife is just fine, but I know how they work.  If you have any entries on a municipalities Clerk Of Court website, you get whacked.  And it’s all the same.  Traffic ticket? Same as a DUI.  Do you want to know the difference?  Well, you’ll have to pay MyLife to see the details.  Unless you’re smart and go to the county Clerk of Court website and do the search yourself, then it’s free.

So MyLife ruins lives by making minor infractions seems like major red flags, then they won’t explain whether it’s a real problem unless you pay them.  And I guess that alone wasn’t scaring people enough, so what they started doing was listing your relatives in your profile and putting warnings if any of them had issues.  And I guess that wasn’t enough either, so they started listing neighbors in there and flagging them, too.

And while I’m definitely of the mindset that you will be known by the company you keep, this is completely ridiculous.  And it’s all in the goal of getting you into a subscription so you can hide that damaging information.  Fucking ASSHOLES.

Sleep On

Last night I was lying in bed having a hard time sleeping.  Sleep is something that has been a little difficult for me lately.  For a while, it was a 2-3 hour event each night.  Then I started taking melatonin and things started getting better, except on weekends, I could sleep 14 or more hours.  So, I don’t know if that’s progress or not.  There’s two issues with my sleep – getting to sleep and staying asleep.  Admittedly, last night was pretty good on the second part, despite being tough on the first.  But anyway, while I was working on making the first part happen, my brain was busy doing dumb things.

I have a sound machine, a LectroFan, which I’ve mentioned here before.  It’s an excellent device that doesn’t suffer from the shortcomings of a lot of other sound machines, which is sampled sound looping awareness.  The LectroFan model I use now is the latest model, which added a couple of new sounds: ocean.  That is the specific reason I bought it and to my disappointment, the sounds were a major letdown.  Essentially, they were a white noise sound fading in and out.  That’s not what surf sounds like at all.

So my brain was trying to figure out how to make a surf sound out of white noise.  Obviously, there’s a lot of different frequencies to a wave crash.  There’s low end rumble and crash, there’s high end hiss, and there’s everything in between.  I was visualizing splitting a sound sample into four (or maybe more) frequency bands and making note of the amplitude level of each band.  You could see when the low frequencies moved in and out, when the high end would come in, and so on.  Then once you had these patterns, you could layer multiple white noise samples over each other, fading between the multiple layers to create a surf sound.

I ended up falling asleep to one of my favorite fan sounds on the LectroFan – a big, low, bassy humming fan.  But while I was actively listening to it, I was also thinking of what would really work for me.  It’s kind of odd and pretty personal, so I can’t imagine it would be a universal sound for a sleep machine.  I would like the sound of traffic on a highway, possibly with or without the sound of an air conditioner.

It’s a weird request.  Its origin comes from motels in my childhood vacation memories.  Those huge AC units that would fill the lower part of the front window and pretty much vibrate the entire room.  And the never-ending sound of traffic on the nearby highway, droning on all night.  I can’t fully explain how the sound of traffic is calming to me.  I’ve thought about it many times over my life and the only thing that really captures my thoughts on it – even though it sounds over-romanticized – is that it’s comforting to me to know the world hasn’t stopped; life is still going on.  Like sometimes, I’ll see an airplane and I’ll think about all the people in that plane – where are they going?  Is it an exciting trip?  Are they glad to be going home?  Going away?  Is it work?  Exciting meeting?  Dreaded meeting?  Boring conference?  So many people in one container, all with different destinations and expectations.  So yeah, I guess the sound of airplanes could also be calming for me.

That would be a weird sleep machine, indeed.

Revelations

It was almost 3 years ago that I really started to rebuild my interest in having a home stereo again.  I had purchased a cheap stereo from a thrift store.  That stereo only had a cassette player.  Then, I followed that purchase up with a $10 CD player from another thrift shop.  At that point, I should have been done, and should have been happy to spend so little money on a stereo.  The alternative I had planned was a new system – amp/CD/speakers – on the order of $1200 or so.  My cheap CD player, paired up with the powered studio monitors I’d owned for many years, was a really good sounding little system.  At least that’s what I thought.

In the time since, I have bought other cheap CD players at thrift stores.  The reason for this was for experience.  One experience was the restoration and repair of the devices.  Of my purchases, one repair was successful, one wasn’t, and the latest one didn’t need any work at all.  The other experience was more audiophilic.  People that review stereo equipment have the ability to grade and rank such equipment and that’s really something the average person can’t really do.  No one goes out and buys five different CD players at $300-$500 just to compare how they sound.  But if the players are $10 each, well, that reviewing experience becomes just a fun little hobby.

The first player in my collection is an Onkyo DX-701.  It was made in 1992.  Being the first in my collection, it was my unofficial standard.  When I first set it up, I was thrilled with it.  It did exactly what it was supposed to do: play CDs.  For $10, it was all I needed.

The next player I got was a Scott DA980, in April 2019.  It cost all of $7.  There’s not a lot of information out there about this player, but its manufacture date is June, 1989.  It appears to be a Yamaha-manufactured device rebranded by Scott.  Unfortunately, it needed some work and I got my first experience repairing a CD player.  Comparing it to the Onkyo, I really liked how smooth and silent the loading tray was.  But what I should have really focused on was whether it sounded better.  To be honest, I couldn’t tell.  And that really disappointed me.  I thought I would be able to notice some difference, but I didn’t.  So at that point, I assumed that “digital is digital” and all decent CD players sound the same.  So then, I wouldn’t really need to focus on sound quality, but more on features.

Then, this month, I found yet another cheap CD player.  It was a Technics SL-P220.  It was marked at $16 and I happened to buy it on a 50% off day, so it cost me $8.  My luck in CD player purchases is remarkably consistent.  This player didn’t need any repair, just some cleaning.  Well, some of the cleaning was technically repair because the control buttons were intermittent.  I am a fan of the Technics brand.  It was the brand of the stereo system in my youth.  This player came out just about the time CDs were hitting the mainstream.  Just about the time I experienced my first CD at my friend’s house.  This is the oldest of the three players (June, 1987) and being that old, it would be expected to have the least refined technology for decoding digital audio.

When I did my first test play with the Technics, it was kind of a surreal experience.  It sounded different.  Way, way different, in a good way.  I put identical CDs in the Technics and the Onkyo and played them together, then switched back and forth to determine the difference.

And here’s where the difficulty begins.  When you read stereo reviews, you will usually find yourself rolling your eyeballs at the descriptions the reviewers use.  In fact, you will probably internally smirk at anyone that tries to describe the qualities of sound.  It’s just something that can’t really be done.  In my case, the first thing I thought of comparing the two is that the Technics was “brighter.”  And that’s a fair description.  Most people can determine bright sound vs dull or flat sound.  This is probably also what experts mean when they say “digital-sounding”.  But who knows?  What does digital sound like?

So, I had a word that I could use to describe how the Technics sounded better to me (that’s important).  But as I listened to it more, there were more differences and those were more painful to describe because it made me sound like a pompous high-end stereo reviewer.  I’ll not get into those descriptions and just say it sounded much, much better to me than the Onkyo.  As I always do when I get a new piece of equipment, I search for anyone talking about it.  And I found only two mentions of the SL-P220, one saying it was great and another saying they replaced it with something that was substantially “better”.

Here’s the thing for me.  This latest player has changed my interest in listening to music.  I’m now excited to hear music from it.  It has the same magic as when I first heard the albums decades ago.  This is something the other two players didn’t do for me.  It’s revelatory.  I’ve read over and over that you have no idea what you’re missing until you hear the music you love on a good system.  But… this is an early player and even at that, isn’t a top-end model, just standard-grade.  It’s a $300 player back in the day which was average.  And, considering what I hear and what experts say, this is an example of poor early-era digital reproduction – tinny, thin, bright, “not analog sounding”, blah blah blah.

So fucking what!  The Technics sounds incredible to me and when I try listening to the Onkyo afterwards, it sounds dull and lifeless.  So if I like the sound of bright digital, why should I be ashamed of it?  So yes, I have a new favorite CD player and it’s my new benchmark.  It’s not going to stop me from buying more cheapo players and comparing them.  Maybe I’ll find something even better.

The Second System

Last month, I upgraded my primary computer and one thing that sort of disappointed me about that event was that the old computer was still quite serviceable.  Aside from the need to support larger hard drives, it was perfectly fine.  After I finished the new built, I boxed up the old parts and left them stored for some unknown future day.

While I am still in my personal rebuilding phase, I’m playing around with a lot of ideas.  Most of those ideas are things from my past.  One specific one is music – playing, recording, etc.  So as I mulled this over, I considered the setup plan.  One thing I wanted was to not use my primary computer for the audio recording, as I had always done in the past.  While all computers are powerful enough to multitask like that now, I just didn’t want the clutter.  And that’s when I remembered I had a whole other quite serviceable computer sitting in a box.  All it needed was a new case.  That makes the idea much more reasonable from a cost perspective.

I got to work shopping for a new computer case, which was easy and not easy at the same time.  I wanted a desktop case (horizontal orientation), but it seems they just don’t make those anymore.  Too old fashioned, I guess.  So I shopped for the smallest tower case I could find.  And since this was a secondary system that would be limited in purpose, I bought the cheapest thing available.  And I bought a cheap power supply to install in it, too.  Maybe a total spend of $60.  Everything else I already had ready to go – monitor, cables, drives, RAM.

The case arrived the other day and I wanted to get a jump on things by installing the motherboard in right away.  Upon opening the box, I saw that all the front panels for the drive bays had popped off.  Then I noted the front panel was also popped off.  This gave me a bad feeling.  After extracting the case from the packing material, I was left with a collection of plastic tabs all over the table.  It appears the box was dropped or mangled in some way to basically shear the front panel straight off.  Every plastic tab that held the front panel to the case was broken off.  Not a single one was spared.

I’m not going to go through a bunch of RMA bullshit for a $30 case, but I’m also not going to just pitch it or give up on it.  I went to the garage and got my big box of miscellaneous screws and permanently attached the plastic panel back to the case with sheet metal screws.  That’ll show ‘em.  And without further incident, I installed the motherboard, video card, and hard drives in the case.  Now I just had to await the arrival of the power supply, which would come the next day.

This computer would be one of those unheard of systems that runs off-network.  No updates ever; first install-last install.  File transfer and backup would be via USB drives to my primary computer.  Ah, the good old days.  Time will tell if Windows 10 can even survive in this environment.  If not, well I suppose I could drop back to Windows 7.  Windows 7 is near end-of-life with security updates being phased out in January 2020, but on an unnetworked computer, what’s security?

Next up, software.

Refusing To Be A Victim

I’ve made a couple of posts about my Plex server and recently how I’ve been trying to clean up the files and metadata, specifically, the album art.  Using a self-written utility to audit the artwork dimensions and a downloading utility to find better versions, plus the effort of scanning and cleaning artwork that has no high quality option, I’ve done pretty well.

The next step was to clean up – actually add – the artwork for artists.  It’s a smaller effort, only 600-some items instead of 1600 items.  However, I wanted to get through it easily.  This process requires a bit of explanation on how Plex handles things.  Some of this I learned painfully as I went.

Plex gets a lot of its data from Last.fm, which is really cool and pretty effective.  However, when you don’t want to use that data, you have to disable that “agent” for your library.  Because I was manually managing the artwork on my library, because I wanted hi-res art, and I also wanted the specific original cover instead of the cover on the latest remaster of the album, because of all this, I set everything in plex to manual.  No last.fm anywhere.  That was good.

However, that also meant I had no artist images or bios.  Since I had cleaned up my album art, I wanted to now download artists from last.fm.  I wasn’t going to be picky about images there.  So I re-enabled the last.fm agent and stumbled around trying to figure out how to get plex to refresh the artist data from last.fm.  It’s important to know that the command to use in the artist menu is “Match”.  That will allow you to pick an artist from Last.fm for which to get metadata.

It’s also somewhat important to not use the command, “refresh all metadata”, because that caused Plex to utilize the newly-enabled last.fm agent and download all the data for my albums again.  That wiped out over half of my 1000px covers with 300×300 images.  When I saw this, I was devastated.  The worst part is that even if I used my auditing utility and worked my way through those hundreds of albums, the image picker in Plex gives no indication of which image is small and which is large.  It shows them equally at 150×150.  It would literally be a blind guess between 2 and 4 different images for 900 albums.  It’s not reasonable to accomplish.

I resolved to rebuild my Plex database from scratch.  That would wipe out all the effort I made on the artist artwork, but at least I could preserve my work on album artwork.  I would also lose hours I spent building my playlists.  And I figured if I was going to wipe out the database, I would try some more aggressive actions against it.

My auditing utility has only ever done database reads.  It doesn’t do any updates.  But I spent some time restructuring the code and adding a new feature, which I descriptively named, “replace art with largest version.”  See, Plex never gets rid of things, it just accumulates.  My data folder used to have 44k files in it, but after the last.fm influx, it now had 124k files.  All of my old artwork was there, too.  I just needed to scan and compare sizes, which is what I built my utility to do.

And within a day, I ran my new code and updated all the records to use the large artwork I had added previously.  It worked just as planned.  So now, I have my large artwork back, my playlists are still in place, and the artists artwork is still there.  It seems that anger is an excellent motivator for progress.