Making a multi-ipod household work

We love ipods so much that we have four in the house.

And itunes really sucks at handling this. we like to keep all our music on one server and this just creates a legion of problems. Getting itunes on all machines to take notice of new music on the server. Sharing playlists across the network. Ratings collision — we all have different ratings we want to maintain. And doing different loads of music onto each ipod.

Here’s how we manage the last item today — getting different subsets of our collection onto each ipod.

* We keep all our music in one huge directory, with subdirs per artist and album. Makes backup, searching, and all other operations easier.
* In itunes I create partitioning playlists. Basically a playlist per user that represents the music they want on their ipod. In our case this is fairly easy as our interests break cleanly on genre lines, and it is easy in itunes to create playlists like “female vocal OR male vocal OR new age OR holiday”.
* Then I configure our respective ipods (in the itunes app) to only pick up these playlists on synch.

As I said it is not perfect. Ratings collide. We have to avoid fights over genre tags. I have to do tag maintenance every once in a while. But it works ok for our household.

I am playing around with a different approach — using Beyond Compare to fully replicate our music collection to a bunch of individual machines, and then letting people tag and rate their music as they want on that machine and sync on that machine. This creates a whole bunch of other problems, best solved if we only rip cds on one machine in the house (which is the case today), but it does work better in some ways with itunes.