I’m struggling to understand why I would ever use iCloud storage.

I’m struggling to understand why I would ever use iCloud storage. After a couple days of tinkering, I have two sets of data in iCloud — device backups, and Pages/Keynote docs.

* I really don’t get the value of device backups. My apps are all recoverable from the iTunes store. I use primarily apps like Evernote that already store their data in the cloud so there is minimal non-replicated data on my iPhone and iPad. Music isn’t backed up, I will need iTunes Match for that some day. My photos aren’t backed up in iCloud, that is not something that is offered at all (and besides the photos on my device are a fraction of my photo content, I use smugmug and other paid services to back up all my photos). So what exactly is in these device backups that iCloud stores? and why is this substantially better than backups stored on my Mac — when will I ever use these backups? In sum — I’ve been explicit about choosing apps and configuring apps so that all my valuable data and state info is replicated and in the cloud, so that I don’t care if I lose a device (and can use multiple devices). So why should I care about device backups?

* The other files in my iCloud storage are docs. I have Pages and Keynote docs in iCloud from my iPad. If I was purely a Mac person, and didn’t collaborate at all with people in my office and business partners who use Office, then maybe I could just use Pages/Keynote on the Mac, and the iCloud doc storage might seem pretty simple. But I use a PC sometimes to edit my docs. And so I use Office so that I can work on my Mac or PC. And so that I can, with no fidelity loss, work with my colleagues on docs they have created in Office. I guess I could still move these docs in and out of iCloud storage, but if I am going to go to the trouble of moving docs around, why don’t I just move them into box.net or dropbox? They both have great iPad and iPhone interfaces, they work with Pages/Keynote on the iPad, I get 50G free on box.net, they both offer sharing options, I can create folders in them to organize my docs and control my sharing (Seriously, iCloud, no folders??), they let me store any kind of doc, they have great Mac/PC clients so that I can sync my collection with local folders easily, etc etc. If iCloud didn’t have the Apple brand, we would all be laughing at it.

* iCloud claims to store your music but practically doesn’t. I have 16,000 songs, 88G of music, in my iTunes library (and flac versions of all this but not in iTunes). 99% of it is from ripped CDs or purchased in mp3 format outside of iTunes. None of which iCloud handles, I have to wait for iTunes Match.

* iCloud stores your photostream but “I’ve already talked about why this isn’t very useful to me”:http://theludwigs.com/2011/10/icloud-photostream-and-dslrs-dont-seem-to-be-a-great-fit/.

* I don’t care about mail/calendar/contact backup as all mine is already stored on my Exchange server or Gmail server.

So iCloud storage is substantially worse than leading competitive alternatives for document storage; its only unique benefit is device backup, which I can’t figure out why I’d use; and it’s other features don’t really solve any problems. I am sure Apple will improve iCloud over time but as a storage solution it is underwhelming. Am I missing something? Does anyone find iCloud storage to be hugely helpful?

iCloud Photostream and DSLRs don’t seem to be a great fit

OK so I am diving into photostream. I’ve enabled on my iPhone 4 (don’t yet have a 4s), iPad 2, my MacBook Pro, my Win7 PC. So the dream was — some set of my photos would be magically replicated across all these machines. Magically.

I have two photo points of entry — the iPhone, and my DSLR (usually a Canon, sometimes an Olympus PEN). The DSLR photos enter through Aperture on the Mac where I manage my photo collection — filter out the good and bad, touch up, organization, etc. So the first challenge was getting Aperture to play with Photostream — needed to let software update patch Aperture, and then it was just a setting to turn on. Now a magic Photostream folder appears in my library, yay. And a test photo I took with the iPhone magically appeared in the folder, yay!

However…I shut the lid on the MacBook at this point and moved locations and thus wifi networks. Post move, I added a bunch of photos off the Canon into Aperture. Sadly the photos did not appear on the iPhone, Aperture showed a little broken connection icon next to Photostream and was unable to connect to iCloud even tho my net was fine. I brought the net up and down but didn’t help. Seems like maybe Aperture gets stuck in a broken iCloud mode. So i quit Aperture and immediately photos started propagating to my phone — apparently the Photostream replication works without needing Aperture to run, some background process is handling the sync. So sync is working fine.

But a couple oddities:

* First, I don’t really want every photo from my DSLR to immediately jump into my photostream. One of the great things about DSLRs are that you can quickly take 10-20 photos of a scene and then filter out the best later. But all of these show up in the photostream, and so my photostream gets polluted with many many variants of one photo. Not really what I want.
* Second, photos don’t seem to be removable from the photostream? This is strange. I can’t delete them on the iPhone. I can’t delete on the Mac. They are just stuck there forever? Until they age out (Photostream shows the last 30 days I believe)? This seems really unfortunate.

So I conclude using Photostream with DSLRs is not a great experience and not really the intent. Which is too bad, the automagic sync is nice. I can also use the old-style sync of a folder of photos but this is really suboptimal — I have to configure what folder to sync in iTunes, and then sync only happens when I plug in my phone to my Mac, or using the new wireless sync, when I plug the phone into power. Not nearly as nice.

I’d really like to be able to specify which folders to sync, Photostream-style, from within Aperture, and have that sync happen all the time. And I want to be able then to edit the folder contents so that I can add and remove photos from the stream.

Software tips

* “How to unhide your Library in Lion”:http://tidbits.com/article/12306?rss — chflags nohidden ~/Library. Yay.
* “Making desktop web apps with Automator”:http://ihnatko.com/2011/07/22/making-desktop-webapps-in-lion/. All kinds of goodness in here.
* “BBEdit 10 is out”:http://www.barebones.com/products/bbedit/bbedit10.html. Purchased.
* “Marked”:http://markedapp.com/ seems like a super useful companion to BBEdit.
* “Billguard is now free-er”:http://www.avc.com/a_vc/2011/07/billguard.html.

Recent software of note: Blogsy, Issue Bucket, Portal2, Office365, iPhoneTracker, …

* “iPhoneTracker”:http://petewarden.github.com/iPhoneTracker/. Cool toy to see where you’ve been and feed your feelings of paranoia.
* “Portal 2”:http://www.thinkwithportals.com/. Of course.
* “Qwiki”:http://www.qwiki.com/. I was kind of excited about this, but I can’t make my own Qwikis? Excitement way down.
* “Acorn”:http://www.flyingmeat.com/acorn/. Haven’t bit yet but I’d love something less obtuse than Photoshop.
* “Blogsy”:http://blogsyapp.com/. Seems like a brilliant WordPress front end.
* “Issue Bucket”:http://itunes.apple.com/ml/app/issue-bucket/id403133693?mt=8. Nice little frontend to bitbucket.
* “You Gotta See This”:http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/you-gotta-see-this/id379058646?mt=8. Stupid little stylized panorama camera app for the iphone. Fun.
* Office365 beta. The individual apps (word, xl, ppt) are nice and well done. The portal gluing them all together with email and calendar is strange and confusing — two URLs, yet another ID different than my existing ID used at all msft sites, an insistence on downloading software. Chalk it up to beta.

Recent Software Trials

* “gfxcardstatus”:http://db.tidbits.com/article/11982?rss to let me fiddle with macbook pro graphics hardware. which is proving to be problematic. Why does the browser (Chrome) require the high end power-consumptive nvidia chip? Seems like this feature of the macbook is a waste if the browser is always going to force the power hungry chip on. OK hmm, this might be just a Chrome issue as Safari is staying on the intel chip. gfxcardstatus is great for examining status and dependencies!
* “techdygest”:http://dygest.net/. Might be a little too digested. But worth a try.
* “daytum”:http://www.coolhunting.com/tech/daytum.php?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+ch+%28Cool+Hunting%29. I want to love this but too hard to get going. There needs to be some easier way to populate it with personal data.
* “socialeyes”:http://www.socialeyes.com and “dailybooth”:http://www.dailybooth.com. There is something intriguing about the front-facing camera. I suspect there will be a lot more software written around. What will be the first front-facing camera game? (Ignition is an investor)
* “greplin chrome extension”:https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/bjclhonkhgkidmlkghlkiffhoikhaajg. Search of my content seems super fast, i am intrigued. (Ignition is an investor)

Software to try over the holidays

* “Printopia”:http://www.ecamm.com/mac/printopia/ to enable printing to any printer from iphone/ipad (via “Tidbits”:http://db.tidbits.com/article/11829?rss&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed:+tidbits_main+(TidBITS:+Mac+News+for+the+Rest+of+Us))
* “Textastic”:http://www.textasticapp.com/ code editor for the iPad (via “Read/Write Web”:http://www.readwriteweb.com/hack/2010/12/code-editors-for-the-ipad.php?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed:+readwriteweb+(ReadWriteWeb))
* “Postbox”:http://www.postbox-inc.com/ email alternative for OSX.
* “Momento”:http://momentoapp.com/, a diary app. (via “TechCrunch”:http://techcrunch.com/2010/11/28/momento-app/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed:+Techcrunch+(TechCrunch))
* “A whole bag of iphone apps for engineers”:http://www.adafruit.com/blog/2010/11/17/iphone-apps-for-engineers-electronics-and-more-an-adafruit-electronics-gift-guide/.
* “Calvetica”:http://calvetica.com/ replacment for iphone calendar app.
* “boxcar”:http://boxcar.io/. Don’t really grok this one but people seem to like it.
* “Firesheep”:http://techcrunch.com/2010/10/24/firesheep-in-wolves-clothing-app-lets-you-hack-into-twitter-facebook-accounts-easily/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed:+Techcrunch+(TechCrunch)
* “Bit.ly bundles”:http://gigaom.com/2010/12/15/bit-ly-bundles-now-allow-hyper-personalized-wikis/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed:+OmMalik+(GigaOM:+Tech)
* “mynameise”:http://www.mynameise.com/
* “GoMiles”:http://www.gomiles.com
* “One man’s view on essential programmer utilities”:http://jesseliberty.com/2010/07/29/12-absolutely-and-insanely-essential-utilities-for-programmers/
* “Google Public Data Explorer”:http://www.google.com/publicdata/home

Year end link clean up

* “Poor Halo play prompts stabbing threat”:http://blog.seattlepi.com/seattle911/archives/231642.asp. Doesn’t seem unreasonable. I’ve heard campers threatened with worse.
* “How Secure Is My Password”:http://howsecureismypassword.net/. No idea how accurate, but fun. 17 thousand years for my typical password.
* “Rich on photobooks”:http://www.tongfamily.com/archives/2010/12/photobooks-for-christmas/. I just always use the default in Aperture but perhaps I should branch out.
* “AR.Drone”:http://www.crunchgear.com/2010/12/01/ar-drone-torn-down/. Why don’t I have one of these yet.
* “Declining energy quality as recession cause”:http://www.physorg.com/news/2010-11-declining-energy-quality-root-current.html. An interesting way to look at things. Not sure it actually makes sense tho.
* “Now you can swap useless Amex reward points for useless Zynga crap.”:http://techcrunch.com/2010/11/30/american-express-now-lets-you-swap-rewards-points-for-zyngas-purple-cows/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed:+Techcrunch+(TechCrunch)
* “Snoopy themed Windows tablet”:http://www.crunchgear.com/2010/11/25/onkyo-announces-snoopy-themed-windows-tablet/. Take that, Apple.
* “Spiders on Drugs”:http://design-milk.com/spiders-on-drugs-by-guillaume-lehoux/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_campaign=Feed:+design-milk+(Design+Milk). We are asking for some serious payback from spider nation some day.
* “Umpteenth article on the death of cable TV”:http://techcrunch.com/2010/10/24/internet-tv-and-the-death-of-cable-tv-really/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed:+Techcrunch+(TechCrunch), yawn. Until I can watch HD live sports without stuttering I am captive to cable/dish. Going to be a while.
* “Charles on breaking up MSFT”:http://www.platformonomics.com/2010/10/the-baby-bills-are-back/. Good as always.
* “Habitable planet found?”:http://www.marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2010/09/has-a-potentially-habitable-planet-just-been-discovered.html
* “Languages you’ve never heard of”:http://gadgetopia.com/post/7105?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed:+gadgetopia+(Gadgetopia). In the future, we will all have our very own programming language.
* “Topologist suggests new form of matter”:http://www.kurzweilai.net/topologist-predicts-new-form-of-matter. For most of our history we’ve used the forms of matter that nature gave us. It is interesting to observe and think about what we can create as we gain mastery over atomic organization.
* “One man’s indictment of iTunes”:http://www.xconomy.com/national/2010/09/03/the-leaning-tower-of-ping-how-itunes-could-be-apples-undoing/. The thing is a giant hairball of software.
* “Exercise and aging”:http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/28/magazine/28athletes-t.html?_r=1&ref=homepage&src=me&adxnnlx=1290787262-FJGn2RNM8RCjxiaHpyyVDA&pagewanted=all. Crap I need to get after it.
* “Show Me What’s Wrong”:http://www.showmewhatswrong.com/. Super useful.
* “User experience of F1 telemetry”:http://www.solidstateux.com/interaction-design/the-user-experience-of-f1-telemetry/. Always impressed with the amount of money spent on racing.
* “MacPaint and MacDraw source code”:http://www.computerhistory.org/highlights/macpaint/. Nostalgia.

Recent software trials — Camino, Shuffler, GIT, Wisestamp, Microsoft Windows Live Sync

* Firefox is feeling increasingly bloated, maybe because I’ve got a bunch of plugins jammed in. But trying out “Camino”:http://db.tidbits.com/article/11548?rss&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+tidbits_main+(TidBITS%3A+Mac+News+for+the+Rest+of+Us)&utm_content=Google+Reader on the Mac, seems cleaner and lighter.
* “Shuffler.FM”:www.shuffler.fm. Eh, streaming music just doesn’t work for me. My primary listening time is while driving and I need music that I can put on an ipod or cd. When I am at an actual computer I am too busy doing other things. But I like music discovery tools and guides, I just don’t want them bound into streaming.
* “GIT for the lazy”:http://www.spheredev.org/wiki/Git_for_the_lazy. Perfect for me.
* “Terminal tips and tricks for OSX”:http://superuser.com/questions/52483/terminal-tips-and-tricks-for-mac-os-x and in general SuperUser seems helpful.
* I want to love “WiseStamp”:http://www.wisestamp.com/ but I don’t get email addins that assume you are only sending email from a browser. iPhone? iPad? OSX Mail? How can I commit to this thing if I can’t use it consistently? Sigh.
* I’m super late to “Windows Live Sync”:https://sync.live.com/home.aspx?wa=wsignin1.0 but it is very useful. I do have a quibble with the naming, once upon a time MSFT was confident enough in its products to give them simple iconic names — Word, Excel, Windows. The company seems to have lost its confidence in products and jams these crazy names on them to try to ride on the coattails of other products. Mistake.

Recent Software Trials

* “Default Folder”:http://db.tidbits.com/article/11217?rss&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+tidbits_main+%28TidBITS%3A+Mac+News+for+the+Rest+of+Us%29&utm_content=Google+Reader — OK i really wanted to love this. But visually very funky. Ended up nuking.
* “PopCharX”:http://www.ergonis.com/products/popcharx/. This is one utility I can’t live without, and the new version with favorites is nice.

Software I haven’t tried but need to:

* “Things”:http://db.tidbits.com/article/11389?rss&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+tidbits_main+%28TidBITS%3A+Mac+News+for+the+Rest+of+Us%29&utm_content=Google+Reader. So frustrated with todo lists on the iphone. I want something that syncs via the cloud with outlook, ical, and has a nice iphone app.
* “Panic Transmit”:https://www.panic.com/transmit/. I am pretty happy with Filezilla but Transmit gets super raves.
* “Lightroom”:http://thomashawk.com/2010/06/adobe-lightroom-3-i-feel-the-need-for-speed-oh-and-the-most-significant-advancement-in-photo-noise-reduction-i-have-ever-seen.html. I’ve been happy with Aperture and I hate the huge morass of software that Adobe foists on you when you install their apps, but I feel like I’m missing the Lightroom party.
* “Trip Journal”:http://www.gadgets-weblog.com/50226711/new_app_turns_your_gadget_into_a_vacation_documentary.php. I’ve installed but haven’t had time to play with yet.
* “Yazsoft Sharetool”:http://www.yazsoft.com/products/sharetool/. Always am drawn to these tools that punch thru all the networking goo and let you get your files anywhere — “Homepipe”:https://www.homepipe.net/about.html is another one. But I never seem to stick with them. Something important in that statement.

Recent utility software of note

My MacBook is entering middle age and as my intensity of use has grown over the last 6 months (due to coursework at UW) I’m finding I need to start focusing on productivity a little. Some tools that seem helpful:

* “Popchar”:http://www.macility.com/products/popcharx/ provides much better special character insertion than the standard OSX tool. Helpful for entering math symbols, etc. I love this. The basic OSX system tool is weak.
* “Keycue”:http://www.macility.com/products/keycue/ from the same guys, cheat sheet of keyboard shortcuts. Better than it sounds. I cannot remember all these keyboard shortcuts and this is way way way better than help/manual/online search.
* “Hazel”:http://www.noodlesoft.com/hazel.php for automagically managing files. My use case is dealing with downloads from various UW course sites and automagically handling. Keeps my downloads folder in order. Handy tho not absolutely mandatory.
* “Path Finder”:http://www.cocoatech.com/ as a replacement for Finder. Definitely more handy for moving files between folders.
* “Growl”:http://growl.info/ — not sure why I installed but all the cool kids seem to use.

Also on my new Windows 7 setup I am starting to play with some things:

* “Win7 multimonitor taskbars”:http://www.hanselman.com/blog/TheNearFinalWordOnMultiMonitorTaskbarsForWindows7UltramonVsDisplayFusion.aspx?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+ScottHanselman+%28Scott+Hanselman+-+ComputerZen.com%29&utm_content=Google+Reader — haven’t tried these but probably should try one.
* “Feedroller”:http://lifehacker.com/5352037/feedroller-puts-rss-and-twitter-updates-across-your-monitor?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+lifehacker%2Ffull+%28Lifehacker%29&utm_content=Google+Reader — well I wanted to love this, and it looks great, but seems to have problems updating its content.

And across both machines:

* “Helvitical”:http://www.iamadtaylor.com/helvetical/ and its friends Helvetimail and Helvetireader certainly improve the looks of google apps. A little buggy tho.

Matlab on OSX — pay attention to file names

BTW, this is a powerful but incredibly finicky piece of software. It is an X11 app, and I wonder how much that is affecting it.

One thing to watch for is the path length limitation on the names of m files. it is 63 characters total for the full path — that is right, the FULL path. the full path by default is some long path pointing into a MATLAB directory in your documents folder, in my case, 52 characters were already used up. So when i put a nice long name on an M file, I exceeded the 63 limit and got some completely nonsense error message about the file not being on my path. Well ok the error message was true, the truncated filename file wasn’t on any path anywhere, but stupid.

The other thing I’ve noticed is that Matlab really doesn’t like m files whose names begin with a number — ie it just will not run something called “55.m”. you need to start with alpha.

Silly. It’s 2009 guys. These feel like MSDOS restrictions circa 1990.

Mac vs PC anecdote

My Macbook had a motherboard failure two weeks ago. Both USB ports on left side blown, wifi chipset blown. (Blame Tekkcharge but that is another discussion). Discovered this at about 4pm on a Wednesday, went to Apple.com and scheduled a genius bar appointment at 830pm same day.

At 830 I roll into the Bellevue Square Apple store, in 30 seconds someone approaches me and logs me in for my appointment. In a few minutes I am at the desk describing my problem. The genius asked me if I had Applecare, I sheepishly admitted not. Crap, I am going to have to pay for this. Wait says the genius, perhaps your MacBook Pro has the faulty NVidia chipset, in which case it is a free warranty motherboard replacement! And indeed, my machine fails the NVidia stress test, so free motherboard for me! The genius says this will in all likelihood fix my problem — but if not, not to worry, once Apple has cracked the case and messed with the motherboard, if the system is still failing, it is now their responsibility!!! Awesomeness.

Two days later they called and said the motherboard had been replaced but one of my RAM sticks was faulty, and so they were going to replace that as well. For free.

Within a week I got the machine back. New motherboard. New RAM stick. My hard disk and software safely untouched. Total cost to me: $0. The only complication was discovering that Aperture would not run, the activation logic ties the product guid to the processor guid, and so Aperture felt it was not a licensed install. Apple.com again, scheduled a callback, in one minute an Apple rep called and we were finally able to resolve (they were going to get me a new activation once we established my proof of ownership, but I eventually found the original install media).

OK so the MacBook Pro is way more expensive than a PC but I just got hundreds of dollars of parts and service out of warranty for free. And, despite a tragic hardware error, I lost no data, and had the machine fixed locally in under a week. Basically the extra costs for the Mac represent prepaid parts, prepaid service, and retail store staffing to make the lifetime experience of owning a Mac painless.

I don’t even know how to replicate this in the PC world. BestBuy is the remaining significant retailer of PCs. And the service levels are dramatically different. You can’t get much in the way of service there, when we had a broken PC purchased through BestBuy it got shipped away for repair, and took weeks. And just the simplest store experience in BestBuy is worlds different. I was in BestBuy this morning to buy a microSD card reader. I found what I wanted easily enough and went to the checkout. There were two checkers working, each busy. 4 of us in line waiting to checkout. One checker finished with her customer, and apparently decided it was breaktime, and left her station and wandered away. 4 of us in line waiting with money in hand, just needing someone to give it to. The other checker was involved in some complicated transaction so we wait and wait. Meanwhile there are 10s of BestBuy employees walking through the store all doing super important things. I finally spot one and yell across 30 feet of floorspace “Hey, can we get some checkout help here, 4 of us are waiting?” She looks around for someone to help us and goes back to what she was doing. !!!! Finally she comes over and starts to help check us out.

If I was running a retail business, I think I would instruct my employees that job 1 is taking money from people who want to give it to us. Apparently that is not the BestBuy priority. I really can’t fathom this, what does BestBuy tell its employees to do all day??

It is not that PC hardware is necessarily terrible (some of it is but some is just fine), or that the software on it is awful (though again some of it is), but the entire experience from purchase through support over the lifetime of the PC is dramatically worse than the experience available from Apple. As a smart guy said to me recently, “PCs are now throwaway”, when they quit working, you really have no choice but to just chuck it in the trash.

Enough ranting. Glad my MacBook is back humming.

Software recently adopted

* Tweetdeck. Duh.
* ECMerge. I complained to Scooter Software about the lack of a mac version of BeyondCompare, they kindly suggested ECMerge or Araxis Merge. Araxis is way too expensive. ECMerge is solid but I still pine for BeyondCompare.
* Toast Titanium. I want a way to watch my Tivo shows on my mac and Toast seems to be the way to go. Seems to work well.
* MATLAB. I’m a sucker for math software. Only reasonable if you are an active student or your employer buys it for you.
* VLC. Another duh. THE way to watch wmvs on a mac (and UW lectures are all delivered in wmv format).

Oh and on the PC I am so in love with Steam. I don’t even think about CD-based games anymore. Why isn’t all Windows software delivered this way? Why hasn’t Microsoft purchased Valve?

Recovering my iTunes Library file from a dead Mac Mini

My Mac Mini died. Won’t boot. Fortunately I keep all my data files (music, photos) on an external USB drive so moving them to a different machine is no biggy. However, all my playlist and song rating info is in the lookaside db file that iTunes refuses to store anywhere besides the boot volume.

Smart friends of mine said I should just go dig this file out of my time machine backups. They are right. However I am not sure I had this machine backed up. So the hard way for me.

The Mac mini: Inside and Out | Desktop | Editors’ Notes | Macworld explains how to crack open the Mac Mini case. I wasn’t worried about damaging the case so I used a little extra force. Then you need a pretty small phillips head screwdriver (eyeglass screwdriver for instance) to remove all the screws inside to separate the guts from the case, and to separate the drive from the motherboard, fan, etc.

I finally got it out. A SATA drive, I ran to Fry’s and got a 2.5″ SATA enclosure, they have a huge variety, from $15 to $50. I went for the cheapest “hot swap” enclosure (though I am not convinced that hot swapping would really work), about $25. Crappy looking but it seemed to work.

If only iTunes would store ratings in the mp3 metadata, I would not have had to do this. At 20,000+ songs tho, this data becomes important…