Only I Have the Power to Absorb All Data

by J.D. Roth

I guess that title only makes sense if you’ve been hanging around here a while (and maybe not even then)…

My new G5 has turned me anal-retentive with my data.

Ever since my first computer (an Apple Macintosh SE) in 1989, I’ve simply dumped all of my old data onto a new hard drive without regard for organization. Over the past fifteen years, I’ve accumulated a lot of data, and it takes more and more time to transfer it to a new machine. And when it’s transferred using the Dump Method, it becomes very difficult to sort through it.

With this new machine, I’ve decided to be more methodical. I am slowly transferring the data, making certain that every file is in its proper place.

Of course, all I’ve really focused on so far is music: I’ve been ripping all of our CDs into iTunes. Didn’t I already rip them all onto the PC? Aren’t all of our songs already in mp3 format? Yes, they are. But when I did that first rip, several years ago, I had no concept of ID3 tags (the header information in an mp3 file). I made sure the file names were consistent (“U2 – I Will Follow.mp3”), but I didn’t do anything with the ID3 tags.

iTunes bases its entire organizational system on ID3 tags. It’s a wonderful organizational system: very flexible, easy to search, highly customizable, and, best of all, capable of creating amazingly complex “smart” playlists. (“Make a new playlist with all of the jazz songs between 1960 and 1970 but don’t include Dave Brubeck or any song with the word Love in the title.”) Without solid ID3 tags, this is impossible.

So, I’m being anal-retentive about my ID3 tags, especially the Genre tag. Sometimes it’s tough. Into which genre does Rickie Lee Jones fall? Are Wham! pop or synthpop? Is Elvis rock, pop, or, as I finally decided, oldies? I had to create some genres to match my collection. I have a lot of old-time radio shows, so Radio is a new genre. Kris and I think of an entire subclass of music (Natalie Merchant, Alanis Morrissette (whose name I can never spell correctly), Suzanne Vega) as “Chickrock” or “Bitchrock”. I have a huge collection of pre-1930s music, and despite its actual genre, I’ve classified it all as Vintage.

Over the past several days, I’ve managed to rip 5397 songs into iTunes. That’s 21.70gb of music, which would play for 16.4 days from start to finish. And I’m only to Hank Williams. I still have all of the compilations left, and all of the classical music, and all of the electronica, and the 101 CDs that are in our CD player.

After I finish absorbing all my music, I’ll absorb all my photographs.

Initially I feared that process would be long and arduous. I intend to re-scan many of my photographs, touching them up in Photoshop Elements before transferring them to iPhoto. Apparently the newest version of iPhoto (which I have not actually looked at yet) has several new iTunes-like features that help sort photographs.

Jeff came over yesterday and we scanned in some more recent photographs of Noah (the new photographs, when I’ve processed them, will be found here). I was shocked at how quickly we were able to scan them. On my iBook, it would have taken more than a minute for each photo, but on the G5 each took about ten to twelve seconds. Holy cats! This will certainly take the drudgery out of absorbing photographic data.

When I’m finished with the photos, it’ll be time to absorb all of my textual data: college essays, old web sites, e-mail I’ve saved since 1993, poems, stories, weblog entries. It would be nice if I could find an iTunes-like application for text documents, but I’m not holding my breath. I have fewer text files than music files anyhow, so sorting everything by hand ought to be okay.

Only I have the power to absorb all data!


On 18 January 2004 (11:08 AM),
Dana said:

What, you mean something like this (which wouldn’t work for you, as it runs in emacs), or this (which is a gnome tool, but should be useable under OS X)?

On 18 January 2004 (11:26 AM),
J.D. Roth said:

Hm. Thanks for the suggestions, Dana, but neither of those are anything like what I’m looking for.

What I want is an application to organize and group text documents, much as iTunes does for music.

The main view would comprise a “library” of all of the documents, which could be easily filtered, as in iTunes, based on document title, author, creation date, type, etc. “Playlists” of documents could be created so that it would be possible to, say, group all documents about money or about music.

I really doubt there’s anything like this available. (The closest I’ve seen is xPad, but it’s only got the germ of what I’m after.) I’m half-way tempted to write something myself. It’d be a good experience…

On 18 January 2004 (11:30 AM),
J.D. Roth said:

Like this but for text.

On 18 January 2004 (01:23 PM),
Dana said:

Hmmmm. By ‘playlist’, I assume what you *really* mean is what amounts to a folder, or perhaps ‘view’, right?

That sounds a *little* like piles, which is a rumored upcoming MacOS feature. I gather piles are primarily chronological, and organized less by type than by time (although perhaps I’m wrong on the details).

It also sounds a lot like the mystery “database filesystem” which is coming Real Soon Now in some version of Windows.

Of course, you could get a similar effect by storing all your text documents in a database with appropriate meta-data (which is all that iTunes is doing, really)…

On 20 January 2004 (07:45 AM),
Joel said:

My colleague Andy is currently scrolling through one of the many humorous photoshop contests on FARK, which made me suddenly want to photoshop a version of that wonderful Fantastic Four panel that this blog references. Dana could be Reed, JD could be J. Storm, but who would be the Thing, strapped onto that terrible melty thing?

On 20 January 2004 (09:20 AM),
Dana said:

Intertwingle – An old proposal of Jamie Zawinski that never came to anything, but also sounds rather related to what you are looking for…

(And Joel, I’d much rather be Sue than Reed… =) )

On 20 January 2004 (02:25 PM),
Joel said:

Of course, thoughtless of me. And I’m very glad you didn’t want to be Felicia- the whole superhero dating a handicapped person freaks me out.

Updated: 18 January 2004

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