iTunes after crash and problem with external burner

Posted by Pierre Igot in: iTunes
September 5th, 2003 • 1:51 am

This is not the first time this has happened to me… I was busy doing something in iTunes (4.0.1), involving burning a CD, and the application locked up on me. I got the “spinning pizza of death” and the Dock menu for iTunes clearly indicated that the application was “not responding.”

Time for force-quitting, of course. Which I did using the “Force Quit” option in the Dock menu, which strangely sometimes only works if you use it three times in a row. (Similarly, force-quitting through the Force Quit window invoked by cmd-esc sometimes only works if you do it twice in a row with the offending application.)

Then I relaunched iTunes and was greated by a message to the effect that my iTunes Library file (the file located inside home/Music/iTunes/ which contains all your track information, playlists, etc.) was locked or otherwise engaged. The last time this happened, I thought that the process of force-quitting the frozen iTunes application had created a corrupted iTunes Music Library file, so I trashed it and rebuilt my library from scratch! Not exactly convenient.

This time, I decided to experiment a bit further. Based on the error message, I figured that it might just have to do with the fact that Mac OS X “thinks” that the iTunes Music Library file is still in use and prevents the relaunched iTunes from using it because of this.

So I made a copy of the file in the Finder, moved the original “iTunes 4 Music Library” file out of the iTunes folder, and renamed the copy “iTunes 4 Music Library”. And I relaunched iTunes 4. And it worked! This time iTunes was able to use the file and displayed my library of songs and playlists with no problems.

So it was indeed something in Mac OS X that led the system to believe that the library file was still in use after the force quit. I suspect that logging out and back in would have fixed the problem as well — but I typically have all kinds of applications and document windows open, and logging out and back in is a rather annoying procedure. This little trick is much more convenient as far as I am concerned.

Ideally, however, Apple should fix Mac OS X so that, after iTunes has been force-quit, the library file is “freed” from its “in use” state and reverted to its default state, so that iTunes can be immediately relaunched.

Still, this whole situation has also made me aware of the fact that my iTunes Music Library file is a rather precious file that contains lots of essential information. from now on, I’m definitely including it in my daily backups.

As for the source of the iTunes freeze itself, I am afraid that all of this didn’t fix it. When I tried burning a CD, the application froze on me again, and I had to go through the whole routine of force-quitting, copying the library file, renaming the copy as the original, and relaunching iTunes.

I tried accessing the “Burning” pane in iTunes’ Preferences window, and got an application freeze as well. I tried trashing the iTunes plist file in the “Preferences” folder, but that didn’t fix the problem.

I eventually decided that this was obviously a hardware related problem. Not that my internal SuperDrive was not working, but somehow iTunes couldn’t find it and stayed stuck in a loop trying to locate it in the chain of available drives.

I then remembered that I had, on occasion, used my external FireWire CD burner (a noisy, but reliable LaCie drive) to burn CDs from within iTunes. And I thought that maybe iTunes “remembered” that and was somehow trying that external CD burner, even though it wasn’t turned on at the time.

So I turned the external CD burner on and relaunched iTunes one more time. And sure enough, when I went to iTunes’ “Preferences” dialog and clicked on the “Burning” pane, iTunes didn’t freeze. Instead, it showed the normal contents of this particular preference pane, including the “CD Burner” popup menu, etc. But for some reason the CD burner listed as the selected option in that menu was in italics. It was my internal SuperDrive (appearing as “PIONEER DVD-RW DVR-104”), but it was in italics.

I clicked on the menu and noticed that the menu contained two other items, one of which was my external FireWire CD burner, and the other the same “PIONEER DVD-RW DVR-104” not in italics. Needless to say, I promptly selected that option instead, and the next time I clicked on the menu, there were only 2 items left, the external drive and the SuperDrive, both in roman characters. The one in italics had disappeared.

I then proceeded to burn my CD with iTunes, and everything was fine.

So what does this all mean? That something in Mac OS X remembers somewhere (not in the “” file though) the list of available CD burners that are supported by iTunes, and if you unplug one of them without restarting your machine afterwards, iTunes will keep looking for the missing one and freeze.

Luckily for me, simply plugging the “missing” CD burner back in and turning it on was enough to bring iTunes (or rather Mac OS X itself) back to reason. But it’s certainly FireWire/CD-burning flakiness that I don’t think should exist in Mac OS X.

And I also think that the fact that the iTunes Music Library file is unreadable after an iTunes application crash unless you restart your machine or use the little workaround described above is inappropriate. Obviously, iTunes crashes do happen, and could happen to anyone. How will people know what to do if they don’t read this blog? :-)

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