I'm in love with my Sonos set-up. It's one of the easiest music systems I have ever installed and it finally gives Ellen and me access to our entire CD collection AND much, much more. This weekend I even purchased a second Play5 unit to have music in our Library.
It all started more than a year ago when I dug into the different solutions for a centralized music library. I selected three potential candidates to get our relatively large music library in the "home cloud".
Our requirements were relatively simple:
At that moment in time I couldn't find anything that fitted those requirements. The biggest hurdle was the "easy access" requirement. Every solution required some kind of controller, be it a smart phone, a general purpose tablet or a dedicated controller. One year later, our requirements changed as we now have enough smart devices that can double as controllers.
iTunes combined with Airport Express
A general purpose Media Tank:
More than a year ago, SONOS wasn't the solution as we were running short in the controller department. Since then Ellen and I have both an Android smartphone which removed the last hurdle for creating our SONOS-powered musical "home cloud".
Fixing cover art issues
I imported our music collection of 600+ CDs into iTunes over the years. iTunes did a great job at adding covers where it could and those covers iTunes couldn't find, were added later using CoverScout.
iTunes sampled everything using Apple lossless compression, resulting in thousands of *.m4a files. *.m4a files allow inclusion of cover art, yet Apple decided to optimize this by storing cover art in a centralized folder. As a result when I copied my *.m4a files to my NAS I noticed that not all albums had cover art. As of a certain version of iTunes, cover art was no longer part of the *.m4a file but stored in a hashed directory.
Moreover, some cover art that was added using CoverScout didn't show up on mobile devices, yet it did show up on the standalone SONOS applications.
Below is an example of this... note the missing "At the Ryman", "Faith no More" and "Bach" covers.
Cover art that was available in iTunes, but didn't show up in any of the controller applications was added by using a nifty little tool called "Save Album Art to Album Folder" which basically extracts cover art from iTunes, regardless how it was added to the library. You end up with a folder full of *.jpg files which need to be copied to the NAS where your SONOS library resides. Simply copy them in the right album folder and rename the file to folder.jpg and the SONOS controller apps will pick up the cover art.
I have some *.m4a files with cover art, which the SONOS application on mobile devices doesn't want to display. The trick here is to remove the embedded cover art and replace it with a folder.jpg file.
I found a toolkit on Linux that works perfectly to list, add and remove covert art from mp4-files. You can find it here (MP4v2). Follow the instructions to install the toolkit, some Linux distributions contain the toolkit in their standard repositories. You might first try to add it with "yum install" or "apt-get install".
Below are some screenshots that show there is actually cover art in the Emmylou Harris files:
Removing and adding cover art is done respectively with mp4art --remove and mp4art --add. Check the man-pages for detailed information on all options.
I removed the cover art as shown below:
I looked for a suitable cover via Google, copied it to the NAS and renamed it to folder.jpg.
Let's see if this actually worked and the mobile SONOS application shows the cover now:
Getting your covers peachy on your SONOS cloud takes some manual fiddling around, especially when you digitize your CDs with a recent version of iTunes. As the more recent iTunes no longer stores cover art in the *.m4a files, you'll need to extract them from iTunes and copy/rename them manually to the appropriate folder on your NAS.
It might be a bit of extra work, but in the end it's worth it.
Last weekend I had this conversation with a friend on how he wanted to use an external keyboard with his iPad. I pointed him to several solutions by Logitech like the Keyboard Case for iPad and the Tablet Keyboard for iPad. There's also the new Ultrathin Keyboard Cover which also doubles as a very thin iPad cover. All very nifty bluetooth based solutions. Wait a minute, bluetooth?
I wondered aloud why a standard Apple wireless keyboard wouldn't work. It does and it's fairly simple.
Apple Wireless Keyboards are a bit of a pain to put in pairing mode. The official Apple way is to unpair it from a previous host which will force the bluetooth device in pairing mode. Which is all nice and well, IF YOU STILL HAVE THAT DEVICE.
I found some support articles on the Apple discussion fora and it looks like this tip from Colin Holgate does the trick:
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IT Technology, networking, Apple, iDevices, Android, IPv6, DNS.