Song Rating Spergatory

I still live in the dinosaur era of digital music management, in that I download and store full albums on my computer. None of this “cloud” silliness. Not yet, at least. All these downloads start to add up, so for the past 5 or so years, I’ve “actively” listened to my music; that is, I rate my music as I listen to it.

This comic from 2008 details the basics:

  • ★★★★★ – A song I could listen to over and over.
  • ★★★★ – A song I would play at a party.
  • ★★★ – A song I’d listen to on-the-go, but not with other people.
  • ★★ – A corrupted or misnamed file. I’ve got a smart playlist which acts as a to-fix list for these.
  • ★ – A song I don’t want on my iPhone, for one reason or another.

Out of 100GB of music in my library, only about 300 songs have a 5-star rating. There just aren’t many songs I could listen to repeatedly, and even then, they might get stale, prompting me to downgrade some to 4 stars.
4-star songs that I used to think were cool often get downgraded to 3 stars, because my taste in music (or taste in friends) has changed.
3-star songs are downgraded to 1 when I realize I get zero enjoyment from listening to the song.

I try to keep my library at 100GB, which is more than any music hoarder should ever need in the era of instant song querying via Google/YouTube. When I go over that amount, I take a few minutes to look at my iTunes smart playlist that contains songs whose album has an average rating of 1, and delete entire albums that contain no redeeming tracks.

On my iPhone, I make sure to automatically load any songs I haven’t yet rated. The remaining space is filled up by 3-, 4-, or 5-star songs with the oldest “last played” date. This ensures that my library remains “fresh.”

At home, I tend to play my entire library. That’s basically the only way I ever “upgrade” any songs from 1 star in case my tastes have changed.

Much like most of the content in this blog nowadays, I’ve written this here just so I can refer to something that doesn’t fit within 140 characters. So there we go. Feel free to chime in with any other music management suggestions if you got ’em.

My take on the iPhone location services hubbub

Tech sites and developer blogs have been reacting to the recent release of iPhoneTracker, a Mac OS X app that can easily plot where you’ve been, and when, since you started using your iPhone. While it might sound “scary” or “creepy” from the get-go, it’s not horrible – it carries roughly the same privacy concerns as leaving your laptop or phone unlocked and inadvertently allowing people to peruse your recent calls, emails, or other personal data.

Some Mac/iOS developers on Twitter have been bemoaning the backlash from this not-so-new revelation – that the iPhone keeps track of every time you geolocate and stores it in a relatively easily-accessible database. I’ve heard arguments like, “this outrage is coming from a population that regularly checks themselves into Foursquare,” or “you’re at fault if you let this information get into the wrong hands.” I think these defensive statements are missing the point, and border on zeal toward Apple.

I need to reiterate my stance on this issue, lest I be grouped in with the down-with-Apple FUD crowd (or with the non-Apple-shareholder crowd): I don’t think this is a very big deal. As it’s been stated over and over again, recently: cell phone companies track your location and record your calls all the time, so the DHS or FBI or whoever can come down hard on you if the need arises. A history of where you’ve been over time might even seem useful to some. But I still think that blame can be placed on whoever at Apple decided to retain this tracking data indefinitely, and do so in an easily-accessible database file.

The reason Apple stores location data on your phone is so those who explicitly opt-in to provide “diagnostic” data to Apple can help improve their geolocation services. If Apple’s phones can tell them where Wi-Fi networks are physically located, then even devices without GPS technology can still be geolocated rather confidently. It’s a fascinating effort that I have opted to take part in, but I have two main concerns, which I have yet to hear good answers to:

  • Why has Apple decided to retain tracking data on your phone indefinitely? According to Apple’s terms, diagnostic information might be sent up to twice a day. If that’s the case, why isn’t the data destroyed locally afterwards? Why can’t I destroy it without starting from a fresh iOS installation? Is there any further use for it?
  • Why is it so easy to access this tracking database? When you sync your iPhone to any computer, the tracking database is saved along with the rest of your backup – and applications like iPhoneTracker have access to these files without administrator privileges.

I am not an iOS developer, and I can’t even claim to know the ins and outs of file permissions, let alone how the internal storage of my iPhone works. But I do find it alarming that this file can be accessed and I won’t even be notified or requested for permission. iPhoneTracker was created as proof of this. It’s child’s play for a malware developer to access this database and upload the information anywhere, and you don’t know the first thing about security if you trust in good faith that this sort of thing won’t happen.

I’m not mad at Apple. I’m not mad, period. I just have some unanswered questions, and it’s hard to get them answered amongst the squawking from all sides.

P.S. one non-argument I read earlier is that Android keeps a cache of your location tracking as well. I will hold Google equally responsible, but only if that cache can be accessed without root privileges, and if it is stored indefinitely. I might be wrong (by all means, prove me wrong), but I don’t believe either to be the case.

Pac-Man iPhone Wallpaper

Updated for iPhone XS/Max/XR.

This wallpaper uses actual sprites from Pac-Man, and is probably as close to exact as you can get it. Here’s what it looks like on my phone (as of a few years ago):

Instructions for use:

  • Go to Settings > General > Accessibility and turn “Reduce Motion” OFF
  • Tap through to the following images, and hold down to “Save Image”
  • From your Photos app, go to your Camera Roll and press the lower-left share button
  • Choose “Use as Wallpaper”
  • Keep “Still” chosen and do not move/scale
  • Choose “Set”, then “Set Home Screen”
  • Go to Settings > General > Accessibility and turn “Reduce Motion” ON

I’ve made a few variations – one with no ghost home, one with no top/bottom border, and one with neither. But you can also download the PSD (5, 6-8, Plus, X, Max/XR) to make your own.


The following links are for iOS 8 to iOS 7:


The following links are for iOS 6 to iOS 4.2:

  • Ghost home and borders (3GS, 4, 5)
  • No ghost home (3GS, 4, 5)
  • No borders (3GS, 4, 5)
  • No ghost home or borders (3GS, 4, 5)

P.S. – the iPhone 4 versions are not just upscaled versions of the iPhone 3GS ones – Apple knocks each icon down by a single pixel once it’s twice as big, so I had to nudge each wallpaper down by 1.


The following links are for iOS 4.1 and below:

  • Ghost home and borders (3GS, 4)
  • No ghost home (3GS, 4)
  • No borders (3GS, 4)
  • No ghost home or borders (3GS, 4)

iPhone 4 The Tie

I reserved an iPhone 4 the day preorders opened – I didn’t actually order one since I couldn’t get through Apple’s website; I reserved one via the Apple Store iPhone app instead. Turns out this was about as good an outcome as waiting for it to just be available, since I wouldn’t have had to wait in a 6-hour line, like I did. I even made fun of the people waiting overnight to get their iPhone so they don’t have to wait during their workday, but there I was. I am such a tool.

Now whether I’m a tool for actually BUYING the new iPhone is debatable. Getting a new phone usually results in me MAKING money, because I can sell the old one, sans contract, for about the same price of a new one, plus AppleCare, plus tax. Disregard the fact that I took time out of my work day to get this phone, which cost me almost that amount in lost pay. It’s not lost! I’m on contract! I can make it up whenever I want! Ugh!…

No, the reason I might be a tool is because of Early Adoption Syndrome. The new iPhone has two flaws, both of which I’m not sure if Apple will have a solution to anytime soon.

First, it’s the infamous left-handed signal loss issue, which does affect me, because I am left-handed. Almost all of the calls I’ve made so far have required that I move my hand from the natural phone-holding position, lest the calls be dropped. It’s a real shame. I can’t start holding it in the other hand because it’s still difficult to lift my right hand to my face. I really don’t want to buy a case because I keep the phone in my pocket and I can see the rubber conflicting with the ease of taking it in and out of my pocket. That, and I don’t feel as if I need to buy something extra to correct an inherent design problem.

Second, it’s FaceTime: it might work right out of the box, but it doesn’t when you restore your old iPhone’s backup onto the new phone. You can’t re-enable it: the option just plain disappears from the phone settings screen. The only way to get FaceTime to work is to restore your iPhone to factory settings and start from scratch, which would be fine, if it wasn’t for one thing: Final Fantasy II. The game, and many other games I have on my phone, have save data which I want to keep around (the data screen reports I have spent 23 hours and 18 minutes on the game so far). So basically, I need to finish up the game – which, by the way, runs just amazingly on the new phone compared to my old one – before I can restore and enable FaceTime. Which is fine, because I don’t know anyone else with an iPhone 4 and the feature is a gimmick just like video chat has always been.

Overall I’m glad I upgraded, mostly due to speed concerns. The OS and apps just blaze along. The new higher-resolution screen is pretty, but doesn’t really affect my experience that much. Due to the reception problem, I might have been better off buying an iPhone 3GS, which is also pretty fast. But I’ll deal with it. Maybe Apple will come out with a software update that will solve both problems. Probably not. But there’s always hope.