Network Connection Reset in iTunes

greenapple I consider myself an experienced IT Professional, but sometimes I just wonder what the heck is really going on. More specifically, how in the world does iTunes really work on a Windows platform? I’ve always felt that iTunes probably works just fine in an Apple ecosystem, but that the port to Windows has never been fully baked. We were trying to stream some new songs from our iTunes library but they either didn’t play or cut out at a few seconds. Time to put on my IT support hat.

I checked the Windows Explorer folder for the songs in question. They all looked fine. Sizes were right. But when I tried to play the problem tracks in Windows Media player they either stopped after a few seconds or were simply silence. Ok, I thought. Corrupt download. Delete the files and re-download my purchases.

After a bit of research to figure out how to do that, I discovered you can go to the iTunes store and find a link for past purchases. From there you can find the album or tracks that are not local and choose to download them again. That seems easy. But then the fun started.

I kept getting the infamous “network connection was reset” error. So back to Google. Oh. My. God. I found posts as far back as 2007 with people reporting this problem. The saddest part is that Apple could never fully address it. I couldn’t believe when Apple support apparently told people to look to their ISPs, routers and firewalls. Well I knew my problem was not ISP related since I’ve had this problem for a long time, even though I didn’t realize it. My son reported problems downloading purchases but eventually we got it to work so I didn’t do much digging. That was when I was on Time-Warner. This week I switched to Verizon FiOS so clearly not an ISP problem. And I have no problems with anything else Internet-related.

I found there was a new version of iTunes so I updated that. No change. Of course if this problem has been going on since at least 2007, the iTunes app isn’t fixing anything. But there is one change I read about that promised a fix. At first I ignored it because I couldn’t possibly imagine what effect it would have.

The suggestion was to change the DNS settings to a public DNS server like the ones from OpenDNS. Willing to try anything at 10PM on Thanksgiving evening, I manually set DNS to Google’s 8.8.8.8 server. And it worked. And it was faster. After I recovered from the whiplash of shaking my head, I proceeded to download other tracks that had never made it. How in the world would it matter what I used for DNS to download a chunk of data? Normally I use my own internal DNS server with the usually forwarders and root hints. I never have Internet-related problems.

However, even with this change I still encountered the error so clearly this isn’t the perfect solution. I had also read about changing your download settings in iTunes to NOT allow simultaneous downloads. Once I made that change, downloads took longer but I no longer encountered the error. Of course by now it was 10:40PM EST on Thanksgiving evening so I have no way of knowing if any of those changes really made a difference or if I just got lucky.

All of this takes my back to my original rant in that iTunes on Windows is probably not the best piece of software ever written. From the limited programming I know, I am at a loss to figure out what iTunes is doing networking-wise when it comes to downloading files. From my perspective it is clearly doing something unexpected. I will have to continue to monitor iTunes. Next time I might even throw on Wireshark so I can see what is going on.

By the way, if you think you’ve had this problem, open up the root folder where you’ve told iTunes to store your music. You should see a Downloads folder. When files are downloaded from iTunes, this is the temporary folder. After the file is downloaded and processed this folder is cleaned up. But if you have had interruptions downloading files, you’ll find some temp files. I found files going back to 2012 which is why I know I’ve had this problem a while. I deleted the files first, made sure problem tracks were not showing in the library list and then tried to re-download from the iTunes store. You may need to restart iTunes.

From my research it seems the vast majority of people having this network reset error were running on some version of Windows. I have no doubt that there are many very smart developers at Apple, but sadly I suspect Windows programming is not something Apple places much value.

What has been your experience with iTunes on Windows? Any one else run into this problem and found a definitive answer?

What can we learn from the airlines?

Don Jones has written an excellent business analysis article: What can we learn from the airlines? Having done my share of frequent flying I can attest to the veracity of his article. If more companies were anti-airline in their business practices I think they could be more profitable, their employees more productive and happy and customers highly satisfied. Why should it be so hard?

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My Samsung Rant

I’ve never been one to rant and rave in public, but I’m so frustrated that I have to write it down.  For Christmas I got my wife a Samsung K5 MP3 player. I liked the built in radio and the speaker features.  Before you comment, I skipped Apple products for a variety of reasons, none of which are relevant here.

I set up her new player with MP3 songs from our (legit) family collection.  Everything played fine.  She would turn it off but by the next morning the battery had run down.  The player appeared to discharge the battery even after turning it “off”.  Oddly, when I turned it on in the morning, the player immediately played the last song, almost as if it had never stopped. 

So I used the online support to try and diagnose the problem. Eventually I sent it in to their repair center in New Jersey.  Not unexpectedly I got a refurbished unit back (at least I’m assuming since it didn’t have that new player look and feel).  I loaded it back up and sure enough, same problem.  How hard can it be to turn off?  Slide the button until the unit goes dark, right?  The player would charge fine but never keep a charge overnight.

Once again to support.  This time with a phone call to a Samsung support person which wasn’t too bad.  He had me try the reset (I had tried it earlier myself with no effect) and recharge but the problem persisted. They had me send the unit in once again and again I get another refurbished unit back.  This time I get this note (verbatim):

FOUND SONGS WITH LICENSE FOR THIS REASON YOUR MP3 HAS PROBLEM CHARGING OTHER WISE THOSE FILES WONT PLAY THE MAY FREEZE UP AND WONT CHARGE THE BATTERY

First off, none of the songs on the player had any sort of DRM. Second, the problem wasn’t battery charging it would continue to discharge even when the unit was off. Finally, if the unit is plugged in to charge DRM should have no effect. This sounds like a general cop-out and last ditch excuse.  But…to be fair, I did one more test.  I loaded the latest MP3 player with an NPR podcast and an MP3 track ripped from a CD I own.  Everything played fine.  Unit fully charged.  Turn it off. Next day: battery down. It’s been a few days since then and now the battery is completely dead.

Is this merely a bed design?  I can’t believe I got 3 bad units in a row and I can’t believe I don’t know how to turn off an MP3 player.  So it is now the end of February and my wife still hasn’t been able to enjoy her gift. One way or another this thing is leaving my house and it will make me hesitate about Samsung products.

The sad thing is I’ve great experience with Samsung products in the past.  I’m using a 21″ Samsung monitor right now which I love. I had high hopes for the K5 but now I’m not so happy.  I’m also a little confused. Searching for news and help about this MP3 player I read about reviews and user raves.  How did I miss out?

I’ll probably give Samsung one more chance, but I’m not optimistic.

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