iPod/iPhone Cannot Be Synced, Required File Not found

This one is definitely a post in the category of primarily being a reminder for future me in case an annoying problem reoccurs, but I guess it may be useful for anyone else struggling with a similar issue.

A couple of days ago I plugged my iPhone into the Mac to synchronise it using iTunes, and after what seemed like a normal process, the process came to a sudden halt during the photo synchronisation stage with a pretty useless error stating that the iPhone could not be synced because a “required file” was not found. Needless to say it didn’t actually tell me what the required file was, nor where it was looking.

My first port of call was to have a trawl through the log files, which is where I made another annoying discovery, iTunes doesn’t seem to log details of it’s synchronisation operations anywhere.

The Mac has for a while had a nice suite of synchronisation technologies based around an application called iSync. Certainly the iPhone synchronisation uses at least part of this as if you have iSync set up it will activate during an iPhone or iPod synchronisation with iTunes. If you ran into any problems with iSync there was always a handy menu option to take a look at the log file and try and track down where it went wrong. No such luck with an iPhone as according to that log file the last time I synchronised anything was the last time I did my old phone.

Okay, what about the main system log? Although this has some messages from iTunes, there is nothing to even indicate that a synchronisation operation has taken place.

Having not come up with anything I then reverted to the usual source of information for weird errors, and googled the error message. That produced plenty of people with the problem, but nobody with much of a clue as to how to solve it.

I figured that since iTunes was drawing the pictures from iPhoto, that might be the source of the problem. Certainly that had changed in between the last successful synchronisation and this attempt in that Beth had loaded all of her pictures from our recent trip into the application, but looking through those there wasn’t anything out of the ordinary amongst those. I used the iPhoto maintenance mode (hold down the command and option keys when you start the application) to rebuild the iPhoto database, but again that produced the same problem. A friend suggested that the presence of movie files in the albums being transferred might be an issue, so I tried removing those, but again no joy. The only way I could get anything to properly transfer was to remove the albums that contained Beth’s newly uploaded pictures.

Last night I finally got to a solution. In all my removing and replacing pictures, and even after I had rebuilt the iPhoto database iTunes had never been through the long and rather tedious “Optimizing pictures” stage. Digging around I found that these were stored in a folder within the iPhoto database called iPod Photo Cache – the key thing being that the contents of this folder are not regenerated by an iPhoto database rebuild. So last night I tried deleting the folder as advised in this Apple Support Document (which incidentally is nowhere to be seen when you search for the actual error), and then left the iPhone synchronising overnight. Based on the speed it was going the optimisation phase would have taken about five hours – certainly the computer had not yet reached it’s inactivity timeout, however all the photographs had successfully transferred.

So for future reference, if iTunes starts throwing useless error messages whilst synchronising photographs, take a look at the iPod Photo Cache, and if necessary delete it. One last thing, can Apple Inc please consider adding some sort of logging functionality to the iTunes synchronisation function as we have for regular iSync, then at least we have a vague hope of tracking down errors rather than playing vague guessing games!

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Why You Should Get Travel Insurance

As you may have heard, our recent trip to Canada with Lucy didn’t quite go according to plan. As babies are prone to do, Lucy has been picking up all sorts of coughs and colds, annoying, but not usually too much of a problem. Unfortunately for us she picked up a really nasty one in Canada, a respiratory syncytial virus or RSV which clogged up her chest with mucus leaving her struggling to breath without coughing.

Not surprisingly that left us taking a trip to the local hospital twice during the trip, the second time being the day before we were due to head home when the doctors said that she was unfit to fly and decided to keep Lucy and Beth in hospital, Lucy on Oxygen and Ventolin. Ultimately they had to stay an extra ten days until the infection cleared up, and the doctor was happy to clear them to fly.

The way the travel insurance policy works is that the policyholder pays direct expenses, including any outpatient or emergency room costs, and the the hospital and insurance company settle directly for any inpatient treatment. We’d already paid and claimed for the emergency room visit – $560 CDN as the Alberta health service charges a flat daily rate for visits to the emergency room – plus assorted other sundry expenses for follow up visits to the doctor and for medication, but since the hospital and insurance company were settling up directly, we hadn’t seen the final cost. However this morning an invoice turned up from the hospital, which they’d incorrectly sent to the patient address rather than the insurance company – $6797 CDN in total for the hospital stay bringing the grand total for the whole illness to $7623 CDN, just over £4300. For friends and family in Alberta it’s been a bit of an eye opener too, as they just hand over their Alberta Health card and never see the bills.

All of which dwarfs the size of even a single trip travel insurance policy – and remember we were lucky in that the insurance company weren’t having to pay for extra accommodation, or for special flights back. True you might never need it, but we’re sure glad we had a good travel insurance policy…