A few days before taking a week vacation, I attempted upgrading my computer to the latest version of its operating system. What a disaster! Two days later, with all due thanks to Apple support (who were really very helpful — I just wish I hadn't needed them), I had my system back, but the computer spent a couple of days thinking it was 1976. In addition, I had to perform an archive-and-install, which lost all user information. I hadn't considered the effect that all of this would have on iTunes, namely, that it no longer recognized my computer as being authorized to play the songs I had bought from the iTunes store, so it deleted them from the iTunes library and my iPod as soon as I attached the latter.
My backups were intact, so it was no problem to retrieve the music files, but after spending another couple of days trying to restore the iTunes library metadata, I've given up and created a new iTunes database. I have a couple of 'smart' playlists that use the least-recently-played field — toast. I'm hoping this solution solves the many problems I've had with my old iTunes database, but I won't be able to work on it any more until after vacation.
The whole affair makes me rethink the digital music solution. Although I like iTunes well enough, when it goes to the dogs, I realize how fragile the whole setup is. I've decided that the fragility is underemphasized in all of the debates about CD vs. digital. I was planning to buy a couple of new (digital) albums for the trip, but decided against it until I can satisfy myself that the system is stable. I'm still pulling data from the backup iTunes library, and don't have room on the hard drive for a backup of the new library in addition to the live copy and the original backup. Fortunately, iTunes didn't harm any of my original CDs, but then, I'm running out of room for them too. Maybe I need to stop acquiring new music (wait, didn't I say that a year ago?).