Category Archives: Music

Saving a clip from YouTube

It’s gearing up to be a very nice spring for all die-hard fans of Depeche Mode. There are clips on YouTube of their next single – Wrong – and it totally rocks!

dm-wrong

So, how to get this onto my iPhone to be able to pass the time until April 20th when their next album “Sounds of the Universe” is to be released?

It turns out it to be quite easy. There are a number of Firefox add-ons that claim to be able to download content from YouTube. I imagine YouTube isn’t too happy about people downloading content and keep trying to shut down options to circumvent it. I found that the add-in “Fast Video Download” did wonders. The add-on adds the icon in the bottom-right corner of Firefox in the screenshot above.

isquint

The output from the add-on is the Flash video file with a .flv extension. This then needs to be converted to avi format. Now there are many applications that claim to do this and they all charge around $30-40. iSquint does a terrific job and it is for free. The applications has actually been discontinued but it is still available for download.

Using iPod Touch as SqeezeCenter remote

I bought an iPod Touch a couple of months ago on the assumption that it would be an ideal remote control for my SlimServer setup. Unfortunately, there was no theme tailored for the screen size of the iPod Touch (or iPhone for that matter).

With the upgrade to SqueezeCenter, it is possible to add a theme called iPeng that is fantastic for the iPod Touch.

SqeezeCenter-iPeng

Suddenly, the iPod Touch is every bit the remote control I was hoping it would be. A big thanks to Joerg Schweider, aka Coolio.

SqueezeCenter 7.0 is out!

Finally! I have been running SlimServer 6.5.4 for a long time and it was time for an upgrade but SqueezeCenter, the promised replacement for SlimServer, just never seemed to materalise. Sure, the development branch has been available for some time but for once I wanted to hold on until the real thing was out.

SqueezeCenter 7.0

And now it is here. Logitech released SqueezeCenter 7.0 yesterday. The upgrade from my previous installation of SlimServer 6.5.4 on Ubuntu 7.10 was very straightforward. I just did:

# apt-get update
# apt-get remove ––purge slimserver
# apt-get install squeezecenter

The effort is well worth it. I have just barely started using the new interface but it is much slicker and also feels a lot more responsive.

Transcoding FLAC to MP3

Having my entire record collection in a fully lossless format with properly scanned cover art has taken some time. Now that it is done I sometimes want to use the music in players that do not support FLAC or where I want to keep down the size of the files.

I have tried a number of existing solutions but none of them worked the way I wanted. Since I keep my music on a headless server I wanted a non-GUI solution. Also, since my main playing environment is based on Slimserver there are a number of features that give other players some headache – one such thing is that many of my genre tags contain multiple genres, separated by semicolon. I also wanted the tagged file to include the cover art and to work on both Windows Media Player and iTunes.

My current solution is based on a Bash script (attached) and includes the following features:

  • Incremental transcoding so it doesn’t have to run through the entire library (which may well take weeks)
  • Ability to skip a certain folder – in my case I have skipped the compilations for now since iTunes makes it messy otherwise
  • Fixes filenames so that they don’t include any non-ASCII characters

To run the script a rather updated Linux version is needed. I first started writing the script on Ubuntu 6.06 (Dapper) but realised after a while that the reason that I just couldn’t get the Unicode characters in the tags to work was not due to me but some bug in the id3lib. Currently I am running this on Ubuntu 7.10 (Gutsy).

Attachments

CD ripping workflow

Since some time back I have moved my entire music library online in a fully lossless format. The idea of ripping the entire library of CDs did not exactly thrill me – especially since I had ripped most of the records already, but in a non-optimal format.

After having carefully studied all alternatives I settled on using the FLAC format to store the music, the main reasons for this was the open source nature of FLAC. Your mileage may vary and for many a fully managed process using Windows Media Player or iTunes may be a better option – if you can live with your music being locked into the respective format.

My music environment includes multiple Slim devices (one Transporter and one Squeezebox) both driven by SlimServer on a Linux server running 24/7. To use this workflow the following applications are required: Exact Audio Copy, FLAC encoder, MP3Tag. In addition an graphics program is benecifical in order to process the cover art.

The step-by-step process I employ to rip a new CD is:

  1. Use Exact Audio Copy (EAC) to rip the CD (my configuration file can be found below). I don’t like the anglo-saxon way of capitalising every word in the song titles so I change them all manually. I also add multiple genres separated by semicolon which works fine with SlimServer but freaks out iTunes and Windows Media Player.
  2. I make sure to save a copy of the log file from EAC to the same folder as the FLAC files.
  3. For multi-record album (and other complex albums) I use MP3Tag to add DISCNUMBER and other information and rename the files so that each file has a three digit number where the first digit indicates the record within the album set.
  4. I then scan the cover of the record and create a 1080×1080 pixel JPG image which is save in the same folder as the files.
  5. Finally, the files are moved to my Linux server where the attached Perl script is used to generate thumb nails. The script requires the presence of ImageMagick on the system which must be installed separately.

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wav2wma – freeware console utility

VoiceWMA.gif

I provide this Windows console utility that transcodes from WAV files to WMA files. By default it uses the voice codec from Windows Media Audio 9 with a very low bitrate to encode voice content but it is possible to use any other Windows Media Audio codec and with a higher bitrate.

When I tried it after having done the last changes it even turned out to be possible to use mp3 files as input which was not even intentional but might be interesting to know. Do remember, however, that you would in that case be transcoding between two potential lossy formats which is normally not a good thing.

Usage: wav2wma -s source -t target [-c codec] [-b bitrate]
       wav2wma -l

Options
   -s source   Source WAV file
   -t target   Target WMA file
   -c codec    Preferred codec
   -b bitrate  Minimal bitrate [bps]
   -l          List all codecs on the system
   -?          Produces this help

License

This application is provided free of charge for personal use. If you like it I would appreciate if you would link to my web site (http://www.spotwise.com).

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Eurovision 2006

The monster rockers from Finland won the Eurovision song contest 2006 in Athens. As always, I couldn't help but think that the tele-voting has a tendency to favour neighbouring countries. To figure out just how real this tendency is I set out to adjust the scores according to the distance between the countries.

Eurovision2006.gif

The graph above shows the official score for the top five participating countries and two alternative scores. The first alternative uses normalisation based on the distance between the capitals of the country voting and the country receiving the vote. The second alternative is more extreme in that it gives a weight of zero to countries that share land borders. Please note that it is only the relations between the countries within each alternative that are valid – the fact that Russia received different amount of points for the different alternatives is thus not relevant.

In other words, the normalisation means that an icelandic vote for Greece is more valuable than if Albania would vote for Greece.

As can be seen Lordi won even more impressively taken distances into account.

In my eyes tele-voting by country takes away too much of the musical aspect of the competition. The purist in me would like to get the proper jurys back but since we seem to be stuck with tele-voting I think it should be done with just one big “jury” and the song that gets the most votes wins.

I attach the spreadsheet if you want to check how I have done the calculations or modify it further.

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