Category: Technophilia Aural

The web browser as media player

Technophilia Aural

I was doing some research on XUL for work when I ran across a reference to a Mozilla-based media player called Songbird.

So I was intrigued by what a read, and after I downloaded and installed the player itself, I was impressed with what I saw.

Songbird treats every web page you visit as a potential playlist. If the browser finds links to MP3 files, it’ll create a playlist of those files, which you can listen to with a built-in player. It’s much more convenient than waiting for a QuickTime plug-in to load, and you don’t have to click through each link to listen.

The media player in Songbird isn’t just restricted to web sites. It also contains a library to handle files on your computer.

The program is still in development, and the preview available has a number of interface quirks. I noticed an issue with scrolling when viewing an XML file. The browser doesn’t keep a history, and handling bookmarks in the side bar can be unintuitive. Future features include the ability to rip and burn CDs and synchronizing with playback devices.

When Songbird gets closer to a 1.0 version, it could very well be an incredibly powerful application.

Copying MP3 files from iPod Nano to PC with Mp3tag

Technophilia Aural

I wasn’t amused when I discovered iTunes doesn’t allow transferring MP3 files from an iPod to a PC, but there are tools out there, both commercial and free, to do so. I tried SharePod, but my Japanese-tagged file showed up as question marks in the program’s display. UTF-8, c’est pas?

I noticed my Nano (presumably second generation, since it’s a silver 2GB model) is always enabled as a disk drive, so I poked around the directories through Windows Explorer. I found my MP3 files in some hidden directories, renamed with some random encoded convention.

So I experimented. I launched the very excellent Mp3Tag program and browsed to the music directory on my iPod (//iPod_Control/Music). Lo and behold! Mp3Tag read all the subdirectories.

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What I learned, part the second: What’s in the envelope?

Technophilia Aural

I spent yesterday remixing "Hear the Wind Sing".

After receiving the Kawai K4 I bought on eBay, I went back to this song to fix some of the issues I left hanging after I reached a "stopping point". That must have been more than a year ago.

My big impetus was to use a sound not included in the factory preset system exclusive files made available on the Kawai support web site. It was this weird, voice-type patch that I loved. I managed to find it on a mailing list.

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Evaluation period: Acoustica CD/DVD Label Maker

Technophilia Aural

Whenever I need to make jewel case art for my demos, I fire up SureThing CD Labeler. It’s done me good so far. I could probably be far more creative with an actual publishing tool, but SureThing supports the Memorex labels I buy at the electronics store. So it’s convenient.

Until I start using Japanese.

At that point, SureThing is pretty useless. So I’ve been weighing my options — upgrade my 11-year-old copy of PageMaker 6.0? (Generally, not recommended.) Upgrade to something more industrial strength like Quark? (Which I’m evaluating right now) Or find a label-making program that supports Japanese?

I took a shot with Acoustica CD/DVD Label Maker, and I was pleased that I could use Asian fonts without even having to switch locales. At first.

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Evaluation period: Sound Forge 8

Technophilia Aural

At first, I really didn’t know what Sound Forge could do for me that Audacity couldn’t.

For a free piece of software, Audacity is incredibly powerful and very competitive for the price. When it comes to working with my demos, I do most of my effects processing in Cakewalk anyway, and I use Audacity only to do some clean-up — add some silence at the end, use a fade out when I’m too lazy to use an envelope in Cakewalk.

But a few things have started to bug me about Audacity.

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Evaluation period: CD Architect 5.2

Technophilia Aural

I know what I want for Christmas: Sony Sound Forge 8.

Sound Forge comes bundled with another program named CD Architect 5.2, which I’ve been using in the last few days. That sound you hear is me drooling in the manner as Homer Simpson at the mention of the word "donuts".

CD Architect allows you to prepare a CD master compliant with the Red Book standard, whatever that means. All I know is that it gives me so much more control over how to program a CD track listing than Nero or Roxio.

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Evaluation period: Finale 2006

Technophilia Aural

I’ve been on full tilt with working on my album for NaSoAlMo, and this weekend was the first I was actually blocked. So I spent some time trying out Finale.

Finale is touted as the premier typesetting software for music manuscripts. When I saw an academic version for sale at the closing of Brook Mays a few weeks back, I scooped it up. A full version costs a good $600, and I managed to grab it for $107.

I played around with it today, and I’m glad I didn’t shell out that additional $493. As thorough as Finale can be, the user interface is one of the most difficult I’ve ever encountered.

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As anal as a gay man, as lazy as a programmer

Technophilia Aural

Last night, I mastered some karaoke mixes of my Eponymous 4 demos, and I created some MP3s out of the mixes.

I’m usually a stickler about my MP3 tagging, but the tools I use for my demos don’t really deal with tagging. I don’t use the MP3 export function in Cakewalk because I trust LAME far too much, so I use winLAME to convert my demo WAV files to MP3. The version of winLAME I have doesn’t include an interface to tag.

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On podcasting: What about the voice?

Technophilia Aural

It’s nice to see HawaiiUP up (haha!) and running again, especially after having been overshadowed by the phenomenally successful Lost podcast, The Transmission. Even Dreama has jumped on the podcasting bandwagon.

I toyed with podcasting back in March, but I never launched it. I was still unfamiliar with my microphone, and the shows I did produce sounded wildly inconsistent. It also sucks living next to loud trashy neighbors and a bus route.

I’ve since had more practice with my microphone — and just as importantly, setting up my "sound booth" — and I’m thinking about revisiting the podcast. Out of curiosity, I thumbed through some books about podcasting at the bookstore and tried to find how much space the authors dedicate to practical speaking tips. The results were just as bemusing as when I first explored the topic back in March.

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The quickest way to make an MP3 playlist

Technophilia Aural

M3U files, at the very, very minimum, are text files listing MP3s in a particular directory. Most of my playlists are located with their MP3s, so they don’t mess with file paths. There is an M3U specification, but I tend to be lazy.

How lazy?

I open up a command prompt in my directory of MP3s and type:

dir /b *.mp3 > "playlist.m3u"

I then edit the resulting M3U file in Notepad, if I need to change anything around. Usually, my files are named in a way to put them in their proper track order.

This technique applies to Windows. Not sure what other operating system users do.