Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Foobar2000

My new favorite piece of software if Foobar2000. Foobar Website

When I download live recordings, they typically arrive as a set of music files in one of two lossless compression formats: '.shn' (people say 'shorten') or '.flac' (which stands for Free Lossless Audio Codec). Neither of these formats is playable on an iPod and while compressed, still take up a lot of disk space. Included with the music files is usually a text file that contains the information about who played, the date, the setlist, etc. Before Foobar, I would download the files, convert them to mp3 or m4a files using two different applications - one for .shn and one for flac - and then import the compressed files into iTunes. Next, I would have to manually label and 'tag' each track and album ... a very time consuming process to say the least - especially once I got a 20 mbps line at my house!

Enter Foobar ... Now, I load the lossless originals into Foobar and, using a plugin called "Live Show Tagger", I can automatically parse the accompanying text file and almost instantly tag the whole show. I can then use Foobar to convert the files into a lossy compression format for import into iTunes and my home entertainment setup.

My only problem has been that the "album" field is not making it from Foobar into iTunes. Even with this shortcoming, I have just cut down the time that it will take me to get the huge backlog I have into my library by an order of magnitude or two.

I've heard of people having issues with different versions of mp3 tagging causing issues like this ... I haven't ever had this issue myself, but now I do and I fear I'm about to learn more than I ever wanted to know about MPEG meta-data ... I'll let you know what I find out.

Monday, March 3, 2008

It's been a while ...

A combination of factors has led my recent absence ... a huge contributing factor being a surge in music acquisitions via bit torrent ... {cue "time warp" effect} ...

Once upon a time (80's), fans of the Dead and Jerry Garcia traded cassette tape recordings of live shows. Low generation cassettes of good recordings sounded pretty good. I had a case of approximately 250 cassettes that I considered one of my prized possessions. Some of the best sounding had come to me from my good friend Steve who went to college with the daughter of Dan Healy - sound engineer for the band for years. His "ultramix" cassettes were mixed on site from multiple sources including mics and the soundboard itself. The other "gems" were the so-called "Betty Boards" - direct reel-to-reel soundboard recordings by Betty Cantor. Many of these Betty Boards were released when the contents of a storage locker were auctioned off.

Then came the internet and digital music. Internet sites began popping up as early as 1995 with digitized copies of live dead recordings. Eventually, sites like gdlive.com emerged that housed large numbers of digital shows.

Soon a network of ftp sites emerged ... with a database behind it hosted at db.etree.org. A data model emerged with a one-to-many relationship between each show and the multiples sources with their lineage ... people have tried to assign unique ids to each source. Technology evolved around this community. Out of this confluence of traders and tapers and techies came lossless compression technologies like ".shn" and peer-to-peer technology like Bit Torrent itself. Today the network of ftp servers has been replaced by a network of people sharing the music online via bit torrent.

I've been furiously collecting new stuff of late ... more on why and what and how in future posts ...

Here's the show of the week ... contains a nice Paul McCartney song in the second set called "That Would Be Something" that I enjoyed the few times I heard it ...

This is from the Philly Spectrum on 10/7/1994.