Monday, March 10, 2008

The Big Rip Is Over

Whew. I finished the big rip project. 121 gigabytes of Apple Lossless files (5215 tracks), piles of clean up and de-duplication, and a bunch of manual hunting for cover art, but it is done. Was it worth it? I'm not really sure. I had some hope of actually using some of the lossless music on my iPod, but 121 gigs? I think not.

The one advantage is that if I change my mind about the lossy format that I actually want to use (192kbps MP3 for now), I have everything tagged and organized so that it is pretty easy. Just the processor time to chug through it all again.

My one gripe is that I had to fight against iTunes in a number of places. Everything is possible, but not necessarily easy. It would be very nice, for example, if you could force imports to go to a different directory than the main iTunes directory. Or if you could display (and sort by) the file location. Or if you could use iTunes to move physical files around. Or if you could delete music from playlists. Or if when you do a conversion it asked you if you want to keep duplicates (like it does when you rip a disk). Or if you could have it touch every file in your library to find the missing files (and then if you could sort by the [!] or something). Or if you could swap back and forth between two or more different iTunes directories and then merge them at some point (I got to a place where I had to finish the entire process before I could sync my iPod or things would go horribly wrong - it would be nice if I could have done some of the fiddling in a separate environment).

On the other hand, some things iTunes got very right. Smart playlists are a godsend. The search function is almost magically good. And now that I have actually filled in my album art, cover flow is pretty neat.

And speaking of filling in album art - I never could have done that without and google image search. Not a chance. The iTunes missing album art function only hit about 50-60% of my collection - that's what I get for being eclectic I guess.

One interesting thing about the whole process is that it took 24 hours running at ~75% CPU utilization on a modern dual core computer to transcode the files from Apple Lossless to MP3. That is an astonishing amount of CPU time on a computer that would have been classed as a supercomputer a few years ago and magic a few years before that. I estimate it used about 3E14 CPU cycles. A circa 1990 Cray Y-MP would have taken around 625 days to do this processing (obviously not counting any of the optimization that you definitely would have taken the time to do and using a 1:1 assumption about CPU cycles that probably isn't strictly accurate).



Jeff Carlson said...

Congratulations! You need one of those lovely 160GB iPods. Then you can keep a good bit of your music there. Er... can I have your old iPod? ;D

You mean you want to *permanently* delete files from the play list view (not just remove them from the play list) right? That might be nice... press an extra keystroke or something when deleting from a play list.

I am curious to know which songs you can tell the difference between 192 and lossless. It may be my damaged hearing but I really cant tell the difference on anything.

Also, why did you rule out VBR? That seems to be a very interesting approach to the problem of maximizing sound while minimizing file size.

David said...

Right. A playlist (especially a smart playlist) is a nice way of grouping things together. Including grouping things together that you might want to delete. Or move.

I very seriously doubt that I can tell the difference between 192 and lossless on anything at all. I plan to test that out eventually, but that isn't the point of the exercise.

The point is that if I ripped everything as 192 MP3s (or whatever) and then changed my mind at some point about the format that I really want (because I got a better stereo, or a player that prefers OGG, or whatever) I would have to re-rip everything from scratch. Because I can hear artifacts in things that are transcoded between different lossy formats. At least I sometimes can.

That's what started me down this path. I had a bunch of stuff ripped as 128 MP3 and I decided that that wasn't ideal. Especially for classical music and Pink Floyd and Dire Straits and Santana. Things with string instruments or dynamic range can sound a bit muddy.

But I didn't want to be wrong ever again. It took far too much effort to rip the whole collection. Twice. If I pick lossless, then I can never be wrong.

~3E14 processing cycles later and I can have any format that I want.

I didn't rule out VBR at all. I chose 192 MP3 almost at random - I had to start somewhere so that I could synch my iPod again. I know that it is plenty good and if I do some tests and decide that 160 VBR is just fine or that I'd rather have AAC I can just wipe them and have a do over.

Plus it is always nice to have projects that might suddenly need 3E14 processing cycles, because that is a super sweet argument for an 8 core Mac Pro. :-)


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