Friday, January 5, 2007

Mo' Snow

Yesterday was the third consecutive Thursday that snow fell in Northern Colorado. This 4" was of course nothing like the first snow, but the overall cumulative impact is starting to overwhelm much of Loveland, CO. Wednesday was to be the first day of school in town, but it was cancelled as the school district couldn't clear the parking lots and sidewalks in time. Late Wednesday, they had the high school parking lots opened and school resumed at Loveland high schools yesterday. However, they had no hope of opening the elementary and middle schools as there were no public sidewalks cleared (due to the mounds of street snow piled onto them) thus no safe place for children to walk.

Last night's new snowfall merely compounds the problem. OTOH, the moisture is much needed and terrific. Also, we haven't experienced the outages that Eastern Colorado and the plains states have.

I'll throw up some pictures later....

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Ripping Vinyl

I've spent the days since Christmas "ripping vinyl" for my wife.

She wanted very little material for Christmas, but there were a few "honey-dos" on the list:
  • Help clean the house
  • Move her LPs to CD/digital media
Ripping vinyl is the name commonly given to converting an LP into a digital format. Consequently, I've been listening to classics, classic rock, and a few soundtracks. Oh yeah, several comedy albums as well....

If you are interested in ripping vinyl, I can recommend:
ARTcessories Phone/LINE Preamp with USB is an audio capture device. When you plug it into your USB port, it registers as an audio capture device (similar to your existing audio card or microphone.) Sound recording programs (even the simple default ones) should now be able to see and use this card. The device can record LINE level devices (typical stereo components) or Phono level inputs (as it includes a preamp to bring them up to line level.) This has been a completely transparent, rock-solid, no-brainer solution. The ION Turntable USB was sold out over the holiday season. This is a very, very good alternative. (Props to K.A. for suggesting it.) This tool likely works with whatever hardware/software you have and certainly works with Ubuntu Linux and Windows XP.

Audacity is a free, open source sound wave manipulator. It allows you to capture the LP and then break it up into individual tracks. I used (at least so far) no automation to break the tracks up. (You can try and detect "silence" and use that to auto detect the track breaks.) Rather, I used Google Music, Wikipedia, and the album jacket and album itself to learn the track lengths. That information is sufficient to do a straight-forward job of disassembling the LP side into individual tracks. NOTE: This tool is available for Windows, Mac or Linux. I use the Linux version, but my wife uses the Windows version. Caution: The native Audacity file format (.aup) isn't really useful and is a space hog. This is done in order to make audacity very responsive to edits. You will always want to "Save as..." and export to a more usable format once the editing/post-processing is completed. I didn't try and do any pop and hiss cleanup on these files. A lot of folks use Audacity specifically for this purpose. Only one or two of the files would have benefited from this but I didn't have the luxury of time to use this tool/technique.

K3B is a CD/DVD authoring tool capable of creating audio or data CDs and DVDs. I'm familiar and comfortable with the interface (though it really has no especially unique features.) It's a Linux tool.

It takes "play" time to rip the vinyl properly, so each LP is taking "LP time", about 45 minutes to capture and then about 30-45 minutes to post process into tracks, convert to wave files, flac files, and ogg vorbis.

FLAC -- the free lossless audio codec -- is a format akin to WAV but has the advantage of using less space. By saving the FLAC files along with the original LPs, I'll be able to recreate either the CD or the Ogg files at a later date in a fraction of the time.

Ogg Vorbis is a free, unencumbered format that competes (and beats) MP3 format for space and quality. I use it to store all my CDs and LPs for computer playback (and even use a Samsung "mp3" player as it directly supports ogg. Samsung apparently no longer supports ogg vorbis--having sold out to the DRM Nazis. See Defective by Design for a DRM discussion.)