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CD ripping, digital music, music streaming, iPod / iTunes / Sonos - various thoughts, suggestions, ideas, odd ramblings ….

Collecting CDs in Person

Yes, we collect in person. We've been doing this for coming up to sixteen years. The miles covered, the jams endured, the hours in service stations and my series of clubs (McDonalds). I think I've visited each one in London.

But it's coming to an end, this year.

After December the personal collection / return option will be no more. Simply had enough of it, sorry TfL, I'm sure you're doing your best but traffic moves far slower today than it did when we started. The standard of driving is much lower. I never thought I'd have to invest in a dash cam to record the unbelievable stupidity of some drivers, cyclists and pedestrians.

The message is clear, if you want or need personal collection you need to act now. Come December (not sure exactly when in that month) the option will be withdrawn. Until then happy to endure the roads.

After December we'll be mail based. Further details later but when we began thinking about this the possibility of losing clients was a brake on this decision. However for many years we've offered a mail based service and we've also been explaining to anyone who rings that they can mail their discs to us. Whilst many clients love the high service option of collection many are happy to mail or deliver their CDs in person.

This last week we've received over 2,000 CDs either by mail or by personal delivery, so this option works well for many people. We hope it will work well for you too ... but if not, act now while the personal collection option is still on offer.

iPods - impending doom, act now.

Yesterday Apple killed two of their iPod models - the iPod Nano and the iPod Shuffle. Cue some tears.

Mixed feelings here. I could see the point go the Nano and I know it was popular with our clients. Maybe not for "mainstream" high quality music listening but for younger family members, as a gift, as a commute system, for a second home of to leave in the car. Great device.

Shuffle? Never really got it. I know people who got them as a jogging companion or for very small children. No screen, ultra tiny capacity, dull exterior, hit and miss playing experience. Sorry, not one for me and I won't mourn its passing.

Still, if these devices are your thing you might find some left in-stock with retailers if you act really fast. Apple's online store now only offers the iPod touch (which I think is great). Argos are showing both the Nano and the Touch, Amazon are listing Nano, Touch and Classic as available.

Looking to the future the tide is rising and the next inline is clearly supplies of the Classic. With large portable playing capacity and better Digital to Analogue conversion now may be the best if not last time for you to buy.

iPod to PC / Mac Music Recovery

Even this late in the iPod lifecycle we're getting a couple of calls a week in the same vein. "Can you get music off my iPod and onto my computer?"

There are still people who, for whatever reason, have music on an iPod that isn't on their current computer. Often it's due to that hard drive failing, sometimes people move to a new PC and forget to take their iTunes library with them. They're left with an iPod Classic stuffed with tracks and a new PC / Mac with no music. Can we get their music back?

Let's be clear what isn't a problem - purchased music. If you log into your iTunes account on the new computer you can re-download tracks you purchased from iTunes Music Store. The issue lies with the music you've ripped from your purchased CDs. Can those tracks be recovered?

As we often say to clients - all things are possible. If you do a Google search you'll find several pages with guaranteed, surefire, undoubted methods to backup from an iPod to a computer. Indeed, in the early days of our CD ripping service, we did this pretty often. We even purchased software for our Macs and PCs that allowed us to do this. At the heart of any of these approaches is an intervention to stop the automatic sync of device and computer. Once that has even begun, in that fraction of a second, if you can't grab the music player an turn it into a vanilla flavoured external storage device, you're screwed. You don't get two chances. Zap, it's all gone.

Today it's much more difficult than it was fifteen years ago. The whole process is so much faster. Of course we have our own iPods to practice with and we speak from experience. We know that it goes wrong too often. Of course we're speaking from a commercial perspective, we're no longer confident that we can take on the risk of it not working. So we're happy if you want to say it can be done, it's just we're not doing it any more.

iPod to PC / Mac Music Recovery

Even this late in the iPod lifecycle we're getting a couple of calls a week in the same vein. "Can you get music off my iPod and onto my computer?"

There are still people who, for whatever reason, have music on an iPod that isn't on their current computer. Often it's due to that hard drive failing, sometimes people move to a new PC and forget to take their iTunes library with them. They're left with an iPod Classic stuffed with tracks and a new PC / Mac with no music. Can we get their music back?

Let's be clear what isn't a problem - purchased music. If you log into your iTunes account on the new computer you can re-download tracks you purchased from iTunes Music Store. The issue lies with the music you've ripped from your purchased CDs. Can those tracks be recovered?

As we often say to clients - all things are possible. If you do a Google search you'll find several pages with guaranteed, surefire, undoubted methods to backup from an iPod to a computer. Indeed, in the early days of our CD ripping service, we did this pretty often. We even purchased software for our Macs and PCs that allowed us to do this. At the heart of any of these approaches is an intervention to stop the automatic sync of device and computer. Once that has even begun, in that fraction of a second, if you can't grab the music player an turn it into a vanilla flavoured external storage device, you're screwed. You don't get two chances. Zap, it's all gone.

Today it's much more difficult than it was fifteen years ago. The whole process is so much faster. Of course we have our own iPods to practice with and we speak from experience. We know that it goes wrong too often. Of course we're speaking from a commercial perspective, we're no longer confident that we can take on the risk of it not working. So we're happy if you want to say it can be done, it's just we're not doing it any more.

When Dreams Become Nightmares

We make mistakes. OK, I admit it. Of course we do everything we can to avoid them but I have to put my hand up and say yes, from time to time, we get something wrong. It burns inside when we get a complaint and I try to swallow hurt pride and say sorry, then put it right.

When a complaint came from a repeat customer that hurts all the more. We ripped the CDs in the normal way and returned his 300 CDs plus his digital files on a hard drive. He rang a few days later to ask a point on file structures and I asked if he was enjoying his expanded digital music library. He was kind enough to say yes, but …

So I asked what’s the but?

Well, the Mozart compilation has two discs missing. Hmm … how did that happen. Thankfully he wasn't too upset but I appreciate how annoying that kind of glitch might be. Naturally it set my mind racing on how that might be. Before we get to the cause of that here’s another issue we faced from another client’s CD collection we ripped this week.

It’s Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius. Something I can take or leave but undoubtedly one of the major works of an English classical composer. Pretty bit of cover art too but sadly the otherwise comprehensive album notes don’t say who created the image. You’ll also see it’s a two CD set. The discs cover other composers works too but the headline piece is split over the two CDs.

Except it’s not. Looking through the output files in iTunes it was easy to see the second discs didn’t show up. To correct this I put CD 2 into the drive. I should explain how ripping software works. When the CD is recognised iTunes measures some vital statistics - overall length (in time), number of tracks, length of each track. This creates a digital fingerprint and it’s that which is matched against CDDB in the case of iTunes or GD3 when we’re using our robot rippers. On the basis of that match Apple or whoever then supplies the metadata - album name, track details, artists, composer and so on. Not whatever Decca has printed on the front of the disc.

In this case Disc 1 is disc one, and so is Disc 2. A screw up by Decca. So much for German attention to detail, Otto on the night shift was asleep when these went into the printer. Unfortunately this Dream turns into a nightmare as we don’t have a true copy here from which can can substitute the errant tracks.

Going back to the first clients issue he kindly agreed to put the two “missing” discs into his computer and yes, you guessed. Our digital fingerprints had spotted these discs as being from another two albums. Other than slotting them into the set they client had purchased the discs had been ripped, the metadata was correct in all respects except album names. He was able to enjoy the sound albeit wrongly labeled.

I’ll take that one - could do better, We’ll be paying more attention in future. And you lot on the night shift, wake up at the back.

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