MP3 validator fixes iTunes “Determining Gapless Playback Information” bug

iTunes Determining Gapless Playback Information

One big problem I have had with iTunes is the “Determining Gapless Playback Information” bug.  In a nutshell, every time I open iTunes, it is apparently “determining gapless playback” for the same two dozen tracks.  I keep my iTunes library on my Windows Home Server, and usually access it over wi-fi via my laptop.  With iTunes 8 and 9, this could take upwards of two minutes; in the meantime iTunes was completely unusable – beachball hell.  Connecting my laptop to the router sped things up a bit, but it’s still an annoyance.

Turning off the gapless playback scanning in iTunes preferences didn’t help.  By scouring the Apple support forums, the problem seems to lie in corrupted MP3 files.  They will play back fine, but there’s one issue or another that keeps iTunes from properly doing gapless playback scanning.

My previous solution was just to remove the offending MP3, and then re-encode it from my FLAC archives.   That solution works – up to a point.  The only information I have to go on is the track title that is displayed during the scanning process.  I have a lot of tracks with the same name – for example, I have a lot of Christmas albums, so when one of the offending tracks is “Silent Night”, that means I would need to delete each instance until I found the right one.  Not an ideal way to fix the issue.  So I still had about 15 songs that were subject to this problem.

Enter iTunes 10.  Apple’s latest and greatest still has not fixed the problem, and now it takes far longer to scan the offending files.  We’re talking 5 minutes on a wired connection; I never waited long enough to see how long it took over wifi.  So I had to find a better fix.

After googling “fix my stupid MP3s”, I ran across MP3 Validator at gromkov.com.  I pointed it at my iTunes library, and it chugged away at my collection for about 30-45 minutes.  Surprisingly, about half of my collection was marked as broken.  I allowed it to fix everything, and “a-la peanut butter sandwiches”, I can now work with iTunes as soon as it launches.

Nice work.  Unfortunately this doesn’t help those in a pure Mac environment, as it’s a Windows-only program.  Doing a quick Google search for “Mac MP3 Validator” turned up a similar program: http://triq.net/mac/mp3-validator-mac-os-x (among others.)  I can’t speak to how well it works, but hopefully it will be as effective as well as the program I used.

Microsoft unveils revamped Zunes

Microsoft announced on Tuesday that it will offer three new models of the Zune in November, including two equipped with flash memory. The 4GB and 8GB versions are iPod Nano look-alikes that will sell for a suggested retail price of $149 and $199 respectively. An 80GB player equipped with a hard drive will sell for $249. The pricing scheme for the devices exactly mirrors that of Apple’s iPods.

Some of the other changes include a complete overhaul of the device’s software and a redesign of Marketplace, Zune’s music store. Other interesting features include wireless syncing and the new Zune Pad, a touch-sensitive technology that enables users to slide their finger across the main navigation button instead of always having to click.

Microsoft is a living example of the “third time’s the charm” axiom. Windows, Internet Explorer, Windows Media Center, etc.; it usually takes Bill G and company three times to knock it out of the park. They’re certainly heading that way with the Xbox 360, and it looks like the Zune may follow this trend as well.

No one in their right mind – or at the very least, anyone without an axe to grind – believed or said that Microsoft would be able to unseat the iPod right out of the gate with the Zune. And they didn’t. They won’t with this revision either – but they’re much closer to parity. For now, I’m still sticking with the iPod for my portable media (just bought a 160GB iPod Classic) – but come next year and the Zune 3.0, it may be a different story. The Zune may never be the literal “iPod Killer”, but it may well give Apple a run for their money.

[CNET News.com]

Amazon’s MP3 store brings more DRM-free music at lower prices than iTunes Store

Found at Ars Technica:

Amazon has launched a public beta of its long-anticipated digital music download store, offering more than 2 million songs as MP3 files. Those who have been paying attention to the digital music business can probably guess what’s included: tracks from EMI and Universal Music Group, music from another 20,000 independent labels, and $0.99 downloads…

While download stores might have gotten away with encoding music at a 128kbps constant bit rate a year or two ago, that’s not going to fly today, and Amazon knows it. Most tracks are variable bit rate 256kbps MP3 files, though the occasional track is encoded at constant bit rates. Large, high-quality album art comes embedded in each file…

The default song price is $0.99 per track, but the top 100 songs are only $0.89 apiece, and the top 100 albums go for $8.99….

The prices are still a bit too high for me to give up physical CDs anytime soon, but this is definitely a step in the right direction.  Apple has made some steps in the right direction with their “iTunes Plus” program, but Amazon’s got the better deal right now:

  • Cheaper tracks ($0.89/0.99 vs $1.29)
  • MP3 vs. AAC (More compatible, virtually identical quality)
  • No need to use another application (i.e. iTunes) to download

It will be interesting to see where this goes – more competition is good, and Amazon’s definitely a credible competitor.

[Link: ArsTechnica.com]

New iPod lineup

Looks like Apple has pulled out all the stops with their latest refresh to the iPod line. FatPod Nanos with video capability, touchscreen iPods, and a 160GB “iPod Classic” (my personal objet d’desire). They also mentioned something about ringtones for the iPhone, but I find them incredibly annoying, so the less said, the better.

The iPod Touch apparently has wifi capability, so you can browse the web and purchase songs directly from the iTunes Music Store.

And a Starbucks/Apple partnership? Wow – that borders on self-parody there, Steve-o.

EMI to offer DRM-free music through iTunes

In what is hopefully the first of many, the EMI record label announced that they will be offering their catalog of music free of DRM (Digital Rights Management) through the iTunes Store. In a nutshell, DRM is technology meant to stop people from copying digital content. On one hand it makes sense because artists should be able to protect their work from wholesale copying and distribution and benefit financially from the fruits of their labor. On the other hand, US copyright law does allow for “fair use”, which means being able to make backup copies for your own personal use – something DRM schemes are meant to limit.

One caveat is that the price of admission has gone up slightly – $1.29 per track as opposed to the previous $.99 per track standard. To dull the sting somewhat, the bitrate of these unprotected tracks has been increased from 128kbps to 256kbps AAC – which is virtually CD quality.

Hopefully the rest of the major labels will get the hint and follow suit. While there will always be people who want to get something for nothing, I think most people would be willing to pay for what they use as long as they aren’t subject to unfair restrictions.