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.

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]

Free software of the week: Handbrake

I’m always on the lookout for good, free utilities and applications – I’m going to try to make this a regular feature, where I share a handful of useful apps that I use on a regular basis. Most of these will be in the realm of audio/video editing and transcoding, but I’ll post anything interesting. Some of these are very well known, others are more obscure.

There’s a distinction between software that’s “free as in beer” and “free as in speech”. I will be focusing on the “beer” type (i.e. costs nothing to use), but if it’s of the open source variety as well, so much the better.

This week’s pick is…

Handbrake

Handbrake is a nifty little app for Windows, Mac, and Linux that will allow you to take your DVDs and convert them into iPod-compatible MP4 video files. It’s been around for a couple of years, but until recently development had slowed considerably. Handbrake relatively simple to use and fairly quick, depending on your hardware. It’s still beta software, and has a few quirks here and there – the deinterlacing feature, for example, is terrible for animation (but is slated to be improved in future builds). But overall Handbrake is an excellent free app.

http://handbrake.fr

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.