I’ve been absorbed by mac to pc issues lately.  I love my mini, but I’m slowly learning that beneath the glossy exterior the mac os is still a member of the pack of Windows and Linux.

My first challenge was labeling MP3’s. This took me a lot longer than I thought, and I might still have to do some editing here and there, but finally all my MP3’s have details and album covers on iTunes. Mac forums on media files are a mixed bag. Most people are quick to jump to the conclusion that whatever file is not working is just plain corrupted.  This I find snobbish, and by the same token, ignorant.

  • mp3 files do not natively have id3 tags
  • iTunes does not put id3 tags on an existing mp3

Once you accept the two statements, then I can talk to you. Most encoders have the option to add an id3 tag when you’re ripping a song from a CD into a mp3 file.  But not all of them do it without your knowledge.  Hence, please learn to configure your encoders correctly, people! iTunes does add id3 tags when used to encode files. Yes, I am aware it can edit existing ones.

So what do you do when you assign an album cover and it doesn’t stick? More than likely you will find there is no id3 tag in the mp3 file. iTunes include an id3 tag converter, which does nothing if there is none to begin with.  The effect you see is that iTunes seems to add the cover. Then you browse away and back and it’s not there anymore. So what you do is ask iTunes to re-encode the mp3 into its propietary format, AAC. They sound just as good and that’s what’s important for me.

I’ve heard of people running a Windows VM on their mac just for the purpose of getting a decent id3 tag generator software for their mp3 collection. Crazy but I can totally relate to their frustration. Apple is a bit Sony sometimes.

Let me explain that. Sony is one of those brands that likes to make up their own standard. They used to make you dependant on their power adaptors because they used a different current. When everyone is going with secure digital flash memory, they came up with their own memory stick. Sony just wants to set their own rules and since they’re big everyone has to follow. Yes, I’ve owned Sony stuff over the years.  I’m not interested in running a boycott, they’re not the only ones that do that.

Now the other challenge this week has been working with my blossoming collection of ISO files.  I don’t like having to put a dvd into the dvd player.  Lazyness without limits, right? Well no, consider this. You own a dvd for years. One day you trip and it gets a scratch against the coffee table (oooh I don’t have a coffee table, I should get one).  Then from now on, everytime you get to your favorite scene the dvd player freezes. You have to try to fast forward through it or just jump to the next chapter. Generate an iso and you have a copy of your movie on digital form.

You can use this copy to generate a new dvd (before you say anything, I’m not on the US of A). However, it’s huge. It will be close to 7GB and it includes all the advertisements and menus and special features.  On some DVDs this is done very well, the ads are kept to a minimum, the menus are attractive, the special features are relevant. On MOST, this is a mess. The menus give away the movie, the ads are endless and don’t even let you get to the menu after you’ve played them all and the special features are more ads or not even relevant to the movie.  So albeit a few exceptions you don’t want to keep the whole mess. Your movie itself is probably just 1GB of all of that.

I jumped ahead, and went directly for Handbreak. This software (open source, all platforms) is good (except on Linux where it crashes) because it accesses the iso file directly. But it wasn’t finding any chapters but one of zero length in my anime iso’s.  Using the mounting utility, I tried playing the iso with the native DVD player. It wouldn’t play.

I often block myself from a solution because I jump ahead, and this was the case. It’s usually better to take a step back and just see the first layer of a problem instead of forcing a conclusion. Mac forums were again frustrating. The people who had ISO’s generated from PC (mine were done on Linux) could not get them to mount on Mac. The answers they got were pretty snobbish too: “A properly mounted ISO will mount anywhere”.

The answer I got at work was entirely justified. Download them from somewhere. I’m not advocating piracy, but it would’ve been a good solution. However, it irked me not to know how something is done. I don’t like downloading media files from strange sources. It seems all decisions are made for me. Yes, I’ve bought media from iTunes. As a side note, realize that by obscuring the subject it does seem to force the average person into piracy of media files or face the fact that one day the movie DVD he payed for will not work anymore.

I had to find the solution and I did. In the end, Linux and Mac shared the blame. First of all, mount the iso file. In my case, they mount as “CDROM”. Then download the 32 bit VLC player. This is important, the 64 bit was not working correctly even though I have a dual core intel cpu on the mac mini. There’s a warning somewhere that says that the 64 bit version of the VLC player is not reliable. Now you can play ISO’s if you choose play VIDEO_TS folder instead of DVD as a source.  Do the same thing on the Handbreak software and you can now generate media file. Another week of ripping, but I have the feeling this will be a lot faster.

I went to see my friend play the drums on Friday but I was late and she had played already.  She and her boyfriend are musically talented and egged me to learn an instrument and jam with them.  It’s tempting.  But it’s a dream. With so much Dire Straits and ZZ Top in my head, I would love to play the guitar.  But the learning part… To play La Grange… It’s a dream. A dream on permanent hold.

Not the only dream on hold that I have. At some point while going to the Alliance Française back home, I would dream of being in theater. Another thing I wanted to do is take acting lessons.

Writing is not on hold though 🙂 Makes me happy to come up with a good story. However it has been on hiatus for a while recently.

On the health front, I feel a little better. I’ve been giving up soda and replacing it with the nastiest thing on earth, V8.  Cold tomato soup. Bleargh.  I’m also forcing myself to walk to the office rather than take the bus every day. Now all that remains is that gym thing that I’ve already payed for.