Monthly Archives: June 2008

How to clean up my music collection?

I love music. It takes up a large portion of my life and I don’t exaggerate when I say that I couldn’t cope without it. And since I also love technology and have been an avid Internet user for about 13 years now – it makes sense that I have a LOT of digital music 🙂

The problem is that I never really kept it under control. There are MP3 files, OGG files, WAV files, WMA files and AAC files all spread out over 5 computers, hundreds of CD and DVD backups, my external hard drives and two iPods. Most of the files don’t have proper tags. There are plenty of “Unknown Title by Unknown Artist” songs or something equally vague.The files that do have some correct title and artist information often don’t have the album cover images embedded – which doesn’t fully utilise the beautiful interface on my iPod or other music programs.

Now, on top of this, I also own plenty of CDs that (believe it or not) haven’t yet been converted to digital format. I also have a small collection of vinyls and cassete tapes that I’d like to convert so I can enjoy them more often. Finally, since starting RADIO TOKYO, I really need to make my music collection as searchable, accessible and fully annotated as possible, so Ican prepare for the show quickly.

My music collection needs help! I’m not entirely sure how to go about cleaning it up, though. There are plenty of tagging programs out there, but not many of them are entirely accurate (especially with my Japanese CDs). There are others that can only tag newly-ripped music, not files that were already created. I’m fairly particular and will put a huge amount of attention to getting the details correct (heh, so why did I let my music collection get so unruly? I’ll put it down to sheer size and momentum of growth), so I don’t think I can accept the standard tagging programs.

MusicBrainz logoI’m a member of the MusicBrainz community (username MagdaStremeski) which is an open source database of music metadata. It relies on community members to create and update the records of music releases. Anyone can change the data but every change requires some ‘cool-down’ time, where other community members can query or vote for the changes. This means that changes made are -for the most part- very accurate. It’s an excellent open source project and it’s free.

So I’m sure that part of my solution will be the MusicBrainz tagging program, because I can always change the tags if I find a mistake, or create the release in MB if it isn’t already there. For the most part though, i think that even my Japanese music collection will be serviced quite well.

But I’m not sure that MusicBrainz will be enough. There are many ‘Unknown Title” tracks in my collection – aMusicIP logond quite often they’ve stayed that way because I really don’t know what the title is! There are a few music fingerprinting services out there – MusicIP is one that has partnered with MusicBrainz, so hopefully the services I can get will be integrated. Hopefully MusicIP can scan my collection and fill in the blanks.

I also need something that will rip the CDs I have and covert them. Yet another set of programs to investigate! But what format should I rip them to? iTunes uses AAC, which probably is a better quality format than MP3 but is really only useful in Apple products. OGG and FLAC compressions are higher quality still AND they’re open source.

But…hard drive space is growing bigger and cheaper every day. And I’ve done a little research on the various MP3 codecs – it doesn’t have to be a poorer quality sound. MP3 files are also accepted by my home and car stereo systems.

So perhaps I’ll re-rip all my CDs into high-quality Mp3s with a WAV backup, in case FLAC becomes more widespread. I’ll have to see what can be done about the AAC or originally low-quality MP3 files and what I can do with them.

I feel like I have all the pieces available to me for cleaning up and organising my music collection. I just have to have a closer look at processes and make sure that whatever method I use will give me my end goals without too much rework (especially manual rework).

If you have any suggestions for music ripping/identification/tagging programs, then please comment below!

IBL ends at Foster’s…

My twenty-week Industry-Based Learning (IBL) placement at Foster’s Group is just about to end. I was part of the Process Capability Team at the Southbank headquarters. Foster’s was really such a great place to start my corporate ICT work experience. It’s a large company and obviously a household name. The BP&IT department is headquartered in Melbourne so I had the best chance to meet, network and experience the major IT projects happening in Foster’s.

Everyone was very friendly and helpful and keen to give me as many advantages as possible. Thanks particularly to my manager Patricia for being so proactive and positive about my future career.

Of course, I learned plenty over the last 20 weeks. Perhaps what was most surprising though was learning how much I enjoy training – developing training courses and then facilitating and rolling them out. That made up quite a large portion of my work during the IBL placement and it’s something I’ll definitely be looking at doing again in the future. The other part of my work – process analysis and modelling – was also really enjoyable and hopefully I should blitz that subject next semester! 🙂

Finishing a work placement at a company where I really enjoyed myself would usually be pretty sad – but I’ll be back again! Yes, Foster’s offered me a casual position! I’ll continue working with the Process Capability Team for one day a week while I go back to university next semester. Full-time summer work is looking like an option too.

But for now, we’re in ‘farewell’ mode. There are 5 other IBL students here besides me and we’re all having our little team parties and exchanging emails. I’m happy that I can tell people “I’ll see you next week”, but I’m still happy to take part in the “last” day celebrations at the bar too!

2008 International Young ICT Professionals Conference

I’ve just arrived back home from a few days in Adelaide, where I attended the Australian Computer Society’s Young ICT professionals conference at the Convention Centre. It was my first conference and I didn’t know any of the other guests but it was a fantastic experience and I’m already looking forward to next year’s conference in Sydney.

The theme of the conference was “Building a Successful Career – Learn, Develop, Lead” and I really appreciated how it was directed mainly at current university students and recent graduate. The speakers all spoke on the topic at some level – particularly leadership.

The conference started on Thursday with speeches from the ‘big guns’ – keynote speaker Jonar Nader and various directors from the conference’s main sponsor organisations: Microsoft, Google and the Defence Materiel Organisation.

Jonar is the author of “How to Lose Friends and Infuriate People” and is extremely likeable despite being an apparent expert on behaving like the exact opposite. His talk emphasised the importance of making sure that you deliver exactly what your customers want and need, not what you think they need or whatever is popular at the time. It’s something I’ve already experienced on a few projects and I keep reminding myself to think about. I haven’t actually read Jonar’s books yet but they’re on my shopping list now.

Alan Noble, the Engineering director of Google Australia spoke about “The World According to Google”. I think most of the conference attendees were most interested in hearing what Alan had to say – such is the Google juggernaut. Alan didn’t really talk too much about leadership but he did talk about innovation and what Google was interested in working on in the future – some tips on perhaps where the university students could direct their energies.

Norbert Haehnel, the DPE Director at Microsoft, was another enjoyable and likeable speaker. Like Alan Noble, he spoke more about the technologies that Micrsosoft was developing and what Microsoft was expecting in the next ten years, as opposed to speaking about leadership. Still, it gave me a list of links and technologies to research! The video he showed us about ubiquitous and totally integrated communications technology was pretty exciting. Of the other technologies he spoke about, Silverlight and Surface in particular have piqued my interest.

Both Google and Microsoft seem very focused on the web and communications – not surprising really. The web is still expanding and constantly revealing new ways to interact or disseminate information – it’s only a pity that Australia’s Internet infrastructure is still lacking. It really needs to improve if we want to fully utilise what companies like Google and Microsoft have to offer – and then build on it.

Anyway, back to the conference. There were obviously quite a few speakers talking about graduate job opportunities or the recruitment process – one breakout session had two streams: one targeted at current students applying for that first job, the other focused on how to develop and grow a career for recent graduates already working.

The conference also included a gala dinner with many speakers and awards for ACS members. It was a great networking opportunity and I made some new friends in the Victorian (and Western Australian!) Young ICT committee. I think I’ll be looking at joining the committee myself in the future.

Overall, I really recommend the conference to ICT students, speaking as one myself. I think recent graduates can gain much from this conference too. The only part I regret is not spending more time in Adelaide and taking a better look around – especially since I hadn’t visited the city since I was in primary school!

It was revealed that the next conference will be in Sydney in 2009. No word yet on what the theme will be but I’m already sure I’ll make the trip next year.