Sunday, February 22, 2009

OGG track numbers iTunes - and Songbird Sings!

I'm a BIG fan of Linux and open source. I try and use open source software whenever I can and try to contribute projects with either monetary donations or helping in reporting bugs, testing or documentation. I have a Linux desktop and host all of my applications on Linux. However, there unfortunately are however some programs and clients that require me to have a MacBook. Alas, sometimes you have to pay the piper. But I am looking to eventually ween myself from Steve Jobs.

I'm also an equally big fan of open standards. One standard that I support is Vorbis and more precisely the OGG container. If you have heard about OGG, the definition from Wikipedia is as follows:

Ogg is a free, open standard container format maintained by the Xiph.Org Foundation. The Ogg format is unrestricted by software patents and is designed to provide for efficient streaming and manipulation of high quality digital multimedia.

The fact that a company could own the format that all of my music is in, goes against my beliefs of free and open standards. I therefore have tried everything that I can to try and keep all of my music in this format. It hasn't been easy, especially since most all music purchase download sites only offer MP3 or AAC. Not even a lossless version like FLAC seems to be available for download on most sites! Very annoying, but that's the subject of another post I guess.

Why am I writing all of this you ask?

Well, I've got close to 20 GB of OGG files and had been wanting to try and use iTunes to listen to them. The people at Xiph have created a quicktime extension that allows iTunes to recognize and play the OGG format! Details on that can be found here.

However, what you'll soon find out is that while it plays the songs, iTunes doesn't know the track numbers! It plays all of the songs from an album in alphabetical order. Bummer. This while not a deal breaker, is extremely annoying and when you have some albums where the songs are in particular order for a reason, it makes listening to album useless. This issues has been submitted to the people at Xiph, but has been deemed not important.

After some searching however, I found an amazing script by Dr. Lex, which allows you to run through your entire library and update the iTunes metadata with the track numbers from your OGG files. Woohoo! Now we are in business. You can get the script directly from Dr. Lex's site here. Very easy to install and it worked out of the box with my iTunes version 8. You'll notice the script also does some reply gain adjustments as well if you have that configured, but in my case I was just interested in getting the track numbers. Thank you Dr. Lex for creating and sharing this script. This is open source at it's best.

Since I have solved my iTunes in OGG problem, I have actually found a better music player that support OGG right out of the box! It's called Songbird and has some really cool features along with a pluggable architecture. This allows in the same way that Firefox has taken off by people contributing to it, my hope is that Songbird will do the same. If you want to help an Open Source song player succeed I suggest you take a look at it. My next step is going to be getting a sync program going with Songbird so it will push songs to my Android powered G1 phone, but that's a subject for another post. Lots of fun pet projects in the works.

Happy audio listening with Songbird!


Dr. Monkey, MD. said...

Songbird is awesome-I use it on two of my Linux boxes right now. I love the customization-ability of it as well as its open source nature (and the fact that its built around a browser framework is pretty awesome, too-makes getting new songs from the web super easy).

In the months since you've written this have you been able to code anything to sync Songbird and Android? I'd love to see something of that sort floating around out there...

Localtone, LLC said...

Hi Dr. Monkey,
Unfortunately, I have not been able to code anything as of yet, but I believe that bringing a client side application and the ability to sync with Android is essential to it's success. Apple has scored a big win with the ability to sync your music with your desktop and mobile device. the problem with this model is that i only works with iTunes and Apple's devices. If we can get Songbird to sync work with ANY Android device, thing of the potential, especially since many have projected that we'll have well over a dozen Android devices on the market by the end of 2009!