Recorded Music Library on Linux

Compared with people who use ipods, I’ve been late getting my
music on line and computerized.

The reason I don’t use ipods,
or some more open version of the same thing, is that I don’t
really enjoy listening to music through earbuds or
headphones.

So when I’m home or in the car, there’s no problem playing CD’s
through speakers. When I’m somewhere else, I either listen to
whatever music is playing there, or don’t listen at all.

But of course, one of the things computers are good at is
organizing and cataloging things, and CD’s are especially suited
to being catalogued that way, because they usually have all the
information on them, in the metadata.

So in the last few months, I have compacted and catalogued my
cd’s on the computer. They now sit in two large notebooks on my
living room bookshelves, most of them are in a directory on an
external hard drive in .flac format, from which I could recreate
the CD if I needed to, some of those are in a directory in MP3
format which I could play on my cell phone if I wanted to, and
my home network is set up so that I can play the music off the
upstairs computer on either the laptop or the media center
computer in the living room.

SOFTWARE

Here’s the LINUX software I use to do this:

  • sound-juicer takes the CD’s and reads them into the
    directory on the computer. I use flac as the output format. It
    turns out to be important to set the preferences to “strip
    special characters”; otherwise you end up with directory names
    with commas in them, and most of the programs that want to do
    something with the directory (like back it up, or convert the
    flac’s to mp3’s) are going to have trouble with that.
  • I use rhythmbox to play the music on the computer. If it’s
    running on the upstairs computer, you can play the music it sees
    on the downstairs computers automagically, without configuring
    networking drives or anything. It has lots of options for
    having the computer make pretty colored patterns based on the
    music and getting the lyrics off the web (this seems somewhat
    unreliable for the music I listen to) and accessing internet
    radio stations like last.fm. I turn out to actually sort of
    enjoy putting “shuffle” mode on and listening to random songs
    from my entire collection, as long as I’m close enough to the
    “next” button to skip something I”m really not in the mood for,
    or that really doesn’t make sense out of context.
  • I use brasero these days to write CD’s. It definitely beats
    remembering the options to mkisofs and cdrecord, like we used to
    have to in the bad old days. I haven’t been
    making mix CD’s from the music, but I’m pretty sure I
    could.
  • If I just want to play one song and I know where it is in
    the filesystem, I usually use mplayer from the command line.
  • soundconverter converts all the .flac files in a directory to mp3 files in a different directory.

I installed all of these programs from the Ubuntu repositories.

CAR

I did try out one of those devices that transmits music from an
MP3 player on an unused FM frequency that you can tune your car
radio to. It didn’t work consistently enough, so I gave the MP3
player and the radio transmitter to a friend who lives where the
radio spectrum isn’t quite so crowded. I don’t know if she uses
it or not.

One of the binders I put all my CD’s in came with a cd holder
that velcros onto the sunshade in my car, so I just put a few CD’s
into that and play them when there’s nothing good on the
radio.

If that ever seems too restrictive, I might buy a new car radio
with an input jack or an SD card reader. But I think that’s a
ways down the list for the toy-buying budget.

Other places

I can use either my phone or my Nokia N810 to carry music with
me. I also have a small portable Sony speaker that I can plug
into either of those devices. (They do both have speakers, but
certainly you wouldn’t want to listen to music on the phone for
any length of time; the Nokia is less tinny but still pretty small.) So when I buy music from the Amazon
MP3 store, I can still play it to my friends, although not quite
as easily as bringing a CD to a house with a CD player.

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