iPhoto Library Manager

User’s of Apple’s iPhoto software will notice that the responsiveness of the application is a function of the number of images (or size) of the photo Library. Once my Library contained over 1000 images, the application began to slow considerably. iPhoto Library Manager to the rescue.

iPLM (I really don’t want to type that long name again) allows you to create and switch between multiple iPhoto Libraries. The documentation suggest topical Libraries — vacation, family, etc. My preference is chronologically dated Libraries. Once a Library grows to about 650 MB, I’ll back it up to CD, and then create a new one (leaving the old one in place, in case I need at any time to switch back to it.)

Additionally, a small shell script run from cron can notify me by email when my current Library is getting close to 650 MB.

Music Encoding Options

Over on Macintouch, there’s a lot of discussion ongoing about music encoding — Which is better AAC or MP3? What bit rate is required for sufficient quality? How does the LAME encoder compare to the encoder used in iTunes 4?

Folks are expressing some fairly strong opinions. One popular post is someone’s personal comparison of music samples encoded with MP3 and AAC over a variety of bit rates. Sound quality is described using terms like “brighter”, “fuller”, “wider”, “clearer”, “deeper” and “more dynamic range”.

In my humble opinion, such reviews should be taken with a large grain of salt.

Some years ago, I worked as a student in the audio laboratory of Dr. Marshall Leach. During that time, I was amazed at the number of folks visiting the lab, claiming superior audio quality from things like gold capacitors, “high-end” cabling, and expensive speakers. What was even more amazing was that many of these folks continued to firmly hold their opinions in spite of laboratory demonstrations to the contrary.

A good example is loudspeakers. It’s actually not too difficult to build a near-optimal loudspeaker system — i.e. optimal in the sense that it produces a flat frequency response given a spectrally flat input (noise). Such speakers, which almost perfectly reproduce their input signals, are consistently rated poorly by audiophiles.

Anyway, back to encoding…

Today, I compared a music sample encoded on the Mac using the LAME MP3 encoder with VBR, high-quality, and specifying an average target bit rate of 128 kbps, with the same sample encoded in standard 128-kbps AAC using iTunes 4.

I listened to these two clips, running concurrently in QuickTime Player 6.2, and simply could not tell an audible difference. Physically the AAC file was 3.5 MB, compared to 4.6 MB for the MP3.

I would love to find a more technical comparison between these format. I would suppose that the such a comparison could be done through a frequency/spectral-power analysis of the data composing the song.

Has anyone seen anything like this available?

Telefónica España and Proxy Caches

My ADSL and internet service provider, Telefónica España, just installed a network of transparent proxy caches. I suspected this when last week I suddenly lost my ability to immediately see updates to modified websites, and then confirmed with the ip-calculator service.

I called Telefónica to complain and let them know that this causes serious problems for professionals making frequent changes to customer websites. (It’s kinda embarrassing to call a customer and say, “Can you have a look if the change I just made looks ok?”) The response was basically, “Sorry, nothing we can do to help you.” (That was only after I managed to weasel past Line-1 support! “Proxy What? Did you try restarting your computer? Macintosh? Oh, there’s your problem.”)

Any suggested solutions (other than changing providers)?

ImageWell

If you’re blogger on the Mac OS X platform, and like to include images in your entries, you’ll likely find ImageWell one of the most useful utilities around.

It resides in your menu bar. Dragging an image to the utility can, in one step:

(1) Scale the image to preset configured dimensions (2) Apply a shaping mask (3) Upload the image to your FTP site (4) Paste the URL to the image on the clipboard

Highly recommended!

Disk Utility Fix Permissions & CommuniGate Pro

If you use Apple’s Disk Utility application to Repair Permissions on your Mac OS X system AND you have CommuniGate Pro installed, you’ll end up messing up CGPro’s files such that the following won’t work:

echo "Hello" | mail -s "Hi There" [email protected]

The affected files from the Disk Utility report are:

Group differs on ./private/etc/mail/submit.cf,
    should be 7, group is 0
Owner and group corrected on ./private/etc/mail/submit.cf
Permissions corrected on ./private/etc/mail/submit.cf
Group differs on ./usr/bin/mail, should be 0, group is 6
Permissions differ on ./usr/bin/mail,
    should be -r-xr-xr-x , they are -r-xr-sr-x
Owner and group corrected on ./usr/bin/mail
Permissions corrected on ./usr/bin/mail

To fix things, do:

sudo chown root:wheel /private/etc/mail/submit.cf
sudo chown root:mail /usr/sbin/CommuniGatePro/mail
sudo chmod 2555 /usr/sbin/CommuniGatePro/mail
sudo chown root:mail /usr/sbin/CommuniGatePro/sendmail
sudo chmod 2555 /usr/sbin/CommuniGatePro/sendmail

iTunes 4 Warning

Just a quick note to mention that when iTunes 4 asks if you want to “Replace Existing” songs when re-encoding, what it really means is “Move Existing to Trash”. As I’m re-encoding my entire CD collection to AAC, I just happened to notice in the info bar of a Finder window that my disk had only a few hundred megabytes of free space left. The trash was full (several gigabytes) of my old MP3 that had been moved there by iTunes 4!

Apple Music Service

I guess it was about a year ago, Apple Computer introduced the combination of an MP3 player (the iPod) and companion software (iTunes) for the Mac OS X. The tight integration of an innovative device like the iPod and easy-to-use software like iTunes made Apple (and its users) the envy of the music-loving Windows world. While users of other MP3 players could carry around a few CDs worth of MP3, iPod users could tote around thousands of songs in the ultracool device.

While others continue in their pursuit to copy the iPod and iTunes, Apple yesterday took a huge leap forward, through the introduction of iTunes version 4, and launching its own Music Service. iTunes users can now, within the same easy-to-use interface, access a library of more than 200,000 songs, purchasing albums for an average of $10 or, probably more importantly, individual songs for 0.99 cents. Every song in the service has a 30 second immediate preview, to allow listen-before-you-buy.

Purchasing couldn’t be easier. Once you’ve setup an account, just click the buy button on any song or album, confirm the purchase, and the song is immediately downloaded and stored in your songs library. To be honest, I’m personally quite worried about such convenience, being a music lover and an impulse buyer! Having tried the service out this morning, I’ve already purchased four songs, and can’t imagine an easier or more convenient way to shop for music.