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June 25, 2004

Mac Sliced Bread Friday

Posted by Mike on June 25, 2004 9:25 PM

Once upon a time, when making mp3s was still a novelty, I fed my copy of the Beastie Boys' "Hello Nasty" into a truly terrible CD ripper and got back a collection of mp3s with no ID3 information... just an ugly file name, like "01beastieboyssuperdisco_breakin.mp3."

That's not very tidy. mp3 players gag on the lack of ID3 information and just cough up the unattractive file name, it's hard to use iTunes to find an album, etc. etc. etc.

Being a lazy nerd, though, I kept putting off what seemed like the inevitable, which was just going in and fixing the stupid things for myself. But it made me hate to play my Beasties mp3s because they didn't show up right in the mp3 player ticker, etc. etc. etc.

Then I found IEatBrainz:

Uses MusicBrainz ( to fix your mp3 and aac tags in iTunes after they've been ripped using acoustic matchings.

I tried it out and had one of those "Wow, I'm very very old" moments. It does what it says, pretty much: Listens to a file, then compares notes with an online database of songs and figures out what it just heard, then tags it accordingly.

So far it's missing on mp3s I downsampled to 64k for use in my old Iomega HipZip (40MB storage capacity -- bleah) and it's not too clear on a few others that are puzzling because they ought to be pretty common, like a couple of Who tracks. It's also missing on some of my X mp3s.

Anyhow... it's the sliced bread of the week. I wish I'd stopped ignoring it when it turned up in VersionTracker months ago. Like I was telling Ed, I need to adjust my laziness mix: A slightly sweeter "industriousness"-leaning formula would have had me searching for the automated solution to my problem months ago.

It's hard work waiting around for people to solve your problems for you.

Sliced bread item No. 2 is courtesy the Daring Fireball fundraiser, where John Gruber has rounded up some truly impressive sponsors to give away swag for registering. There are a few "usual supsects" in the form of copies of BBEdit and MovableType licenses, and a few more obscure picks I took a look at out of curiosity on the premise that my Mac use, to this point, has been limited to finding analog apps, meaning that I've settled for finding "a text editor," "a good browser," "a nice chat client," but not, for instance, "a kick-ass 'wiki on your desktop' notepad," which is exactly what I was wishing for a few days ago when I was struggling with the urge to make myself Clean and Orderly.

So this VoodooPad thing is just a notepad, but it does wiki linking, and it respects drag-and-drop linkage of files (or it allows you to embed them right in the page). It can even talk to wikis out on the Web proper. Up until I found it three hours ago, I was happily sticking stuff in OmniOutliner (which is still a very nice app for what it does, which is outline), but I wasn't getting the whole "use an outliner for everything" paradigm as thoroughly as the fad it seemed to enjoy a year or so ago, when webloggers teetering on the edge of burnout were feverishly pecking outlines of talks they were at so the rest of us could get something that amounted to Powerpoint without the splashy transitions or social stigma.

But there's always the horrible fear of lock-in, so it's also very cool that VoodooPad exports to HTML, XML, plain-old-text, Word (gag, but maybe it'll come in handy some day when the cockroaches have taken over and decreed that we speak to them only through their human resources departments), and, er, iPod, where you can have a whole VoodooPad doc in the damn thing, and browse it at will, wikilinks and all.

This is the kind of app that freaks me out a little. I can find "analog apps" on any platform (hence their analogicity), so there's no real fear of not having something anymore if I quit using a particular platform. But I don't know of anything quite like VoodooPad elsewhere that doesn't involve just using a full-blown wiki. So if it becomes part of my computing life... the middle finger on my right hand... that means I'm trapped in Macland. And if there is VoodooPad somewhere out there for Windows or Linux, there'll be something else that's not. And even if I can export my eventually gigantic brainpad to text, HTML, XML, or Word, I know I won't want to.

So, back to the iEatBrainz scrub, which is currently munching on 196 badly tagged files. So far, it can't seem to cope with much of anything from:

It's also struggling with Shantel. But it's very good at ALMOST guessing most of my Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner collection, an usually offering the correct title as an alternate pick. It has also, apparently, never heard of Wavy Gravy, which is probably going to be more and more true of more and more people, alas.

Looks like out of 196 tracks, it managed to figure out around 110 with no problems. Out of that collection, more than a few are Acid loops that snuck into the music folder, Acid projects of mine, corporate anthems, and downsampled tracks that it couldn't quite suss at 64k but seemed to work out in their un-downsampled form.

Note: I should hasten to add: The Daring Fireball swag isn't guaranteed: If you buy a t-shirt/membership, you get entered in a drawing.

More Notes: Lest I be accused of blind, panting adoration for all things Mac with an attendant myopia where other OS's are concerned : There is a wikipad for Windows: wikidPad. And there's also EmacsWikiMode. So similar functionality is available on at least two other operating systems.


"This is the kind of app that freaks me out a little."

That made me laugh- thanks for the cool review.

-gus (the author of VoodooPad)

Posted by: August Mueller at June 26, 2004 6:29 AM

"So far it's missing on mp3s I downsampled to 64k for use in my old Iomega HipZip (40MB storage capacity -- bleah) and it's not too clear on a few others that are puzzling because they ought to be pretty common, like a couple of Who tracks. It's also missing on some of my X mp3s."

Yeah the acoustic fingerprints aren't too forgiving, 64k sounds too different for the algorithm, and I assume some encodings are just too different in what they sound aspects they compress and what this algorithm looks for, and as for your common tracks, 43.3% of the meta data in MusicBrainz doesn't have a single fingerprint submitted, so really if you have a song that doesn't match and you know what it should match to, you should find it in the database and manually match with iEatBrainz which will result in the fingerprint being submitted.

Posted by: Jay Tuley at July 11, 2004 11:31 PM