iEatBrainz (really.)

So, you have a digital music collection that goes back to Napster version .99 and Winamp 1.o. Also, you have carried this collection into the modern age of iPods and iTunes. Yet, with all your due diligence, you can’t seem to easily find that rare version of “Kiss” by Age of Chance on your iPod because its ID3 tags say “Cool Prince Cover.” Well, if you have a Mac – there is a glorious piece of freeware for you.

iEatBrainz – Yes, that is the name.

What this program does is indispensable. It will go through your collection of mp3s (and AACs) and re-tag them automagicly with the proper name, album, artist and track number. It uses digital “DNA” of the song file and compares it to the MusicBrainz database. For most of your tracks it GETS IT RIGHT (again, “most.” Read: not all). I mean “wow.” Beautiful.

After you update your songs, update your artwork in iTunes and you will be the coolest, most organized, pocket-protector wearing kid on the block.

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Joost – First impression… It is a start.

Joost™ the best of tv and the internetGetting my Joost beta invite has really taken my head in a strange direction. Instead of using and enjoying the service as most normal people would, my little brain begins to looks beyond the technical feat of creating a peer to peer Internet television network and more towards the quality of content of the service.

First off the interface is pretty good, though not stellar. One’s ability to discover new channels and content is hindered by what a person has to go through just to add channels. First you have to go to your “Channel List,” then you have to go to an “All Channels” area to add the channel to your personal list. Only then you have the ability to watch a new channel to THEN decide if you like it or not. It is a long way around the block to see your next door neighbor. Beyond this the Joost app has a pretty slick, though non-standard, interface. The quality of the image is a pretty good 640 x 480 pixels with compression artifacts. I have a theory as to why quality is not that big of an issue, but I will get to that later.

I believe that discovery of new content should almost be effortless. There is a “Joost” channel that does show what is new, but it is about as compelling as watching the TV Guide channel. I want an easy way to get to something that I may like.

Now on to the bigger question of content. I realize that Joost is very early on in the process of creating a content delivery system that could seriously revolutionize the way we receive television in the future. But at this particular stage of the game (and I believe in ALL stages of the game) content is king. I, too, also realize that they are getting more and more heavy hitters on board like CBS and Viacom. But right now there is nothing great on Joost to watch. I do not open the program that much. I did not not find any great content before so why would I want to try again? And the heavy hitters may find in Joost the nudge that they need every fall season that the online video provided for the last season. But will the BEST content find its way to Joost? I would theorize no, at least not at first (or second). Right now the content is on par with your Video on Demand channels that you may have with your digital cable box. It is mostly third tier content that is either promoting something new that they want you to get into, or it is throwaway content that a channel may still retain rights for but they have not room on their regular channel to really bother with. This needs to change. And it may, just not now.

Now I will pose a question, would you rather watch (A) high definition, beautiful content that is boring or would you rather watch (B) a low grade definition of content you really enjoy. If those were your only two choices you like the rest of the planet would chose (B). Why? Quality of the image does not matter that much. Really, I mean it. You like what you like and if the content is compelling to you, you will watch and in about two or three minutes you be engrossed in the content and you will have forgotten about how clear or not the image is.

Honestly, Joost is a great effort. The bugs are slowly being fixed and the content partners are coming online, but, in the end, you are not conscious of the amazing technical dexterity of Joost, you are amazed (or not amazed) by the content.

And that, my friends, is my first impression. What is yours? Tell me I am wrong. Really. I can take it.

TVU Streaming – how i’m doing it.

As I have mentioned before here, I have set up a TVU Channel (#60752) Commons.TV. The concept of TVU is simple enough, I share video content off of a server and the TVU application, which you install on your Windows box, then negotiates a peer to peer connection with all other people watching the same stream. I only have to put out one stream but may people can watch the stream. This is sort of the Mbone dream without the intelligence built into the network. In this case the intelligence is in the peer client, or better stated, the edge of the network.

Sounds sort of simple, right? Well, TVU streams need transcoding into Windows formats. As I have come to figure out over the last 8 years or so, when you are doing any transcoding (changing one video format to another), “simple” rarely enters the picture especially when you have to transcode video “X” into Microsoft proprietary video formats.

Welcome to the brain drain.

So what amounts to 2 steps, which I will lay out in a moment, took me about 4 weeks to come upon. I tried every possible way to use VLC to do on the fly transcoding, as mentioned in the TVU forums, but this did not work. Don’t get me wrong, VLC is an amazing program, jut not in this application.

That leaves me with pre-transcoding. TVU demands WMV for video, WMA for audio (though mp3 works fine) in an ASF format which was more illusive and proved to be a pain to get to. Again VLC could almost do it, but the video became too crunchy and the audio would turn to inaudible mush on some transcodes. I needed something that would work harder on the videos to optimize the quality.

Here is where this is all going…

Step one: use ErightSoft’s “Super” to transcode. This absolute gem can accept anything as long as you have the codecs to play it and encode it. It adeptly re-sized my video, changed frame rate, reencoded the audio to a lower bitrate as cleanly as possible. And I am using some really crappy bitrates. 128 kbs WMV (320×240, Media 8) for the video and 32 kbs mono (mp3) for the audio. The program can put out the ASF format – which is all perfectly compatible with the TVU server application.

Step 2: R-solve Software’s “AsfBin” to combine. This program does a fantastic job of combining many video streams together. The streams have to be EXACTLY alike, but, once you use “Super” to do the transcode, this step can give you the ability to string together many files.

Load up AsfBin’s output into TVU’s streaming server and off you go.

Simple, right?

The top 5 Joost alternatives

Joost™This logo either means I am a blogging snob or that I am a beta testing snob. I am neither; believe me.

I recently got my Joost invitation from the Joost people, and I have got to say it is a good start for them. More on that in a later post…

I just found an interesting write up on The Neophiliac Pass about The top 5 Joost alternatives
– T.N.P. pretty much nails it, though I would throw in Winamp and its video sharing piece as another possible alternative.

Gotta wonder, what ever happened to throwing up an outdoor antenna and hooking it to a TV?

Windows Vista. One primates reaction.

Monkey brains release endorphins when the monkey encounters something new and novel. Hi, my name is John. And I am no better than a monkey.

I had a “window” of opportunity to install Windows Vista on a new machine at work to hash out any issues that I may face if/when we decide to upgrade our O.S.’s around the office and figure out any roadblocks in the way in as far as web development. Between you and me, once you get to a certain point in web development, your tools are probably a very good text editor and some reference websites – making a move to another O.S. is probably a moot point. But if opportunity arises, you better take it or it will be Windows XP for you, forever.

So, why so harsh on myself? I like Vista. At least that is what the endorphins told me. I like Aero Glass. I like the easy install. I like the fact that years have not been wasted on XP because every thing is in about the same place, yet the new pretty shininess tells me I am seeing something “new and novel.” And it felt good.

Upon deeper introspection I realized it was what is was. All the same programs with new edges and transparencies and colors and effects. The work I do, the work WE ALL DO, will not be enhanced with these types of changes to operating systems.

Yet, upon yet deeper introspection, Vista is more secure. You will get asked 3 or 4 times “are you sure you want to allow…” installing each program. This is a good thing. It does not just willy-nilly allow anything to install without you knowing it. This will annoy some users, but get used to it, that is how more secure operating systems have been running for years.

Final thought…

Ooooh pretty.