Managing your MP3 collection
Remember all the MP3s you ripped or downloaded sitting in that big directory somewhere on your hard drive? Getting those files organized by genre, performer, or album can be daunting task if the MP3s are not properly tagged; and most of them are not. There are a few applications out there that can automatically (with varying degrees of accuracy) identify and correctly tag your MP3 files.
Most of such applications are commercial but there are a few freebies among them. One of them – MusicBrainz – happens to be very good and it runs on multiple platforms. That’s the one we’ll be looking at. Let’s consider the entire process of downloading and organizing your MP3s. The following is just a description of how some people do it, so don’t regard it as a call for action. And how to turn your mp4 to mp3.
Step 1 – Downloading
Probably the best application for downloading MP3s and other files is eMule. Some users complain that eMule is slow. The reason for this is that these users are sitting behind firewalls (such as built-in firewalls in their routers) which are blocking two ports eMule uses to transfer data. If port forwarding is correctly configured in the firewall eMule will be very fast. You also need to share some files – the more the better. They don’t have to be MP3s.
You can build an extensive music collection by using band/performer lists from Wikipedia. Feed it to eMule’s search function and pick files with most sources.
Step 2 – Not getting caught
MP3s are normally around 5-8Mb in size and eMule can download them very quickly over a broadband connection. The files are stored in the “Incoming” folder which is shared to other eMule users. This means that whatever you downloaded and whatever is sitting in the “Incoming” folder is accessible to anybody. Sometimes this is not a good thing and you might want to move certain files to a non-shared folder.
This can be easily accomplished with a simple batch script running from the Task Scheduler every, say, 15 minutes. On a Unix desktop you can use a simple shell script running from cron. The script would move, say, all *.mp3 files from “Incoming” to “Music” folder which is not shared on the network.
Here’s an example of a Windows batch script that would move file from the “Incoming” folder to different non-shared folders based on the file’s extension:
xcopy /CEDY "J:DownloadseMuleIncoming*.mp3" "J:DownloadseMulePrivateMusic" del /Q "J:DownloadseMuleIncoming*.mp3"
Step 3 – Organizing
So now you have a directory with a huge number of MP3s. Go to the MusicBrainz site and get the tagger utility. Install it and configure to watch for files in the “Music” folder and to rename and move files automatically to a designated directory. See the screenshots below for more details.
Configure MusicBrainz Tagger to automatically save files that were identified with 80% accuracy.
Configure Tagger to watch an incoming directory for any new MP3 files and automatically process them and store in the output directory.
Now you have eMule pumping MP3s for you and MusicBrainz organizing the files. There will be about 20% MP3 files that MusicBrainz cannot positively identify. You can use MusicBrainz to manually locate track information or just delete the “difficult” MP3s.
Step 4 – Sharing
If yo want to be able to listen to your music collection from anywhere with Internet access, you might want to try a nice free application called MP3Act. This would require some knowlege of Apache Web server, MySQL database, and PHP. You will also need to have a Linux server. If you have no idea what I am talking about, then forget it – it would be too comlicated. However, if you already have a Linux box up and running, then installing MP3Act is a piece of cake.
One thing to keep in mind when adding new music to MP3Act – this application uses a MySQL update process that is not very memory efficient. When you add a directory with a large number of files, you will quickly run out memory. I used a Windows macro to add each subfolder one by one to avoid this problem. The author ot MP3Act is aware of this issue and will probably fix it shortly anyway.
Step 5 – Listening
Install WinAmp on Windows or XMMS on Unix and associate media streams with these applications. If you are behind a firewall on a Unix workstation, open XMMS -> right-click -> Options -> Preferences -> Audio I/O Plugins -> MPEG Layer 1/2/3 -> Configure -> Streaming -> check “User proxy” and enter your proxy information.
Another great player to try under Linux is AmaroK. This application uses the tags in your MP3 files to nicely organize all your music. It will also download album cover art and give you easy access to information about artists and albums. Here’s a screenshot of AmaroK running under SuSE 10:
I really like AmaroK. It’s stable, full of interesting features, and it’s pleasing to the eye. Give it a shot.