Audio Ripping on FreeBSD

For years I've been batching up my new CDs to rip all at the same time. Sometimes, this means doing a couple a month. Other times, like this year, it means catching up with 12 months of backlog. And while my ripping habits likely are uninteresting to readers, what I've learned over the years may be helpful.

Years ago I installed the 'abcde' port, and update it from time to time. Having it in-place, and configured, makes all the difference in the world. I use cdparanoia as my reading method since it is the slow but reliable choice.

There are many silly process things that make things go faster. First, make sure that you have all the CDs in the cases that you have stacked up. A few days before I start to rip, I go through the stack to make sure that none are on walk-about. Next, grab a bottle of windex, and a lint-free cloth. Wash each of the CDs, assembly line style. Sometimes I only do this for the discs that fail, but often times it helps things go so much faster that it can be worth the up front time.

Once I have the discs prepped, I pick a time that I'm not using my laptop too much to do the ripping. For me, this is often my work day, since I look at it from time to time for email and irc messages only. My laptop DVD player isn't the best in the world, but that's OK. The ones that rip quickly, I don't have to do anything about. The ones that are scratched badly, I put aside for later. The easy ones are boring, since abcde makes them boring, so I'll not describe the process much further. Each disc takes about 10 minutes to rip and transcode them.

The scratched discs are more of a challange. I've used a lot of players over the years. They vary widely in their quality. The cheapo player I have in my laptop copes with most of the discs. If I see too many + signs in a disc, I'll set it aside for later. Here, too many is 'more + than spaces in the output' when I look over at the screen several times. Or if there's any 'V' indications on any of the tracks. These usually take longer to do anyway, and get in the way of breezing through the easy CDs. Each year, I have maybe 5 discs that are stubborn, out of maybe 30 that I do. Long term averages are that 1 in 10 newly purchased 'used' disc show this. Discs that have been knocking around in the car for months are more likely to suffer from this as well. Really stubborn ones are more like 1 in 100, but more on that in a bit.

I have a special CD-ROM (not DVD) that I use for the scratched discs. Of all the drives I've tested/used over the years, this one has the best success rate by far of any of them. This one happens to be a 52x/20x/20x IDE drive branded by HP I got at Target, of all places, several years ago. I can take a disc that has 20-30 V's on it with my cheapo laptop setup, and sometimes get a good read with this player. Often, the discs just read quickly, and that's the end of it.

Sometimes, however, the disc is badly damaged and is that it is very slow. I was able to rescue a Moxie Froovis CD and a Phil Collin's greatest hits CD with this drive. But it took a week each of reading. When the drive is connected to a server, it doesn't matter so much that it is doing this. The CPU time isn't all that great during the week, so it doesn't interfere with the normal server operations. I look in on them once an hour at first, then once a day until the songs are done. Since I rarely have more than one or two of these a year, the extra time isn't that big a deal.

At one point, I had a dozen laptops with CD Roms that I could use for ripping. I thought this would be great, since I could do so many in parallel. It turns out that the CD Rom drives in these were even cheaper than the one I'm using today. I spent so much time running between the laptops that I didn't get any work done. And the CPUs in these boxes were all, at best, squirrel powered, so they couldn't handle the encoding as well as my 2GHz HP Pavilion laptop does now. At the time, I just did it serially on the server I had (which was a 666MHz Intel), and changed it every hour or two. I could still run it remotely, so I wasn't running back to the server room except to change a disc.

Today, with iTunes and other music places online, the art of coaxing bits off of audio CDs seems a bit passe. However, it is still something I find I'm doing a lot. Used CDs cost almost nothing, compared to $1/song for iTunes. Plus, format shifting is so much easier with audio CDs than with iTunes. Also note: I'm not talking about sharing my collection over the internet, just making the archival copies, and format shifted copies, as allowed by law and court decision. I still have most of the original CDs, and those I no longer have had been destroyed by my two-year-old when he was younger... But that's a story for a different time...

1 comment:

mato said...

audio/abcde is a great tool! Unfortunately it has not been upgraded for a long time. I discussed some fixes and improvements with the author so they're likely in his SVN but no release has been done. And I remember that after upgrading my other laptop to 7.0 abcde failed to work. :-(
BTW, according to Schilly cdrtools are much better than cdparanoia which is outdated.