• Guide To Converting From iTunes To Dedicated Music Server

    The only constant in computer audio is change. Let me qualify that statement so as not to create discomfort among hesitant consumers. The only constant in computer audio, for early adopters and those seeking better solutions, is change. It's entirely possible to purchase a Mac, PC, or canned music server today and use it for the next five to ten years. But just because it's possible doesn't mean it's probable. As new servers, operating systems, and playback applications are released with better features and functionality consumer interest in changing solutions increases. Unfortunately switching servers isn't as simple as copying files or moving an external hard drive from one server to another. There are major incompatibilities between music server solutions. Some solutions like Olive Media servers don't allow users to export their music collections in a format usable by anything other than another Olive Media server. Other solutions like JRiver on a PC or the Aurender S10 Linux server support open standards such as FLAC that enable easy transitions to different platforms. The most problematic server switches involve Apple's iTunes, the most popular playback application in the world, and OS X operating system.


    Executive Summary
    This article covers in detail how to convert a music library from iTunes on Mac OS X to almost any Linux based server. The server used as an example is the Aurender S10, but this guide should work for servers such as the SOtM sMS-100, Auraliti PK series, etc… The first of two steps is preparing the iTunes library before file format conversion. The second step is converting the files to FLAC and embedding appropriate metadata. This entire process will prepare the music library for use with the Aurender S10 and for the possibility of using another music server in the future. Working with a large collection of music can cause anxiety and stress as unlearned computer audiophiles worry about deleting files or changing data forever. Following this guide should simplify the process and set users up for success now and in the future.


    Introduction
    The popularity of new Linux based servers has increased the number of users moving away from Macintosh servers running OS X and iTunes toward solutions such as the Aurender S10 and SOtM sMS-1000. Reasons for switching servers are all over the board. Some users want an appliance-like server with an excellent iPad user interface while others are looking for a possible sound quality improvement that can come with dedicated hardware and software. No matter the reason for switching servers the goal remains the same, to move all music from Mac to Linux without losing metadata, album art, and the integrity of the music files.

    Goal: To move all music from Mac to Linux without losing metadata, album art, and the integrity of the music files.


    Quick Primer

    Understanding how CD ripping and metadata work isn't necessary but the knowledge will help computer audiophiles in many other settings as well as the music server conversion process. The vast majority of people place CDs into their computers and click Yes when a box pops up asking if they want iTunes to import the disc. These users have unknowingly accepted the default ripping configuration. Most likely the disc will be ripped to 256Kbps AAC files that remove much of the information contained on the disc in an effort to save hard drive space. That's perfect for most people. Computer audiophiles on the other hand have likely changed the CD ripping settings to store the files in WAV, AIFF, or M4A / ALAC (Apple Lossless Audio Codec). Each of these three codecs / file formats is lossless in the same way a ZIP file is lossless for an MS Word document. Selecting a lossless codec is the easy part that most readers understand or will understand with a little education.

    Metadata is a completely different animal and one that doesn't rear its ugly head until a users switches server platforms. The key concept to understand is embedded metadata versus associated metadata.

    From the Computer Audiophile FAQ - What is metadata?


    Metadata In general metadata is data about data. In the context of audio metadata is information describing an album, artist, track, etc… and cover art that goes with each album.

    Associated Metadata (Stays with the application)
    This metadata is frequently stored in a proprietary database or file used by playback applications. When looking at an album within the application users will see all the information available such as album art, artists, track title etc... The problem with associated metadata is its lack of transportability. This metadata will only be available when using the specific application that associated the metadata with the files. If a file with associated metadata is moved to another application all the metadata is gone for good.

    Embedded Metadata (Stays with the file)
    This metadata is stored as chunks inside the the audio file's container such as AIFF or FLAC. Containers / file formats such as FLAC, AIFF, M4A (ALAC) support embedded metadata that is readable and writable by many audio playback applications. These containers/file formats have guidelines or standards for embedding metadata and they allocate space within the container for this data. Once this metadata has been embedded into a container/file like AIFF the metadata is there until removed. Moving a file to another application has no effect on the metadata.

    One additional note about metadata: Different applications embed this information differently. For example one program may embed a Comment in the Comment field while another may use the Description field. Furthermore, when converting a file the Comments field may be converted into the Description field. Life would be too simple if there was one standard that everyone agreed upon. Fortunately life can be made simpler using FLAC files when applications and platforms support the format. iTunes is not one of those application (without using the convoluted Fluke method, or a playlist in Amarra or Pure Music).



    How iTunes Stores Metadata. AKA - How We Got Into This Mess.

    As this article is about switching from the Mac / iTunes platform to a Linux platform it will be helpful for readers to understand how the above metadata information is pertinent to Mac / iTunes. Depending on the file format used iTunes can both embed metadata and associate metadata. However, iTunes never embeds album art without manual intervention.

    M4A (Apple Lossless) & AIFF - By default iTunes embeds a limited number of metadata fields into each file such as Name, Artist, Album Artist, Album, Composer, Comments, Genre, Year, Track Number, and Disc Number. iTunes does not embed album art into either file format. Rather the album art images are stored in a convoluted maze of folders that prevents all but the most dedicated users from retrieving manually. When albums in wither format are moved to a different computer or platform the text based information such as Name, Artist, Track, etc… stays with the file and should be readable by the new platform. The album art does not move with the file and stays with the application on the source computer. Note: Doug Adams from Doug's Scripts has created a script that embeds album art into iTunes albums (Embed Artwork v2.0 ). For the most part this script works very well. I have had a few problems with error messages that aren't descriptive (Example ). This is annoying when selecting 10,000 tracks to embed album art and the script has an issue with a couple tracks yet doesn't identify the tracks.

    WAV - iTunes does not embed any metadata into WAV files. When using iTunes all track information and album art automatically downloaded from Apple is visible but only associated with the album. Moving WAV files results in tracks without identifying information other than the actual file name such as Light My Fire.wav. I don't recommend using any scripts in an attempt to improve the metadata embedded into WAV file if moving to another platform. User sticking with iTunes and WAV files can user this guide to embedding metadata into WAV files (Link ). I didn't say it would be easy.



    Now What? AKA - How We Get Out Of This Mess.

    It's important to keep the goal of moving all music from Mac to Linux without losing metadata, album art, and the integrity of the music files in mind. Accomplishing these three elements of the goal isn't rocket science but can be impossible for computer audio newcomers. The above explanations detailed the source data handled by iTunes. This data is a mixed bag of embedded and associated metadata and album art. Just as important as the source data are the requirements of the target music server and a little vision for where this wonderful hobby of ours is headed.

    First, thinking about where computer audio is headed helps focus the target and appropriate options for conversion. In the future computer audio will be filled with even more options. There isn't a single technology that rises above all others so much so that 300,000,000 iTunes users and all computer audiophiles will accept it as the gold standard and be able to afford this mythical technology. When CD players first came out only a select few companies offered the players in their product lines. Years later nearly every brand offered its own CD player. This pattern will likely play out with computer audio transports. Every year more manufacturers will put their own spin on a music server and offer it to their faithful customers. There will be a plethora of options using Ethernet, USB, Thunderbolt, Linux, Mac OS X, Windows, and proprietary operating systems in the near future. Promoting the concept of getting a computer out of the listening room is disingenuous and only fools unknowing consumers. All of the current and near future devices are really computers as is an iPhone, Aurender S10, PS Audio PWD Mk. II, etc… All these options will drive consumers to jump around making changes from one platform to another. The ability to switch platforms without reinventing the wheel or hiring an off-shore team of workers is crucial. At the AES Convention in 2010 I talked to a representative of the Smithsonian Institute in Washington DC about long term data storage media and file formats. He said the major focus of the Smithsonian with respect to long term data storage was the ability to transfer and convert files from one platform to another as technology changes. This philosophy of adapting to inevitable change is also relevant to computer audio. Setting oneself up for current and future successful server transitions can be accomplished by taking advantage of everything the FLAC file format has to offer.

    The remaining examples and requirements are based on the Aurender S10 music server. This server uses the Linux operating system and has very similar file format requirements as other Linux servers like the SOtM sMS-1000 and Auraliti PK90-USB or PK100. The Aurender S10 supports several Lossless formats including AIFF, WAV, FLAC, and M4A Apple Lossless. Any one of these codecs would satisfy the file integrity part of the stated goal. Despite what others in the high end audio industry have said, namely Charles Zellig and Jay Clawson in The Absolute Sound's computer audio quality series, I believe there is no conceivable way lossless audio file conversion can change the sound of a music file and I have never heard a different between two identical files. For example when a file is converted from one lossless codec to another and back to the original codec this file is identifiable by what's called an MD5 or SHA-2 checksum. Contrary to what Charles Zellig and Jay Clawson suggest there is no plausible way, all things being equal, for files with identical checksums to sound different. Identical is identical is identical… That statement is of course my opinion based on my education and my research. Given the fact that losses audio codecs preserve the integrity of music / data files there is no need to re-rip one's music collection or worry about degrading sound quality when switching music servers.

    Every Linux based server I've used supports Free Lossless Audio Codec (FLAC). I believe FLAC is more robust and its metadata is supported better than all other audio codecs. Moving from application to application and music server platform to platform FLAC files and embedded metadata appear identical to the end user. I've never had an issue where I embedded metadata into a FLAC file on my Windows server only to find another server unable to read the embedded data. Contrarily I've run into numerous issue with other file formats and lack of support for metadata across several platforms. Embedded AIFF metadata may appear in iTunes but not appear identically in Linux servers or Windows applications. This is caused by a lack of standards for embedding metadata into AIFF files. It should also be noted that FLAC supports varying levels of file compression and an option for no compression. The uncompressed FLAC files are similar to WAV and AIFF in that they contain identical PCM music data but differ in that FLAC supports much better metadata. Uncompressed FLAC is like having one's cake and eating it too for many compression-concerned audiophiles.

    Note: Recently Apple released its Apple Lossless Audio codec as open source giving it a much greater potential to flourish and compete with FLAC. However, to date I'm unaware of any advancement of ALAC by the open source community.

    Getting out of the iTunes metadata mess and into an Aurender S10 music server can be done in such a way that enables successful use of the Aurender S10 and prepares one's music collection for a possible music server migration in the future. The first of two steps in this music server switch is to prepare the iTunes music library for conversion into the FLAC format. The second step is converting the music while embedding album art and adjusting metadata (if necessary). This conversion places the entire music collection on the Aurender S10 music server as a finished product. There will be no cleanup necessary once the files are on the target server.



    Step By Step Guide To Converting From iTunes To Aurender S10 Linux Music Server

    There are several ways to move music from iTunes to an Aurender S10 music server. Each method has pros and cons. The method shown here is the most versatile, robust, and easiest way to get from here to there. I attempted to do this entire conversion using Mac OS X applications only because it's a given that users have a Mac computer as this is the platform they are leaving for Linux. I ran into a couple problems with XLD and Max during my research. I was unable to configure XLD to either copy a folder.jpg file or extract a folder.jpg file and place it on the target Aurender S10 server. This was a showstopper. Max was able to extract a folder.jpg file and place it directly on the Aurender S10, but this required using the script to embed album art within iTunes while preparing the music for conversion. As I mentioned earlier this script produced error messages that were unpredictable and not repeatable. Also, Max is unable to output uncompressed FLAC files. I'm unsure how both applications handle libraries of considerable size such as 50,000 tracks and up. I've had issues with Max in the past when converting a large library. If the application has issues it can be impossible to pick up where the conversion left off. Thus, I recommend using the Windows only application dBpoweramp to convert files from an iTunes music library to an Aurender S10 music server.

    Requirements:
    1. Mac running iTunes containing music library
    2. Save Album Art as folder.jpg v2.2 script
    3. Windows computer or Windows virtual machine running on Mac OS X.
    4. dBpoweramp
    5. Aurender S10 or other Linux based music server
    6. Wired Ethernet connection (optional but highly recommended)




    Here is a real world example of iTunes ripping and metadata embedding & association. These albums will be used throughout this guide. I created a small iTunes library containing five albums. Each album is different in either file format or metadata storage. These albums are representative of most computer audiophile's libraries in one way or another. Most listeners select one or two of these configurations when using iTunes.


    Artist: Norah Jones
    Album: Little Broken Hearts
    Method: I ripped this album with iTunes set to import files using the Apple Lossless Encoder and error correction. Album art was automatically downloaded from Apple and associated, not embedded, with the album by iTunes. I manually added the following text into the Comment field of each track, "Manually added comment in iTunes for Norah Jones in ALAC."

    Artist: Jack White
    Album: Blunderbuss
    Method: I ripped this album with iTunes set to import files using the AIFF Encoder and error correction. Album art was automatically downloaded from Apple and associated, not embedded, with the album by iTunes. I manually added the following text into the Comment field of each track, "Manually added comment in iTunes for Jack White in AIFF."

    Artist: Lionel Richie
    Album: Tuskegee
    Method: I ripped this album with iTunes set to import files using the AIFF Encoder and error correction. Album art was added manually by selecting all album tracks > Get Info > and dragging the image file into the Artwork window. This album art is embedded, not associated, into each track of this album. I manually added the following text into the Comment field of each track, "Manually added comment in iTunes for Lionel Richie in AIFF."

    Artist: The Little Willies
    Album: For The Good Times
    Method: I ripped this album with iTunes set to import files using the WAV Encoder and error correction. Album art was automatically downloaded from Apple and associated, not embedded, with the album by iTunes. I manually added the following text into the Comment field of each track, "Manually added comment in iTunes for The Little Willies in WAV."

    Artist: The Doors
    Album: The Doors (24 bit / 96 kHz)
    Method: I downloaded this album from HDtracks in FLAC format and edited the metadata with dBpoweramp on a Windows PC. I then converted the album to M4A Apple Lossless using dBpoweramp and imported the tracks into iTunes using the Automatically Add to iTunes folder. iTunes surprised me by importing the PDF liner notes into the Books section of the program. I manually added the following text into the Comment field of each track, "Manually added comment in iTunes for The Doors 24/96 in ALAC."


    Prior to this conversion I copied my five album test music library from a Mac to the Aurender without any file format conversion or metadata adjustments.

    This is an image of the original library with some embedded and some associated metadata as viewed in iTunes.





    This is an image of the original library with some embedded and some associated metadata as viewed on the Aurender S10. Notice there are only four albums listed, two of which are missing album art. In this image The Doors and Lionel Richie albums display album art because it was embedded into the tracks manually within iTunes. The missing album is from The Little Willies. This album was ripped into WAV files. iTunes doesn't support any metadata embedding into WAVs and without metadata the Aurender can only arrange the album by folder. Thus navigating the folder menu allows one to view The Little Willies album.





    Step One: Prepare iTunes Music Library
    A. Convert all WAV files to M4A Apple Lossless within iTunes.
    B. Use Doug Adams' script to place album art in each album folder.

    Step Two: Convert Files and Adjust Metadata
    A. Configure dBpoweramp
    B. Convert entire library


    Step One: A. Convert all WAV files to M4A Apple Lossless within iTunes. If users don't have any WAV files this step can be skipped.

    Configure iTunes Import Settings to Import Using: Apple Lossless Encoder. Menu location is iTunes > Preferences > General > Import Settings...





    Sort the iTunes Music by Kind thus grouping all WAV files together. If Kind is not visible click the View menu > View Options > Check Kind. Select all WAV files by clicking the first WAV file, holding down the shift key, then clicking the last WAV file. All WAVs should be highlighted. Right-click or hold the Control key and click to view the popup options menu. From this menu select Create Apple Lossless Version. If the option says any other file format you've missed the previous instruction to configure the import settings. When this conversion is complete there's no need to delete the original WAV files unless disk space is running low.





    Step One: B. Use Doug Adam's script to place album art in each album folder.

    This is the belt and suspenders approach that enables both embedding album art into each track and including the embedded picture file in the same folder a the album. Some music servers prefer to read the album art picture file over reading the embedded album art tag. Having the picture file may provided better options for metadata manipulation should another server require this and the file doesn't consumer much disk space. Again, the belt (embedded art) and suspenders (picture file) approach.

    Visit Doug Adams' website (Doug's AppleScripts for iTunes ) to download the free script and make a monetary donation to Doug for creating such a great tool. Once the ZIP file is downloaded unpack it and double click the enclosed dmg file. The two files visible when launching the dmg file should be placed in the user's Scripts folder.

    Users with OS X version 10.6.x and earlier can simply browse Finder to Macintosh HD/ Users/(your-username)/Library/iTunes/Scripts and drag the two files into the Scripts folder. If the Scripts folder doesn't exist simple create the folder by selecting File > Create New Folder from the menu at the top of the window. Then drag and drop the two files into the Scripts folder.

    Users of OS X 10.7.x and newer must unhide the Library folder to move Doug's script into the right location. To unhide the Library folder click the menu option Go at the top of the Finder window. If the Go option is unavailable click anywhere on the desktop to make it appear. After clicking Go, hold down the Option key to unhide the link to the Library folder. Select Library the browse to iTunes. If a Scripts folder exists place the two files into that folder other wise create the Scripts folder by selecting File > Create New Folder from the menu at the top of the window. Then drag and drop the two files into the Scripts folder.

    If iTunes was open, close the application and relaunch. Otherwise simply open iTunes once the script files have been copied to the Scripts folder. Users should now see the Script icon at the top menu. Selecting this icon reveals Doug's Save Album Art as folder.jpg script as pictured below.





    Using Doug's Save Album Art as folder.jpg script is simple. Select all albums within iTunes. I use the Album view for this task. Then select the Script menu at the top and click Save Album Art as folder.jpg. This selection will bring up the configuration options window. I change JPEG Compression to Low because JPEG compression is lossy and reduces image quality. Then click the OK button and watch the progress via the horizontal popup window. When the Script is complete click the Quit button. Users should check a couple album folders to make sure the new file titled folder.jpg is located among the individual tracks. Each album folder should contain one folder.jpg file. Once this step is complete the iTunes music library is prepared for work with dBpoweramp.






    Important Note: Before proceeding to the next step it's imperative that a Windows computer has access to the iTunes music files. Mac OS X uses the HFS+ format for hard drives. Unfortunately Windows is unable to read an HFS+ (Mac OS X Extended) formatted drive without special software. Users with music stored on a Network Attached Storage (NAS) drive won't have any problems and can skip directly to step two below. All other users are likely storing their iTunes music files on either the internal Mac hard drive or an external FireWire or USB hard drive in HFS+ (Mac OS X Extended) format. The solution to allow Windows access to the iTunes music contain on HFS+ (Mac OS X Extended) drives is different depending on one's computer and where the music is stored. One of the following methods should resolve the issue for nearly all users.




    Computer: Mac running OS X 10.6 or newer and running Windows XP, Vista, or 7 via Boot Camp.
    iTunes Music Stored: Internal or external FireWire or USB drive.
    Solution: Apple currently includes HFS+ read only drivers with Boot Camp. Windows should be able to read the HFS+ drive as of May 2012. An update to the Boot Camp drivers may be necessary.

    Computer: Mac
    iTunes Music Stored: Internal hard drive
    Solution: 1. Purchase an external USB drive. Format the drive as MS-DOS (FAT) using the built-in OS X Disk utility. Copy all iTunes music to this new external USB drive, then connect the drive to a Windows PC. I recommend USB drives in this scenario because they can be used with an Aurender or many other Linux servers.
    Solution: 2. Use Mac OS X built-in File Sharing to share the iTunes music folder over a network. This is typically more difficult for new users. To share a folder open System Preference click on Sharing and check File Sharing. The iTunes music folder must be added as a Shared Folder and at least Read Only access given to appropriate users. Once this is done a Windows PC can connect to the Mac with access to the music files.

    Computer: Mac
    iTunes Music Stored: External FireWire or USB drive formatted as HFS+ (Mac OS X Extended).
    Solution: 1. Purchase an additional external USB drive. Format the drive as MS-DOS (FAT) using the built-in OS X Disk utility. Copy all iTunes music to this new external USB drive, then connect the drive to a Windows PC. I recommend USB drives in this scenario because they can be used with an Aurender or many other Linux servers.
    Solution: 2. Users with enough internal hard drive space available can copy the iTunes music folder to the internal drive, then proceed to use the external drive as if it was new -> Format the external drive as MS-DOS (FAT) using the built-in OS X Disk utility. Copy all iTunes music to this new external USB drive, then connect the drive to a Windows PC.
    Solution: 3. Use Mac OS X built-in File Sharing to share the iTunes music folder over a network. This is typically more difficult for new users. To share a folder open System Preference click on Sharing and check File Sharing. The iTunes music folder must be added as a Shared Folder and at least Read Only access given to appropriate users. Once this is done a Windows PC can connect to the Mac with access to the music files.


    Note about virtualization software such as Parallels and VM Ware Fusion. I was able to read an HFS+ drive using Parallels which doesn't require rebooting into Windows. However, my Windows virtual machine is my Boot Camp partition which uses the Apple HFS+ drivers. Parallels says reading and writing to a USB HFS+ drive is supported with use of SmartMount in the Parallels VM configuration. According to the user manual, "When you connect a storage device or volume, it is mounted as a network drive. For example, a USB flash drive plugged in to your Mac will be accessible from both the /Volumes folder in Mac OS X and My Computer in Windows."



    Step Two: A. Configure dBpoweramp

    The remaining steps must be done using a Windows operating system. Users without dBpoweramp can purchase and download the product from the dBpoweramp Reference R14 page (Link ). In addition to the main dBpoweramp product users must also download a free codec utility from dBpoweramp called ID Tag Update (Link ). Once downloaded simply open the exe file and click next > finish for the utility to automatically install into dBpoweramp.

    Once installed open the dBpoweramp Batch Converter Start > All Programs > dBpoweramp Music Converter > dBpoweramp Batch Converter. The following window should appear. At the top of this window click the Filter button. Scroll down to the bottom and un-check WAVE (.wav). This instructs dBpoweramp to skip the WAV files in the iTunes music library that were previously converted to M4A Apple Lossless files.





    In the left window pane browse to the folder containing the iTunes music files and check the box next to the folder. In the image below I selected the Music folder as everything underneath that top folder contains music. The image also show all tracks automatically selected when the folder Music was selected. Once the correct folder is selected click the Convert button. This will not begin the conversion rather it only leads to additional configuration.





    The conversion configuration window pictured below is very important to the success of the entire process. Select FLAC in the Converting To: drop-down box. I use Lossless Uncompressed as my Encoding selection and enable the After Encoding Verify Written Audio option. The Output Location is where to set the target drive for the converted iTunes music files' final resting place. There is no need to convert to an intermediate location when converting directly to the Aurender accomplished the same thing and is much quicker. Select the Dynamic radio button. Enter the location of the Aurender in the Folder box. The network location of the Aurender S10 music folder is \\Aurenders10-us\hdd1\. This will likely be different on a different network using a different Aurender. Clicking the Browse button will enable users to select their Aurender server and its hard drive (Example ). In the final box I recommend copying this text and pasting it directly into dBpoweramp -> [IFVALUE]album artist,[album artist],[IFCOMP]Various Artists[][IF!COMP][artist][][]\[album]\[track] - [title] This string determines how the music is stored in folders on the Aurender S10. For example a regular album will be stored as Artist\Album\Track Number - Track Name. A compilation album will be stored as Various Artists\Album\Track Number - Track Name. Users can change this to whatever suits their needs.

    Earlier in this guide Doug's script was used to place album art into each album folder. The Options: DSP Effects / Actions window is where to configure dBpoweramp to use this folder.jpg file to embed album art and to copy the file to the Aurender. Click Add > Add DSP Effect > Folder.jpg Preserve. Make sure the top box is checked. I also add the .pdf extension in the Files With Extension box. This preserves all liner notes that are PDF files by copying them to the Album folders on the Aurender S10. The Aurender doesn't support these PDF files, but the SOTm sMS-1000 does and future Aurender servers may also support PDFs. In addition to copying the album art dBpoweramp must be instructed to embed the art into each file. To configure this click Add > Add DSP Effect > ID Tag Processing. Select the Manipulation tab and enter folder.jpg in the box to the right of Import Album Art From.

    Optional: On the ID Tag Processing window it's possible to map metadata fields. For example it's possible to map the iTunes Comments field to the FLAC Description field if needed. A reason for mapping such a field is for consistency across a music collection. Some of my files contain comment type information in the Description field while others contain this in the Comment field.


    Preserve jpg options





    ID Tag Processing options





    Final conversion configuration settings








    Step Two: B. Convert entire library

    All the dBpoweramp conversion options have been set during the previous steps. It's time to click the Convert button and follow the progress. The progress window displays the percentage of files converted and the number of converted files. Near the bottom right of this window is a little down arrow. Select this arrow, click Priority, then click Above Normal. This option gives dBpoweramp greater priority than other programs and some services running on Windows.




    When the conversion is complete dBpoweramp may display a window with numerous error messages similar to the following two messages. These messages can be ignored based on the file dBpoweramp attempted to convert. Looking closely at the files one can see the names start with ._Track Name Here. These files are only used in OS X and remain invisible to end users unless they've configured the operating system to show hidden files. Windows has no problem seeing these files and dBpoweramp mistakenly attempts to convert them with the rest of the files. The bottom line is files or error messages about files that start with a "._" prefix can be ignored. I'm sure there is a way to exclude these files from conversion but Ii am unable to find the option. The image below is a screenshot from the Aurender iPad application. All five albums have album art and metadata visible to the user as opposed to the missing art and information found when simply copying files from the Mac to the Aurender S10.

    Error converting to FLAC, 'M:\music\temp\Music\Jack White\Blunderbuss\._01 Missing Pieces.aif' to '\\Aurenders10-us\hdd1\ - ._01 Missing Pieces.flac'
    Error first chunk unknown: [clAIFFHandler::ScanFile]

    Error converting to FLAC, 'M:\music\temp\Music\Norah Jones\Little Broken Hearts\._07 4 Broken Hearts.m4a' to '\\Aurenders10-us\hdd1\ - ._07 4 Broken Hearts.flac'
    Unable to decode m4a file (is corrupt or not supported audio type).






    Looking at this guide as a whole may be overwhelming to many readers. Much of the information is extremely detailed and adds to the length of the guide. I'm trying to avoid leading tech un-savvy readers down the road of conversion only leave them high and dry with a poor explanation of a simple step. We've all been there following a how-to guide when all progress stops because the author forgot to add a minor detail. Hopefully that won't happen with this guide. To prove this type of conversion is easier than it may appear I created a video of me going through the steps from downloading the script to clicking the convert button. The entire process is done in less than 2 minutes 30 seconds.













    Comments 28 Comments
    1. ldolse's Avatar
      ldolse -
      Great guide, I use a lot of these same techniques, although I settled on AIFF myself - the primary reason being ongoing metadata/library management. The main problem I see with Linux and dedicated appliances like the Aurender is you need to rely on another OS to manage the library - if you're coming from the Windows world you have lots of options, but if you're coming from a Mac world there are really only two options - iTunes and Songbird. Songbird had some show-stopper issues a few years back, and I've been meaning to check it out again to see if there are any improvements - based on the wiki it may now be a viable option.

      For the time being though I'm still on iTunes, and that only leaves two viable choices for file format - AIFF and ALAC - I skipped ALAC for the same reasons you outlined, and so far I haven't had any problems with AIFF on Linux. My iTunes library is situated on my NAS, and any changes I make to the Library from my Mac are automatically picked up by mpd when I update the database. This also allows me to use XLD and I don't have to worry about the folder.jpg problem you mentioned as I can still use Doug's Applescript.

      Despite all that I really wish Apple would acknowledge that FLAC is the industry standard for lossless audio distribution and just support it.
    1. mav52's Avatar
      mav52 -
      Well done Chris. Keep these 'How To' guides coming..
    1. Richard Dale's Avatar
      Richard Dale -
      I use XLD to rip to AIFF, and iTunes with BitPerfect or Decibel to play. The tracks are on a La Cie Quadra in HFS+ format with the directory hierarchy as created by iTunes. I make sure that I always paste the artwork into the tracks, and never let iTunes manage the art work separately.

      For backups, I mount the HFS+ volume on Linux (Kubuntu 12.04), and mount an identical disk drive formatted as ext3 to use a backup. I run this script using rdiff_backup to mirror the HFS+ volume onto the Linux one:

      rdiff-backup --force -v5 --print-statistics --group-mapping-file group_mappings --user-mapping-file user_mappings /media/Music03/Music /media/Music04/Music

      rdiff_backup creates a directory called /media/Music04/Music/rdiff-backup-data which contains diffs of every change made to the tracks being backed up. The rest of the ext3 disk under /media/Music04/Music is an exact mirror of the hierarchy on the HFS+ disk. What this means is that I can use the Linux formatted disk with MPD under Linux as well as being able to use it as a back up. If one or other of the disks fail, I can copy the tracks across to a new disk with rsync which works on both Mac OS X and Linux.
    1. Paul R's Avatar
      Paul R -
      Hi Chris -

      I think this is an excellent article, and I am still digesting it. One question though, why are you using the folder.jpg convention instead of just embedding the artwork at RIP or conversion time? I thought the S10 was MPD based and could read the embedded artwork? In which case, XLD works just great to convert ALAC files and will embed the artwork.

      Also, when I converted a bunch of ALAC files to zero compression FLAC files a few months back, using dbPowerAmp, the created FLAC files had an incorrect bit rate that caused them to sound just purely awful. Compressed FLAC files worked okay.

      XLD converted FALC files with zero compression were created with the correct bit rate and played just fine. Have you ran into anything like that?

      -Paul
    1. ldolse's Avatar
      ldolse -
      I believe Aurender is using proprietary software. As far as mpd goes there are no artwork features built into mpd whatsoever, and any mpd clients which support cover art have independently implemented solutions for handling it, the most common being to use the folder.jpg convention.

      On a side note, I just test drove Songbird a bit, and it looks like it's still not in a position to help solve my concerns around library management on the Mac - no aiff metadata support, no equivalent to the 'Keep iTunes Music Folder Organized' feature - both of which are pretty critical IMHO. Strangely enough the wiki indicates these things are supported, but I'm suspecting based on other reading that the Songbird feature set varies widely by platform - if you're using a Linux platform for Library management it may be a viable option.
    1. Richard Dale's Avatar
      Richard Dale -
      Quote Originally Posted by ldolse View Post
      I believe Aurender is using proprietary software. As far as mpd goes there are no artwork features built into mpd whatsoever, and any mpd clients which support cover art have independently implemented solutions for handling it, the most common being to use the folder.jpg convention.

      On a side note, I just test drove Songbird a bit, and it looks like it's still not in a position to help solve my concerns around library management on the Mac - no aiff metadata support, no equivalent to the 'Keep iTunes Music Folder Organized' feature - both of which are pretty critical IMHO. Strangely enough the wiki indicates these things are supported, but I'm suspecting based on other reading that the Songbird feature set varies widely by platform - if you're using a Linux platform for Library management it may be a viable option.
      I am a programmer and so my view of MPD working or not is based on my reading of the code. I tried MPD a while ago with my AIFF files and the metadata for about two thirds of them worked fine. Some of them had corrupt strings and it looked like some kind of latin1/utf8 issue. The C code for MPD seemed quite simple in that area of retrieving metadata and I couldn't see that fixing it to work with Mac OS X AIFF to be a show stopper.

      It is disappointing that the MPD protocol doesn't support retrieving cover art, and having a load of files called 'folder.jpg' lying around sounds a really bad idea to me. I can't believe it can be that hard to have a web server that retrieves the cover art for the AIFF tracks on demand given the path of a track in the file system.
    1. ldolse's Avatar
      ldolse -
      MPD has worked fine for all my aiff files except for a few where dbpoweramp inserted some bad Chinese (and these didn't work in iTunes either). XLD has been flawless with non-ascii thus far for me, a Japanese author probably helps in that case.

      I don't think the mpd developers are opposed to supporting cover art, it's just not really a priority - I think it could almost be done today through the use of the stickers functionality, discussion here. I think the other deal is the folder.jpg solution is 'good enough' when combined with a web server, so there isn't a lot of momentum to fix it.
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      Quote Originally Posted by Paul.Raulerson View Post
      Hi Chris - ... One question though, why are you using the folder.jpg convention instead of just embedding the artwork at RIP or conversion time?

      Also, when I converted a bunch of ALAC files to zero compression FLAC files a few months back, using dbPowerAmp, the created FLAC files had an incorrect bit rate that caused them to sound just purely awful. Compressed FLAC files worked okay. XLD converted FALC files with zero compression were created with the correct bit rate and played just fine. Have you ran into anything like that?

      -Paul
      Hi Paul - I'm using the belt (embedded artwork) and suspenders (folder.jpg) approach. This allows current and future flexibility.

      The incorrect nitrate issue is interesting. Many of my uncompressed FLAC files are read as 1412 or 1413 instead of 1411. I was told by Spoon of dBpoweramp that this is a rounding error by the application reading the file. I've not noticed any sonic impact. I will have to compare with an XLD uncompressed FLAC to see if the same applications read the same bit rates and if there is a sonic difference.

      Thanks for bringing this up.
    1. goldsdad's Avatar
      goldsdad -
      Quote Originally Posted by The Computer Audiophile View Post
      Step One: Prepare iTunes Music Library
      A. Convert all WAV files to AIFF within iTunes.
      Just want to point out that the first step is going to truncate any 24-bit WAVs to 16-bit. (Unless that iTunes limitation when converting to AIFF and WAV has been removed in a very recent version.)

      24-bit WAVs can be safely converted by iTunes to ALAC instead.
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      Hi Goldsdad - Thank you so much for catching my error.

      Edit: The guide has been updated. Thanks to goldsdad for noticing the error and including the solution.
    1. Erwin S's Avatar
      Erwin S -
      Chris, I love you!

      There was a nagging feeling every time I read an article about an introduction of yet another great network player (stand alone or in AVR) that works with FLAC, but not with my AIFF/ALAC files. There are so many options that work with FLAC and so very few with AIFF/ALAC as far as whole house audio is concerned. Now I know I can switch to the other side if the need is there. Thanks!

      I think I got all my album art sorted. I don't even have a iTunes account on the Mac I use for music, hence iTunes never gives me album art. Sometimes XLD adds the album art, if not I add it manually via the info of the album. I just can't stand missing album art!

      If the album art is shown as a thumb pic in Finder, then it's prpperly embedded, right?

      E from B
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      Quote Originally Posted by Erwin S View Post
      Chris, I love you!

      There was a nagging feeling every time I read an article about an introduction of yet another great network player (stand alone or in AVR) that works with FLAC, but not with my AIFF/ALAC files. There are so many options that work with FLAC and so very few with AIFF/ALAC as far as whole house audio is concerned. Now I know I can switch to the other side if the need is there. Thanks!

      I think I got all my album art sorted. I don't even have a iTunes account on the Mac I use for music, hence iTunes never gives me album art. Sometimes XLD adds the album art, if not I add it manually via the info of the album. I just can't stand missing album art!

      If the album art is shown as a thumb pic in Finder, then it's prpperly embedded, right?

      E from B
      Hi Erwin - Thanks for the kind words. I believe you are correct on Mac if there is an image / icon of the album art when looking at the file then it's embedded. I just tried to disprove that by adding a finder icon to the image files with Doug's script just to see if I could get the music file to display an image without it being embedded. I wasn't able to disprove this one. So, as far as I know if the music file displays an image while viewing it in Finder then the album art is embedded into the file.
    1. ldolse's Avatar
      ldolse -
      I did just find an app that mostly addresses my concerns with Library management - Enqueue, available on the Mac app store. It won't organize files, but it will let you manage metadata in both aiff and flac (and mp3, m4a, etc etc), so if your Linux/dedicated player supports aiff and you want to manage existing aiff content and new flac content from your Mac this looks like a contender. It won't organize/rename files, but I can live with that if I can clean up metadata easily.

      Just discovered Clementine as well, but haven't tested it.
    1. goldsdad's Avatar
      goldsdad -
      Quote Originally Posted by The Computer Audiophile View Post
      as far as I know if the music file displays an image while viewing it in Finder then the album art is embedded into the file
      It is possible for a music file without embedded artwork to display an image in Finder. If an image is in a file's resource fork or an extended attribute then Finder can display it instead of a default icon. It's highly unlikely that anyone reading this will have such music files, of course. In the image below, only the third file has embedded artwork although the second also shows the album cover. The image also reveals that Finder's Get Info does show artwork in the Preview section only when the artwork is embedded.

      Attachment 395
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      Wow goldsdad comes through again with the knowledge. Thanks. I remember the days when resource forks were much more of a pain than they are now.
    1. Paul R's Avatar
      Paul R -
      Hi Cris (and everyone else) -

      I am still trying to wean myself from SAN storage and finding all sorts of little nitpicks, but this one is a certified genuine Windows Annoyance. While rebuilding a server recently, I copied a few hundred gigabytes of music files to try and follow this procedure on. And it worked pretty well indeed, even using dbPowerAmp instead of XLD.

      Except - a few albums I had ripped with XLD on a Mac had "filenames" too long for Windows to read. Annoying, since I had copied the files to a NTFS formatted disk under Linux, which had no troubles at all with the filename. Even tried reading them via the network (a SMB share) and Windows still balked at this.

      I got around that by mounting a lower level directory as a network share and copying from the share.

      Then I ran into a nasty little situation - I have an Album named 'Fusion Is... Barry Miles' - train wreck because of the periods. Linux and Macs of course, convert characters they don't like in filenames, such as ":" or "/" to unicode characters and just move on. Windows won't even read the file to change the name.

      Anyone else running into this kind of stuff and is there an easy way around it?

      I googled the issue and the high tech Windows answer is "simplify your filenames and don't use illegal characters." What I think of that advice would be illegal characters to post here I am afraid...

      By the way, this is apparently more common than not under Macs and Linux - out of 15,000 tracks I copied around, 3,740 of them had issues related to this.

      -Paul
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      Hi Paul - 3,740 issues, Ouch!

      Windows is a bear when it comes to file names. I don't have any solution for you that doesn't involve not doing want you want to do :~(
    1. Paul R's Avatar
      Paul R -
      Quote Originally Posted by The Computer Audiophile View Post
      Hi Paul - 3,740 issues, Ouch!

      Windows is a bear when it comes to file names. I don't have any solution for you that doesn't involve not doing want you want to do :~(

      Ah ha- and now for a stunning but stupid workaround....

      I brought up iTunes on the PC, enabled home sharing, and had iTunes IMPORT all the tunes to the PC. iTunes apparently will encode the Windows unfriendly filenames into Unicode, which Windows likes. End result is a set of folders with a complete set of the files on PC disk. Haven't checked them yet to see if iTunes was smart enough to retain the embedded images in the files, but I think it did.

      It took forever (1.5 days - 37 HOURS) to transfer that, but it did it. Amazing.

      Oh, iTunes 6.3 is necessary - I think - since Home Sharing seems to have a bit of a gaffe in it with earlier 6.x versions. It would simply stop working after a few hours of inactivity. I understand it was related to an iOS issue of some kind.

      -Paul
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      WOW!

      Thanks for the follow-up Paul.

      That's exactly what I had in mind, but I just wanted you to figure it out for yourself (NOT) :~)
    1. daiku's Avatar
      daiku -
      Chris,
      This is a terrific article. It really deserves to be set-up somewhere as a wiki that can be updated by people as time goes on, particularly with the supposed simplified iTunes coming which may mess with meta-data organization, etc. As new software solutions to this issue comes along, we could all contribute and review solutions, etc. I think it is really that important, given the # of users who haven't gotten to this point today, but will soon.

      In any case, this article gives me the courage to finally try and setup a central server that can be shared and easily managed. Thanks again for your thoughtful work!