Over the years I've built up a collection of applications that make my life much easier. Most of these apps are directly related to audio but some can be used for many other tasks. When I read about CA members using remote control applications meant for remote access over the Internet, even though they are ten feet from their music servers, I try to jump in and recommend a better solution. Unfortunately these recommendations soon get buried under all kinds of other threads. Tasks as mundane as finding the IP address of a DLNA renderer or another device on one's network can be impossible without the knowledge of how it's done. Some applications have quietly added features over the years that go unnoticed by most people who don't have time to read the release notes for every update. For example, most CA readers are unaware that JRiver can analyze every track in a library and assign it a dynamic range value. This value is embedded into the track's metadata saving one from reanalyzing an entire library should something go wrong with a music server. What follows is my CA Software Toolbox of applications and details on how I use the apps. Readers are encouraged to post their favorite apps, tips, and tricks to make this a definite guide we can all references when needed.
Every device on a computer network is given a unique Internet Protocol Address (IP Address). Once in awhile we need to know this address for any number of reasons such as remote controlling the device or accessing the device's web page. Here are three tools for scanning one's entire network.
1. iNet $7.99 for Mac OS X, iNet for iOS $0.00, iNet Pro for iOS $4.99 | iNet v iNet Pro (PDF)
2. Advanced IP Scanner for Windows $0.00
3. Lanscan for Mac OS X $0.00, Lanscan Pro $5.99
Remote Controlling A Music Server
I run all my music servers headless (without an attached monitor). From time to time I need to remote control them to make changes. I don't want to drag out a keyboard, mouse, and monitor so I just use a remote desktop client. Windows based computers have remote desktop built into the operating system and Mac OS X has Screen Sharing built into the OS. Control from OS X to another OS X machine is easy as is a Windows to Windows connection. Going from OS X to control a Windows PC requires downloading the proper RDP client from Microsoft.
1. Microsoft Remote desktop Connection for Windows $0.00
Remote controlling a Windows PC from a Windows PC is simple with the included operating system software. Once the Windows music server has been configured to allow remote desktop connections, the user must launch the remote desktop software on the PC from which he will do the controlling. To launch Remote desktop Connection for Windows press the Windows Key on the keyboard and the letter R. The command key will also work from a Mac keyboard. This will bring up the Run window in the lower left corner. In this window type mstsc and hit enter to launch the remote desktop client. On the main screen I usually enter the IP address of the server I want to connect to rather than any server name. The only other mandatory setting to configure is on the Local Resources tab (seen after selecting Show Options). Unser Setting for Remote Audio users must select "Play on remote computer" or several problems will arise. Users can also set the username and store the password to auto-login on the remote server by select "Allow me to save credentials" on the General tab.
2. Remote Desktop Connection for Mac $0.00
Remote controlling a Windows PC from a Mac is the same as from a PC with the exception that the remote control software must be downloaded from Microsoft's website and installed. Once installed and launched I usually enter the IP address of the server I want to connect to rather than any server name. The only other mandatory configuration change is found within the app Preferences on the Sound tab. Select "On the Windows-based computer only" to keep sound emanating from the music server rather than streaming to your Mac. In Preferences users can also set the username and password to auto-login to the remote server.
Note: Mac users trying to connect to a Windows 8.1 computer may experience issues. The work around is documented at the Microsoft Technet site. A simpler explanation of the fix for this issue is beyond the scope of the CA Software Toolbox, but I can write something up in another thread is needed.
Technet solution -> Link
Working With Files
1. MediaInfo $0.99 or Free (ad supported) for All Operating Systems
MediaInfo is a neat tool that displays quite a bit of information about individual files. For example I downloaded a Toad The Wet Sprocket Kickstarter bonus ER this morning and found information such as the encoded date of the actual file, that the file was produced by Pro Tools, it's Little Endianness, etc… Of course the normal stuff is there as well such as bit rate, bit rate mode, and number of channels. This app supports quite a bit more than these simple examples. Check out the MediaInfo site for further information.
2. File Hash for Mac OS X $0.99
This is a cool one trick pony. When ever I want to know if two files are identical I compare them with File Hash. When some CA readers talk about two identical files sounding different, this is a tool they can use to compare the two files to see if indeed the files are the same.
3. Daisy Disk for Mac OS X $9.99
This is my favorite app for scanning a hard drive to find out what's taking up so much space. The presentation of the results is very nice and enables users to drill down into folders and delete items from within the app. With only a 256GB SSD in my MacBook Pro retina I use this app frequently to reclaim space.
4. The Unarchiver for Mac OS X $0.00
When the built-in OS X unzipping too has issues The Unarchiver will resolve them with no problem. I've been able to open nearly any kind of compressed file with this application. Plus, there's nothing wrong with free.
5. SuperDuper for Mac OS X $0.00 - $27.95
This app has been around for seemingly ever. It's not new but it still works great. SuperDuper is great for backing up files including a 100% bootable copy of one's hard drive. In the past I've suspected hard drive issues. Using SuperDuper I backed up the Internal MacBook Pro hard drive to an external drive. Then I rebooted, holding down the Option key, and selected to boot from the external disk I just created. This enabled me to determine I had an issue with the internal drive rather than fumbling around for hours running all kinds of tests.
6. Carbon Copy Cloner for Mac OS X $39.95
This is similar to SuperDuper but has a few more options. The option I really like with CCC is its ability to backup to a network drive better than SuperDuper. CCC also handle scheduled backups, bootable clones, email notifications and more.
1. XLD for Mac OS X $0.00
XLD has been the go-to CD ripper and file converter for years on Mac OS X. It's my favorite standalone ripper for Mac.
2. dBpoweramp for Windows $38.00
There is no better all around CD ripping and file conversion program available today. I've use dBpoweramp to convert files, adjust metadata, and transfer image filed & liner notes all in one operation. When converting a 50,000 track library this is very handy.
3. PerfectTUNES for Windows $36
The PerfectTunes suite of products (Album Art, AccurateRip, and DeDup) is fairly new. I've use it with success a few times. I had long wanted a way to check my CD rips against the AccurateRip database even if I used something like iTunes to rip the files way back in the day. With PerfectTUNES this is now possible. One caveat, when scanning a large library stored on a NAS the process will take a long time. But, it's better than the other solution that doesn't exist.
4. JRiver Media Center for Mac and PC $49.98
Most CA readers understand JRMC is a great audio playback application. What some might not know is JRMC's ability to manipulate metadata, analyze audio, and tag almost every pertinent file type such as WAV, FLAC, AIFF, and DSD files. Version 19 enables users to analyze one track, one album, or one entire library for dynamic range information. This is very valuable especially when users have several versions of the same album. The embedded dynamic range values will tell a user what version of the album has the most dynamic range. This enables the user to select the least dynamic version for the car and the most dynamic version for the HiFi system for example. I analyzed my entire library and now display the Dynamic Range column next to the track titles and numbers just like the standard metadata. I absolutely love this new feature.
These are some of the tools I use as a computer audiophile. I look forward to adding to this list with iOS and Android apps and apps readers suggest. Software is the least expensive part of this wonderful hobby we call computer audio. Yet, it can have such an impact on our enjoyment. Please add your suggestions to the CA Software Toolbox below.