Monday, May 11, 2009

Windows 7: Going Up

It's easy to become lost in the midst of things. Sometimes you tend to forget to do something to test certain features, functions, and abilities to determine if there are any quirks, bugs, or just something out of the ordinary. In an earlier post, I mentioned on how I have iTunes installed and running. But I did not test any of the functions that made iTunes what it is: an interface for iPod, a store, a media player, and a CD ripper/encoder.

iTunes provides a lot of functions for what it is. But there are some things I do not use. As a front-end to the iTunes Music Store (or should we say Media now?), I don't go there to download movies, TV episodes, or music videos. There are better outlets for that, such as the actual TV or from a DVR, or simply purchasing the entire season on DVD. As a CD ripper and encoder, I do not use the encoding function at all, but instead I take an extra step in order to ensure the greatest audio quality possible within the confine and technological limitation imposed by the MP3 compression system. Did you get that? I hope so. In other words, make the audio sound as best as possible using only the best utility and software available. I have, for a while now, been using the LAME MP3 encoder. It is a freeware and open source MP3 audio encoder with a reputable history of trying to create the best audio quality using any techniques that can be done in the MP3 specification, such as producing high quality variable-bitrate MP3. It has worked out for me as it has produced only MP3 files encoded in 320 kilobit per second bitrate. And while the bitrate itself consumes more space than necessary, hard drive space is not even an issue, given that nearly each generation of iPods based on hard drive technology increases its storage capacity by a good margin.

But I run Windows 7, and in 64bit. Not everything is going to play nice. And this is just another one of those tests.

To start off, I loaded up a CD of mine, Songs From the Big Chair by Tears for Fears. It features 3 tracks that I remember well from the 1980s, the decade for which I grew up in -- Shout, Everybody Wants To Rule The World, and Head Over Heels. First iTunes was set up to rip to WAV files. Then, using FLAC, a lossless compression format, I encoded those tracks to serve as backup and to save some space. Yeah, even though hard drive space is a non-issue, I use it to better utilize hard drive space that serves as a network drive. Once that step is done, I use LAME to encode the WAV files into mp3, which will serve as a general format for playback on various media players: iPod, Winamp, Windows Media Player, Zune, etc.

Thankfully, both FLAC and LAME can run on x64 environment, despite that they are 32bit applications. They both worked flawlessly and have encoded the files without a single issue.

Unfortunately, these three tracks are just a fraction of what I want to archive. It'll still take me a long while before I can truly finish getting it all sorted, backed up, organized, and labeled. I have popsy music coming from Japan, along with re-ripping Transformers: The Movie soundtrack, as well as picking out my favorite tracks from Selena's American debut album Dreaming Of You. As if that wasn't enough, my old Chrono Trigger soundtrack needs to be re-ripped, having felt nostalgiac after playing part-way through the Nintendo DS port.

Now on to something different. There are two applications that need to be installed: Impulse and Steam. Impulse is necessary as I have an active subscription to Stardock's Object Desktop suite, a suite of applications that features not just WindowBlinds, IconPackager, and DesktopX, but other Windows utilities as well. But like any other application today, there may be limited or no support for Windows 7 for the time being. Still, Stardock has been pretty supportive with Microsoft in creating various applications, especially with DeskScapes (a utility/program once exclusive to Vista Ultimate users). Once these two are installed, I will know if any of Stardock's great product has any support for Windows 7.

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