MP3: nothing to do with piracy

Messing with MP3 files is, for some people, a synonym for illegal use of copyrighted music. Well, actually it's not.

When I bought my car last year, I bought an MP3-enabled car stereo with it. I can use it to play standard music CDs, as well as MP3 CDs that I can master myself. Therefore I started to convert my CDs to MP3s so that I could play them both at home and in the car, and I don't have to carry dozens of disks with me.

Unfortunately, my car stereo proved itself to be a bit fussy about how CDs are mastered and how MP3s are encoded. So when I burnt a CD with some Toto albums I have, it turned out that it didn't like the way I encoded them (320kbits, variable bitrate). And I couldn't stand hearing their songs playing for a second, then stopping for another second, then playing again for another one and so on.

Now you would say that it was not a big problem: I could simply put my CDs into my laptop and encode the files differently; the problem is that I lent the CDs to a friend that lives in Rome, and now all I had were those MP3s... oops! My only chance was to find a way to re-encode them.

Encoding them would be quite easy if I had .wav files: I'd just pass them to lame; but since I had MP3s, I had to find a way to get a plain wav from them. The way was mp3-decoder, a tool from the mpg123 suite.

Now that I had all the tools it was time to go through the files and do the job. I fired up a shell window, created a directory under /tmp and put the "corrupted" files in it. Then I typed these:

for DIR in /tmp/corrupted/*
  echo "$DIR"
  mkdir -p "$DEST"
  ( cd "$DIR" && \
    for FILE in *.mp3 ; do echo "  > $FILE" ; \
      mp3-decoder -w - "$FILE" | lame -b 256 - "$DEST/$FILE" ;\
    done )

Here I am cycling over the two directories I copied into /tmp/corrupted, each one of them containing the MP3s of a single album. I have echo telling me what directory we are processing, then set the destination directory into the variable DEST and creating it; if the whole path is not there, the "-p" option of mkdir allows me to make the whole path at once. After that I get into a subshell (using the left parenthesis), get into the directory and process each file, one by one. Again, echo tells me which file we are processing, then mp3-decoder will read the MP3 file we are processing, and output it to the standard output (the "-" in the command line) in WAV format (option "-w"). The standard output of mp3-decoder is then piped into the standard input of lame (in this case the "-" in the lame's command line means the standard input), which will encode it at 256 kilobit, fixed, to the file "$DEST/$FILE". Once both the cycles are over, I had my CDs correctly encoded and sitting in the my home's mp3/toto subdirectory.

Neat, huh?

Seems the world needs a change in its attitudeIt doesn't seem like there's much that a man can doThey try to sell the earth on a wild crusadeThen complain about not bein' paid -- "Never Enough", in "Kingdom of Desire", Toto ©1992


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