Good workout music?

Okay, so I registered for a sprint triathlon (400m swim, 11 mile bike, 3.1 mile run) in August. Maybe that will turn out to be a really stupid idea, but I’m going to see if I can at least finish. :)

So I need some good workout music, because my current tunes are getting tired. What songs get you pumped up when you’re exercising? Here’s some tunes that work for me:
- Blink 182
- music from the Mortal Kombat soundtrack (hey, don’t mock it until you try it!)
- “Ready Steady Go” by The Meices
- The Mountain Goats
- Foo Fighters
- The Killers
- sometimes the Pixies or the Ramones

How about you? What workout music goes into your playlist mix and gets you ready to exercise?

Download, slice and dice podcasts on Linux

I’m trying to replace my Windows applications with Linux applications. On Windows, I use I use Juice to download podcasts as MP3s. Recently I decided to switch over to Linux for receiving podcasts. After looking around at various podcast catchers (especially ones that ran on the command-line, so that I could automate them with a cron job), I ran across Podracer. I decided to combine Podracer with a script to split long MP3s into shorter MP3s so that I could play them more easily in my car. Here’s what I did on my Ubuntu Linux machine:

Step 1: Install and configure podracer

I used these commands:
sudo apt-get install podracer
mkdir ~/.podracer
vim ~/.podracer/subscriptions
and add the url of a podcast, e.g. http://feeds.webmasterradio.fm/tdsc for The Daily SearchCast.

cp /etc/podracer.conf ~/.podracer/podracer.conf
Edit ~/.podracer/podracer.conf so that you can pick the download directory you want. I changed
#poddir=$HOME/podcasts/$(date +%Y-%m-%d)
to
poddir=$HOME/rawpodcasts
because I want all my podcasts in one directory where I can do a batch process over them afterwards. Go ahead and run “mkdir ~/rawpodcasts” to create the directory that podcasts will be stored in.

sudo vim /usr/bin/podracer
(it’s okay, Podracer is a shell script). Find the line that says
m3u=$(date +%Y-%m-%d)-podcasts.m3u
and comment it out so that podracer won’t automatically create an .m3u playlist as it downloads podcasts.

Run podracer in “catchup” mode to avoid downloading all the old podcasts from your subscriptions with “podracer -c”. podracer will create a file ~/.podracer/podcast.log to keep a record of all the podcasts that have been downloaded (the “-c” catchup mode creates this text file without actually downloading the MP3s). If you want to re-download a file (e.g. while you’re testing your configuration), you can edit the file ~/.podracer/podcast.log and just delete the line for any MP3 you want to re-download.

Step 2: Install and configure mp3splt (optional)

At a terminal window, type “sudo apt-get install mp3splt”. In Step 1, we configured Podracer to download podcasts as MP3s into a “rawpodcasts” directory. In this step, we’re going to take those long MP3s and split them into individual segments into a new “finishedpodcasts” directory. Make the “finishedpodcasts” directory with the command “mkdir ~/finishedpodcasts”.

Make a file /home/username/download-mp3s-and-process.sh that looks like this.

#!/bin/bash

# Run podracer to download any new podcasts
/usr/bin/podracer

# Now split the podcasts into segments
for i in /home/username/rawpodcasts/*.mp3
do
nicename=`basename $i .mp3`
# Send both stderr and stdout to /dev/null so that this is a quiet cron job
mp3splt -eqd /home/username/finishedpodcasts -o $nicename-@n $i &> /dev/null
done

This script will run podracer to download any new podcasts. Then we list all the MP3 files in the rawpodcasts directory and run mp3splt on each podcast. If you had a file test.mp3, you would be running the command

“mp3splt -eqd /home/matt/finishedpodcasts -o test-@n test.mp3 &> /dev/null”

for example. What do the options to mp3splt mean?

-e means “split on sync errors.” If someone created an mp3 by concatenating multiple mp3s (e.g. with a program such as mp3wrap), that could cause sync errors. mp3splt looks at those sync errors to split the concatenated mp3 back into multiple mp3 files.

-q stands for “quiet.” Don’t ask user to respond to any questions. Normally “-e” says something like

Mp3Splt 2.1 (2004/Sep/28) by Matteo Trotta
THIS SOFTWARE COMES WITH ABSOLUTELY NO WARRANTY! USE AT YOUR OWN RISK!
MPEG 1 Layer 3 – 44100 Hz – Joint Stereo – 256 Kb/s – Total time: 35m.04s
Processing file to detect possible split points, please wait…
Total tracks found: 6
Is this a reasonable number of tracks for this file? (y/n)

Quiet mode suppresses this interactive question on the last two lines above.

-d is the directory to place the split mp3s.

-o lets you specific an output file. “@n” stands for the track number after splitting. So if test.mp3 were made out of two mp3 files, the output of the command above would be two files (in the finishedpodcasts directory) named test.mp3-001.mp3 and test.mp3-002.mp3 . It doesn’t hurt to run mp3splt on existing mp3s because it will just overwrite any old files that had been created.

Step 3: Periodically download and process podcasts

To download podcast files periodically and process them, make a crontab entry for podracer or your script. This will make the cron daemon run your script every few hours to download new mp3s.

I typed “crontab -e” and made the file look like this:

# At 3:03 am, 8:03 am, 10:03 am, 12:03 pm, and 4:03 pm, run this script
3 3,8,10,12,16 * * * /home/username/download-mp3s-and-process.sh

Whenever you’re ready to put the podcasts on some type of media (SD Card, iPod, iPhone, whatever), just copy over anything from the finishedpodcasts directory (if you used mp3splt in step 2) or the rawpodcasts directory if you skipped step 2. Then delete anything left over in either directory.

Startup idea: Make My Music Legal

I was reading all the TechCrunch40 coverage and I asked myself: “If I had five minutes to come up with a startup idea completely outside of search, what would it be?” This is more of a fun exercise, but feel free to pull apart the idea — or propose a better startup idea in the comments.

Wal-Mart has started selling MP3s from some artists on Universal and EMI. Here’s the idea: a company that would scan your music collection and offer to convert file-shared MP3s to legal MP3s with much higher quality, cover art, lyrics, etc. Lots of people have MP3s from Napster/Kazaa/wherever, and now that you can buy the legal MP3 versions of some songs, at least a fraction of people would convert chunks of their music library to be completely legitimate and much higher quality.

How would you make money with this? I could imagine several ways:

- offer people ringtones of songs on their hard drive
- charge a penny or two for each song that is converted to “legitimate.”
- run some banner ads or AdSense
- anonymize the data and license the anonymized data to various businesses
- get people to sign up with Pandora, Last.fm, or Rhapsody.
- don’t make any money on it. Use it as a way to build brand recognition or positive karma.

Why do I like this idea? Well, music labels are hesitant about selling songs without digital rights management (DRM). If this startup was even moderately successful, labels would see huge numbers of unprotected tracks being bought, which would encourage other labels to offer their music without DRM restrictions.

Sure, there’s little bits to be worked out. How would you upload the list of songs on your hard drive? Maybe you’d offer a tiny open-source download to scan the drive and make a list of MP3s. For the people who are too worried to download anything, you could say something like

Okay, you paranoid folks. Here’s how to upload the list of MP3s on your hard drive if you don’t want to download anything. Open a Windows command window and run these commands:
cd c:
dir /s | find /i “.mp3″ > mp3list
then upload the file C:mp3list to us and we’ll take it from there.

TechCrunch is showcasing 40 startup companies this week. I believe this idea has to be better than at least 1-2 of those forty. :) There’s also at least a few places to set yourself apart (e.g. recognizing songs from mangled/ugly filenames or noisy audio fingerprints), but it would be easy to get started. Or it would be an interesting side-project for any startup already in the music space.

If anyone who wants to try this idea, have at it. I’m too lazy to tackle it myself. Anybody want to rip the idea apart, implement it, or offer a better start-up idea? :)

Google + dMarc + XM

I thought this was intriguing: Google and XM will collaborate on advertising via recent acquisition dMarc. Looks like XM gets great ad inventory and Google/dMarc gets to refine and improve its technology on 7 million subscribers. Cool. About a month ago, Zachary Applegate visited dMarc in the IrvinePlex and wrote up his reactions.

I am an XM fan. I’ve actually got three active XM radios (two in our cars, and one XM100. But that’s another post entirely ;) ). dMarc, if you’re looking for me, I’ll usually be on Channel 150 (Comedy). Plus for some reason I can’t explain, lately I’ve been hanging out on Channel 131 (BBC World Service). I’d welcome more variety in the commercials; I’ve heard enough GoToMyPC pitches, and now I’m ready for something completely different. Exciting stuff. :)

Via Loren.

Most entertaining stuff of 2005

I was rooting around on my bookshelf today and noticed the book that I enjoyed the most last year: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, by Mark Haddon.

Most fun movie? I’m picking a black horse this time: The 40 Year Old Virgin. It surprised me by being better than I expected.

Most entertaining video game? I’m going to go with Guitar Hero (see my earlier post), but if I’d discovered Katamari Damacy or We ♥ Katamari, it would have been very close. Just when you think every genre of videogame has been invented, along comes fresh new ideas. In the Katamari series of games, you roll a ball around; as you roll up more things, your Katamari grows larger, until finally you’re rolling up islands and countries. It’s so much fun that I’m ordering the Katamari soundtrack.

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