How To Technology

Joining MP3s, AACs or just about any audio file with Terminal UNIX commands

Occasionally I rip CDs with tracks that, at the time of ripping, I didn’t know I want to be combined — audiobooks come to mind. Sure I can go into iTunes (or XLD) and re-rip the tracks into one file. Or I can open Fission and combine the files that way. But each of those solutions is super time consuming. A faster way is just to use some command line goodness and join the data through there.

It bares mentioning that this process does require a tiny bit of computer proficiency. Not much, but some. This is also a Mac solution for Windows visit the source link at the bottom of the page.

So how do we do this? Well first open Terminal and head over to a folder holding all your MP3s or AACs or whatever. The simple way to do this is to use the cd command to change directory. I like to type cd into the terminal then just drag the folder from the finder onto the Terminal window.

cd /Users/ben/Documents/Audio

Then hit return. You should be in whatever folder you just dragged onto the Terminal window. You can test this by running the list command.


Now we are ready to run the combine files magic, type in:

cat *.mp3 > new.mp3

following the file with the correct extension (.mp3 or .m4a or .flac, etc.)

Optionally you can also add in specific files into the mix by doing the following:

cat first.mp3 second.mp3 third.mp3 > new.mp3

After a span of time, depending on the size of your source files, you should have a new audiofile called new. That’s it!

A good rule of thumb at this point is to open the file in your favorite audio tagging app (iTunes, Tagger, Tag) and rename the combined file, as the file will also inherit all the tags of its parts. Huzzah! You are now a computer warlock and will probably be burned at the stake for your witchcraft. Sorry.


I’ve also tested this with .txt text files for work. It works perfectly! Huzzah!

Design Photographs Photography Technology

PechaKucha 20×20

An intense presentation style developed in Tokyo of 20 slides, each slide being on screen 20 seconds (hence 20×20). All PechaKucha presentations are over in 6.66 minutes.

Design Technology


Docracy is site which allows you access to legal documents online for free. Seems like a cool idea, a little frightening though.

Music Technology

Removing User Information from iTunes purchased songs

Update 31 Jul 2014

Poking around today, I have discovered that no matter the tools I use, Apple has embedded a proprietary tag set into its Apple Store purchased AACs. I found this out by trying my test again and finding that even after I completely erased all tag information from the Apple AAC – the user information persisted when loaded into iTunes. I used my tagging program of choice Kid3 and hit “Remove” which erases all tags from an audio file… However, when I loaded the stripped AAC back the file into iTunes, my user information was still there. Now you might be thinking, as I did, perhaps this information is cached? Nope, even after I deleted the file from iTunes, retagged it, and added it back into iTunes… my personal information was still there. I can recreate the problem in every audio editing program – Fission, Tagger, Tagr, Subler… no program even displays the additional tags correctly aside from Kid3. But all signs point to Apple having added a secondary set of tags which all programs miss entirely. You might think you got rid of the extra tags, but no dice – they are still there.
So, the only sure file way to remove the DRM from an iTunes purchased file is to re-encode it. Sad, but true.
Personally, I find this disheartening news and intend to cease buying from the iTunes store indefinitely. While they have created an open DRM format which allows users choice on how they use their files, which is commendable, the files are not DRM free. I’m simply not interested in supporting companies who support DRM. The End.

Update: 28 Jun 2012

Recently I found a great Mac utility that does the whole tag stripping thing from Apple’s purchased music much more effectively. The Tagger ($29) is a Mac utility which can edit and remove any embedded tags from MP3s or AACs. It works seamlessly on most files and very quickly does the process for multiple files. It’s biggest issue to my mind is its price. $30 for a glorified tag editor is… well… very high, but if you are editing masses of tags, it can be worth it. If the dev halved the price, I think they would be MUCH more successful.

Now, I am a fan of Apple’s music store. It’s the easiest way to buy music, the selection is great, and the quality is f-amazing. The only thing I’m not a huge fan of is my username and e-mail address being embedded in the audio files. (to see this screen head to FILE > Get Info)

To my mind anything other than the purchased audio accounts for DRM and I don’t want it. While I’m all for legal downloads, I’m not into being tracked, no matter how legal you make it. Lucky for you and me the account information is actually embedded at the last moment of the iTunes purchase and download process. Which means it isn’t hard embedded, it’s only some additional meta-data. I will have to mention, at this point, that this process only works on iTunes Plus (.m4a) files downloaded from the iTunes Music store. It will not work on older iTunes Protected files (.m4p) although protected files can be upgraded in the iTunes music store to iTunes Plus for a nominal fee.

To remove the meta-data, you need an program which doesn’t recognize the additional meta-information and a way to save the audio losslessly. The program that fits the bill is Rogue Amoeba’s amazingly versatile Fission ($32). It’s a lossless audio editor for the mac and it’s a seriously wonderful tool that I use on a daily basis for editing audio files and creating ringtones. To remove the meta-information, open the iTunes Plus file and re-save the audio.

That’s it. It losslessly saves a .m4a with no user information embedded and best of all, it doesn’t recode or transcode the audio (as with some other burn a CD and reimport methods). It is exactly the same quality coming out as it went in.

A few things you might notice about this process is that the file size will drop after saving. Not entirely sure why. Perhaps removing all that extra meta-data cleans house a bit. You will also notice that the bit-rate for the file will go from 256kbps to something else. This is normal and because Apple, in an attempt not to scare it’s users with different  variable bit-rates from the encoding process, makes every file share the 256kbps regardless of it’s true bitrate. Lastly, Fission adds 0:00.032 of audio to the track? While odd, this shouldn’t actually effect the sound, as it’s 0.03% of a second, so unless you have crazy dog ears, you wont hear it.

Best of all, now you have an audio file that has none of your private data attached, which in my books is truly DRM free.



The Best WordPress Themes (An ongoing list)

So, I’ve decided that my current website look, while totally sufficient, needs some updating. That being said, the first order of business is to find Themes worth installing. This may seem like an easy place to start, but I would wager that 99% of WordPress Themes are absolutely dreadful, or based on the superb work of Michael Helleman’s Kubrick theme.

I will use this post to track all the very best themes in one place, so I don’t have to start from scratch each time I want to plan a relaunch.

Everyday Technology

Using Peer Pressure to Your Benefit

At A Whole Lotta Nothing there is a great little article and link Using peer pressure to your benefit whereby the author plans to harness the peer-pressure of blogging to loose weight. Albeit a seemingly innocuous use of the blogging community, it marks a real breakthrough in harnessing the _power of the blog._ The coolest part about the whole thing is that using WordPress’ custom fields a custom graph is created automatically thanks to a very neat little chart add on called PHP/SWF Charts.

This sort of idea could definitely be harnessed for events like the Aids Walk or Race for the Cure. It could of course also be used for my fat ass.

(via Photo Matt)


New Iconfactory iPod Icons

iPod Photo iconThe Iconfactory has just released a new set of swank iPod icons that you can’t help but want to stick on Yo’ Pod. The set features all the newest iPods, iPod minis, and the iPod Shuffle. Pick up your set today and color your iPod fabulous.

Did I mention they’re free?


Broken RSS feed

It seems that my RSS feed had gone all broken because of some poking around I did with the code. Let this teach you PodCasters out there not to mess with your code when you’re tired. The RSS feed has been restored to it’s former glory and I gratefully thank _Aging Geek_ for pointing the problem out. Who knows how many folks have gone without rocking tunes overnight.

*How will I ever forgive myself?!*

In other news I now have an accurate running approximation of how many subscribers now subscribe to my podcast from the friendly folks over at “LibSyn”: who now host some of my episodes. _Although my screwed up RSS feed may have stunted those stats!_ I’ve switched the hosting part of my podcasts to their service because last month I went way over my usual bandwidth counts and decided it’s better to be safe than sorry. You can find the running tally in my right-hand column.

And finally, many thanks to people visiting the site for their comments about the new design. It makes all those lonely nights staring at a flickering screen in my boxer-shorts worth while.



Well if the new design wasn’t a dead give away, Up the Tree has been upgraded to a new piece of blogging software. Although the move seems to have gone successfully, I am sure there may be a few hiccups – so if you see anything out of the ordinary please give me a holler.

My new weblogging software, “WordPress,”: while superior in many ways to my old blogging software, “MovableType,”: has one major downfall… every page that WordPress creates is dynamically created and must be a PHP file. This seemingly harmless caveat means that all my old static pages must be renamed or reorganized. This doesn’t bother me particularly, because I can always keep all my old weblog files in the background, but more I am worried about my RSS feeds which had been simply named *index.xml.*

*The .xml thing doesn’t work with WordPress.*

The only fix I can find right now is to create a redirect for my index.xml file which would load my new RSS feed location. The only problem with this approach is that the browser address actually changes with a redirect which I would assume might create a problem with some RSS readers. Does anybody have a better solution? One that would be completely transparent?

_Thanks for listening to my techno-jumble, I promise not to be as dorky in future._

Music Technology

My New Tascam US-122 for GarageBand

Yesterday, I received the first peice in my home recording puzzle, the Tascam US-122 USB Audio/MIDI Interface ($185 new on ebay shipped). This thing is bigger than I thought it was going to be but I was expecting a cheap little plastic USB Device… Not so. The first thing I noticed about the Tascam US-122 is that it’s a substantial piece of audio equipment, the solid steel construction of the 2 pound interface sits firmly on your desktop, without many fears that a coiled mic cable will flip it over.

Tascam US-122

Tascam US-122 features:

  • USB power
  • Two analog inputs and outputs (stereo)
  • 24-bit (44.1 kHz or 48 kHz) input to output path
  • Separate source selection (MIC/LINE/INST) and gain control per channel
  • 48V phantom power
  • Hi-Z input for (D.I.) instrument pickup
  • TRS inserts on each input channel
  • Balanced/unbalanced connections
  • Zero-latency direct monitoring
  • Unbalanced RCA and Headphone outputs with dedicated volume controls
  • MIDI input and output ports
  • 16-channel MIDI interface

Installation of the drivers needed was a breeze, I decided to download drivers directly from the Tascam website instead of messing with the included installation CD. A restart later the US-122 was up and running. In GarageBand’s Preferences, selecting Audio/MIDI was equally easy to start recording from my guitars pickup. Although at first I noticed an audio lag from what I was playing when I was monitoring the guitar track, I quickly found opening the included utility US-122 Manager I could set the Audio Safety Buffer from 2ms to 1ms and the lag disappeared.

The sound quality, recording directly from my Takamine EG330SC acoustic guitar, was very clear and synched to my playing, although I could detect a slight latency. Unfortunately latency, or audio lag, is a problem on all USB recording devices and the Tascam US-122 is susceptible, but Tascam includes a zero latency direct monitoring feature which allows you to bypass the circuitry and listen to your input directly. The latency was almost imperceptible with all track effects off in GarageBand.

I had never heard my guitar accept through cheap guitar amps and the US-122 was so clear and detailed that I could hear every movement of my fingers on the strings and every missed fret. It was a little unnerving. The short of it is, the Tascam US-122 is extremely responsive, so much so you may be surprised to hear your guitar uncolored.

( Here’s a sample from my horrible playing. MP3 340k )

To my Takamine’s defense, I really didn’t have a chance to fool around with any settings and the recording is done straight, without any EQ adjustments. It will be interested to see what I can do to make the guitar sound like I want it to… fingers crossed.

UPDATE: Sat down for half an hour with my acoustic guitar and went through GarageBand’s settings. This is more like it. Forgive Me Love instrumental as QuickTime Movie 450kb.

(To be added later this week, dynamic microphones and the Tascam US-122)