Allison Sheridan here of the NosillaCast podcast, hosted over at podfeet.com. You know, I’m convinced that all media center devices are dodgy. I have yet to find one that meets all of my requirements and doesn’t have some weirdness to deal with. If you listen to my show, you will have lived through months of [...]
Well some little while ago I was having a conversation with my friend Mike Potter from the formaceyesonly podcast about the awful way iTunes imports Audiobooks that I own on CD, or rather doesn’t import in a way that is useable.
After both agreeing that iTunes doesn’t do a very good job, he pointed me to a product that I have used a lot since AudioBookBuilder. Since my girls have a number of audiobooks all on CD, they still want to listen to them but on their iPods.
If you’ve never tried importing an audio book into iTunes, you haven’t experienced the way it seems to randomly name the files or if it doesn’t randomly name them, it doesn’t seem to put them in the correct order, and even if it puts them in order it then sees them as music. Guess what iTunes does everytime you play music? Yep, you got it, it starts at the very beginning, now as Julie Andrews said in the sound of Music, it’s a very good place to start, but not when you want to listen to a book where you left off.
Some of you maybe shouting at me right now saying, “yeah, but you can make adjustments in iTunes”, but I can assure you, I have tried and it didn’t always work.
OK, so what did we do, well nothing, until I was pointed to AudioBook Builder that is. I think this has been on the MacReviewCast in the past but not for some time, and we all need reminding at times about really useful software.
So once you’ve installed the Application the welcome screen gives you 3 options, these being Create a new project, open and existing project or help, oh of course there is a quit option as well.
To start off with you’ll be interested only in Create new Project of course. When you click on Create a new project the app asks you to name a file and asks you where to save it to, the app defaults to an Audiobook builder folder within your Music folder in your home directory. This is where I place the files as who needs an argument.
The next part is to enter a title for the book an Author, and finally a Genre, although I only see Audiobooks under that option when first starting off. You can also drag Artwork here as well but in fact you can come back and drag artwork here at any time before you finish the project, you can also rename prior to finishing off as well, so don’t worry at this stage too much about the naming conventions.
At the bottom of the window you’ll see Cover which is where we start but also Chapters and Finish.
Once you have popped your CD in your machine, click onto Chapters and click on import CD, you can also import the current iTunes highlighted item or choose from files on your system. My main use was to import CD’s though. Once the CD has been imported you’re then able to name the Chapter or chapters and then of course if it’s a long book you need to import the other CD’s to complete the book.
Now once you have all your CD’s imported this is where you have to decide how many splits in iTunes you’d like, as you can combine all of those CD’s or spit each of the tracks or even chapters within the book.
Let me tell you what I did for my daughter. She had recently asked if I could put “An Unfortunate Series of Events” onto her iPod. I imported all 13 books which had, at least 3 CD’s per book and sometimes 5. I decided to import all of the CD’s as one book, you have the facility to join and split the files you import in AudioBook Builder. Sometimes moving the files around took a bit of thinking and fiddling but if you do it all in order you’ll have no issues. Now having mentioned that, I did find that after I’d completed the book I had recorded 1 CD and added it at the start of a book and at the end of that same book, but I found it easy to rectify as I’d kept the audiobook file after exporting to iTunes, I re-recorded the correct CD and added it into the correct place within the files, I of course deleted the duplicate file.
I did rename some of the files, but actually I only really had to rename the top file, difficult to explain here but Audiobook Builder gives you a main file into which you have each of the CD’s for an individual book. Once I had finished, and it didn’t take to long, although at first it does seem that the copying process is taking some time, however it seems to suddenly speed up and you’ll soon have all those CD’s copied. So now I had 13 books all with the separate CD’s within the whole series of books. Now it was time to export to iTunes, click on finish and here you have 2 options, they are ‘build book’ and ‘build options’. First click on the build options and here you can adjust the quality of the recording. This impacts the size of the file you end up with, you can change the format from the default M4B which is book markable or M4A. You also have the options to break between files or break between chapters, have equal length or have it split per chapter, this is the option I used. You can experiment here to see how it exports into iTunes and what you’d prefer. The finish window also tells you the title you have given the books or book, the author, genre, also the length, chapters, quality and the destination. You’ll also see the artwork that you’ve used.
So I now have a neatly created book in my audiobooks section of iTunes. Job Done, the only slight glitch I came across was occasionally the application didn’t see a CD I had popped into the disc drive, although it could be seen in iTunes or Finder, however a quick eject and after the CD being pushed back in, the software then saw the CD. Not a big problem, but don’t panic if it happens to you.
The cost of AudioBook Builder is $9.95, £6.99 or €7.72, there are also family packs available at currently at $14.95, £10.50 or €11.60.
You can find the software over at www.splasm.com/audiobookbuilder
I don’t know if you recall some time ago I reviewed Pulsar which was a Internet Radio streaming App. (Podcast link) However you could only use it to subscribe to XM or Sirius radio, coming from the UK I wasn’t able to subscribe to these services. I quite liked the application but wondered if there was room for a similar App to come along and step into the breach. Well along come Radio Ga Ga.
On first impression the application reminded me very much of Spotify the Music streaming service available over here in Europe. The interface is quite simple and in some ways, like Spotify, based around the iTunes setup, by this I mean that you have high level choices in the left hand column and finer detailed choices in the larger right hand column.
Once you’ve clicked on Radios in the far left column you are then given various generic options in the main screen, these start with 50’s to Raggae from Latin to Classical and plenty of choices in between. These genres can be viewed as a list of icons or badges or in a Cover Flow mode. I preferred the static list view.
When you’ve clicked on one of these options, the main screen view changes to a list of radio stations that are available to you from the genre. Again you have a choice of views. What I’d call “big view” or again a “list view” of the stations. The website says that there are over 10,000 stations available and they will be updating their database regularly, so be prepared to do some searching.
If you don’t find a station that you already like to stream over the web, you can, if the Radio Ga Ga can accept the URL, add that station to the already compiled list, the station will appear in and untitled folder which of course you can rename, I did try to add some BBC stations but the URL wasn’t compatible so don’t expect you’ll get all your favorite Radio stations into the App. You also cannot see all the stations only those stations under the genre that you chose, this I think might be worthy of an update as I might want to search for a particular station, but unless I know which genre it’s under I’m unable to do an overall search.
This list of stations has various information, one of which is the kbps rate, this does vary from 48 up to 320 and of course the higher the number the better quality that will be streamed. Other than the obvious we’ll come to why this might be important a little later.
So CoverSutra uses the power of spotlight for you when you search for music from within iTunes and it is just a quick keyboard combination away and is very fast.
The Case design which you can have floating on your desktop, has a choice of three types, a couple of CD type cases or why not go vinyl.
The controls that you can set up can be used to control iTunes from wherever you are on your machine, and you can set up almost any customisable keyboard combination. If you have one of the new flat keyboards you can still use the play options that Apple gives you.
Spotify is a Music streaming service from a Developer in Sweden with the headquarters based in Luxembourg that allows you to stream music from the web. Now I know that they are striking up deals with Indie companies in the US and I’m sure they’ll get the bigger boys on soon, so hopefully they’ll be appearing over the pond in the US soon.
There are three basic models that you can subscribe to. First, a free option which currently I think is only available in Sweden, Norway, Finland, the UK, France and Spain, and some of those countries you will need an invite, so you’ll need to take a look locally to see if that’s the case.
I am not a big gamer at all. I enjoy the occasional play, but tend to quickly get bored, assuming I can figure them out in the first place, but I recently came across a game that, rather like a ‘perfect storm‘ brought together all three aspects:
- It is about rescuing kittens
- It is on the iPhone
- It is simple enough for even me to play
I realized that there is one product that, although I got it in a Mac software bundler, I pretty much use all the time. Now I think there are other solutions out there but I do like the interface and options that this application gives me. So what on earth am I talking about? CoverSutra.
You heard right CoverSutra. This little app links into your iTunes app and can be used as a controller from wherever you currently are to control your tunes. The application can also use a neat little CD cover case that floats on your desktop and displays the art work for your currently playing Podcast or Album artwork if it’s Music that you’re listening to.
Don’t they say an Englishman’s home is his Castle? Well, unfortunately over here at Chez Rolfe the builders have been in. So we moved out for a few days – to another castle. Yes we headed under the channel and across France to the Dream Castle. Yes, le house of mouse, was our new home for the next few days.
So what better device to entertain us on our trip? Of course my iPod Touch. Loaded up with a couple of cracking new apps. If you search for “Blackjack” on the iTunes App Store you will get a list as long as your arm of titles. We all know the basic idea behind Blackjack. Try and get “21″ or as close as possible with your hand of cards.
I don’t know why I happened to pick this particular incarnation but I’m so, so glad that I did. This has got to be one of the best applications that I’ve played so far. What makes this stand out for me is that it has been put together so well. The graphics are gorgeous. From the moodily lit table top, the brightly coloured chips and even the minute detail on the back of the cards.
I know several people who are getting an iPhone 3G but as yet they haven’t gotten it! I have also heard some instances of customers reserving an iPhone online for collection in-store, only to be turned away on the day as they didn’t have enough stock.
As for me, I’m currently very happy with my iPod Touch but I think it’s highly likely my wife and I will be purchasing his and hers iPhones in September.
I didn’t manage to upgrade my iPod until the Saturday morning. But since then I’ve downloading and dissecting apps on a daily basis.
As I sit here reading a long list of emails, blogs, major news articles and twitters all bemoaning the fact that nothing is working right today for Apple, I just shake my head and ask, “Just How Dumb Can Apple Be?”.