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Preparing to make the mix tapes

I’ve recently started making mix tapes for my children. It seemed like a good idea, and it still seems like a good idea. But, like every task I undertake, I find that this one is exploding a bit. What do I mean? Let’s see.

First, there was the question of finding the songs. I’ve accumulated a lot of music in almost forty years. A decent amount has ended up in digital form. But it’s me; I’m not organized. I had to dig them out from way too many places: a backup copy of an old iPod, backups of iTunes folders from four or so old computers, more recent rips from my office computer, additional rips from my laptop that I’ve been archiving every few months [1], somethings that only seemed to be in my Amazon cloud account [2], live music downloaded from and elsewhere, free albums from Bandcamp, albums purchased directly from the artists, and more. I also need to dig out some CDs that I haven’t ripped yet and perhaps look on my lab computers from when I did ripping two years ago. I also should find the cache of stuff I downloaded from eMusic back when it was an all you care to download service. But I certainly have enough right now to make some mix tapes [3].

Second, there’s the issue of organizing everything. I prefer that my folders be named with the artist in sort order, a dash, and the title of the album. For example, Morrison, Van - Astral Weeks or Beatles, The - Please Please Me. Of course, iTunes doesn’t like naming things that way, so I wrote a program to do the renaming for me [4]. Since the songs from the old iPod were in one single folder, rather than in a folder per album, I also had fun figuring out how to put those in appropriate folders [5].

Third, there was the question of what image to use for the mixes. I ended up finding a picture of an old TDK tape [7]. I cleaned up the image a bit. I erased the Dolby [8] checkboxes. I decided on fonts: Handwriting (Dakota) 32 pt for SamR Selects Some Songs and XKCD 40 pt (or so) for the tape titles.

What else? Oh, yeah, the songs have to be renumbered and associated with their new albums. iTunes helps. I also have some scripts I wrote a long time ago [9] to help with all sorts of things with mp3s: Making the tags match the filename, changing the album title, etc. I also use Tagr for some quick changes.

Eventually, I’ll probably want to make sure that the albums I ripped have the correct covers. Many are missing covers, such as almost everything by Da Yoopers, Butch Hancock, Dave Alvin, Fela Kuti, and the Bad Examples. Others are incorrect. Some of the ones that iTunes and Amazon choose are quite amusing. Paul Chastain’s Halo appears as Dolly Parton’s Halos and Horns. The bonus disk for Billy Bragg’s Must I Paint You a Picture appears as some album by Zubin Mehta and the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. A ROIO [10] of Bruce Springsteen and the Seeger Sessions band live appears as Genesis’ Three Sides Live.

I may eventually decide to upload all of my music to my Amazon cloud. But that’s a task for another week. And it also means that I’ll have to clean up the Amazon cloud, too.

In any case, I’m ready to make the tape. Say tuned.

[1] Over the past few years, I’ve been ripping a bunch of my old CDs. There’s not room on my laptop for all of those rips, so they end up on a variety of backup drives. I really do need to work on organization.

[2] Amazon says that you can store up to 250,000 songs in the cloud with an Amazon music subscription. But their desktop app only handles 50,000 or so (or at least it did at last count).

[3] No, I won’t tell you how many songs I have. It’s a disgustingly large number.

[4] One of the advantages of being a programmer is that I can write programs to automate complicated task.

[5] Here’s the strategy I used: a. Copy the files into my iTunes music folder. b. Make sure that iTunes is set to keep my library organized. c. Open all of the files in iTunes. d. Wait. e. Use the script for renaming iTunes directories to the directory format I prefer. f. See how much duplication there was [6].

[6] Less than I expected.

[7] It’s a noncommercial use; it’s close enough to fair use for my purposes.

[8] Or doubly, for the Spinal Tap fans out there.

[9] Fall of 2009, if I remember correctly.

[10] Recording of Indeterminate Origin.

Version 1.0 of 2017-07-18.