01 March 2008

Placing Your Bets

What seems like ages ago in the late 90's I started building up my digital music collection and because of my close ties with Microsoft naturally I chose Windows Media Audio as the format I would support. Who knew?

Who knew that Microsoft would do such a piss-poor job of supporting digital technology? Who knew they'd see massive churn in their hardware expertise and completely screw-up their entrée into the music player market? Who knew they'd talk so freakin' long to make even token progress in car audio, phone audio, and personal devices? More's the sucker I.

Now I find myself with a library of more than 100,000 songs and the vast majority from online retailers who supported WMA. But I can't put the audio where I want it any more. I doesn't play well with my Nano, it won't play well in the car, it's a pain to work with on my phones. In short, I'm through suffering to support a format that has been so hideously mishandled.

So know I've been struggling with the easy way to convert ten thousand albums into MP3 format without losing the substantial investment I've made in ratings, album covers, categorization, and data clean-up. I'm notoriously picky about data, and my music collection is one of those places it shows the most. But seriously, convert 100K songs automatically with back-up and verification?

First off, I went a-hunting. I tried tool after tool, widget after widget, and spent some decent coin trying out even the more high-end utilities and packages. Generally speaking, they all are fine for the little guys, but when you are talking THOUSANDS of albums, they stop being useful.

So naturally, my engineering spirit erupted in full bloom and I've had to create several utilities to manage and control this process. Hundreds of hours later, I'm still not finished with the conversion process even though it is largely automatic with only a minimal set of smooth (to my mind) human verification steps.

The moral I learned from this adventure is to place your technology bets wisely. Had I given up after the first ASF debacle I would only have 40 or 50 gigabytes of music to manage instead of 600 GB of digital audio that needs to be handled with care.

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