Saturday, June 16, 2007

Convert Standard AudioBooks Into Ipod Audiobook with Bookmarks

I use my Ipod to listen to audiobooks, but always have had trouble with audiobooks I get from non-Itunes places. The problem with importing non-Itunes audiobooks into Itunes is that Itunes won't mark your audiobook with bookmarks so when you stop at a certain point in the book, listen to some music and then come back to the audiobook, it doesn't save your place. Only audiobooks purchased from Itunes are bookmarkable - most audiobooks obtained from other sources are treated as music file in itunes. This tutorial is to take a CD or mp3 audiobook and make it bookmarkable for use in an ipod. You can easily convert any audio files to the Itunes audiobook format two different ways.
Converting a CD to a mp3

If you want to take an audiobook you own on CD and convert it to an ipod audiobook, you will need to rip the CD. There are two methods of doing that. I use Cdex which is the easier method described in this how-to. Another method is to use exact audio copy explained here.


AUTOMATED METHOD using "MP3 to Ipod Audiobook Converter" program:
The first way is using the mp3 to audiobook converter by freeipodsoftware. This is a mostly automated method that works well. It does decreases the quality & file size some and isn't customizable so I'll still mention the manual method as well.

  1. Download the program at
  2. Start the program and click on the "add" button. Select each of the files you want to merge and convert into a single file
  3. Click "start conversion"
  4. Name the new m4b file and select the folder to save it to.
  5. Wait for it to finish - a progress indicator will tell you how much time has elapsed, time remaining and the size of the resulting file.

Now you just open Itunes and import the new m4b file and your done. Quick and easy.

The manual method is one I've used for several years. It is fully customizable and is done with a few simple steps.

1. Prepare Itunes for the Import

  • In Itunes, go to Edit > Preferences > Advanced
  • Choose the importing tab and change import to "AAC Encoder"
  • Click the down arrow and select custom.
  • In the AAC Encoder window, choose somewhere around 16 & 48 kbs - uses 32kbps so that would be a good selection.
  • Set the Sample rate as "auto" and channels to "stereo" and select
  • Uncheck "play while importing"
  • Create filenames
  • Use error correction
  • Click ok

2. Merge multiple MP3 files into a larger MP3

When you rip an audiobook CD or download a mp3 audiobook, it will be in multiple files. It is easier to manage one or just a few files - this way you don't need to remember which file you are listening to. Just remember not to make the resulting file any larger than 320MB or longer than 5 hours. Otherwise you could end up with playback problems in your ipod.

To merge the files into one or more larger mp3 "chunks" use mp3merge

  • Open MP3 Merger
  • Click on add files button & a window with "select files to merge" will open
  • Browse to and select your mp3 files that you want to merge
  • Click the open button in mp3merger
  • Click on Sort button
  • Change MP3merger output file name
  • Click on merge files button
  • Click on remove all button and repeat steps for all files you want to merge
  • Now using windows explorer, rename your files in a numbered format such as 0001TomClancy, 0002TomClancy etc. This will ensure that the tracks load into itunes in the proper order when you have multiple tracks in one audiobook.

3. Import the MP3 File Into Itunes

In Itunes, add each of the new mp3 files to itunes:
  • Add the file (or folder) to the Itunes Library
  • Convert each newly imported mp3 file to AAC - select the file (s), right-click, and select “Convert Selection to AAC“.
  • Once the conversion is complete, remove the original mp3 files from your library. They will no longer be needed for this process.
  • Also remove the newly created files from your library (NOT from your disc), but when you are asked, be sure to select “Keep Files“, so they are not deleted off your hard drive.
4. Rename the AAC files from m4a to m4b - To make the new AAC files bookmarkable, you will need to rename each of them to m4b
  • Open Windows Explorer
  • In Windows Explorer you should find the files in My Documents\My Music\Itunes\Itunes Music, right click the AAC file in the library and open folder
  • In the folder rename each of the files m4b (from m4a)
5. Add m4b file to Itunes
  • In Windows Explorer, double click each file to add the m4b files to Itunes.
  • In Itunes you can right-click on the new files and select “Get Info“. Update the name, genre and artist to whatever you want - I usually clear the artist and lable the genre as audiobook
  • Now add the files to your ipod when ready.
You now have a bookmarkable audiobook in your ipod that won't be included with your music when you the ipod is in shuffle mode.
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DVR and Internet TV - The End Of TV As We Know It

Popular Mechanics has an article titled The end of TV as we know it - Why the DVR revolution will be televised. Mr. Derene points out that we love television, but hate commercials. The acceptance and more prevalant use of Digital Video Recorders (DVR's) is

"changing the delicate balance of the broadcasting world and in the process, the
basic measurements and accounting that the industry relies on"
He goes on to explain the DVR in laymans terms and why skipping commercials are so welcome to TV watchers

"DVR has empowered them to take back their television-watching experience from
the advertisers"
The result in over 17% of households using DVR's (I think that number should probably be much higher by the way) is that
"the advertising industry has been pressuring Neilsen, the company that for
years has been rating audience share, to move from its established “program
rating” system to an “ad rating” system."
In the end, DVR's are shifting some of the power from the media companies and advertisers to the viewers. Viewers watch what they want, when they want. The Washington Post has another article "Gone in 30 Seconds" about how the traditional 30 second TV Spot May Be Headed Toward Extinction As More Advertisers Pitch Their Messages on the Web. The ad executives are worried and noticibly changing tactics due to the DVR-effect.

Mr. Derene of Popular Mechanics also says, TV is evolving into "a more internet-like medium." I think internet actually will change Television even more as it becomes a major supplier and deliverer of content. Look at Joost, Babelgum, Netflix watch-now and YouTube. These internet-TV mediums are in their infancy and now considered a medium for tech-geeks, but it won't be long before they become mainstream. All it will take is to get the "internet-TV" to the average viewers TV. Joost is already taking this step in full-force. Joost is talking to hardware vendors about embedding Joost into set-top boxes and televisions. Duncan Riley at Techcrunch says "this will change the market as we know it" and I totally agree. Joost currently doesn't have much in the way of content, but they have made important agreements with content providers. All that is left for them is to increase their viewership to numbers that will get those content providers attention. Once that happens, the mainstream networks will want in on the action.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Cool Flickr Related Tag Browser Tool

Felix Turner of Airtight Interactive has created a very cool flickr tool using flash. The Flickr Related Tag Browser is a simple visual tool to browse flickr photos based on flickr tags. The first screen is simply a tag search bar. Input whatever photo tag you want to search for and click go.

It will instantly pull up a page with a collage of photos with that tag in the center and several secondary tags surrounding the screen. As you move your cursor over the collage, it expands so you can see it better. If you move your cursur to one of the outside tags, it makes those tags larger and shrinks the collage. It's a very nice, visual way to search for photos.

Click on the video below to see the tool in action.

You can try out the site at this LINK

Check out Felix's blog and other tools at

People Clocks

I was being lazy this morning and stumbled upon two interesting sites that show you the time in very unique ways.
The first one is a "people clock" where the time is made up of people in numbered positions. To understand you have to see it so here's a snapshot of the web page

Here's the LINK to see it in action
Another interesting clock site is the This is a fun web page that shows a photo with the time on it using pictures. Again, you have to see it to totally understand.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Find Post Office Boxes and Pickup Times with Mailbox Map

Do you have mail that you need to get to its destination as soon as possible? Want to find the post office box (you know the blue boxes) that has the latest pickup time for a certain day? The best solution for this is Mailbox Map.

I first mentioned this site in my "Beat Netflix Throttle" article for when you want to get a netflix movie in the mail on a Saturday so you need to find the latest pickup for a nearby post office box. To find the latest drop-off postal box near you, use Mailbox Map (similar to Mailbox Locator highlighted at Lifehacker) - This site lets you search by address and then shows a google map with a list of all post office mailboxes near you with the various pickup times. Using this site, I can find a mailbox that picks up at 3:30pm and another at 5:00 pm on a Saturday.
On the left side of the screen you type in your zip code and it brings up a google map with each post office mailbox marked. At the right is a listing of each nearby mailbox with the address and pickup times.

Now you know how to track down those mail boxes - go mail that letter.
As always please feel free to ask any questions you have in the comments
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Four Ways to Track Statistics On Your Flickr Photos

I'm a regular Flickr user and have been trying out different ways to track page views and statistics on Flickr. Since Flickr doesn't have anything built-in to show you page views of your flickr stream, I've found several unique solutions. Here are four ways you can track your statistics in Flickr.

1. Track Total Pageviews with Statr - Statr for Flickr allows you to track and plot page views statistics for your Flickr account. You have to submit your flickr photostream to statr, allow statr access to your account and within 24 hours, graphs begin to be automatically updated each day. You can link to this graph from external websites as well just like the one below. Nico Tranquilli authored this app using the flickr api and based this on another excellent flickr app called Group Trackr, (I previously had said this was based on Groupr which was incorrect - it was Group Trackr - thanks to Dario for correcting me on that). I've been working on this blog post for the past week, but Lifehacker beat me to the punch since they wrote a quick write-up on Statr today.
The left graph is from my photostream and the right one is from Nico's (who has some great photos you shuld check out by the way. Nico's has been set up for a while now so you can see what it looks like with a full month of data. As you can see, if you are a flickr user that gets many views on your photostream, this can be a really useful graph.
For More on Statr and to setup your flickr photostream account go HERE

2. Track Views of Individual Photos with

I use for my weblog and also for certain of my photos that get many views. To use for your photos, you have to drop the code from the site
into a comment of the photo. After that, you will see the number of users viewing that photo at that time. See the photo to the left and the counter at the bottom in the comments. That shows that there are two people viewing that photo at that given time. You can also view past views by clicking on the icon to see views by hour, day, month or year. One other use for this widget is to put it in your flickr profile page. Now you can track views of your flickr profile.

This is a great widget for your weblog too, but many others have written about that such as this write-up by TechCrunch

3. Track Flickr Statistics Using a Technorati Feed. You can track who is blogging your photos, talking about your photos and linking to your photo flickrstream by setting up a technorati search feed. Do a search on technorati for your flickrstream and it should result in an RSS feed icon in your browser address bar. Subscribe to that feed and it will track everything through Technorati. For more on how this is done, go to

4. Use the Flickr Views Firefox Greasemonkey Script

Using Firefox and Greasemonkey, you can add the FlickrViews script to track the increase in number of views on your Flickr photostream, and average views per photo.
Here's what the script shows you:
2,518 photos (0) / 4,124 views (+0) Average: 1.64

  • The 2,518 is the number of photos of course
  • The first (0) is the number of photos added since you last refreshed your page
  • The 4,124 views is the total number of views in your photostream
  • The secend (+0) is the increase in views since the last time you refreshed your page
  • Lastly, the Average: 1.64 is the average number of views per photo in your photostream

Here's How to set up the FlickrViews greasemonkey script:

  1. To use this get firefox if you haven't already by clicking here
  2. Get greasemonkey for firefox
  3. Install the script by clicking here
  4. Now go to Tools - Greasemonkey - Manage User Scripts in Firefox
  5. Change the preferences of "Flickr Views Tracker", and change it to be your flickr photostream, under "Included Pages"
  6. Close and re-open the Firefox browser
  7. You should now be set. Now when you go to your flickrstream
    you should see the extra stats at the top right of the page - something like this:

There you have it, four different ways to keep track of your flickr photostream. Until Flickr adds the feature to track statistics, these should help fill the void for now.
As always please feel free to ask any questions you have in the comments
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For a complete listing of flickr hacks and tools CLICK HERE

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

HBO Going All HD

Engadget is reporting that all of the HBO channels will be providing HD for all 26 of their channels by the end of June 2008. Read More on Engadget

Sync Your Music and Photos The Easy Way

I've been looking for an easy, automated solution to synch my music and photo collections from one Windows PC to another. It needed to be something that would run every night and update the second PC with anything that had changed on the first PC without having to re-copy the entire thing each time. One solution for that was DeltaCopy - a Windows Rsynch wrapper that was highlighted by Lifehacker back in January. DeltaCopy seemed to work pretty well but was a little difficult to set up if you weren't familiar with setting up a server & client using Windows Services.
After much searching, I came across a solution that has been around for a long time, but has been used more by Windows Tech people then by your average PC user. The solution I chose was RoboCopy GUI. RoboCopy was released as a part of the Windows Resource Kit by Microsoft and was designed to copy and sync large groups of folders and files. It was also created with the ability to copy files to mapped drives across a network even if there was an interruption in service.
If you are a regular reader of this blog, you know I use a Home Theater PC (HTPC) to run all media in my house including television, movies, music, photos and more. I also have a second HTPC that runs as a client and streams much of that content from the server HTPC. What I wanted was to provide a backup of every file in my music and photo collection along with playlists, tags, itunes library etc. Here's how I did it.

Download Robocopy GUI from here DOWNLOAD ROBOCOPYGUI
Make Sure you have Microsoft .NET Framework version 2.0 installed

Install Robocopy GUI on the PC you will be Syncing

Run Robocopy GUI

On the Path tab, input the source path as whatever drive or folder on your network you want to copy or synch from. Then in the target path box, input the drive or folder you want to copy or sync to. I selected my music folder, my itunes settings folder and my photos folder.

Go to the Copy Options tab. Here you select any of the options for your copy or sync. There are a bunch of them so move your cursor over each box to see a description of what it does. For my purposes, I selected the following boxes:
/S - this copies all subdirectories
/Copyall - as it says, this copies everything files & all
/Purge - deletes destination files and directories that no longer exist in the source
/R 10 - ten retry attempts
/W 30 - time to wait between retries
/Mir should be selected if you want to mirror the entire directory tree.

You can also customize the sync via the filtors, logging and monitoring tab. There is a very extensive amount of custimization that can be done with robocopy. The gui version simply makes the cli version of the app more accessible to those not comforatable with cli.

Now go back to the path tab and check save script. The script will be saved in the folder you select so you can use this to run in Windows Scheduler.

Goto Start-Control Panel-Performance&Maintenance-Scheduled Tasks. In Scheduled Tasks, do add scheduled task and select "browse" and pick the cmd script you saved in the robocopy gui. Name it something like "music" and select how often you want it to synch or copy. Follow the remaining prompts in scheduled task wizard and you should be set.

Now when I make make a change to one of my playlists on the server PC, it mirrors that change on the second PC. If I update a tag (using Adobe Photoshop Elements) to one of my photos on the server PC, it is updated on the second PC. It's very useful and helps in the backup process as well. While I do still use Acronis TrueImage for a complete mirror image backup once every month or so, RoboCopy gives me an easy way to daily back up the files I don't want to lose.
Robocopy could also be used to mirror a complete drive to another computer in your network. It's a pretty powerful tool that I'm putting to use. A great way to sync or backup a large number of files automatically.

For more on Robocopy, try the wiki article or Microsoft TechNet

As always please feel free to ask any questions you have in the comments

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Happy Birthday Techcrunch

I want to extend a very happy second birthday to Michael Arrington's TechCrunch Blog. It is one of my favorite sources for the latest Internet Companies and Products. If you want to hear about the newest internet products first, you better subscribe to TechCrunch. Happy Birthday!

Keep Up With The Best Tech News On Your Mobile

If you're like me, you want to be able to read the latest tech news wherever you are. My most important new-news come from techmeme. To get that news on your mobile device, check out this article

Links I Recommend

1. 23 Tivo Hacks - I'm fond of Beyond TV instead of the Tivo, but for you Tivo folks, this is a good list of tips
2. Cablevision gets some backup on their network DVR Legal Battle
3. The Cost of Adding CableCARD - It's Not $20
4. Review of Wireless Rear Speaker Kit
5. How To Download & Watch YouTube on Windows Mobile
6. Powerglove Wiimote
7. How to objectively judge the best picture when shopping for a new TV

Monday, June 11, 2007

Introducing the Wii Media Center HTPC

The Wii Media Center from Red Kawa:

Want to take your Wii console and use it as a Media Center of sorts? Try out the new, free multimedia server developed by Red Kawa made especially for the Wii. It allows you to stream certain types of video, music and picture files from your Windows, Mac and Linux PC to your Wii using flash. It's in its infancy, but looks pretty interesting. I'll be trying this one on my new Nintendo Wii this week for sure.

For the download and details go to the Red Kawa Site

Make Any Itunes Song DRM Free

Now that Itunes 7.2 Plus has been released there has been a lot of excitement about the new DRM-free music available from the Itunes store. I've tried these "Plus" music tracks out and really like the non-DRM trend. Still, the majority of tracks on Itunes are still ladden with DRM so for those of you who want to have uncrippled music tracks there is a solution.

The Hymm Project has been constantly working on a program that strips all Itunes-purchased music files of its annoying DRM with ease. I reported on this before the latest 7.2 version of Itunes and now it is possible with 7.2 as well. All you need to do to uncripple those purchased itunes tracks (music and audio books) is to download the QTFairUse6 windows program from here, download the latest CFG (configuration file) from the same link and put that CFG file in your QTFairUse6 directory. Once installed, you can process all protected files in your iTunes library or process just certain itunes files. It also has an option to backup your current itunes libarary index files before starting.

It's easy and it works. Why do this? The reason I would do this is to be able to listen to the music I purchase from Itunes on non, apple-friendly devices. I don't share the music and you shouldn't either. Once Apple and the music companies free all tracks from DRM, this of course won't be necessary.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

CBS to Jericho Fans - Watch Jericho Live, Not Time-Shifted

Now that the campaign to save (bring back) Jericho has worked, CBS has an unusual request to the fans. In an NY Times article, Nina Tassler, the CBS Entertainment president tells Jericho fans the following:

"Please watch “Jericho” on broadcast television. Because CBS finances its
shows based on measures of viewership of regularly scheduled broadcasts, “it’s
of primary importance,” “We want them to watch on Wednesday at 8
o’clock,” or whenever CBS schedules the return of the series later this year,
“And we need them to recruit new viewers who are going to watch the broadcast.”

In other words, don't use your PVR to time-shift the show. Watch the commercials or the show will go.... To me that is a strange request coming from the President of a major network. The article had some interesting stats showing that the show has an extremely high percentage of its viewers who were time-shifters or watched the show on the CBS internet site:

CBS received a detailed report on the relatively high rate at which “Jericho” fans
recorded the show for later playback. “That made us take a second look,” Ms. Tassler said. That report, produced by David Poltrack, the network’s head of
research, showed that an estimated 700,000 households — roughly 8 percent of the
audience that watched the show live — recorded “Jericho” for later viewing.

I think the networks have been greatly underestimating the number of PVR users out there that time-shift shows. I know I do it regularly and I can't be alone.

The effort to save Jericho was amazing to say the least. For more info on the resurection of the show, read this article in the NY Times. I guess I'm going to have to catch up and watch this show after all.

Credit to digg for this post
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