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Saturday, 29 May 2010

New release: build 20100523 - pagination

This week's release adds in pagination for the web UI. I added this in for two reasons.

First, a customer was experiencing memory problems because his library was so large that bliss was running out of memory just rendering the Web page! So I fixed that by breaking the UI into pages of twelve albums per page, with links to move left and right.

The second reason is that it makes the browsing view easier to navigate and less overwhelming.

I have a feeling some users may want to be able to view more than twelve albums at once. If so, add the suggestion to the bliss UserVoice page!

The new release is available at the download page.

Monday, 24 May 2010

A new customer testimonials page

This isn't about music library management per se, but it is about bliss. I just uploaded a customer/user testimonial page with some of the quotes from customers and users that I have gathered so far. Some of the praise has really put a smile on my face. Striving for a clean, correct, consistent digital music library seems to be a passion shared by many people!

I also created a couple of Delicious tags for bliss - bliss_press and bliss_testimonial.

Thanks for everyone's feedback!

Saturday, 22 May 2010

New release: build 20100516

This week's release fixes a problem where the cost, in terms of number of fixes, was being counted a little, er, 'eagerly' when performing manual changes.

It can be downloaded, as usual, from

The recent blog posts may have hinted at this, but I've also been doing some background work on file organisation compliancy. This allows you to specify, in a rule, how your music files should be organised and it will tell you when they are uncompliant against that rule and, optionally, will automatically move/rename/whatever your files to make it compliant again!

Monday, 17 May 2010

Easy FLAC to MP3 mirroring with mp3fs

Storing music in FLAC format is an excellent choice. It's higher quality than MP3 and, importantly, is 'lossless' which means you can always convert it to another format. Not all players support it though, so sometimes you need to have your same music in a different format. How do you accomplish this while not wasting time or storage space? mp3fs is a fully automatic and storage efficient way of keeping a copy of your FLAC library in MP3 format.

What are the other options for converting from FLAC to MP3? First, it can be done manually on a file by file or bulk basis. Some converters (or 'transcoders') work with a GUI while some work on the command line. Examples of both are dBpoweramp Music Converter and flac2mp3.

There are two problems with the manual approaches:
  1. They have to be run each time your music library changes, because they are manual. This can be mitigated by running the job periodically
  2. They use more storage space, because a separate copy of your FLACs in MP3 format are kept
Instead, on my Linux home server, I use mp3fs. mp3fs represents your FLAC folders as MP3 folders. You simply point mp3fs at your FLAC directory and tell it where the resulting MP3 files should end up. No MP3 files are created as such, it just looks like they are.

First decide where you want your mp3s to be stored. Let's say you want them stored in /mnt/music/mp3. This should be an empty directory. Now, choose your FLAC directory. Let's say this is /mnt/music/flac:

gravelld@gravelld-laptop:~$ ls /mnt/music/flac
Alison_Balsom Mint Royale Oasis Suede Various
Louis_Armstrong Nelly_Furtado Pendulum The_Chemical_Brothers


gravelld@gravelld-laptop:~$ ls /mnt/music/mp3

Nothing in there yet! So, let's weave some mp3fs magic:

sudo mp3fs /mnt/music/flac,192 /mnt/music/mp3


gravelld@gravelld-laptop:~$ ls /mnt/music/mp3
Alison_Balsom Mint Royale Oasis Suede Various
Louis_Armstrong Nelly_Furtado Pendulum The_Chemical_Brothers

And interestingly:

gravelld@gravelld-laptop:~$ sudo ls /mnt/music/mp3/Oasis/Definitely\ Maybe
01-Rock 'N' Roll Star.mp3 07-Bring It On Down.mp3
02-Shakermaker.mp3 08-Cigarettes & Alcohol.mp3
03-Live Forever.mp3 09-Digsy's Dinner.mp3
04-Up In The Sky.mp3 10-Slide Away.mp3
05-Columbia.mp3 11-Married With Children.mp3
06-Supersonic.mp3 cover.jpg

These are FLAC files stored in the FLAC directory, but now they appear to be MP3 files too. The important bit here is that these MP3 files are not actually stored on the hard disk. Rather, each time you access the MP3 directory or files therein, mp3fs mimics the directory structure or creates the MP3s on-the-fly. This means:
  1. You don't need to tell mp3fs when the music library has changed
  2. There's no extra storage space required to store your MP3 mirror of your FLAC files
Some people say "storage is cheap". I agree, but your time isn't. Storing two separate trees of music is duplication and therefore imposes a management cost. It's not just adding music either, it's deleting it and modifying it too that would, with a manual solution, require a rebuild of your MP3s.

That is how I mirror my FLACs to MP3s on my Linux home server, and I haven't had to think about it again since.

Sunday, 16 May 2010

New release: build 20100510

The most obvious changes in this week's release are bug fixes, but in the background I've begun work on a file organisation rule (hence the recent thoughts about how to organise music files!).

The first bug fix was annoying glitch in the way IE8 rendered new albums on a blank page - it would render them all in one column. This is now fixed.

I also improved the detection of multiple instances of bliss running in Windows 7. Before there was opportunity to launch multiple versions.

Finally, I improved the recognition of 'album directories'. Before, if the artist name was in the directory name in addition to the album name, the directory would not be considered an album directory. It does now.

The new release is available, as ever, at

Monday, 10 May 2010

Don't organise music files by genre

Don't use the genre of your music as a basis to organise your music files. Genre is inherently wholly, ambiguous and subject to change. As such, it does not make a good candidate for organising music files and directories.

I can see why some digital music lovers include genre information in their music file structures. Genre is interesting, it's a way of categorising music that makes sense for choosing playlists. To this end, music playing software and hardware allows you to browse your music library by genre. So why shouldn't you organise files by genre too?

The trouble is that file and directory structures don't lend themselves to structures where the names may change. Genre, because it's inherently wholly and ambiguous is one of the more frequently altered aspect of music meta-data. Music players often identify music by the file path of the music. Changing the file path when you decide to change the genre may reset information about the music stored in the music player, such as play counts, ratings and more.

It's important that meta-data communicated in your file and directory structures are the same as the data within your embedded music tags, give or take file system limitations. This means that when the genre for your music changes it should change both the tags and anywhere else the genre is communicated. If genre is in your file structure, this means changing your file structure too.

You may also wish to assign multiple genres to tracks and albums in your music library. This is perfectly possible and a valid thing to do using tags within the music files. However, because file structures are hierarchical, you can only pick one genre to organise by. Remembering why your chose the one-you-did is difficult, and leaves the potential for further problems at a later date.

So how should music files be organised? I think some level of categorisation is important, because music file organisation is often needed as a fallback when performing some administration tasks and also for music players that are incompatible with your music tags. We need to choose music meta-data that is better suited to use in file structures. This is meta-data that is less subject to change.

I choose to organise files within artist/album directory structures. These data, specifically the ALBUM_ARTIST and ALBUM_NAME tags, generally do not chage and the structure is layered enough to be sortable and navigable. All other meta-data such as genre, year, style and mood are stored within the music files themselves so that I can use them inside my music players.

And that is why you shouldn't use genre in your music file/directory structures.
Thanks to feverblue for the image used at the top of this blog post

Saturday, 8 May 2010

New release: build 20100502

A few minor-ish bug fixes this week.

I introduced the 'why?' link to the album grid a few weeks ago. Before, when revealing the details of what made an album compliant, the details inherited the tick or cross icon from the overall compliancy. Now, the tick or cross is related to the detail. Generally speaking, if just one detail has a cross (is uncompliant) then the whole album is.

I also did some work to improve the startup experience for VortexBox users using bliss. VortexBox is a home jukebox appliance. Andrew at VortexBox has set bliss up as a beta integration. With just a couple of commands you can add bliss to your VortexBox, and have it managing its album art. Read more here and here.

The new versions are available in the usual place!

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

How to name music files

Naming music files is important. Without a consistent and correct naming scheme your music files will be hard to organise. In some music players it can make music difficult to select. This blog post describes how I name my music files.

In general, information about a track should be stored inside the file itself, in 'tags'. However, you should also keep some of the same information about a track in its filename. Sometimes you must organise or play your music via software that only reads filenames, not the internal tags embedded within. An obvious example is a file explorer such as Windows Explorer. Less obvious is where you use a music player that does not support the tags your music files contain. For instance, Nokia mobile phones running Symbian v9.2/Series 60 v3 have no support for ID3v2.4 out-of-the-box.

Importantly, the information in the filename must be the same as the information embedded in tags in the music file. If they are different, life will soon get very confusing.

So long as your music files are named correctly, you can organise or view them in any application. It's a great fallback!

What should be included in a music file name?

First, the name of the song! This is most important, because without the name you don't know what music is contained within the file.

Also important is the track number within the track's album. This is important so that files are ordered correctly by file name. If you are queuing music to play by selecting files in a file explorer, this is the only way they can be selected to play in order. It's also good to left pad the number with '0's, e.g. 01, 02... 10, 11 so that tracks are not ordered 1, 10, 11, 2, 3 and so on.

Optional are album and artist names. I think these are only required in flat music directory structures. I, on the other hand, store music files in an artist/album manner. This means they aren't required in the file names.

In theory you could also include genre, and other tags. However, this would make the filename long and more difficult to read. It also opens a greater possibility of inconsistency between the filename and internal tags, because tags like genre are more likely to change than tags like track name or track number.

It's generally worth removing spaces in your filenames. This isn't always required, but you may find some applications don't work well with your music if they contain spaces. Ditto for Unicode characters outside of the 'normal' range for your computer.

How your music files' names should read

In my music collection, files are named:
[track number]-[track name].[file extension]
For instance:
  • The track number comes first - this means the files are correctly ordered
  • The track number is padded with a zero. This helps where there are more than nine tracks
  • The track name is there. It's space is replaced with an underscore '_'
  • The track number and name are separated by a hyphen

So that's sorted then...

Unfortunately not. Remember what I said about the information in the filename being the same as the information in the tags? The real pain comes when you have a large music collection. If you want to change how your filenames are formed, or you want to change some of the information itself that is in both the filename and tags, then replicating the two can be a tedious and error prone process. Worst, you may just give up (but who could blame you?!). Existing tools like Jaikoz, Tag & Rename and MP3Tag help with this, although they don't generally operate in a fully automated manner.

I am hoping to introduce music file management to bliss. soon. As you'd expect, this will be management by rules, so you will state how your files should be named and bliss will rename them in bulk for you (or at least tell you where an album's tracks are not compliant with the name rule).

And that is how I name my music files.
Thanks to Velo Steve for the photo used at the top of this post.

Sunday, 2 May 2010

New release: build 20100425 - faster, faster!

This week's release has some improvements to make bliss's Web based UI a lot more efficient when viewing large music libraries. Before it would consume a lot of memory and CPU power on the computer where bliss is running. This can be a problem where people run low power servers. Now, bliss should take less CPU power when the Web interface is being viewed, and a bit less memory too.

Also, this release has the fix for iTunes libraries I described a week or so ago. Remember that after using bliss to embed art in your music files, iTunes must be told about the new art. The easiest way is:
  1. In iTunes, select each album whose art you installed/changed
  2. Right click and choose 'Get Info'
  3. Click OK on the resulting dialog box (don't click any of the check boxes)
This has the effect of forcing iTunes to re-read the embedded art from your music files.

Download the latest build at!