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Posted on Feb 11, 2007 in Technology | 5 comments

Miniature Music

Miniature Music

It wasn’t one of the most exciting things I have ever done, but I have just about finished ripping all my CDs onto hard drive. Something close to 40GB of the stuff. It took a long time but it has been worth it for a whole number of reasons.

Firstly, and unexpectedly, it has allowed me to rediscover hitherto undiscovered gems hidden in the collection. Sticking the whole lot on shuffle is even more fun that it ever was.

Secondly, I have freed up a LOT of space in the living room. Two cupboards are going and will be replaced by a small, metal box the size of a small, metal box. And the attic will have gained a few large boxes of CDs. Next, I need to get one of these and I’ll be flying (until such time it’ll be me and Sennheisers at the laptop).

It does make you think though. If you can reduce that much furniture to a small box. You can surely reduce an entire record shop to a kiosk or whole in the wall. No doubt someone, somewhere is already thinking about this. You can get an album at 192kbps easily into 128MB and a 128MB USB pen drive costs about hee-haw these days. So, why not pitch up at a machine, stick in your pen drive, stick in your debit card and walk off with any album you want? Its not as if this is some space age fantasy from the Jetsons, its all very possible now. Which makes you think there must be a strong commercial imperative not to do it. Obviously, you could argue that this is just a slightly less elegant solution to what can be acheived by downloading and that is, in many ways, true. And companies clearly want the cross-sell/window shopping aspect of retail space. But why not the best of both and have a ‘download kiosk’ in the shop itself?

Obviously, you can’t ignore the tactile pleasure of buying a thing. Not that CD’s have ever got anywhere near buying vinyl.

This also leads on to another digital media concern. I have 40GB of music on my hard-drive. If my hard-drive went phut, I would be annoyed but I could retrieve it all again from the attic (or my backup). But what if I have 40GB of downloads that all go south and I haven’t backed up? I may have missed something but this is something that I don’t think the ever-increasing downloads industry has addressed. Perhaps one way round this (other than telling people to back-up more) would be to have a download service that remembers what you have bought so that you have the right to download it again for nothing. Does that exist? If it doesn’t it should. Obviously, it wildly open to abuse so that’s probably why it doesn’t exist.

One day I’ll start one of these posts with a little more of a coherent point. Maybe not.


  1. It went for a more budget-conscious route to streaming music from the PC to the hi-fi – check out the Logitech Wireless Music System for PC on your favourite e-commerce site. Simple but effective.

    As to your other main point – I believe that will let you re-download anything you’ve previously purchased for no additional cost. And with prices from 15p a track for mp3s unencumbered by DRM, what’s not to like? all 100% legal too. Note – if yer gonna sign up here, let me recommend you so we can both benefit.

    Finally, it’s received wisdom in digital circles these days to always rip yer CDs in an uncompressed form – you can always re-compress if you want to load ’em onto yer portable device, but you can never uncompress an already compressed choon. Anything less than 192kbs sounds horrible on my hi-fi, but even at 192 or 224, there’s still a significant difference between that and the actual CD.

    Bet you didn’t do that. No, neither did I (90GB and growing – all ripped at 192kbs).

  2. Am I allowed a second follow-up comment?

    Regarding your USB machine idea, why don’t the shops simply sell pre-populated USB sticks containing the full album?

    As you’ve said, they cost jack sh!t these days, and you could still pack ’em in a wee plastic box with accompanying artwork / lyric sheet – which is what I miss most about downloads as a format.

    Nothing paricularly new with this idea:

    Barenaked Ladies had a go as far back as 2005, but were looking to charge $30 for it. Keane released a USB single last year for less than £4. But as the hardware grows ever cheaper, I think there’s merit in USB Stick as a more widespread music format.

    For maximum flexibility you’d need a new(-ish) generation of mp3 players that feature USB host capabilities so you can simply plug in the stick and upload the album to your portable device, but that’s hardly a huge leap.

    Getting the bean counters and their nerdy mates in the music biz to once and for all abandon DRM as a sh!tty idea whose time is now gone might be the more difficult push.

  3. Forget all the proper, serious commment – what we all want to know is just how much of Scott’s 40GB is made up of Prince bootlegs and Pointer Sisters albums?

  4. For some reason, the “shuffle all” on my meager 10Gb collection kind of annoys me, Windows Media Player has no imagination and quite often just repeats the same 50 tunes…..somebody needs to build some proper algorithms into the file selection..

    When MD was a popular format in Japan you could go into a MD JUKEBOX enabled store, pop in a blank and buy tracks one at a time..I guess today’s equiv may well be a USB pen, SD card or something but I agree, the real deal artwork and packaging is sorely missed.

    One point which has surely been made a thousand times before is, as the purchase of music becomes more and more flexible, the existence of the “album” is threatenend which is unfortunate…consider also the home compilation cassette, once upon a time building a compilation was a 2 hour affair where one would spend a good bit of time choosing the tracks and the running order…a playlist is too damn easy and how often do you really bother giving one of those any thought?…..

  5. Tony said: “once upon a time building a compilation was a 2 hour affair”.

    2 hours? You’ve obviously never built a C-90 compilation from vinyl (neccessitating a test and re-set of the recording level for every damn track) with snatches of dialogue from your video collection effortlessly segued in between the songs. Did I say effortlessly? Make that “effortfully”. I’ve spent entire bank holiday weekends doing a single tape. Only to play it back and discover that track 7 on side two doesn’t really fit in the rest of the vibe.

    All that effort, and she still didn’t shag me!

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