AudioBook Builder

I have learned that there is some­thing about the mac that makes for real­ly nice, easy soft­ware. It’s sort of a cross between a Unix ethos (that is, pro­grams that do just one thing and do them real­ly well) and an Apple ethos (it just works). One fair­ly sim­ple task that, in prac­tice, is a huge pain is con­cate­nat­ing .mp3 files togeth­er to cre­ate an audio­book (typ­i­cal­ly an .m4b file1). I had found a few scripts and such to do this sort of thing, but all were mul­ti-step process­es and often did­n’t pro­duce the results I want­ed (at least not for the effort I had put into them).

Enter Audio­book Builder by Splasm Soft­ware. In a nut­shell, it sim­ply col­lects audio files togeth­er and then puts them in a sin­gle, com­pressed .m4b file. Now, it does have a few more bells and whis­tles avail­able along the process, but the stan­dard process is as easy as:

  1. Name and option­al cov­er art.
  2. Add the audio files, like­ly from .mp3 or from rip­ping a CD right into Audio­book Builder.
  3. Click Build Audiobook.

Which are the steps laid out on the three main but­tons along the bot­tom of the win­dow. Once the pro­gram is fin­ished (and it might take a while), the fin­ished audio­book is added into iTunes for you.

Creating an audiobook of Wicked using Audiobook Builder

One of the first uses I had for the soft­ware was to put the 13 CDs of Gre­go­ry Maguire’s “Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West” for Angela. She had pur­chased this to lis­ten to on our move down from Rich­mond. For­tu­nate­ly, the audio­book being near­ly 20 hours, she did­n’t have time to fin­ish dur­ing that dri­ve (long as it was). Plus, with 13 CDs to fool with, hav­ing it all on an iPod seemed like a bet­ter way to have the con­tent, any­way.

As I described above, there’s not much to it. Insert­ing 13 discs for the rip­ping process was­n’t much fun, but all of that is done right with­in Audio­book Builder, so there’s no pro­gram switch­ing or hunt­ing for files. The only task that I did out­side of the pro­gram was go to Amazon.com to get the cov­er art and meta-tag infor­ma­tion.

I do have a cou­ple of com­plaints about Audio­book Builder. First, I’d like to be able to add more meta-data than what is cur­rent­ly pos­si­ble. I would rec­om­mend some sort of Add more info… but­ton on the first screen. Sec­ond­ly, you con­trol the indi­vid­ual file length2 by means of a slid­er in the Pref­er­ences dia­log. I find myself fid­dling with this a lot as I want to bal­ance file length num­ber of files. I think that there could be two options, with­in the third screen, for either lim­it­ing length of files or num­ber of files. I change this for every sin­gle audio­book I cre­ate, and try dif­fer­ent lengths for each, as well. Hav­ing to go to the Pref­er­ences dia­log each time is fair­ly cum­ber­some.

Ever want­ed to read some clas­sics? Well, go get the vol­un­teer-read files from Lib­rivox and put them togeth­er in Audio­book Builder (I’ve got the first half of Don Quixote already done, even with chap­ter art­work added with­in Audio­book Builder). For $9.95, this pro­gram is a steal even if you have even a cou­ple of CD audio­books lay­ing around. Rip ’em, and then donate them to your pub­lic library. Then you don’t have to wor­ry about them tak­ing up space and some­one else can get to lis­ten to them.

  1. The .m4b is a rel­a­tive­ly com­mon for­mat asso­ci­at­ed with audio­books. Most play­ers know to remem­ber the last stop­ping point on these files, which alone is impor­tant enough to mer­it using on a 6‑hour long file. []
  2. It would be nice if you had exact con­trol over the length of files, but basi­cal­ly it is real­ly set­ting an upper lim­it. Audio­book builder won’t split indi­vid­ual files that you have added or ripped into it, as it has no way of know­ing if the split is in an appro­pri­ate spot or not — most­ly like­ly not. []

Much More Fun Than You Might Think

So, you might have picked up that I’ve been on some­thing of a fan­ta­sy kick late­ly. One thing that I’ve con­sid­ered doing off and on for sev­er­al years now (Okay, ever since I got out grad. school — what­ev­er) was pick­ing up role-play­ing games again. I played them a lot as a kid and loved every minute of it. They appealed to me on so many lev­els: tons of maps, loads of math & tables, and open end­ed sto­ries.

I end­ed up find a group on MeetUp.org who run some 4 hour games, once a month; most of which were aimed at begin­ners and peo­ple get­ting back into the game. This sound­ed like a per­fect fit. Sat­ur­day evening, I broke out an old Play­er’s Hand­book and cre­at­ed1 a pret­ty basic char­ac­ter for myself. I was nev­er very good at com­ing up with fan­ta­sy char­ac­ter names (I once named a rogue char­ac­ter Robin Steal­er. Sub­tle, no?), but I know of a group that is great at it: Ikea. So, I named my first lev­el, dwarf fight­er after a very taste­ful and mod­ern cof­fee table (Ramvik, if you’re curi­ous).

Sun­day, we all drove down to Murfrees­boro to the com­ic and games shop. I got a seat at the D&D table while Angela and Ains­ley looked around briefly at some comics. They then took off to tool around the mall while my game got under­way.

Now, I sup­pose on some lev­el, the sev­en peo­ple around the table fit exact­ly the descrip­tion of D&D play­ers you like­ly have in mind right now: white males sit­ting indoors on a per­fect­ly nice sun­ny day. How­ev­er, despite that gen­er­al stereo­type, these were a fair­ly diverse lot: a grad. stu­dent, a down­town lawyer, a high school math teacher, a father and his son — who had recent­ly got­ten his dad back into gam­ing, and the father of a 1 1/2 year old (who seemed hap­py to get out of the house and play a game with adults). What’s more, they were all out­go­ing and fun per­son­al­i­ties. While the game ran a bit long (even at five hours, we did­n’t quite fin­ish); a good bit of the time was spent jok­ing around. Instead of dice and pen­cils, we could have just as eas­i­ly had pok­er cards and chips in our hands.

Oth­er than the fact that I end­ed up los­ing my voice by the end of it (as much from all the laugh­ing as any­thing else), I had a real­ly great time. So much so, I plan to make it a month­ly event. Angela said she might even join in for a game in the future (by the way, there are females in the Meet­Up group, just none hap­pened to be play­ing this past week­end).

Oh, and the game itself? It was a fair­ly tough mod­ule, actu­al­ly. For­tu­nate­ly, we had a decent mix of a 7th lev­el bar­bar­ian, a 3rd lev­el cler­ic, a 3rd lev­el rogue, a 1st lev­el ranger, and two 1st lev­el fight­ers (includ­ing my Swedish fur­ni­ture name­sake). I end­ed up dying at the end, but the DM allowed for the NPC cler­ic whom we were help­ing to res­ur­rect my char­ac­ter out of grat­i­tude after the fact. I think the DM felt bad since my char­ac­ter died on my first game and that I might not have enjoyed it. Quite to the con­trary, I had had a great time and I was actu­al­ly kind of glad that it was­n’t a cake­walk. I got to feel like I was work­ing on a team try­ing to fig­ure out a mys­tery.

As I said, I can’t wait until next time.

  1. I would have for­mer­ly said “rolled” instead of cre­at­ed, but there’s no rolling involved in char­ac­ter cre­ation any­more — at least not in the method employed by this group. []

NBC: We’ve Pretty Much Given Up

The Pea­cock Net­work was once a bas­tion for dra­ma and com­e­dy. Those days are long gone, with only a few bright spots in an oth­er­wise abysmal line-up (Scrubs, My Name is Earl, and The Office being most of those high­lights). Recent­ly, they announced that Uni­ver­sal (NBC and USA Net­works par­ent com­pa­ny) were mov­ing Monk and Psych from USA to NBC, as if that was going be a good thing for those shows. Why find new shows or tal­ent when you can just bring some up from the minor leagues? Just the oth­er evening, we saw some com­mer­cials for four new shows this sum­mer on NBC: all were reality/contest shows (includ­ing Amer­i­can Glad­i­a­tor, which pret­ty much sucked the first go around). Now, comes an announce­ment that they are going to start craft­ing shows around spon­sor’s prod­ucts. Of course, that’s assum­ing any adver­tis­ers are even con­sid­er­ing spend­ing mon­ey at NBC.

Five Fun Things Friday — Mid-April Edition

Oh, to have blogged in so long and only to come back with a measly list of fluff. Well, some­thing’s bet­ter than noth­ing, right?

I’ve been on a rather ram­pant fan­ta­sy kick as of late:

  1. “Dun­geons & Drag­ons” — That ven­er­a­ble fan­ta­sy RPG lost one of it’s founders last month. How­ev­er, not to be stopped, a new 4th edi­tion of the rules are being pub­lished in June. D&D has def­i­nite­ly come up out of Mom’s base­ment, show­ered, and decid­ed that hang­ing out with some of the cool kids isn’t so bad, after all. This, along with the fact that nerds are now cool, might just make for a renais­sance of table-top gam­ing.
  2. “Drag­onlance” — When I was a kid, “Drag­onlance” was the coolest D&D set­ting (at least to my pal, TJ, and I — he even had the cam­paign book). An ani­mat­ed film was released to DVD in Jan­u­ary of the first of the orig­i­nal tril­o­gy of nov­els. You know, the sort of the thing that every kid dreams about as they read fan­ta­sy nov­els at age 12? Ah, even at that age, I’d have under­stood just how bad this adap­ta­tion was. I was depressed but hap­pened upon a fan­tas­tic graph­ic nov­el by Dev­il’s Due Pub­lish­ing of the same series of nov­els made me almost com­plete­ly for­get what an awful film Drag­ons of Autumn Twi­light was. I even picked up a new nov­el by the same authors, which so far has been quite enjoy­able.
  3. Krull — Speak­ing of D&D and my child­hood (the two of which are pret­ty close­ly linked), I learned from IMDb that the 80’s fan­ta­sy film Krull was orig­i­nal­ly to be the first offi­cial “Dun­geons & Drag­ons” movie. I went back and watched it and too things struck me: A) it does­n’t real­ly resem­ble D&D at all and B) it was­n’t near­ly as good a movie as I remem­bered it being (Great way to start a career, there, Liam Nee­son!). Then I real­ized that pret­ty much all movies based on D&D have been awful: Krull, Dun­geons & Drag­ons, Drag­ons of Autumn Twi­light. When a movie by the Sci­Fi chan­nel is the best of the back, that’s just plain sad. I think Wiz­ards of the Coast should encour­age a TV series, instead. Bet­ter yet: more graph­ic nov­els.
  4. Graph­ic Nov­els — Hav­ing read the graph­ic nov­el of Drag­ons of Win­ter Night, I went in search of more graph­ic nov­els to feed my end­less need for sci­fi and fan­ta­sy. Oh boy, did I find them: Aliens, Preda­tors, Aliens vs. Preda­tors, Conan the Bar­bar­ian, G.I. Joe… okay that last one isn’t real­ly sci­fi, but did I men­tion child­hood nos­tal­gia? Maybe that’s a bet­ter theme here. Any­way, I’ve been on a graph­ic nov­el kick and, despite it being a rather pricey habit, it has been very reward­ing. A lot of these real­ly rep­re­sent some great com­ic book art­form and I’ve deter­mined are often my best hope for amaz­ing fan­ta­sy visu­als, grip­ping plot­lines, and epic char­ac­ters. They sure as hell aren’t to be found in any of the movies.
my fantasy audiobook collection in iTunes
  1. Audio­books — Last­ly, I’ve also been on some­thing of an audio­book habit (more posts to fol­low on this sub­ject). I was able to find some real­ly great audio­books by R. A. Sal­va­tore and Michael Moor­cock; two men who write about trou­bled anti-heroes with long, white hair. I even found audio­books for that orig­i­nal Drag­onlance tril­o­gy I men­tioned. There’s just one draw­back to the audio­books: I used to lis­ten to these (along with pod­casts) on my com­mute. Now that I hard­ly dri­ve at all, it’s going to me for­ev­er to lis­ten to them all!

Well, before you give me a wedgie and shove inside my lock­er along side my Play­er’s Man­u­al, I should also say that I’ve been enjoy­ing Sea­son Two of The Wire, as well as all this fan­ta­sy stuff. Per­haps that explains it: I need­ed some­thing whim­si­cal and out-of-this-world to bal­ance out the dark, grit­ty nature of a show like the The Wire. At least, that’s why I keep telling myself.