Flack over Flac

Posted on Monday 6 October 2008

I introduced a buddy of mine to the concept of torrents. He was going to borrow my cassette/tape deck to transfer some of his old cassettes to CD/MP3 because he couldn’t find them in any stores. I recommended that he use uTorrent and check MiniNova (one of the “safer” ) torrent listing sites to see if he could find what he was hoping to transfer there first.

I sent him an email with links to all the appropriate software and told him to holler if he needed any help – suffice to say – it didn’t take long…

He was concerned about making a lot of stuff on his computer available to everyone, that he just didn’t want to make available. The answer to this problem was pretty straightforward. If you want to do the same then follow these steps.

  1. Make a directory for finished downloads ( such as /dl )
  2. Inside that directory make a directory for the torrents that you download ( such as /dl/torrent )
  3. In your uTorrent program go to Options  and then click on Directories
  4. Put a checkmark on the box for “Put new downloads in” and put your download directory there (such as /dl/torrent)
  5. Put a checkmark on the box for “Move completed downloads to” and put your finished download directory there ( such as /dl )
  6. Then Put a checkmark on the box for “Only move from the default download directory”
  7. Leave all other boxes unchecked
  8. Once you have finished downloading your file it will stay in your torrent download directory ( such as /dl/torrent ) sharing with others until you click the STOP button on UTorrent for that download
  9. Once the file is moved to your New Downloads directory ( such as /dl ) the sharing will stop.

He found a couple of songs that he had downloaded, but had run into a problem. The songs that he had chosen were in .flac format instead of the much more familiar mp3 or wav formats that most computers these days understand.

Suffice to say, this was a new format to me too, so I did a bit of research and found a great website flac.sourceforge.net that explained what it was and why and more importantly, also explained what one needed to do to convert it to an .mp3 or .wav format.

To make a long story short, flac ( which stands for Free Lossless Audio Codec – quite the mouthfull ) formatted audio files are compressed (squeezed down in size ) but without losing ANY audio quality. It is ( I am supposing here ) a great tool for audiophiles who want to ensure that every note, pitch and sound that was in the original recording still exists in the electronic version.

The problem of course is that there is no hardware, save for computer software that will run this compressed version, so unless your computer is connected to your stereo components and your components are top notch, you really won’t benefit much from using this format.

Don’t get me wrong, It’s a great idea, but it has come too late in the game to benefit anyone as most new cars play MP3 formats and most portable audio players play, and are actually called MP3 players. It’s similar to the old Beta/VHS war for video tapes ( remember those?? ) Beta was the overall choice for people who preferred better quality recording, but VHS won the “battle” because everyone was building VHS recorders and players and only a few ( eventually one – Sony ) was building Beta, and they too eventually moved to VHS as well…

So what to do if you happen to get a .flac format audio file? Download the free utility Winamp install it and, in two steps, use it to:

  1. Convert the .flac format to .wav
  2. Then convert the .wav to .mp3
  3. Install the .mp3 file following your usual routines

You can see the complete steps with examples here

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