Contorted CD ripping

On December 24th, I got the Namasté CD from Steve Trottier. I was in Chambly, away from my main computer, so unable to easily rip the disk and I wanted to listen to it on my way to Mauricie or back to Montreal. My parents were not interested in listening to it so I could not just insert it in their car’s CD player. Having little to do yesterday morning, still at my grandmother’s house, I wanted to try something out to rip the disk with the means I had there.

First, I brought with me that old MacBook Pro my brother’s girlfriend gave me a month ago. This machine has a CD/DVD drive so it could, in theory, extract audio from the disk. In theory… My best hope to get this job done was iTunes. As a first step, I inserted the disk in the drive, which went well. The disk got detected and a CD icon appeared on the desktop. Then I started iTunes: NO EFFECT. I clicked again on the icon in the Dock: the icon bounced and nothing more.

Ok, iTunes has gone south or it NEEDS an Internet connection to start, quite bad design, probably yet another stupid error from Apple that has been fixed in Mac OS X 10.8, 10.9 or 10.10, any version I cannot install on this old MacBook Pro OF COURSE! Having little if not no hope to address that without an Internet connection, I tried to Control-click on the CD icon to get a contextual menu.  The menu was offering NO ripping option, just basic read and open commands.

Why not listen to the disk using the MacBook Pro? Well, the machine has no battery at all (the battery exploded a while ago).

I tried the Open command and got a Finder window with one icon per track. Ok, if things work intuitively, let’s try just to copy the tracks to a directory. I opened a new Finder window, created a directory, went back in my open CD, pressed Command-A to select everything, Command-C to copy, went back to the created directory and pressed Command-V to paste. Cool, it worked!

I tried to open one of the files in iTunes: iTunes didn’t start. Double-clicking on any track did nothing. Ok, let’s copy that to my Windows 8 ultrabook; that will be where the files would be useful.

I tried a network-based copy, but anything I could think of failed. I didn’t have a cross-over Ethernet cable so I tried with wi-fi. I used my Mac to create a wi-fi network, but my Windows ultrabook couldn’t see the network. I tried to turn my Android phone into a wi-fi hotspot, the same way I can share an Internet connection except there was no connection to share. Both my ultrabook and my Mac joined the hotspot, but they couldn’t see each other. I don’t know exactly why and had no resource to find it there, in Mauricie, without an Internet connection. I tried to create a wi-fi access point from Windows, but there is no option to do so, maybe that requires yet another software tool.

I thus fell back to the USB key. That worked, but when I tried to double-click on one of the ripped tracks, I got an error message: Windows media player couldn’t read the AIFF files. I tried with QuickTime: no success. I tried with iTunes: it wouldn’t start playing the track automatically, just display tons of useless information. AIMP3 just couldn’t play the tracks as well.

I finally got it played with iTunes, on my Windows ultrabook of course; my Mac’s iTunes was still dead. I had to import the tracks in the library, then they were available in the list of songs. However, I did my test from my USB key. After I copied the tracks to my ultrabook’s SSD and imported again, they didn’t show up in iTunes, no matter how hard I tried to find them.

I then started my Ubuntu virtual machine, powered by VirtualBox. From there, I used the FLAC command-line tool. It was able to read the AIFF files and re-encodes them into FLAC. The FLAC files played fine with AIMP3! Phew!

Any attempt to repair iTunes failed. After many many failed attempts, I was able to hook up to my aunt’s wi-fi which was nearby and do a Google search. All of the clues I got from that failed. Running from a different user account didn’t help. Trying to reset the permissions just took an awful amount of time without results. Trying to remove iTunes library and preferences had no effect. Looking at system logs didn’t give me any clue: the iTunes process was starting, then exiting with code 1 without any other useful log.

On the way back home, I was able to listen to the result of my rip using my ultrabook and earphones. The sound was correct despites all the treatments. I listened to this while reading using the machine, in tablet mode. At least all this had some use!

Back at home yesterday evening, I did additional research and finally had to reinstall iTunes.  Having Internet connection wasn’t enough to get it back to life. Probably iTunes died when I mistakenly reinstalled the 10.6.8 update, thinking I was installing LibreOffice’s French language pack. The Apple’s web site only gives iTunes 12, which AGAIN requires a more recent Mac OS X version than the one installed on my damned MacBook Pro, but I managed to get iTunes 11 from somewhere else. I had to revert to 11.3, which forced me to uninstall iTunes, but after reinstallation, Apple’s software updates allowed me to get 11.4 back.

Ripping the disk with CDEX took less than five minutes and gave me FLAC files directly. The files were named against the tracks of the disk rather than the generic names I got yesterday morning in Mauricie.