Although it might seem feasible to simply copy audio tracks straight off a CD and onto your hard disk, this isn't possible because of the way audio CDs are designed. The audio data must be extracted using special software.
Although SUSE Linux supports the playback of MP3 music, it doesn't provide any tools that allow you to create your own MP3 tunes from CD tracks. This is because of legal issues surrounding the patenting of MP3 technology. (Most people, companies, and organizations in the Linux and open source community object to the kind of patents applied to software.) However, support for the Ogg format is included.
Ogg format is similar to MP3 in that it shrinks music files, and it also maintains a similar audio quality. The difference is that Ogg is an open and free standard, which is to say that anyone can use it without needing to pay fees to a large corporation. It's developed by the Xiph.org Foundation, which makes the code libraries and software freely available in a similar way to the other software offered under SUSE Linux.
Vorbis and Ogg files are the same thing, and people sometimes refer to Ogg Vorbis files, too. These are all exactly the same type of file. Technically speaking, Vorbis is the name given to the compression technology, and Ogg is the name given to the "container," or the method by which the compressed audio data stream is turned into a file.
SUSE Linux provides two GUI programs to rip music from CDs, transferring the disc's digital data to your PC as Ogg files: KAudioCreator, which is designed to fit in with the KDE desktop offered by SUSE Linux, and Grip. KAudioCreator is rather basic, so I'll describe how to use Grip instead. I'll also explain how to use the command line to rip CDs, because it's a fast and simple method.
Grip doesn't come installed by default under SUSE Linux, so you'll need to take care of that first. Then you'll find it easy to rip CDs with Grip.
Follow these steps to install Grip:
Insert your SUSE Linux installation DVD into your DVD-ROM drive.
Start YaST2 by selecting K menu ® Control Center ® YaST2 Modules.
Click the Software icon, and then click Install and Remove Software. Enter your root password when it is requested.
In the search box, type grip and press Enter.
Put a check in the box when Grip appears in the search results, and then click Accept. You'll notice that some additional programs need to be installed, so agree to this by clicking Accept again.
After you've installed Grip, you can rip a CD as follows:
Start Grip by clicking K menu ® Multimedia ® CD/DVD Tools ® Grip.
Insert an audio CD into your drive to initialize the ripping process. Grip will not only sense the CD, but will also look up its track details on the online CD Database (CDDB) service, as shown in the example in Figure 19-3. This will mean that all the files you save will have the correct track and artist information.
Figure 19-3. Grip will not only sense the insertion of an audio CD, but will even look up the track names online!
Put a check in the boxes (arranged down the right side under the Rip column) according to which tracks you want to transfer from the CD to your PC's hard disk.
Click the Config tab, and then click the Encode tab. Here, you must select the audio encoder you want to use to convert the CD tracks into files. Although Grip offers many encoders, only one is installed under SUSE Linux: oggenc. This will convert the CD tracks into Ogg files, so select this from the list.
When you're ready, click the Rip tab, and then click Rip + Encode, as shown in Figure 19-4. This will automatically turn the tracks into Ogg files, which will be saved in your home directory, with the .ogg filename extension.
Figure 19-4. Ripping a CD with Grip
When ripping tracks, try to avoid using your computer for other tasks. Doing so can cause glitches in the audio files.
You can play your Ogg files by double-clicking them.
It is possible to add MP3 encoding support to SUSE Linux by downloading and installing the bladeenc or lame programs from third-party sources (that is, those not connected with SUSE Linux). The download point for both projects is www2.arnes.si/~mmilut/. You'll also find instructions on how to use the program, which, in most cases, is similar to using oggenc. However, neither program is supported by SUSE Linux in any way. Once installed, you can use either program within Grip by selecting the relevant encoder under the Config tab.
Although using command-line tools don't present any difficulties, I advise you to read Part Four of this book if you haven't already familiarized yourself with the basics of the command-line shell.
Why use command-line tools to rip audio tracks? Well, they offer speed, simplicity, and ease of use, provided you take the time to get to know them.
Many GUI multimedia programs use what are fundamentally command-line programs such as those discussed here. In each case, the GUI simply adds an additional way of accessing the programs.
The first step in ripping music from audio CDs is to convert the tracks into WAV files. WAV files are pure digital audio files that are uncompressed.
The oddly titled cdparanoia program is installed by default on SUSE Linux systems and can do this job. Like many Linux shell programs, it's packed with options to let you get the most from your audio CDs, and it's well worth reading the man page. However, the simplest way of using it is to insert the CD and then type something like:
This will rip track five of the CD to the disk.
There's no need to specify which drive you want to use, or any other information. cdparanoia will either guess or fill in default details. The file will be given a simple name along the lines of track05.cdda.wav. You can then change this to match the artist and track information from the CD inlay card.
Ripping an entire CD is easy. Assuming the file has 12 tracks, you should type:
cdparanoia -B [1-12]
The -B command option is used to indicate batch mode—another way of saying that the program should rip many tracks at once. After this, in the square brackets, you specify a range of tracks to be ripped. This example specifies [1-12] for 12 tracks. If you wanted to rip just tracks 1 through 5, you would type [1-5] instead.
While ripping audio tracks, both cdparanoia and Grip give clues as to how well they're getting on by displaying a smiley icon. This is located toward the end of the status display line. A happy smiley indicates that the ripping procedure is working well. A smiley with a straight face indicates possible problems. An unhappy face indicates that there's considerable "jitter" (problems caused by damaged CDs). For more information, see the cdparanoia man page.
Once the tracks are on the hard disk in WAV format, you can load them into XMMS and listen to them as if they were MP3 tracks. However, if you take a look at their file size, you'll spot a problem: each minute of audio will take up around 10MB, so an average four-minute song takes up around 40MB. This is because they're uncompressed audio. In contrast, MP3 and Ogg use compression methods to shrink the file to around one-tenth of this size.
Converting the WAV files to Ogg files is as easy as ripping the tracks. If you have a directory full of WAV files, you can simply type:
This command uses a wildcard to convert all the files into Ogg files, using the filenames they already have (the converted files will be given an .ogg file extension).
If you don't want to convert all the files into Ogg format, you can specify just one by typing its filename, or specify multiple files by typing their filenames on the same line after the command, separated by a space, like this:
oggenc track01.wav track02.wav
As shown in Figure 19-5, an Ogg file takes up a lot less space than its WAV counterpart.
Figure 19-5. From 40MB to 2.6MB—encoding WAV files to Ogg means smaller file sizes and negligible loss of quality.
The original Napster program single-handedly created the file-sharing craze, whereby people can download MP3s from others and share their own collections of music. Several other file-sharing technologies have since arisen. The most common ones in use today are Gnutella and BitTorrent. Nowadays, the programs are used for far more than simple MP3 sharing. BitTorrent is a common way of distributing ISO images of Linux installation CDs, for example.
There are many Gnutella-style programs for Linux. One example is Qtella, which you can learn about by visiting www.qtella.net. There's also a version of the popular Windows program LimeWire available for Linux -www.limewire.com (although this isn't open source).
The official BitTorrent home page is http://bittorrent.com/. However, that site offers a simple shell program, which some people might find hard to use. A good GUI alternative is Azureus, available from http://azureus.sourceforge.net/.