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A personal journey: From Windows to Linux to Windows to Linux to...

The first personal computer i purchased was infected with the Windows 95 virus. I'm sure i hadn't even heard about Linux at that point and, while we're at it, let's get something straight right off the bat: Linux is not an operating system! Linux is a part of Linux-based operating systems known as the kernel. And it's not "Linux" either, it's GNU/Linux. I'm a victim of these misunderstandings myself and, if there be no objections, i'm gonna go ahead and use the term 'Linux' as if i never knew the difference. Now where was i...

Anyone who has had the misfortune of running Windows 95 might agree that it was an unstable, bug-riddled piece of shit. The Windows 98 virus was much better, relatively speaking, but it was still full of annoyances. I have to say though that it was a pretty good gaming OS once you beat the thing into submission. The XP virus largely destroyed the gaming aspect of 98 when it was first released, but things improved a great deal through patches. I used a heavily tweaked version of XP for many years before migrating to a heavily tweaked version Windows 7 somewhere around 2011. Us weathered Windows users were smart enough to skip Vista as though it never existed.

By the way, did you know there are still people using 95 and 98 as their daily drivers apparently? I'm not sure what to think about that (actually i am, i just don't wanna dump on them out loud), but i wouldn't be surprised if they are safer with 9x than 10 these days since there's probably no one writing viruses for the damn things any longer.

Around the time i was using Windows 98, or rather around the time it was using me, as Richard Stallman might say, i started to become interested in the inner workings of Windows, mostly with regard to my digital privacy. The exceedingly bright chap i am (0.003% of the time), i quickly deduced that running a closed-source, proprietary operating system from a company well-worth hating was probably not conducive to maintaining an acceptable level of control over my digital do-dads. This revelation was further reinforced upon discovering the forum post, 'Microsoft's Really Hidden Files' by 'The Riddler' on fuckmicrosoft.com. I believe that domain was eventually hijacked by Microsoft at one point which i think is quite fitting, don't you? I think they should 'ing' it to 'fuckingmicrosoft.com' and use that as their official domain.

Anyway, my reading of that article eventually led to my being put in contact with a cop who, as i recall, had something to do with computers or computer forensics or maybe he was the 'computer guy' at work or whatever. It was a long time ago. I asked him several (and apparently one too many) questions about what kind of personal data Windows stores and how it stores it and how that data can be accessed and used by LE (that's "Law Enforcement" for you nooblets) to screw over us dweebs that paid for an OS which is designed to spy on us. Having thought i'd established an acceptable level of trust with the guy after several emails over the course of several days/weeks (it's called "social engineering" nowadays), i finally uncorked the question that was burning a hole in my brain capsule: Can LE access a Windows computer remotely without first installing a RAT (Remote Access Tool - think "Trojan")? His non-answer answer was, "What do you think?". At that point he apparently thought i didn't need to ask any more questions.

I don't think it was long after that when i started playing with Linux... or was it the other way around? I recall booting Mandrake, Red Hat, SUSE, Debian and maybe one or two others over the years and every attempt i made to adopt Linux as my primary OS quickly resulted in tragedy followed by regret followed by my prompt retreat back to my Windowed safe space.

Part of my Linux problem was that it worked quite differently and so i simply wasn't comfortable with it. Another problem was that every distribution had major bugs. Lots of major bugs. And they still do. All of them. I found Linux to be quite fragile compared to a well tweaked Windows XP or 7 and i still feel that way. I also found it to be too limiting, which i'm sure will shock the Linux fanboys. Often there weren't any good software counterparts to Windows stuff and many hardware drivers were garbage. If a driver worked, that's pretty much all it did. Most of the granular settings for coaxing the most out of your uber-expensive octa-core giga-capable quantum-tech hardware simply didn't exist.

Worse than the software and driver issues was the lack of stability. I remember booting a very mainstream distribution and changing some benign setting for whatever and *poof*, it never booted again. On one occasion i was playing around with another mainstream distribution when my drunk neighbor chainsawed my electric pole for firewood (lie) which caused the power to go out (semi-truth). This was before i knew what a backup power supply was. That OS never booted again either. What the bloody hell??? I rarely had these kinds of fundamental problems with Windows 98, much less with XP or 7, both of which were a full 3.307 orders of magnitude more robust than any Linux distro i had tried.

Though i was fine with Windows from a usability and stability angle, the fact that it was propitiatory, and the associated risks to my privacy that comes with that, never stopped eroding my mind and so i decided, come hell or high water, Windows 7 would be my last Microsoft OS, period! Then came Windows 10 but once again we savvy Microsoft-hating Windows users were smart enough to block the so-called "upgrade" that the monopolistic retards in Redmond wanted to infect us with. The in-your-face assault to personal privacy that 10 presents is unbelievable, as are the annoyances that come with it.

Even though i wasn't running 10, I was so damned disillusioned with Microsoft by this time that i dumped Windows, switched to Linux and deleted all my customized Windows installation images and license keys in order to make returning to that pit of despair as difficult and expensive as possible should i ever suffer a relapse in ethics. I was going to run Linux whether i liked it or not!

Linux has come a long way since i last went distro-hopping in the early 2000's, but i have to say that some of the same problems exist still, though to a lessor degree. And although the drivers cover a much wider array of hardware and work generally better, they can still be problematic and wimpy. Nowhere was i able to find a driver for my laptop camera, not that installing one would help much since i stuck tape over the thing. Stability is still an issue with Linux, however the problems aren't nearly as bad and it seems to be more tolerant of hard resets for example.

Currently i run Linux Mint Manjaro Linux, but when i was running Mint, and even after a couple of major version releases and plenty of updates, on occasion my computer would boot or resume from standby to a black screen where the log-on screen was supposed to be and sometimes this required a hard reset. Really??? This is one of those most basic issues that should simply not exist.

And the software repositories! Why 'repositories' and not 'repository'? Why does nearly every major distribution of Linux seem to need its own software repository? In my mind this is a colossal waste of time, effort, resources and infrastructure. Why do package maintainers have to make changes to a program to get it to run on different distributions? Or another desktop environment? Is this not as ass-backwards as i think it is? This can be really frustrating for end users since the software package they want may not be readily available for the distribution or desktop environment they like.

Oh, yeah, let's not forget the graphical environments; the Linux desktops. Linux is all about choice, so they say, but do we really need 20+ buggy desktop environments to choose from? I'd gladly sacrifice most of those for just a few bug-less desktops and i'd bet 99% of the entire Linux user base would do the same.

And why are there so many different distributions? There are somewhere around 300 different flavors of Linux at the moment, every one likely requiring significant resources in terms of developers, project managers, funding and infrastructure. Who the hell needs this many choices? And at what cost do all these choices come? How many of these distributions are a result of ego battles? How many are actually fundamentally different as opposed to simply having a different logo or set of icons or something rather trivial? Imagine how the development pace and quality of Linux-based operating systems might skyrocket if the talented people working with some of the more obscure distributions contributed to the more mainstream ones that the vast majority of us end users use. Here's some more "choices" you get with Linux:

  • you get to choose what distro you want and, in doing so, the average user has little choice but to use whatever software is in the repository for that distro
  • you get to choose the desktop you want to and, in doing so, you further neuter the selection of available software or end up installing mega-massive dependency packages you don't want
  • you get to choose that you want more security holes and truck loads more bugs than Windows according to this guy who writes, among a plethora of other problems:

    Critical bug reports filed against the Linux kernel often get zero attention and may linger for years before being noticed and resolved.

    and this guy who gives us the reason for the above:

    Linux Torvalds is famous for not caring much about security and very few implementations in the Linux kernel is developed with security in mind. That is why, in the world of the Linux kernel and Linux distributions, security is mostly something you have to "add on" or patch, which is the wrong approach to security.

  • if you decide to run a Long Term Support edition, you get to run often outdated, buggy and feature deprived software because that's pretty much all that will be available in your repository
  • you get to choose to spend hours scouring the web for solutions to trivial problems that shouldn't exist, then more time staring at a terminal running commands you don't understand but pray will work and often don't
  • you get to choose to have this window look like this and that window look like that because you hate consistency - think that setting a window or mouse cursor theme is system wide? HA!
  • you get to choose to run an OS that just feels a lot less robust than Windows, assuming you were very careful with how you configured the system and what software and updates you installed

So why did i choose Linux if i have so many gripes, you ask? Because i had no choice. I couldn't continue to run a proprietary operating system that i knew was spying on me and sending who knows what to who knows where for who knows why. Even with all the registry hacks and all the hosts file redirects and all the firewall rules and all the component removals and all the 3rd party cleaners and anti-spying tools, you simply can not trust an operating system for which the source code is unavailable, full stop.

And as far as the stability i enjoyed with Windows, i very well may be an exception to the rule as there are tons and tons of horror stories involving botched Microsoft updates that caused massive problems for many users and businesses. I attribute my ability to avoid such disasters to my software and updates selectivity.

This fun presentation, 'Windows is AWESOME!', by Bryan Lunduke, will provide many more answers as to why i made the switch. Mind you, Bryan gave this talk at a Linux conference...

For the average user Linux may well be as good as Windows from a usability perspective and it's not authored by a f'n evil company. It's not proprietary. It's workings aren't kept secret. It doesn't have back doors built in to it (so far as we know). Its licenses aren't restrictive. It isn't designed to spy on people and make them the product. Its objectives aren't based on greed and control. In a way, it's not what Linux is, it's what it isn't that makes it attractive to those who care about privacy and what organizations and values we want to support. There is indeed more to the free software ethic than free software; it's a life choice and some of us care about what kind of world we want to live in and what kind of world we leave for future generations.

Although my path to Linux hasn't been free of landmines, it has been worth the journey. It's very comforting to know that i can trust my operating system to not engage in nefarious behavior behind my back. It's nice to not have to create piles of firewall rules in an attempt to keep it and its software from phoning home. It's nice to not have to evaluate every single update, wondering if it will push some despicable garbage down my throat. It's nice to not have to deal with anti-virus software, which provides a false sense of security. It's comforting to know that Linux and the free software movement doesn't lend itself well to unethical software developers. It's also damned nice to distance myself from Billy 'The Asshole' Gates. And as for the problem of multiple software repositories, at least one can trust the software in those repositories and they do present a convenient one-stop-shop for most everything you need.

Unfortunately your computer runs more than one operating system and so installing Linux alone isn't a complete solution for the hardcore privacy and security geek. Motherboard firmware performs various tasks before the system is handed over to the user-facing OS and some of this stuff is a privacy and security nightmare. One example of this is the Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) which is replacing the traditional Basic Input/Output System (BIOS). You can read more about this massive assault to your privacy and computer security in the articles 1.4 UEFI... The Microsoft Kill Switch and The Fight for a Secure Linux BIOS. You gotta start somewhere though and Linux is a massive step up in terms of privacy.

Windows 11 Must Be Stopped - A Veteran PC Repair Shop Owner's Dire Warning

If you decide to give Linux a spin, i'd recommend a distribution that makes switching to a GNU/Linux system as easy as possible and there are at least several of them. Though i've never used it, Feren OS (review here) is specifically designed to ease the transition from those "other" OS's to Linux and it has some very interesting and useful features for doing so. Linux Mint is another popular choice and is the one i chose when i first dropped Windows. Most any popular Linux distribution can be test driven before you install it by writing an image to a USB stick and booting it. You can run it this way as long as you like without affecting your Windows virus and if you later decide to install it, you can do so right from an icon on the desktop. There is no shortage of resources to help one get started with a Linux-based OS, one of them being the Linux for Starters: Your Guide to Linux website.

If you ever get bored with with your distribution of choice and begin to feel more daring, i might suggest Manjaro Linux which is a slightly more stable, user friendly fork of Arch. Like Arch, Manjaro is a rolling release meaning that, unlike most distributions, you don't have to reinstall it to receive core system updates, however rolling releases are generally less stable than a static release based on, for example, Debian.

In the end, Linux is miles from perfect, but it runs on virtually any hardware you can imagine, new or old, and it provides a degree of trust that is nonexistent with any other proprietary computer operating system. When you choose a liberally licensed, open-source operating system, you're making a choice which has benefits that extend well beyond the individual; you're choosing to support freedom for all.

Good luck. And if there's anything i can do to help, leave a comment.

Muzik Faktry: Processing music files on Linux

Muzik Faktry is under development. Documentation is not complete and may not be not accurate.

intro

Apparently i'm an oddball because my music files usually contain only the artist, title and genre tags (and i only use 3 or 4 of the latter), along with the other required stuff. I'm not interested in embedding lyrics, images or whatever else people are sticking in their music these days. I like to aim for minimal, compact, error-free files that meet my medium-high quality standard and that's why we're here. If you're an audiophile geek with multiple ex-wives who spends weeks deciding which DAC will provide the truest sound, this might not be for you, but if you just like to listen to good sounding music while you prune your hedges, read on.

Typically i acquire specific songs from various artists rather than entire albums, mainly because i've yet to run across an album for which i like every song. The problem with this disjointed approach is that it results in consistency problems regarding tags, headers, volume, file names, etc.. Most maddening is when some aspiring government employee thinks that transcoding a 64 kbit/s MP3 to FLAC is somehow a good idea. With the exception of the latter, most issues are generally easy to fix using a few software tools.

Enter Muzik Faktry, a Bash shell script which is essentially a wrapper that handles various 3rd party tools and does so without relying on stuff i don't like relying on, such as Java, Wine, Mono or Electron.

Muzik Faktry is a menu driven script that runs in a terminal, but don't let that scare you to death if you're not a terminal freak... get it? There are plenty of prompts to guide you along and it presents a unified interface for running several software tools which are available for Linux-based operating systems (because they suck less than Windows operating systems).

Muzik Faktry was originally named MP3 Factory because i had originally been focused largely on producing high quality MP3s until i learned more about what a scrambled mess the MP3 format is. As a result i began to focus on the lossless FLAC format which is far superior. All of the tasks that Muzik Faktry performs are thus lossless, meaning there is no reduction in audio quality.

Muzik Faktry is intended primarily for transcoding (converting) uncompressed tracks or albums to the FLAC format and/or performing various operations on them before adding them to your collection, including comprehensive integrity checking. So comprehensive in fact, that when i first ran my music collection through it, the bloody thing flagged every single file as 'junk'!

The script may not be a complete solution for processing your music since it offers only rudimentary tagging functions, nor is it a complete replacement for comprehensive audio analysis tools, however it has served my needs quite well without having to employ any additional tools.

Muzik Faktry was developed and tested on Manjaro Linux or, as i affectionately call it, Arch for dummies, however it should run on any flavor of Linux that includes a Bash compatible shell and for which the dependent packages are available.

highlights

  • Collect metadata from many formats including FLAC, MP3 and WAV files
  • Batch processing and tagging
  • Splitting album files
  • Find duplicate files using several methods
  • Convert between FLAC and WAV formats
  • Write tags to file names and file names to tags
  • Write Vorbis tags to FLAC files
  • Save reusable metadata
  • Format file names
  • Repair and optimize files
  • Integrity and metadata checking
  • Generate frequency spectrograms for graphic analysis
  • Normalize gain (volume) with ReplayGain information
  • Tons of configuration options and multiple configuration files
  • The code is ShellCheck and Shellharden compliant, however that certainly doesn't mean it's bullet-proof so if when you find a bug, let me know

dependencies

  • ffmpeg : "A complete, cross-platform solution to record, convert and stream audio and video." This package is installed by default with most mainstream Linux distributions.
  • flac : For processing FLAC files. This package is installed by default with most mainstream Linux distributions.
  • mediainfo (CLI version) : "A convenient unified display of the most relevant technical and tag data for video and audio files."
  • shntool : "... a multi-purpose WAVE data processing and reporting utility."

Secondary dependencies...

  • notify-send : Provided by the libnotify package, it is used to send desktop notifications to notify you when a batch process has completed. This package is installed by default with most mainstream Linux distributions.
  • shellcheck : "Finds bugs in your shell scripts". It is strongly suggested to install this package so that the configuration files for Muzik Faktry can be checked for syntax errors.
  • wget : Used to check for updates. This package is installed by default with most mainstream Linux distributions.

download and installation

DISCLAIMER: Muzik Faktry has not yet reached a stable release. It may not be feature complete and some stuff may simply be busted. If you choose to use it you should be smart enough to work on copies of your music files. If anything explodes, a mirror will reveal who's to blame :)

Having said that, i am developing and using it on my daily driver box without any guardrails. Then again, i've been known to do stupid things that result in catastrophe, like that time i formatted the wrong partition without first making a fresh backup (i never even thought to ask the NSA to send me their copy!).

You can download the Muzik Faktry files from Codeberg (direct links below). After downloading the archive, extract it somewhere where you have read, write and execute permissions, such as in your home directory. The muzikfaktry.sh script will be contained in a folder named 'muzikfaktry'. You didn't anticipate such stunning creativity, did you! Don't forget to make the script executable ( $ chmod +x muzikfaktry.sh ).

Code repository: https://codeberg.org/12bytes.org/muzikfaktry
ZIP archive: https://codeberg.org/12bytes.org/muzikfaktry/archive/main.zip
TAR.GZ archive: https://codeberg.org/12bytes.org/muzikfaktry/archive/main.tar.gz
Release notes: https://codeberg.org/12bytes.org/muzikfaktry/src/branch/main/release_notes.txt
Commits: https://codeberg.org/12bytes.org/muzikfaktry/commits/branch/main

configuration

The configuration for Muzik Faktry is somewhat biased toward my particular needs rather than for general consumption so you'll probably want to fiddle with the settings.

You can create multiple configuration files in the /config folder in which case the script will ask which one you want to load when you run it. The suggested way to do this is to copy the default.conf file and give the copy a new and descriptive name and a '.conf' extension. If no configuration file is available then you're stuck with the default settings.

usage

Run the script by opening a terminal, navigating to the 'muzikfaktry' folder, and running ./muzikfaktry.sh . The script will run some checks to make sure its dependencies are met and then create some files and folders after which it's ready to use. No operations will be performed on your files without your explicit input and all important operations are logged.

During the course of running tasks you will be asked questions and given choices such as 'Press [Y] to do this or [N] to not do this. [Y/n]'. The default choice is indicated by the upper case letter in the brackets and can be selected either by pressing the letter, 'y' for 'yes' in this instance, or 'Enter'/'Return', or most any other key except 'n'.

While the order of the tasks in the Muzik Faktry main menu may seem odd, there are logical reasons for it. When performing multiple tasks they should generally be performed in order, though there are exceptions. For example, one probably wouldn't want to run the Strip Metadata task before writing a correct file name based on the metadata that will be forever lost after running this task. Similarly, it's probably pointless to invoke most tasks following the first Integrity Check task before an Integrity Check has been performed.

It is largely the Integrity Check and Metadata Check tasks that determines whether a file should be retained or discarded. As the names imply, these tasks check the integrity of many critical and not so critical aspects of your files.

To begin using the script, copy the files you want to process to the /working folder and from the main menu of Muzik Faktry, select a task to perform. The alert person you are, you noticed immediately that i used the word "copy" and not "move and potentially f'up all of your irreplaceable music files", right? Always work with copies of your files rather than the originals!

While you can work with multiple file types at once, i would suggest working with a single file type at a time in order to avoid confusion. If you do choose to process multiple file types then only the file types which are compatible with the chosen task will be processed.

If you choose to enable batch processing then Muzik Faktry will happily process all files in the /working directory that are compatible with the chosen task. In this mode of operation files are automatically retained or junked (moved to the /discarded folder) depending upon the integrity of the files and your configuration settings. If you're just getting to know Muzik Faktry then i suggest/warn/demand you avoid batch processing until you become familiar with how the script operates given your configuration choices.

After processing a file there may be one or more error messages. You always have the option to override any errors and keep the file as long as you're not operating in batch mode. Files with trivial problems, such as missing metadata, excess metadata, goofy file names, etc., are easily repaired by running another task.

Files with errors, trivial or otherwise, will have a semi-descriptive error tag prepended to the file name. The prefix will be automatically removed if the error is repaired and it passes a Metadata Check.

Spectral Analysis

The spectral analysis, while somewhat time consuming, can be important in determining the quality of a file. I'm using mostly MP3's in the following examples, but this information can be applied to lossless formats as well.

One of the things to look for in these images is the frequency cutoff point, meaning the highest frequency the audio attains. Using the MP3 format as an example, the highest frequency that can be encoded is limited by the bit rate, however there is more to consider. Pictures are worth stuff they say, so let's give that a shot...

Here's what the frequency spectrum looks like for a random FLAC music file that indicated a bitrate of 872 kbit/s. The keen observer you are, you'll notice that the frequency cutoff is close to 21000 Hz, or 21 kHz, which is slightly higher than the highest frequency which the average young human is capable of hearing (~20 kHz). The file size here is a whopping 26,924,696 bytes.

Frequency spectrum for FLAC sample 872kbps

Next i transcoded the 872 kbit/s FLAC file to a 320 kbit/s CBR MP3 (not something i would normally do). The file size dropped to 9,882,876 bytes, less than half of what it was. You'll notice the frequency cutoff point has dropped to around 20000 Hz, or 20 kHz, so while certainly lost the higher frequencies, we didn't lose anything that anybody without extremely good hearing and who is listening in a very quiet environment with a very decent sound system is likely to notice. We also saved a hell of a lot of disk space which may be worthwhile if you need to cram as many songs as possible onto that microscopic SD card that you struggle to plug in to your fondleslab.

Frequency spectrum for MP3 sample 320kbps

Next i converted the 872 kbit/s FLAC to a 128 kbit/s MP3. This time the quality loss is significant to the point where many people with decent hearing in a quiet listening environment and a decent sound system would probably notice. If you're listening to music while operating a jackhammer however, then a 128 kbit/s might be just dandy. Here the frequency cutoff is around 16000 Hz, or 16 kHz, and the file size is 3,953,289 bytes, again half of what it was.

Frequency spectrum for MP3 sample 128kbps

Now it's time to 'do as stoopid does'; i took the 128 kbit/s MP3 and upsampled it to a 320 kbit/s MP3 because "more quality", however the only thing i actually accomplished was to fatten the file size, which has now more than doubled to 9,882,876 bytes, the same size of the 320 kbit/s MP3 that was converted from FLAC earlier. The quality is, at best, no better than the 128 kbit/s file and the frequency cutoff point hasn't changed. The lesson here is that you cannot add quality to an audio file that doesn't have it in the first place!

Frequency spectrum for MP3 sample 320kbps

So now we know that files with a high bit rate and a low frequency cutoff point are upsampled junk, right? Well, no. Not necessarily.

When encoding an MP3, audio data is sacrificed in order to reduce the file size, however the way that a good encoder (LAME) does this is to discard sound that the ear would probably never hear anyway, thus everything above a given frequency as well as everything below a given frequency is discarded right off the bat, but there's allot more to it than that. The bit rate is a primary factor regarding sound quality and frequency cut-off with the LAME encoder and as the bit rate is decreased, so too is the maximum frequency that the audio is able to attain. We know that the average young human with really good hearing can hear frequencies up to about 20 kHz, but as we age that threshold drops. Below is the approximate maximum frequency that can be attained at a given bit rate for a LAME encoded MP3. Keep this in mind when viewing spectrogram images of your audio files:

64  kbit/s = ~11 kHz frequency cut-off
128 kbit/s = ~16 kHz frequency cut-off
192 kbit/s = ~19 kHz frequency cut-off
320 kbit/s = ~20 kHz frequency cut-off

But again, the frequency cut-off point is not in itself a determining factor of audio quality. While the cut-off points above are useful for Rock and Pop type genres with a variety of instruments and vocals, they may be meaningless for songs which are not composed with so much diversity. For example, a 'perfect' quality audio recording of a flute, a vocal, or a piano, may have a frequency cut-off point that is well below 20 kHz.

Another thing to look for in the spectrogram is signs of clipping. Clipping is the result of the gain (volume) having been raised too high and this can lead to really nasty distortion when listening to the song. This is not uncommon given the loudness war we've been subjected to, as well as poor encoding practices. Here's a frequency spectrum of Acoustic Alchemy - Clear Air For Miles.mp3 (320 kbit/s CBR 44.1 KHz). There are no significant signs of clipping:

Frequency spectrum: Acoustic Alchemy - Clear Air For Miles MP3

Using MP3gain i then increased the gain by 10 dB and this was the result:

Frequency spectrum: Acoustic Alchemy – Clear Air For Miles MP3 (clipping)

What you'll notice is that a lot of the green and blue stuff now reaches the upper frequency cutoff point and this is indicative of clipping. Also see the Clipping or distortion section of the article Understanding Spectrograms.

Another bit of information worth considering is an answer to a question posted on Stack Exchange, How to tell if a high-res flac file has been upsampled from a CD-quality file?. Following is an excerpt:

Here are a few things to look for in a spectral analysis

  1. Each format has it's own rolloff: CD drops like a rock at 20 kHz and MP3 drops steeply at 16 kHz. If you have a 96 kHz file with these sharp drop offs, it's likely been up-sampled.
  2. Inspect the content above 20 kHz. If there is random "noise like" features in there, it's probably genuine. If it has very little content and/or the content looks like a low-pass filtered mirror image of the content below 20 kHz, it's been up-sampled.
  3. You can look at correlation at high frequencies. For a genuine recording this will mostly be uncorrelated. If there is significant correlation, it's a potential sign of "joint stereo coding" which could hint at lossy compression.
  4. Look at the recording date: If it's been made before 1990 it's almost guaranteed to be up-sampled. There never was a digital studio master and the best they can do is to sample a tape master.

So how do you use all this information? Well, this is where it gets tricky because a file that was encoded using a high bit rate, yet doesn't approach 20 kHz, is not necessarily junk. Given the wide variety of sounds in most Rock, Pop and some other genres of music we might listen to however, such songs will often approach or exceed 20 kHz as long as a lossless or high quality lossy encoding method was used.

Over time you'll develop a sense of what the frequency spectrum should look like given the bit rate and the different sounds present in the recording. Ultimately what matters however is whether you're happy with what you hear, not the fancy colors on a graph.

See also: Spectral Analysis (archive) and this post on Reddit, How to determine the true quality of an audio file.

miscellaneous notes

ffplay, a part of the ffmpeg package, is used in various operations to preview the music files. ffplay does not offer any graphical controls in its interface but you can control it with hotkeys. See the 3.6 While playing section of the ffplay documentation. The basic controls you may find handy are:

  • space bar : play/pause
  • left/right (arrows) : seek backwards/forwards 10 sec.
  • down/up (arrows) : seek backwards/forwards 1 min.
  • escape key : quit

bug reports

You can drop a comment below without having to be logged on, or open an issue on the code repository.

suggested software

Muzik Faktry does not depend on the following programs, however i readily recommend them.

Kwave Sound Editor (pkg. name: kwave): Kwave for the KDE desktop is a nice and simple sound editor that i used while developing Muzik Faktry. If you need more power, try Audacity or ardour.

Sonic Visualiser (pkg. name: sonic-visualizer): An excellent tool to analyze audio in different ways.

resources

‘NSA-proof’ Tor actually funded by US govt agency, works with BBG, FBI & DOJ – FOIA docs | RT

‘NSA-proof’ Tor actually funded by US govt agency, works with BBG, FBI & DOJ – FOIA docs | RT US News

The Tor Project, hailed as a bulwark against the encroaching surveillance state, has received funding from US government agency the BBG and cooperates with intelligence agencies, newly released documents reveal.

Tor, free software which enables anonymous communication over the internet, is a “privatized extension of the very same government that it claimed to be fighting, claims journalist Yasha Levine, who obtained 2,500 pages of correspondence about the project via Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.

The Weaponization of Social Media (video) | James Corbett

Now openly admitted, governments and militaries around the world employ armies of keyboard warriors to spread propaganda and disrupt their online opposition. Their goal? To shape public discourse around global events in a way favourable to their standing military and geopolitical objectives. Their method? The Weaponization of Social Media. This is The Corbett Report.

'Encryption is useless'

Once upon a time...

I touched on this story in my article, Firefox Configuration Guide for Privacy Freaks and Performance Buffs, but i wanted to give it a dedicated page and expand on it because i keep coming across bits of information which seem to verify something i was told long ago regarding encryption.

Somewhere around 2002 i sold a PC to a very nice older fella who said he had worked for the government either directly or as a contractor. I don’t recall which and he didn't state what department he worked for. He said he had a security clearance and, as i recall, it was a crypto clearance. He left me with the strong impression that he wasn't going to provide a lot of detail as to what exactly he did, however i had no reason to disbelieve anything he said since he seemed genuine and very matter-of-fact. Our time together was short because he had to be somewhere, but we chatted a while and he touched upon some very interesting topics that i wanted to know more about and so i suggested we continue our conversation through encrypted email. He looked at me and responded with, "Encryption is useless.". Those words stuck with me ever since.

Cray Trinity Supercomputer
Cray Trinity Supercomputer

Obviously encryption is not useless, but i suspect what he meant was that the "intelligence" community has the ability to break possibly any encryption that existed at the time. While i was somewhat skeptical about his statement, that skepticism has since evaporated. First of all we have to consider the computing power that the intelligence communities have access to. Let's assume that you're encrypting an email using some supposedly highly secure encryption algorithm along with a very long and secure passphrase, and let's further assume that it would take roughly 10,000 years for the average computer to break it. Would you feel confidant using such encryption? Well, what happens if that code breaking computer is 100,000 times more powerful than than your PC? And what if you chain together 100 of those computers? Breaking that encryption may now be possible in a few hours or seconds. Does the NSA not have access to computers that are orders of magnitude more powerful than anything in the public sphere? And what might they have that we don't know about? Without knowing that, i don't think it's safe to assume anything regardless of the source.

Whether encryption is useless or not depends upon the threat we want to mitigate. For example, if you wanted to download copyrighted content whilst avoiding having your ISP send you nasty-grams, then encryption is certainly not useless. However given what i have read and heard over the years, i strongly suspect that encryption is not effective if, for example, it is the NSA that decides to target you and i think that multiple statements and documents released by Edward Snowden and Bill Binney support this. There is perhaps another possibility here though. What if, as some suspect, Snowden was allowed to leak what he did, sort of as a limited hangout. Personally i think Snowden is genuine, but that doesn't mean that the information in the documents he released wasn't intended to be released. Furthermore, there is certainly classified and compartmentalized technology that Snowden knows nothing about. What if the U.S. intelligence community wanted to quell a potential uprising by 'we the people'? It is apparently a historic fact that one way to accomplish this is to make people think they are being surveilled which, in turn, compromises their ability to communicate effectively due to self-censorship. While i think we can be reasonably certain that everything we say or do online, or while in the presence of a smartphone, can be spied upon and stored indefinitely, how does one process such a vast amount of data? Both Binney and Snowden also raise this question and have stated that the massive, ongoing and patently illegal and unconstitutional data collection practices as employed by intelligence communities are not effective in preventing threats because of the wide net they cast.

In closing i would say that it doesn't matter if the threat is real or not, or whether strong encryption can be broken or not. Since we simply cannot know for certain in all cases, we must assume the threats could be creditable. Nevertheless, i think that activists, journalists, whistle-blowers and everyone else should never be dissuaded from communicating, though i do think we need to be aware of the potential threats.

video: They're Watching You

video: NSA Whistleblower: Government Collecting Everything You Do

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