July 3rd, 2003


Waiting for the dev, and: Test methodologies.

Well, I've been in the office for a couple of hours now without really getting anything much done. I've suddenly been overloaded with an upcoming project that promises to turn my life into a endless phantasmagoria of multitap horrors on tiny Asian cell phone keypads; I have about 4,800 test cases to write in the next two to three weeks or so. To say I'm nonplussed would be an understatement; I don't know where the hell this came from or why. Anyhow.

Because I don't really feel like attacking this mountain of work right now, I'm stalling for time. What the heck, three day weekend, no one is in the office, and the stuff I really want to get working today isn't going to happen without some magickal knowledge showing up courtesy of a dev who's horribly overloaded too. So, I thought I'd embark on a geeky project.

I'd like to settle for once and all which music encoding format I should be bothering with. Here's my basic test plan:

- Select four tracks from my library of audio CDs that span a good range from "great recording" [Steely Dan, probably, or Frank Zappa] to "party music/disco" [The Soft Pink Truth] to "acoustic stuff" [Strength in Numbers] to "horrible electronic noise" [disc, Max Tundra, Kid 606, Aphex Twin, something like that].

- On my iMac, rip the tracks using MP3 192 Kbps ["Higher Quality"] and AAC 256 Kbps.
- On my Windows XP box, rip the tracks using regular WMA set to Best Quality [192 Kbps] and WMA variable bit rate set to Best Quality [about 256 Kbps].
- Consider finding an Ogg Vorbis ripping tool of some kind on Windows just for the hell of it.

- Burn the MP3, AAC, WMA, and Ogg tracks to audio CDs using iTunes and Windows Media Player 9 - no third party apps. This should give me two audio CDs, which I can then rip again, keeping everything in the original file format [so that I don't mess it up]. Then, add the original audio tracks ripped from the original CDs, plus maybe Ogg-encoded stuff spat back out as .wav files.

- Finally, create one final audio CD using the files from the previous step, which should be an accurate representation of what the encoding processes did to the original tracks. So, something like six versions of each track. If I can find tracks that are 3' 30" or shorter, great; then, I can fit everything on to the single CD.

That audio CD, well, I figure that if I can get other people to listen to it and say "OK, of the first six tracks, which are all the same song, I think foo is the original version, foo and foo sound like complete ass, and foo sounds pretty good... etc. Given a sample of, say, six other people, I think I could come up with a reasonable answer to the question of which format is the best. Plus, it'd be kinda interesting to put it together. Anyone interested?

If anyone has suggestions for good input tracks, that'd be cool too.