New Projects - Fresh from the Labs
If you're looking for an audio converter, you could do much worse than this elegant little program. However, Transcoder's real draw is not its conversion abilities, but its extraction abilities. Feed it a video for which you've always wanted the sound (music videos spring instantly to mind), and you can extract it to play anytime you like. To quote the Web site: “Transcoder Audio Edition is an audio converter for Linux that can convert from one audio format into another and can extract audio tracks from video files and convert them into audio formats. It uses GTK+ as the GUI toolkit and FFmpeg as the back end.”
Available at the Web site is a 32-bit Debian binary (the recommended choice if possible), along with a “Binary+Source” tarball. I cover both here.
Documentation is sorely lacking, but fortunately, usage is very simple. Library requirements are minimal, with the only two real dependencies being the libglib2 and libgtk2 libraries.
I went with the Debian package first, but I had to force the architecture, as I'm running a 64-bit OS. Once installed, the program just worked with no issues. For the binary, run the program with the command:
If you're going with the tarball, simply extract the tarball, open a terminal in the folder, and enter the command:
My time with Transcoder was very easy; the interface is as simple as they come. First, click the Add button, and choose either the sound file you want to convert or the video from which you wish to extract audio. On the right is the field for the Output folder, where your resulting file ends up. If you don't want the file ending up in Home, click Browse and choose another folder.
Down below are the encoding options (very important—my installation had the choice of Vorbis, AAC, MP3, MP2, AMR-NB and FLAC). Next, you can specify the bitrate, followed by the sampling rate (44100 is CD audio quality; 48000 is what you get on DVDs). Finally, you have the Channels option, set to 2 by default (stereo), and you also can specify how many processing threads to use.
Then, press Convert, and that's pretty much it.
Although this idea is by no means new, the execution is wonderful, and no one is going to be put off by such a simple interface. The applications for this program are incredibly useful. For instance, you could extract the audio from a clip you grabbed from YouTube and play it in your car. Or, you could remaster some bad audio in a video file (which I'm currently attempting on both a Metallica and a Massive Attack video, where some crucial sound has been lost after a surround-to-stereo downmix). Or you simply can convert one sound file to another in a clutter-free GUI that doesn't get in the way.
Either way, Transcoder Audio Edition is a painless program that will be of instant use to countless multimedia users.
Top Five Projects
Looking back over the years, here are my top five favorite projects I've covered previously in this space. Thanks to all the readers for helping us reach our milestone 200th issue!
Tor—The Onion Router (www.torproject.org) from the April 2010 issue.
In a world of increasingly draconian Net surveillance, Tor has become an indispensable tool among journalists, activists, whistle-blowers, humanitarian workers and more. Using clever techniques to lose your IP address, Tor is the new standard in on-line anonymity.
htop (htop.sourceforge.net) from the October 2009 issue.
Our old friend top gets a much needed makeover with a semi-GUI-style interface that still runs purely on the command line. Adding new and handy features along the way, hopefully htop will provide a home for a new generation of command-line users needing to control their system processes.
Danger from the Deep (dangerdeep.sourceforge.net) from the December 2009 issue.
With an approach of passion and authenticity, Danger from the Deep is a WWII German submarine simulator with graphics, a soundtrack and an interface that many would associate with a commercial project. Danger from the Deep caters to true fans in a way that a commercial projects usually can't.
Longomatch (longomatch.ylatuya.es) from the August 2009 issue.
A video editing tool designed specifically around sporting analysis, Longomatch lets you take game footage and make highlights from your own home, using a clever timeline interface. Tying together several freely available technologies, this is one of those innovative programs that only OSS can deliver to the general public.
Gnaural (gnaural.sourceforge.net) from the July 2009 issue.
Finally, my favorite project of all time—Gnaural. Beneath a bland gray window with a few lines on it lies an incredible concept: alter the speed of your brainwaves just by using sound. Using two close frequencies running side by side, referred to as Binaural Beats, Gnaural can train your brain to be more relaxed or more alert—mind-bending stuff.
John Knight is the New Projects columnist for Linux Journal.
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- Gordon H. Williams' Making Things Smart (Maker Media, Inc.)