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fre:ac development status update 06/2015 Print
Written by Robert   
Tuesday, 30 June 2015 11:12

Hi folks, I'm back again! Sorry for not giving status updates in the past few months!

As I wrote in December, I originally planned to release a new snapshot around the end of January. Unfortunately, some bugs in the OS X version surfaced around that time, so I had to fix them first.

Stability issues on OS X

The problems caused fre:ac to crash on many Macs whenever you tried to add CD tracks to the joblist. This rendered CD ripping with fre:ac virtually impossible for many users.

To make things worse, for the first six to eight weeks that I knew about that issue, I was completely unable to reproduce it on any of my computers. I knew it was there, however, as it had been reported independently by several users.

I finally succeeded in reproducing the problem on a friends MacBook Pro at some point. However, fixing it took me another few weeks. It turned out that there were several separate issues leading to crashes when the freedb query dialog was displayed or closed. Most of them were related to window management in a multithreaded environment.

The issues are fixed now and will be gone in the next snapshot which should be out in the next few days - anywhere between July 1st and 5th, depending on how many bugs I find while preparing the packages.

Changes in the next snapshot

Trying to reproduce and fix the CD ripping issues, I spent a lot of time using and testing fre:ac on OS X and found several unrelated issues on that platform:

  • Audio playback was stuttering or clicking due to an improper buffer size.
  • Ejecting CDs did not work, because of a bug in the CDIO library.
  • The user interface was reacting slowly, especially on OS X 10.10 Yosemite.

All these problems should be fixed in the upcoming snapshot. The disc eject issue also applied to the Linux version of fre:ac and will be fixed there as well.

In addition, on Windows 8.x and 10, fre:ac will get a new flat titlebar style with this snapshot. The new style goes better with the flat style of Windows 10 and also looks slightly better than the old titlebar on Windows 8.x.

New features

On the feature side, the new version will add support for verifying lossless encodes. Enabling the corresponding option will add a verification stage to the conversion process. It decodes files created in the conversion stage and compares them to what has originally been passed to the encoder.

This works with most losslessly compressed output formats supported by fre:ac - FLAC, ALAC, APE, WMA Lossless and others. In case of a data mismatch between the conversion and the verification stage, fre:ac will display an error message including both MD5 checksums for each mismatched file.

Starting with the next snapshot, fre:ac will also display a warning message when it detects a conversion from a lossy to a losslessly compressed format. Such conversions are not reasonable in most cases, but many user mistakenly think that converting to a lossless format will improve quality. Of course you will be able to ignore and even disable that warning in case you really need to do such conversions.

The parallel conversion mode is now enabled by default and no longer marked as experimental. The audio conversion engine has been completely restructured since the October snapshot and the same code is now used for serial and parallel conversions (basically, non-parallel conversions are now treated as parallel conversions with only one thread). As I mentioned in my December status update, you will also be able to rip simultaneously using multiple drives.

Of course, the new release will also update codecs to their latest versions and include the performance optimizations I mentioned in October.

That's it for this issue. I will try to go back to monthly status updates, so there should be another one in four or five weeks.