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fre:ac Developer Blog

Welcome to the fre:ac developer blog. I will post status updates and other information about fre:ac development here.

fre:ac development status update 08/2014 Print
Written by Robert   
Sunday, 31 August 2014 12:50

Here's the fre:ac status update for August, which was a very productive month for fre:ac development.

Besides great improvements for the OS X version, many smaller things that will benefit all users have been added, improved or fixed in the past four weeks.

New features in September 2014 snapshot.The new features include the ability to preview output file names in the joblist (the corresponding column can be enabled in the configuration dialog), displaying cover art of the currently selected track in the title info area and tooltips in case text is cut off in drop down boxes and lists. See the screenshot to the right for a preview of the output file name and cover art features.

I also took a look at conversion performance and compiled optimized versions of all codecs for all supported operating systems. The new codecs will use only one CPU core, but still be slightly faster than the multicore versions used on Windows before, thanks to improved optimization in modern compilers. In addition, using only one core will make it easier to add support for true parallel conversion in a future release.

Finally, I reworked the internationalization system to enable language-specific punctuation and support for translating units of measurement. Language-specific punctuation means that you'll have to change only one place in the translation file to enable the use of language-specific colons or brackets (as used in Asian languages for instance) everywhere in fre:ac starting with the next snapshot. Similarly, translating units of measurement adds the ability to replace units like kbps or ms with localized versions (e.g. in Cyrillic script) throughout the application.

OS X common menu bar support in fre:ac.Regarding OS X, fre:ac now supports the common menu bar. This works transparently to fre:ac by automatically mapping the menu widget to Cocoa menus and menu items on-the-fly in the smooth class library. The toolbar icons are aligned at the center of the window in this case to make the interface more balanced with the menu bar gone. The screenshot to the right shows this new layout.

After finishing common menu bar support, I took a look at the remaining issues on OS X, namely performance and stability problems. I fixed lots of them, so the next snapshot will be about three to four times faster, have a more responsive user interface and will run much more stable than the 20140609 release.

You may have heard that Apple will change the signature requirements with OS X 10.9.5 and 10.10. The 20140609 snapshot will cause a Gatekeeper warning on those new OS X versions. I'm already using the required V2 signatures in my testing, though, and they will be used in the next snapshot which should be out before the new OS X releases.

For everyone who would like to compile fre:ac on their own, the next release will print detailed instructions including a list of dependencies when running configure to ease and aid the build process.

Unrelated to the fre:ac development versions, but still worth mentioning, I put together a translation kit for fre:ac 1.0.22. This makes translating fre:ac to another language easier by having all the necessary ressources in one archive together with an explanation of how to work with them. If you think you could contribute a new translation for fre:ac or update one of the outdated translations listed on the translation status page, please have a look at the translation kit!

Closing this months issue with more good news, the release of the next snapshot in September is now definite. It will be out in three or four weeks.

fre:ac development status update 07/2014 Print
Written by Robert   
Thursday, 31 July 2014 19:35

In the past month I mostly concentrated on the release of fre:ac 1.0.22, the latest service release for the stable release series. It contains codec and translation updates as well as some bug fixes. The patch that brought clear UI text to high DPI displays on Windows 8 (as explained in the 04/2014 status update) is applied in 1.0.22 as well.

Of course I also worked on the development version, just not as much as usually. I have implemented libsndfile based output to replace the Wave File output component. This will allow you to create AIFF, Wave, Wave64 and RIFF 64 files (among others) using fre:ac starting with the next snapshot.

I also started implementing joblist sorting. You will be able to sort the joblist by artist, title, length and other criteria by clicking on the column headers.

No work on the Linux or OS X versions this month, so there's not much to talk about regarding those. There still are some stability problems on these systems that need to be addressed before the next snapshot release.

Speaking of it, the next snapshot will probably be ready in September.

fre:ac development status update 06/2014 Print
Written by Robert   
Monday, 30 June 2014 19:05

Last month saw the release of a new snapshot and I'm now figuring out what to put into the next.

Plans include using the common menu bar on OS X, sorting the joblist by clicking on column headers and replacing the Windows Wave File output component with a more versatile one based on libsndfile, that will be able to output other basic formats like Apple AIFF in addition to Wave. libsndfile is already used to read such formats in current snapshots.

One thing I already implemented is an improved algorithm for the "Add files by pattern" functionality. Starting with the next snapshot, you will be able to apply the search pattern to subfolders of the selected folder by checking the corresponding option. Additionally, the search pattern itself can now include folders, so with a pattern like "Linkin Park*/*.flac" you could add all FLAC files belonging to Linkin Park albums.

I also worked on improving stability on Linux and FreeBSD in the past weeks and made some attempts to improve performance on OS X. I'll probably be able go into detail about these in next month's update.

If you read last month's status report, you will have noticed there's no fre:ac 1.0.22 release, yet. I found some problems with the compiler I planned to use for that release, so this is holding it back for a while. I expect to be able to release it in July.

fre:ac development status update 05/2014 Print
Written by Robert   
Saturday, 31 May 2014 12:34

A last minute status update again this month - here's what happened in fre:ac development in May.

The designated main feature of the upcoming snapshot, chapter support for ID3v2 tags, has been implemented and tested and it's working fine already. ID3v2 chapters allow storing much more information than just chapter titles. You can add any information supported by ID3v2 on a per chapter basis. Artists and original albums for compilations, chapter comments and even cover art.

By the way, while at it, I also implemented WMA chapter support to enable chapters in all formats that are able to store them.

I'm now working on implementing cdparanoia III 10.2 cache modelling support in GNU libcdio, the CD ripping library used by fre:ac on Linux and OS X. This will allow detection of drives with faulty cache management (which might result in bad rips) and issue a warning in that case. The new snapshot will also make use of this feature when using the original cdparanoia libary.

The OS X snapshots will be digitally signed starting with the next one. That way they can be used on Mountain Lion and Mavericks without having to change the Gatekeeper settings.

If everything goes as planned during the next week, the snapshot will be released on June 8th. When it's out, I will concentrate on a service release for the 1.0.x series. fre:ac 1.0.22 should be ready around mid June.

I wrote about building a new website for the fre:ac project a few months ago and some of you might wonder what's the status of it. Well, I decided it's more important to get the software ready for a 1.1 beta release first, so the website overhaul will be delayed a few months.

fre:ac development status update 04/2014 Print
Written by Robert   
Wednesday, 30 April 2014 23:22

Just in time for the end of the month, here's the development status update for April.

Editing Japanese text in fre:ac on Ubuntu Linux.I implemented some of the things announced in the previous status update during the past few weeks. Namely, international text input is now supported on X11 based systems and CD spin-up is supported on all platforms.

International text input was tested on Linux using the Anthy Japanese IME (Input Method Editor) with the IBus and SCIM backends. It should work with other IMEs and on other operating systems as well as long as IBus or SCIM are used as backends.

CD spin-up support allows you to specify a number of seconds to wait for your drive to spin up before ripping. If configured, fre:ac will wait the set time before starting to rip a disc.

fre:ac in Windows 8.1 high DPI mode comparison.While working on those features, I found some issues with font management and high DPI scaling which will be fixed in the next snapshot. The changes will fix the blurry interface that users with high DPI displays may experience on Windows 8 and will make GUI text more readable by using the correct default font. Besides those, I also found and fixed some other graphical glitches on Windows. Tooltip shadows staying on the screen after the tooltip closed and button highlight frames appearing randomly will soon be a thing of the past.

I am now working on implementing chapter support in the id3lib version used by fre:ac. Because chapter frames can include any other ID3 frames as additional information, this requires some code restructuring in id3lib to avoid duplications. I am making good progress on this and expect to be able to test chapter support during the next week.

Unfortunately, common menu bar support on OS X will not make it into the upcoming snapshot and be delayed until the following one.

The next snapshot should be ready for release around late May / early June.

fre:ac development status update 03/2014 Print
Written by Robert   
Monday, 17 March 2014 13:27

After the release of the 20140223 snapshot I made plans for what to get into the next one. So here's what's planned for the next snapshot.

Of course, ID3v2 chapter support will be one of the new features as it was originally scheduled for the previous snapshot already. In addition, there will also be support for chapters in Vorbis Comment tags (used by the Vorbis, Opus and Speex encoders) as well as some improvements to cover art handling with those tags. Regarding CD ripping, the next snapshot will introduce an option to spin up the disc before actually starting to rip and will add support for reading ISRC fields on systems using the CDIO library as a ripper backend. If I’m getting it done in time, I will also include IME (Input Method Editor for complex alphabets) support on Linux and switch to using the common menu bar on OS X.

Unfortunately, except for the Vorbis Comment improvements, I didn’t implement much of this yet as there were quite a few reports of problems with the 20140323 release. I was busy fixing those issues for the greater part of the past three weeks. The problems fixed include memory management issues when adding and converting large numbers of tracks on OS X and problems with fre:ac hanging on Linux when adding tracks with cover art.

I will probably be able to predict a release date for the upcoming snapshot in next month’s status update.

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