Last weekend, it hit me that the age of several of the CD-Rs I had burned of Ragman stuff might be approaching the upper end of their lifespan. See, when I first started the project of cataloging and organizing the myriad 4-track cassette home recordings made in the geographical and social vicinity of Joe Riehle's mom's house between '94 and present day, but especially up to about 2000, I figured CD-Rs lasted pretty much forever, or at least long enough, and would be the best medium to store the completed mixes on since there was no way I would have enough hard drive space for all of it. I had accumulated a pretty impressive box of CD-R's as of a couple weeks ago when I noticed that one particular disc, containing so-called "unreleased oddities" by No Consensus, was showing signs of deterioration, and when I attempted to play certain tracks such as the little-known gem "Space-Age Plastic Collar (The Annoying Song)" I found they were corrupted. Furthermore, other CD-Rs I had burned over the years but had not cared for as well were actually beginning to peel -- the top layer, and its underside where the bits are actually burned on, was flaking off.
That was when I realized that the ongoing nature of the Ragman project, due of course in some part to the rather intermittent attention I have been able to give it, was approaching the lifespan of the CD-R medium and many of the discs burned earlier on may soon be meeting a similar fate. How ironic that the original cassette tapes have held up through so many years of sitting around but the supposedly newer, better technology hasn't.
So I began a new project -- ripping dozens of audio CD-Rs back to my hard drive. I still don't have near the hard drive space to store it all, despite now having a 160Gb Seagate as my main drive (dual-boot Win2K/Debian) in addition to the same 45Gb IBM Deskstar I had when I started (make all the "Deathstar" jokes you want, it's never given me the slightest bit of trouble!) But I figure I can rip CDs until I fill up the DeskStar (which I have now done once), then painstakingly go through and listen to each track and note down any that didn't turn out, gather up each "album" that I have in its entirety or can piece together (in some cases, from multiple copies if necessary), move each to a folder on my main drive, and convert them from 16-bit .WAV to a format more forgiving of hard drive space and download bandwidth. Then after typing up track lists and liner notes and tracking down scans of cover art where applicable, the Ragman Archives should finally start making their way to this very website -- probably as some part of the wiki.
I could use some input, however, as to what format would be best to use. The obvious first-impulse answer is .MP3, being so widely supported and having been around for so long. But I'm strongly considering .M4A, the format used by iTunes by default, which I have reason to believe offers superior sound quality in similar-or-smaller file sizes and seems to be pretty widely supported as well. And then of course, I could make an open-source statement and go with .OGG, which sounds good from a technical standpoint but I don't know what, if any, portable players support it, or for that matter, how many intererested parties really care if any do. And there's also FLAC to think about, which has excellent sound quality but rather large file size. Anyway, I should probably pick just one since I don't think I can spare the hosting space to provide more than one format.
I invite input, comments, recommendations, of what you out there would like -- that is, if there are still any of you stopping by here. Joe? Pete?