How to create an iTunes/iPod compatible audiobook (MPEG4 m4b) on Linux using MP4Box and mp4v2 v1.9.1 – it can be done!

I’ve been wracking my brains over this for the past few weeks and it finally struck me how to create an m4b audiobook with chapters that is compatible with your iPod, iTunes, VLC, etc.  It was very simple once I figured it out:

Step 1:

encode the mp3 files to “aac” (mpeg4) using your favorite converter (I use ffmpeg):

ffmpeg -i "track1.mp3" -y -vn -acodec libfaac -ab 128k -ar 44100 -threads 3 -f mp4 track1.aac

Step 2:

Create a chapters file so that MP4Box can understand it:

* Common syntax : CHAPTERX=h:m:s[:ms or .ms] on one line and CHAPTERXNAME=name on the other – the order is not important but chapter lines MUST be declared sequencially (same X value expected for 2 consecutive lines).

track1.chapters:

CHAPTER1=00:00:00.000
CHAPTER1NAME=Chapter 001
CHAPTER2=00:30:00.139
CHAPTER2NAME=Chapter 002
CHAPTER3=01:00:00.728
CHAPTER3NAME=Chapter 003
CHAPTER4=01:30:01.269
CHAPTER4NAME=Chapter 004
CHAPTER5=02:00:01.858
CHAPTER5NAME=Chapter 005
CHAPTER6=02:30:02.375
CHAPTER6NAME=Chapter 006
CHAPTER7=03:00:02.964
CHAPTER7NAME=Chapter 007
CHAPTER8=03:30:03.553
CHAPTER8NAME=Chapter 008
CHAPTER9=04:00:04.094
CHAPTER9NAME=Chapter 009
CHAPTER10=04:30:04.683
CHAPTER10NAME=Chapter 010
CHAPTER11=05:00:05.224
CHAPTER11NAME=Chapter 011
CHAPTER12=05:30:05.765
CHAPTER12NAME=Chapter 012
CHAPTER13=05:46:14.106
CHAPTER13NAME=Chapter 013
CHAPTER14=06:16:14.143
CHAPTER14NAME=Chapter 014
CHAPTER15=06:46:14.732
CHAPTER15NAME=Chapter 015
CHAPTER16=07:16:15.249
CHAPTER16NAME=Chapter 016
CHAPTER17=07:46:15.790
CHAPTER17NAME=Chapter 017
CHAPTER18=08:16:16.331
CHAPTER18NAME=Chapter 018
CHAPTER19=08:46:16.920
CHAPTER19NAME=Chapter 019
CHAPTER20=09:16:17.460
CHAPTER20NAME=Chapter 020
CHAPTER21=09:46:18.050
CHAPTER21NAME=Chapter 021
CHAPTER22=10:16:18.639
CHAPTER22NAME=Chapter 022

Step 3:

Add the chapters to the audio file (creates Nero format chapter markers):

MP4Box -add track1.aac -chap track1.chapters test.mp4

Step 4:

Convert the Nero chapter markers to Quicktime chapter markers using mp4chaps from the mp4v2 project (you will want v1.9.1 or higher):

mp4chaps --convert --chapter-qt test.mp4
converting chapters in file "test.mp4" from Nero to QuickTime

Step 5:

Rename the file from .mp4 to .m4b extension so iTunes will see it as an audiobook:

mv test.mp4 test.m4b

Proof that it works:

and VLC showing the chapters:

Of course, we aren’t putting in any tags such as “author” or “genre” in this example. Use your favorite tags editor to do so.

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RealNetworks releases RealDVD – waste of money?

On Twitter, Jim Louderback @louderb pointed out that RealNetworks released a controversial new product called RealDVD.  What is RealDVD?  It will copy your dvd movie, bit for bit, on to your harddrive with the CSS encryption intact.  For your enjoyment, it slaps on a DRM scheme as the dvd is being transferred to your computer.  That’s 4GB to 9GB of space taken up by a single movie.

Does this mean you can take the dvd copy you made and put it on your iPod or video player?  Nope.  The iPod and most portable mp4 players have no way to interpret the dvd copy.  So, what can you do with the dvd copy made by RealDVD?  Well, you can play it on your computer and possibly burn it to a dvd blank.  You can even play it on up to 4 other computers.  Forget about copying to other people even if you are able to strip the DRM, the dvd copy is watermarked with your information.

There are several FREE programs that will allow you to copy a dvd movie, bit for bit, without the DRM being added.  There are others, such as Handbreak, that will even rip the dvd and present you with a file ready to be uploaded to your iPod.

At this point, RealDVD doesn’t appear to be of any real value for us.  It does bring a lot of attention on to RealNetworks though.  Makes me wonder if this is nothing more than a marketing ploy.

The only way the MPAA will sanction this will be as direct competition to the iTunes movie Store.

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REVIEW: 5-in-1 White Charger/Holder/Fm Transmitter/LCD/Audio for 2.5mm and 3.5 mm/Usb Charger

5-in-1 White Charger/Holder/Fm Transmitter/LCD/Audio for 2.5mm and 3.5 mm/Usb Charger

I was more than a little skeptical at this iPod/mp3 player/cell phone/usb charger & FM transmitter.  There weren’t any reviews that I could find whatsoever on this contraption.  After looking around and seeing other combo units at about $90, I figured, that I would get one of these and worst case, I’d be out $20.

Well, it arrived today when I was working at home.  Of course, I had to take a little time and try it out.  Since I’ve been sick all week, I’m more than a little stir crazy to get out of the apartment even if it was just a jaunt to Starbucks and back.

Hooking it up was simple:

  • slide the side grips apart
  • insert ipod
  • attach ipod cable to bottom of ipod – it is the only cable to attach 🙂
  • plug into cigarette lighter

To turn it on, you hold down the power button for about 3 – 5 seconds and tune the fm transmitter to the desired channel.

That’s it.  The only downside I’ve found is that the FM tuner doesn’t retain the channel frequency so you will have to tune the FM channel everytime you turn it on.  I consider this a minor downside and one that I can live with.

Hooking up other mp3 players is done by attaching the usb cable to the mp3 player and the audio cable to the mp3 player.   Both cables are provided.  Charging a cell phone will work as long as you have the (not provided) usb <=> cell phone cable.

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