Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas from Santa and Rose (part 8)

(from the Yes, there's definitely more than just Rose and Santa in this picture department)

Hi everyone,

Happy Holidays everyone!  Here's our new Santa photo for December 2014:

This was one of the easiest photos we've ever taken.  We actually took two - and they were almost identical.

Afterwards, we had dinner at Piatti's and got ready for the arrival of Santa.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from the Pietromonaco family!


Friday, December 5, 2014

Starbucks Reserve Roastery & Tasting Room - Seattle Grand Opening - December 5, 2014

(from the It's better when it's freshly roasted department)

Hi everyone,

Dana, Rose & I attended the grand opening of the first Starbucks Reserve Roastery & Tasting Room.  I saw the announcement that this one of a kind Roastery was opening up on Capitol Hill in Seattle today, so, with the promise of lunch, I bundled the family in the car, and we went on down.

Located in an old car dealership building, the entrance is quite impressive:

Inside, there are no green aprons to be seen.  The Roastery uses a different color scheme - more like a khaki.  The place was packed - so Dana, Rose & I sat down at the Tom Douglas "Serious Pie" restaurant inside, and watched the people mill about:

After we placed our order for lunch - pizza, of course! - I walked around the space and snapped a few photos.  First up, the merchandise - those are custom glassybabies:

Down below is a classroom area and you can also see the large batch roaster just off to the right.  The large batch roaster is the main production line for Reserve coffee.  This coffee is not sold in-store, but is vacuum sealed, boxed up and shipped around the world:

There's also an upper coffee bar with pour over stations, clover machines and all sorts of other coffee makers.  Note the pipes sending coffee beans from the small batch reserve area of the roastery to the coffee bar:

Coffee holding tanks for the upper, small batch roaster:

Another shot of the large roaster down below.  You can just see the coffee library behind it - it's the large glass-walled room with the bags of coffee lining the walls:

The upper coffee bar, including the coffee bean pipes and the baristas with the khaki aprons:

I wandered over to get a closer look at the small batch roaster:

Here's a very quick clip of the small batch roaster in action:

And the finished product - ready to buy fresh from the roaster:

NOTE:  The master roaster at the large batch roaster downstairs recommended letting the small batch roast age at least 8 days before brewing.  It allows for the beans to out-gas properly and increases the flavor.

Finally - our pizza arrived.  In a word - YUM!

And that was our coffee roasting/pizza eating adventure.  We had a great time, and it was fun to talk coffee with everyone there.

If you're into coffee, I definitely recommend stopping by!


Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Creating MP4 files from EAC using Nero AAC Encoder

(from the High Quality Audio department)

Hi everyone,

I use EAC - Exact Audio Copy - for much of my CD Archiving.  It works great - except that it doesn't create MP4 files directly.

However - I just figured out a way to do that using a custom EAC compression string and Nero's free AAC Encoder, which you can download here:

Now what follows is not a step by step guide - but my quick cheat notes for a Windows 7 system.  Follow at your own discretion:

  1. Navigate to your Exact Audio Copy installation directory and create a Nero folder (e.g. C:\Program Files\Exact Audio Copy\Nero)
  2. Open the file, and navigate to the win32 folder.
  3. Extract the three files - neroAacDec.exe, neroAacEnc.exe & neroAacTag.exe - from the win32 folder and place them in your newly created Nero folder.
  4. Start Exact Audio Copy - making sure that you're in advanced mode
  5. In the resultant program window, from the EAC menu, select Compression Options...
  6. You'll want to set the following:
    • Check "Use external program for compression"
    • Set Parameter passing scheme to "User Defined Encoder"
    • Set Use file extension to .mp4
    • Set the Program, including path, used for compression to the location of your cmd.exe (e.g. C:\Windows\System32\cmd.exe)
    • Set the Additional command-line options to the following:
      /c ""c:\program files\exact audio copy\nero\neroaacenc.exe" -br %bitrate%000 -if %source% -of %dest% && "C:\program files\exact audio copy\nero\neroaactag.exe" %dest% -meta:artist="%albumartist%" -meta:album="%albumtitle%" -meta:track="%tracknr%" -meta:title="%title%" -meta:genre="%genre%" -meta:totaltracks="%numtracks%" -meta:disc="%cdnumber%" -meta:composer="%composer%" -meta:totaldiscs="%totalcds%" -meta:year="%year%" -add-cover:front:%coverfile%"
    • Set Bit rate to whatever you prefer - (e.g. 128 kBit/s)
    • Check Delete WAV after compression
    • Uncheck Use CRC check
    • Uncheck Add ID3 tag
    • Check Check for external programs return code
    • Select the High quality radio button
  7. Click OK to close the Compression options dialog box.

So the way this works is that it ties two of the Nero programs together - the Encoder and the Tagger - by launching them from the Windows Command shell.  The number of " in the additional command-line options are important - don't omit them or it won't work.  

The good news is that this does fill in the album art and a fair amount of metadata.  I don't like lyrics in my audio files, so I didn't implement them, although the Nero Tagger supports it.  You can adjust the bit rate via the pulldown in the Compression Options... menu - the script interprets the variables correctly - but the MP4s will be Variable Bit Rate (VBR) not Constant Bit Rate (CBR), so they won't match exactly.

Have fun!