Amnon on Lossless

Here is an interesting comment I got via email from Amnon (one of my former colleagues from Trade Me) about my lossless post from earlier in the year:

“I really liked your post on storage and compression, but consider this: Two years ago people were paying $500 for a 60GB iPod. Today they’re paying $500 for an 8GB iPod. Storage capacity is up against other factors in evolving technology. Miniaturisation, reduction of moving parts, wireless network storage… At some point ears can’t tell the difference with a compressed music file, and your eyes (and monitor) won’t benefit from a 12MP photo that will only ever be printed in 6″ x 4″, if at all. But when the first finger-sized quantum portable PC comes out, maybe you’ll be stoked all your photos aren’t saved in RAW format. Just a thought… Plus, how could people download all those movies and albums if they weren’t compressed? ; )”

What do you think? I’m interested in your comments.

Is compression a worthwhile trade off in order to gain mobility?

What about when you’re back home with your fast network, big screen displays, quality amp & speakers etc? Don’t you really want the best quality source files you can store?

Do we even have to choose? Is there an easy way that people could store hi-res full quality files in a central location on a home network and somehow easily sync compressed files to our mobile devices?

Fire away.

5 thoughts on “Amnon on Lossless”

  1. Hi Rowan

    Interesting… last week I talked to the crew from – they do Digital Asset Management via SaaS. They store digital assets (video, audio, images etc) for customers and do all the obvious tagging, classifying stuff. Customers can then order assets in whichever format they like – low res for web or high for print. The Widen concept is similar to what you talk about: a central repository of music and you then order up a file to suit – low fi for portable audio and high for other uses.

    Of course broadband is the issue but that issue won’t last forever

  2. I agree that lossless on iPod’s is a bad plan, for starters you can only use ALAC (Apple Lossless) as a codec unless you install custom (and unsupported) firmware on the iPod.

    In either case, even if you do have enough space on the iPod to store your music, you will end up with reduced battery life… the main reason being that the iPod uses the hard disk (or flash memory) alot more for the larger lossless files.

    The solution I’ve settled on (and in fact I’m just moving to it now) is to have my collection in FLAC for use on my Desktop/Laptop at home and then use a perl script called flac2mp3 ( to keep a ‘lossy’ copy of my entire music library. The mp3’s can be added to iTunes and synced to the iPod, while I can still enjoy FLAC everywhere else :)

  3. If you can get your music setup working so that you are storing lossless originals and can access those in any format you want (by having the server re-encode them on the fly) then I think that’s a perfect world. eg – have your itunes library as lossless files – mount the library over your 11n network as flac files – mount it over the internet and have it accessible as mp3s, be able to drag the flacs onto your iphone and have them re-encoded as mp3s. That’d be the perfect situation I reckon.

  4. Hah seems I wrote exactly what you described. I’m guessing you could do it by mounting your itunes library on a fileshare and have a sync script that synced up 2 different versions of the library (one lossless, one compressed) automatically. The itunes playlist is a big xml file so it’d be be doable. Anything that gets added as lossless is re-encoded to mp3 and stored in two forms.

  5. I also came across a FUSE filesystem called mp3fs ( which converts FLAC to mp3 on the fly… but I wouldn’t personally want my machine to waste CPU transcoding the files all the time.

    Another option also is the Firefly Media Server software ( which allows you to access your collection over the net and it can also act as an iTunes shared library to you can access it in iTunes (with the usual limitations of a shared library).

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