Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Make your own iPhone ringtones for free using iTunes

It's Christmas so here's a little gift for you. This is a step-by-step tutorial showing you how to make your own iPhone ringtones for free, meaning you don;t have to pay over the odds prices for expensive ringtone in the iTunes store. All you need is iTunes and your music library.

The tutorial was written on a Mac and the screengrabs refer to a machine running OS 10.6.2 but it's a very similar process for Windows users. You can view the images over on Flickr here. You should also be able to see full size images there if you need them. I start with the presumption tht most people will have their music library setup as .MP3 files. If your music library is mainly .AAC files then this tutorial is not for you. The same method can be employed but there is an extra level of complexity involved which involves converting files to any other format

And so, on we go...

Step 1

Open iTunes
itunes a

Step 2

First thing we need to do is setup iTunes. Go to Preferences. On Windows, select Edit. On Mac select iTunes or hold "cmd+,"
itunes b pref

Step 3

A pop-up should have opened on the "General" tab. Navigate down to the "import Settings"
itunes c pref general copy

Step 4

We need to make sure that files will be imported and encoded as .AAC files (Apple's preferred format for the iTunes store). Make sure the "Import Using" field reads "AAC Encoder" - the "Setting" field can be a number of different settings but the "iTunes Plus" setting is a decent enough quality setting for a ringtone. Select OK and go back to iTunes main dashboard
itunes d pref general import

Step 5

Find a song in your library that you want to turn into a ringtone. Right click the track and select "Get Info" (Mac keyboard shortcut: "cmd+I")
itunes e get info

Step 6

A popup should open
itunes f get info

Step 7

Select the "Options" tab and pay attention to the "Start Time" and "Stop Time" fields
itunes g get info options

Step 8

Ringtones can be up to 30 seconds in length. In the "Start Time" and "Stop Time" fields enter the time frame from your song of choice and ensure the boxes to the left are ticked. I've just selected the first 30 seconds of your chosen song but you can pick the middle or the end - whatever you like. Select "OK"
itunes h get info options 2

Step 9

Back at the main iTunes interface, right-click on your track and select "Create AAC Version". iTunes will now create a 30 second (or whatever time frame you selected) version of the track in the .AAC file format
itunes i create AAC

Step 10

After a few seconds you should see two versions of your track in the iTunes library - one for each file format. The new file will be smaller in file size and shorter in length
itunes j two files
Step 11

Right-click on the new .AAC file and select "Show in Finder". There should be a similar command in the menu for Windows machines.
itunes k show in finder

Step 12

There should new be two copies of the file on your machine, with the one you want being highlighted. They should be distinguishable by their file extension. We are looking for the .m4a file
itunes l in finder

Step 13

Select the file name as we are going to edit the extension. Mac users can just press "Enter"
itunes m change file name 1

Step 14

Change the .m4a file type to .m4r
itunes n change file name 2 copy

Step 15

You may get a popup at this point, asking if you want to change the file type - which you do!
itunes o filen name copy

Step 16

Now, import the new file into iTunes by either dragging or double clicking. The file should now appear and the file kind will read as "Ringtone". Drag the file onto you iPhone or select it as a file to be synched when your iPhone is connected
itunes p ringtone copy

Step 17

That should be it! You might want to do a little bit of house-keeping by going back to the original .MP3 and going into it's "Options" tab and deselect the "Start Time" and "Stop Time". If you donlt do this, you iTunes libraary will only ever play the selected file as an abridged version!
itunes q clean up copy

Hope that was easy to follow. Go and have fun

Merry Christmas!

Friday, 18 December 2009

Leverage change with social media

There are lots of ways in which the tools of Web 2.0 have enabled the public to get involved in political issues or take part in public pressure groups. The readily available free content hosting offered by YouTube, AudioBoo, Blogger, Flickr, etc, to name a few, has given anyone with an issue they want to talk about the ability and the platform to do that with a geographically dispersed public. This is often talked of as the 'democratisation' of the media - anyone can be a content producer and distributor these days.

I have some reservations about embracing that kind of rhetoric wholeheartedly - not everyone finds themselves with the same power and reach as a well-established transnational media business - but there is no doubt that web has opened up debate to include more vocal players than in previous eras of broadcasting. Not everything published across these kinds of sites is going to be of interest to everyone, but I dare say that much the same could have been said of legacy media and its output.

The easily shareable nature of the new platforms has brought with it significant benefits (a broader public sphere) as well as dangers (the sacrifice of privacy). I presented a short paper (slides below) to a bunch of colleagues recently about the use of social media tools to remediate the #IranElection of 2009 in which I pointed out that the state ran broadcast media was heavily censored and activists took to the web to organise their protests. Twitter was used heavily in this campaign - the Iran Election was the highest trending topic last year. One of the points I made in the presentation was that Iranians using the service, who found their message being retweeted, may have had some unwanted attention directed thier way (security forces were monitering the service, hence the high porfile campaign to change the location of Twitter users to Tehran, to try and fool them).

It's the dangers or problems of mediation that I want to focus on in this post, and I'd like to do that by turning to an example drawn from digital activism ('hacktivism'?).

I was listening to this week's edition of Digital Planet from BBC World Service that featured an interesting segment on informational activism. You can listen to the section by clicking this link here (the BBC is testing the use of chapters in its audio content, which is a great idea). This comes about on the back of a new documentary movie entitled '10 Tactics For Turning Information Into Action' from the international NGO Tactical Technology Collective.

The film advocates a number of ways in which human rights advocates can leverage change via social media tools. The film makers are keen to emphasise that new media opens up new opportunities for spreading messages about rights violation but they also open up new potential dangers:
Just as each new technology has the potential to bring new opportunities and freedoms, they also present new challenges, difficulties and forms of suppression – from new forms of censorship to threats to privacy. This issue is extremely important for advocates who handle sensitive information in hostile environments and for marginalised communities for whom technology can be a 'double-edged sword' as it carries the potential to both liberate and further marginalise.
Once information is disseminated via the web it may be hard to guarantee what will happen to those people involved in the process. It may seem like one of the best ways to combat persecution is by making your voice heard, but video interviews with people who have suffered at the hands of others may draw attention to those people who may then be subject to more abuse by virtue of their newly acquired visibility.

Advocates have a responsibility to protect their sources - the Tactical Technology Collective are keen to stress this issue and have some useful advice to offer. I'm looking forward to seeing the film. In the mean time, if you are interested in using the web to affect change you could do worse than check out the TTC guide here. You can find related resources at the DigiActive and Global Voices sites.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Tracking musical expenditure: November

This month has been a curious month in terms of purchases as a number of factors have come together to produce a few interesting things - call it serendipity. Firstly, I had planned on doing all my Christmas shopping online in November given the recent postal strikes delaying things. Having said this, I only ended up buying one CD as a gift so the impact this will have in the big scheme of things is minimal at best. Secondly, Juno Records gave me £5 worth of credit to spend on digital downloads for being a member of an online fan community. This might have been money I wouldn't have typically spent but never look a gift horse. Thirdly, a filesharing site I have access to was 'promoting' the iTunes LP format, which have all sorts of extra features, which led me to buy one from the limited range on offer. Fourthly, I purchased a Sunday paper solely in order to get a 'free' live album (via iTunes) which needs to be taken into account - it's unlikely that I'd have bought the paper otherwise.

All said and done, this month's expenditure on music comes in at £27.63, bringing the grand total to date of £770.49.

If we go only on single and album sales to date the figure arrives at £51.85

After a quarter of the year has passed, it seems that the amount spent on music has began to increase

It seems I'm getting closer to the £77 figure mentioned in the Demos report from October 2009 (Powerpoint file here: 3.7 mb). I wonder how, if at all, the Virgin Media/Universal deal will impact on those sales hen it eventually gets rolled out? If Virgin Media customers have full access to Universal's back catalogue, will they spend less on music? I'm still waiting for pricing plans for this service to be announced