Sound juicer no longer retrieves track names when you extract audio CDs

If you've used Ubuntu recently to extract an audio CD into files, you might have noticed (depending on your version of Ubuntu) that the tracklisting is no longer handily populated with the track names. If you're sharp, you've spotted that at the bottom of the program window a status note says that it's "Retrieving track listing... please wait," but nothing further happens. You've probably resorted to typing out a few CDs' tracklistings by hand, before giving up on it entirely.

This problem is straightforward to fix, but very difficult to discover instructions online that might help you. The reasons for this obscurity mostly boil down to the fact that you have to know the secret hidden names of what you're fixing before you Google for the solution. For example, Ubuntu will sometimes call its CD ripper "Audio CD Extractor", and sometimes "Sound Juicer": there's a reason for why it has this usability failure, but I doubt if I'll ever meet a non-developer user who cares.

You also have to possess the psychic ability to know that the tracklisting library is hosted by a website called Musicbrainz: it doesn't seem to be anywhere in the preferences for the program. Either that or, if you've managed to figure out that the program is called sound-juicer, and you understand the command line, you can run the former from the latter and - squint a bit! - spot that one of the dozen or so error messages that appear mentions Musicbrainz.

Your CD extractor stopped getting tracklistings because Musicbrainz - on one level quite reasonably - discontinued a webservice, that programs like Sound Juicer use to get tracklistings from the Musicbrainz directory. The problem is that deprecated services are generally dropped without any fanfare, and with no way of the average user being able to work out what happened: developers would feel they had a point were they to say that this was quite reasonable - "that's what deprecated means" - but silently dropping such services with no good error reporting - "that's the application's responsibility, surely" - causes so much confusion and hassle for less expert users that you wonder why we still do it.

But: like I say, fixing this is actually straightforward, and here's how. The main trick is that you add an extra program repository to your system, which provides you with an updated version of sound-juicer to work with Musicbrainz's other services. If you're using Ubuntu Karmic Koala 9.10 or Lucid Lynx 10.04, then this is accomplished by running:

% sudo add-apt-repository ppa:user/ppa-name

If, on the other hand, your version of Ubuntu is prior to 9.10 (or its cuddly codename begins with a letter earlier in the alphabet than "K") you'll need to edit a file:

% sudo gedit /etc/apt/sources.list

and add the two lines:

deb [VERSION] main
deb-src [VERSION] main

where [VERSION] is "intrepid" for 8.10, "hardy" for 8.04, etc. (full list of release codenames available here: confusingly, only use the adjective, not the animal name.)

Once you've installed this new package repository, you should ensure all of your local source directories are up to date, so your machine knows where to get Sound Juicer from. Run:

% sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get upgrade

and, if you're lucky, Ubuntu will spot the new version of Sound Juicer and ask you if you want it to be installed. Otherwise, you need to sudo apt-get remove sound-juicer and sudo apt-get install sound-juicer to manually get it from the new repository.

Once you've installed the new version of sound-juicer, and closed all open copies of it, you should find that the next CD you insert has its tracklisting automatically downloaded. I suggest you test it with a fairly mainstream CD first, as Musicbrainz doesn't have all CDs on its database, so rare or new recordings could cause the same old behaviour of a blank tracklisting.

(As an example of what not to do, my testing didn't work when I used the almost brand-new remastering of new-wave electropop classsic From A to B by New Musik; but I accept that I was being a bit perverse when I chose that particular one to test. In fairness, my arch indie cred cost me another half an hour of trying to work out what was still wrong with my computer, when the problem was actually with my taste in music.)