What is Niente

1.0 Introduction

Niente is a FLAC integrity checker for Linux, Windows 10 & 11, macOS and Raspberry Pi. It scans a folder structure full of FLACs and computes a digital 'fingerprint' of the audio signal found in each file, storing the results in a database. Periodic re-scans allow fresh fingerprints to be taken over time. Should the new fingerprint ever not match the previous one, you immediately know that some sort of physical corruption of the audio signal has taken place -at which point, you re-rip the original CD or revert to a known-good backup.

In addition to checking for physical corruption or degradation, Niente will scan for two types of logical corruption or inconsistencies: one, where the ALBUM tag contains a YEAR that doesn't match what the YEAR tag says it should be; and a second where the PERFORMER tag doesn't line up with what the COMMENT tag says. Anything listed with these sorts of logical inconsistencies can be simply fixed up with a little bit of re-tagging (perhaps using my own Semplice program!)

Crucially, Niente will perform these checks in a manner that doesn't alter the FLAC files themselves: they are only ever read from, never written to. A large music collection can take a long time to analyse fully (my own 18,000+ FLACs take about 24 hours to scan on a 7 year old laptop, for example): helpfully, Niente allows for incremental analysis (i.e., only new or newly-corrected/recovered files are analysed), so that day-to-day usage remains fairly swift, but with the ability to run time-consuming full scans rather less frequently.

New in Version 3, Niente can be run from a simple-to-use menu interface. Its scanning and integrity checking tasks can also, however, be automated as non-interactive command line tasks, so that time-consuming analysis of a large music collection can be scheduled during the night or at other 'off-peak' hours. It therefore shares the same characteristics (in appearance and behaviour) as its 'cousins', Giocoso (the FLAC player) and Semplice (the FLAC manager). Users of those other programs will feel comfortable with Niente from the outset, I hope.

2.0 The Name

If you are a classical music fan, you will probably already know that niente means ‘a gradual dying away of volume until only a bare whisper can be heard’ -and if you aren't, then: now you know!

The point of the name was to suggest that checking your FLACs for physical integrity and logical consistency, important though those jobs are, should become something that happens invisibly, or as a background task that you barely notice. The software should fade away from your notice until only a bare recollection of its existence is left!

3.0 The Mascot

Reasonable people will then wonder why the squirrel, in all its forms, has become Niente's 'mascot'. Well, squirrels do have a habit of bouncing into invisibility at the drop of a hat, which is always fun to watch! Moreover, though I leave out kilogrammes of peanuts for them in my garden, the peanuts just seem to disappear, too 🙂  Of course, the real reason for cute squirrel pictures adorning these pages is more prosaic: I just adore squirrels! If you think of them as 'tree rats'... well, I'm sorry about that, but I never have, so here they are and shall remain!

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