Ripping,Burning and Building Music Files in your Computer

In This Chapter

Working with Windows Media Player
Ripping music from CDs
Building playlists
Using a portable music player
Burning a music CD
Listening to Windows talk
Making the PC listen to you
To be a with-it denizen of the new century, you most likely want to use your PC as a hub of your musical existence. Thanks to its sophisticated audio hardware, playing music is a natural for the computer. Not only that, you can become your own deejay, create your own musical CDs, and even hear the computer talk. And, amazingly, you can talk back to the computer. It’s all covered in this chapter.

Your PC Is Now Your Stereo

There’s a reason why your home stereo tosses a jaundiced eye at the PC. Combined with a portable music player, the computer has essentially made the old stereo system obsolete for most people. Beyond the PC’s digital audio hardware, the main culprit is the software program Windows Media Player, which lets you collect, play, and share your music. This section explains how it works.

Running Windows Media Player

Start the Windows Media Player by opening its program icon: Click the Start button, choose All Programs, and then click Windows Media Player.
Windows Media Player sports a simple and easy-to-use interface, as shown in Figure 27-1. Media are organized on the left. You can find your music listed under Library and get even more specific by choosing a category, such as Album or Songs.
Windows Media Player library window.
Figure 27-1:
Windows Media Player library window.
To play a tune or listen to an album, click to select what you want to listen to and then click the big ol’ Play button in the lower center of the Windows Media Player window.
Windows comes preconfigured with an icon for the Windows Media Player right squat to the taskbar. In older versions of Windows, the icon is found on the Quick Launch bar.
Windows Media Player isn’t the only digital jukebox available for Windows. Another popular choice is Apple’s iTunes

Inserting a musical CD

Windows Media Player automatically loads and plays any musical CD you insert into the PC’s optical drive. The album just starts to play, displayed in the Windows Media Player window with perhaps a graphic of the album’s cover art.
To return to the Windows Media Player’s library window (refer to Figure 27-1), click the Switch to Library button, found in the upper right corner of the window.

Collecting tunes

The most common way to get music into Windows Media Player is to rip that music from a CD you own. It’s very easy and surprisingly quick. Follow these steps:
1. Insert a musical CD into the PC’s optical drive.
Windows Media Player automatically begins playing the CD.
If you don’t want to listen to the CD now, simply click the Play button in the window, which pauses the CD.
2. If necessary, click the Switch to Library button to display the Windows Media Player library view (refer to Figure 27-1).
3. Click the Rip CD button on the toolbar.
If you don’t see the button, click the “show more” arrows to the right of the Organize button, and then choose the Rip CD command from the menu that’s displayed.
Windows Media Player begins copying every track from the CD, storing it on the computer. You see the progress updated in the window.
4. Eject the disc.
You can repeat these steps with another disc to continue loading your musical library into the PC.
After the songs from the CD are ripped, they’re available at any time in the Windows Media Player library.
Creating a playlist
Windows Media Player allows you to organize your music into playlists. For example, you can create your own party mix, driving music, or top hits. I listen to inspirational “brain music” when I write. It’s all made by creating a playlist. Heed these directions:
1. Click the Play tab, found in the main library window of Windows Media Player.
Refer to Figure 27-1 for the location of the Play tab.
After clicking, you see a new, “Unsaved list” appear in a panel on the right side of the window.
2. Drag the song from the music library to the pane on the right side of the window.
3. Repeat Step 2 to build your playlist, adding more songs.
4. Click the Save List toolbar button.
5. Type a name for the list.
Make it short and descriptive.
6. Press Enter to lock in the new name.
Completed playlists are listed under the Playlists heading in the music library. To listen to the songs collected in your playlist, select the playlist from the left side of the window and select the first song in the list. Click the Play button at the bottom of the window.

Taking your music with you

The notion of using a computer as a jukebox didn’t take off until two things happened. First, on the software side, the simple CD-playing programs on the PC had to evolve into programs that could rip music from the CD and store it long-term in the computer. Second, and most important, portable music-playing devices had to evolve.
Portable music players, often called MP3 players, existed for some time before they truly caught on with buyers. The early models were bulky, didn’t have long battery lives, and could store only a handful of tunes. With the dawn of the Apple iPod, MP3 players not only became sexy but also interfaced well with computer-based jukebox software.

Windows Media Player works with a variety of portable music devices. The operation generally goes like this:

1. Attach the portable MP3 player to your PC.
Normally, you use a USB cable.
2. Open Windows Media Player, if necessary.
The AutoPlay dialog box may prompt you to open Windows Media Player when you initially attach the device, or you can manually start Windows Media Player.
The portable gizmo appears in the library, specified as a new drive letter and icon on the left side of the Windows Media Player window (refer to Figure 27-1).
3. Click the MP3 player’s icon or drive letter in the library list.
The device should appear in the Sync tab panel on the right side of the window.
4. Drag music to the Sync tab.
The music you drag is copied to the MP3 player.
5. After the syncing is complete, disconnect the device.

You’re ready for the open road!

Your portable MP3 thingy no doubt came with special software for managing music. Although these steps get you through basic music synchronizing using Windows Media Player, you might still need to use the MP3 player’s extra software to help manage your music, remove tunes, or organize how the music is played.
Ensure that your portable music doodad is properly charged. Check the batteries before you do any extensive syncing.
iPod isn’t a generic name applied to all MP3 players. Your PC can use an iPod, but the iPod is designed specifically to use the iTunes software.

Making your own music CDs

Creating a music CD in Windows Media Player is a snap. Pursue this procedure:
1. Start Windows Media Player, if you haven’t already done so.
2. Insert a CD-R into the drive.
3. Dismiss the AutoPlay dialog box, if it appears.
4. Click the Burn tab on the toolbar.
5. Drag individual songs or playlists to the Burn list pane.
The songs you place in the list pane are written, or burned, to the CD — and in the order you have placed them.
Keep an eye on the “MB remaining” thermometer in the list pane. That indicator lets you know how full the disc will be; you don’t want to add more music than the disc can hold.
6. Click the Start Burn button.
Watch as the items are burned to the CD. The time required depends on the CD-R’s burning speed (see Chapter 9) and on the number of songs you’re burning to disc.
7. Remove the disc, label it, and store it in a safe place.
The disc is automatically ejected when the burning is complete; you’re done.
You can play the disc in any CD player or in any computer.
See Chapter 24 for information on burning data CDs.
Unlike with a data CD-R created in the Live File System, you cannot add more music to a CD-R after it has been burned once. (Again, see
Chapter 24.)

The PC Can Talk and Listen

Don’t get your hopes up. The days of talking casually to the computer are still far in the future. In fact, I doubt that we’ll ever just bark orders at a PC; if Star Trek were to be redone today, I’m certain that Mr. Spock would have a computer keyboard and mouse at his workstation (along with a minimized game of Spider Solitaire). But I digress.
Yes, your PC can talk and listen. The following sections mull over the current state of speech on a PC.

Babbling Windows

Your computer is more than capable of speaking. An example in Windows is a program named Narrator, shown in Figure 27-2. Narrator is a tool designed to help visually impaired folk use the Windows interface. Narrator doesn’t read text. In fact, it spends most of its time parroting whichever keys you press on the keyboard. That sounds nice, but after a while it just becomes irritating.
Narrator is of no help.
Figure 27-2:
Narrator is of no help.
To run Narrator, from the Start menu choose All Programs Accessories Ease of Access Narrator. The program starts up and immediately begins telling you about the options available in its window. If you can tolerate that, fine. Otherwise, click the Exit button and be done with it.
A better tool in Windows for the visually impaired is the Magnifier, which is also found in the All Programs Accessories Ease of Access folder on the Start menu.
Other programs that are available let the computer speak. They read text much more smoothly than in Windows Narrator, and in different voices. Some programs can be found on the Internet, as described in Chapter 18, and others may have been preinstalled on your PC or included with its sound hardware.

Dictating to the PC

Blabbing to your PC isn’t perfect, but it has come a long way from the days when you had to spend hours (up to 20) to train the computer to understand your voice. Man, that was tiring, not to mention the cotton-mouth you’d get from talking for such long stretches! Things are better today.
To get started with speech recognition in Windows, you need a microphone or, preferably, a headset. The next stop is the Control Panel to set up the microphone. Follow these steps:
1. Open the Control Panel.
2. Click the Ease of Access heading.
3. Choose the link Start Speech Recognition.
The Setup Speech Recognition Wizard starts.
4. Work your way through the wizard.
Your microphone is set up, and you review some options and settings. Just keep clicking the Next button and you’ll be fine.
5. Train windows.
Eventually, you run the speech recognition training tutorial, which teaches Windows to understand your utterances.
When speech recognition is turned on, the Speech Recognition microphone window appears on the desktop, as shown in Figure 27-3. If you don’t see the window, double-click the Speech Recognition icon in the notification area (shown in the margin). Right-clicking the Speech Recognition icon displays a handy and helpful pop-up menu of options.
The Speech Recognition microphone window.
Figure 27-3:
The Speech Recognition microphone window.
People who receive the most benefit from dictation software spend lots of time training their computers to understand them.
Another popular dictation package is Dragon Naturally Speaking, at

Next post:

Previous post: