14.3 Recording, Mixing, and Copying Music
The hints in this section can help bring out your inner DJ.
14.3.1 Turning Off Copy Protection
The first time you copy songs from a CD, Windows Media Player asks whether you want to turn on copy protection , which is a system Microsoft uses to assign a digital license to a song so you can't illegally copy and redistribute it. Once a song is copy protected, transferring it to a device such as a portable MP3 player may not work if the device doesn't recognize the license Microsoft has assigned it. Because there are many legal ways you can copy songs, this setting does you no good. So when Windows Media Player asks if you want copy protection on, just say no.
If you've already activated copy protection, can you turn if off? Yes.
Turning off copy protection is easy. Open Windows Media Player and choose Tools Options Privacy, then uncheck "Acquire licenses automatically for protected content," as shown in Figure 14-8.
Note: There're two terms you need to know for working with audio CDs. Ripping , which sounds aggressive and possibly illegal, is simply the process of copying songs from a CD to somewhere else (say, your hard drive). Burning , also a little scary sounding, refers to the process of copying songs to a CD (also known as making a CD). Neither process is illegal.For a quick and helpful tutorial on how to rip songs from a music CD into Windows Media Player, check out http://www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/using/windowsmediaplayer/ videos /jukebox.mspx. To learn how to burn a CD, go to http://www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/using/windowsmediaplayer/getstarted/burncds2.mspx.
14.3.2 Mixing Smoother CDs
If you burn mixed CDs using Windows Media Player 9, you might want to download the TweakMP PowerToy for Windows XP (http://www.wmplugins.com). The PowerToy comes with a variety of semi-helpful tools (like a mouse shortcut for moving between skin and full-screen mode), but where it really shines is in its ability to level the volume on music files you burn to a CD.
That service is vital when you're burning a mixed CD, because the original recordings of the songs you want to add to your CD can have widely different volume levels ‚ leading to a mix that's seriously uneven . PowerToy automatically evens out all the songs' volumes .
After you install PowerToy, open Windows Media Player and choose Tools Plugins TweakMP. To turn on volume leveling, click the CD tab and select "Automatically level the volume of files when copying to an audio CD."
14.3.3 Preventing Skips When You Burn CDs
Sometimes when you burn a CD with digital music files stored on your computer, you may notice that the CD skips when you play it. Skipping happens for many reasons, but you can prevent it with these tricks.
Note: In addition to the hints described here, you should also close other open programs when burning a CD so your computer can devote all its resources to this task.
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Figure 14-8. "Acquire licenses automatically for protected content" sounds like a good idea. But, in fact, if you keep that option on, Windows Media Player can block you from listening to music you rip.
220.127.116.11 Look to the source
As the saying goes: garbage in, garbage out. If there are skips on the CD you originally used to create the music files, then the CDs you create from those files will skip too. So before burning, listen to each of the tracks you're going to burn and delete or repair any that skip. Because scratches or dirt on a CD often cause skipping, you can often fix the problem by cleaning the disc with a soft cloth, or by using a CD restoration kit (available from any music store).
Note: Always clean the bottom of the CD (the side without any printing); that's the side CD players read.
18.104.22.168 Change your burning method
If your original music files aren't skipping but the CDs you're creating are, you may be able to eliminate the blips by altering how your CD drive burns. First try slowing down your burning speed, which often solves the problem. In Windows Media Player, choose Tools Options Devices and highlight the CD drive you're using. Then choose Properties Recording. The Recording tab appears, as shown in Figure 14-9. From the "Select a write speed" pop-up menu, choose a speed that's slower than the fastest available option and then click OK.
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Figure 14-9. A slow burn rate is good for burning CDs since it may help eliminate skips in music CDs. You can solve another problem using this dialog box as well: If you find you can't rip songs from a CD, make sure you turn on "Enable CD recording on this drive."
If changing the burn speed doesn't eliminate the skipping, try using analog rather than digital CD writing. In Windows Media Player, choose Tools Options Devices, and highlight the CD drive you're using. Then choose Properties Audio. From the Copy section, choose Analog and click OK, then OK again. If that still doesn't work, go back to the same tab and select "Use error correction." This option slows down the CD burning process even further, which may solve the problem.
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Taking Control of Your CD Player
Windows XP responds differently to different types of CDs. If you've inserted a music CD, XP launches a CD player like the Windows Media Player. If the CD contains a software program, XP usually runs the setup routine on the CD. But what if you'd prefer to make these decisions yourself? For example, you may want to browse through the files of a software CD and not automatically run the setup program. Or, when you insert a music CD, instead of listening to it, you might want to copy it to your PC. If so, you need to modify XP's Autorun tool, which automatically triggers a specific action each time you insert a CD.
Killing the Autorun feature on a case-by-case basis is easy: When you insert the CD into the drive, just hold down the Shift key. To prevent Autorun from doing its thing every time you insert a CD, you have to edit the Registry. Run the Registry Editor (Section 15.1.2) and then go to My Computer HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE SYSTEM CurrentControlSet Services Cdrom. Find the AutoRun key and change its value to 0. If the key doesn't exist, create it as a DWORD value with a data value of 0. Finally, exit the Registry and reboot.
If you have XP Professional, you can turn off Autorun without using the Registry. Run the Group Policy Editor by typing gpedit.msc at a command prompt or in the Run box, and pressing Enter. Go to Local Computer Policy Computer Configuration Administrative Templates System and look for the "Turn Off Autoplay" entry. Double-click it and choose Enabled, then exit the Group Policy Editor.
14.3.4 Saving Internet Radio Streams
These days, you don't need to visit your hometown to catch radio broadcasts of your high school's basketball games or your favorite local traffic report. Many Web sites stream digital audio to Internet listeners worldwide. (Streaming technology ‚ one of the great features of the Web ‚ broadcasts data continuously; downloadable files, on the other hand, transfer to your hard drive in one fell swoop.)
Windows Media Player lets you tune in to streaming audio (for a list of stations , click the Radio Tuner link in the taskbar), but it does let you save a broadcast so you can listen to it later. For this trick, you need to download and use a separate program (the box below also gives you a way to save some broadcasts without using an extra program). To reliably save streams, try one of these applications:
Super MP3 Recorder lets you record streaming audio and then save the files to your hard drive. (The program also lets you record audio from a microphone or videotape.) When you're listening to a stream you want to record, simply start the program and tell it to begin recording; then tell it when to stop. Super MP3 (http://www.supermp3recorder.com), which works with any streaming audio format, is shareware and free to try, but costs $19.95 if you want to keep it.
Ripcast Streaming Audio Ripper is a similar program, but works only with a special streaming format called Shoutcast, which many smaller and independent broadcasters use. Audio Ripper (http://www.xoteck.com/ripcast) is shareware and free to try, but costs $9.98 if you want to keep it.
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Saving Streams Without Extra Software
Depending on how an Internet radio station streams its audio, you can sometimes manually save the streams as music files without using extra software. After you've finished listening to a streaming audio file, go to My Computer C: Documents and Settings [Your Account Name ] Local Settings Temporary Internet Files. Look for files with .mp3 or .wma extensions. (Click the column labeled Type to sort your file list by file type.) The file you want may have an unintelligible name, so you may have to listen to a few possibilities before finding the one you want to archive.
When you find the file, you can save it permanently by copying it to another folder (choose Edit Copy To Folder) and then renaming it. You can now listen to the file whenever you wish by opening it with Windows Media Player or another music player.