mp3 collection on my computer - written years ago when this was new -
you are going to haul a laptop around on a bicycle you might as well turn it into a juke
box with thousands of mp3 songs.
Before I left home, it was a bit scary to think of riding
south of the Mexican border and losing the last American FM rock station. From my
experience Mexican radio stations usually play their own local music. Now, I like and
respect all ethnic music as much as the next guy but I regularly need to rock out to what
I am used to. Latin Americans love their music and not a day goes by that
hear it voluntarily from my own radio or involuntarily blaring from countless stores,
cars, or television sets. Classic Rock and Heavy Metal are what I grew up with and I
could never leave my music behind completely. I believe that immersing yourself into a
foreign culture does need to involve turning your back on your own. The problem
was where do I find a source of music from home that I could carry on a bicycle and listen
to while sitting next to a campfire.
I have been into computers since before the first IBM hard drive but
the first time I learned about mp3 was when
I was a substitute Teacher at Chino Valley High School in Arizona. A kid in the
class had a player and since we were just doing work sheets so I asked her a hundred
questions about this technology and literally ran her batteries down. A lot of the
kids in class knew about mp3 files. I had heard of Napster but the sound system on
my computer had been broken for months and I never downloaded a song or heard an mp3
file. High school kids are used to their teacher confiscating their electronic
devises which are usually not allowed in school. When they saw that I instead was
interested in learning from them they went into great detail about the
Mp3s are basically a way of taking a song or entire album and compressing it into a
file that is small enough to be emailed or downloaded from the internet. It is
similar to a Zip file except that when a file is Zipped (compressed) it is unusable until
it is un-zipped (un-compressed) A mp3 file never needs to be uncompressed to be
played. It is played straight from this compressed format. A long album, say
the Rolling Stones album "Exile on Main Street" that originally came on two
vinyl records, would easily fill a 750 MB blank disk. The same album compressed to
mp3 format consumes only 31 MB. Most albums, that originally came on one vinyl
record compress to about 10 MB.
THE OLD WAY = Copying a music CD. Let's say that you have your favorite
Rolling Stones album and you want to give a copy to a friend. You would first have to
buy a blank CD. You use your CD that you bought at the music store as
the master. You copy from the master to the blank disk and your friend can now play
it in their home stereo or portable CD player. Okay this is illegal and purely
hypothetical. The disadvantage is that you must already own the master or at least
have a copied version. You have to buy a blank disk for each album copied.
This does not cost much per disk but it does add up. Another disadvantage is that if
you want the entire Stones studio album collection you would need at least 38 disks which
is not practical to carry on a bicycle.
THE mp3 WAY = With the mp3 format you have more options on where the original
album comes from. You can still use a regular music CD provided by a friend.
This is the fastest and most reliable way. If you copy from a music CD while on the
internet you will not only get the music but also the song titles and even cover
You can also receive your music through email. An Mp3 file is just like any other
file and can be sent as an attachment from a friend with the music that you
want. This is described in much more detail in the books mentioned below.
With an mp3 you do not even need the original CD or even know anyone with the music
that you want. You can get it straight off the internet. This is what the
famous Napster did (or helped people do) before they were shut down. Do not think
that just because Napster is shut down that there are not other sites that do the same
thing. There are dozens or more to choose from. You can even take your new mp3
file and copy it to a CD to be played in your Diskman or home stereo. The books
mentioned below can direct you to these music sharing sites and explain how they work and
dodge the law.
Another advantage to mp3 compactness is that you can now fit more than one album
on a writeable CD. Instead of needing 38 blank disks to buy and carry around you
can fit the entire Rolling Stones collection on one disk. This compactness is what
makes it possible to email or download songs. Instead of putting your music on a CD
you can just put the music on your hard drive. This is what I do. I have at
least 3,000 songs on our laptop and I am always looking for more.
Now because I'm mobile with a laptop it is logical to put as much music on it
and turn in into a jukebox. The problem is that I was not able to download mp3s
until a few months before I left. I barely figured out how to get the music from
the net and then immediately downloaded as much as possible. I had a 100 yard phone
cord, made from a lifetime of playing with such stuff, running to the RV while
moving out of the house. Once I moved out I was cut off from the net and shifted
over to selecting favorite songs and transferring them from some 300 CDs to
my 10 pound
A good book describing how mp3s work and where to find the free downloads on the
internet is essential. I found several good books on Amazon but really like just a
Mp3 and Internet Audio Handbook :Your Guide to the Digital Music Revolution was perfect
for me. Its information ranges from beginner to expert. It is very practical
and I still wish I had room in my panniers to bring it along. If you can only buy
one book to get you started or build on what you already know this should be
it. How to Do
Everything With MP3 and Digital Music is a bit more technical but that is why I liked
it. It really goes into the nuts and bolts of everything to do with mp3. This
book makes a good companion to the previous book and other books listed on this page.
for Dummies is from the popular Dummies series and many people are already familiar
with the format of these books. If the Dummies series has worked for you previously
for other subjects then this book should be for you. Finally there is a book that is
more concerned with the interesting history of mp3 than the "how to"
Boom: Napster, MP3, and the New Pioneers of Music is about the best that I
found. I thought that technical history would be dull but mp3 is considered a major
threat by the music industry and their reaction was intense and even surprising.
The correct software is another key to the whole mp3 thing. Good software
can make your downloads much easier and organize your ever growing collection of
music. This is how an ordinary computer becomes a jukebox. I have used several
but highly recommend Cakewalk PC
I understand and acknowledge that I am in no way an expert in this technology but
I feel that when you learn something from scratch that you are often better at getting
someone else started.