How to turn Windows into a jukebox
(IDG) -- Last week I wrote about the digital music format MP3. Audio tracks that have been converted into this file format can be downloaded from the Web and played through the speakers of your multimedia PC by freeware and shareware programs. There are now thousands of tracks to download, many from musicians who haven't signed with any record labels.
This week I'll show you where to get music suited to your tastes, and how to turn Windows into a form of intelligent jukebox.
Step 1: First you need some playback software. I've already described MusicMatch Jukebox, available from MusicMatch. The free version plays MP3 files and converts as many as five tracks from your CD collection to the MP3 format. The $29.99 registered version is unlimited.
A variety of other players are available from mp3.com, a Grand Central Station for digital music. Go to www.mp3.com/software for a collection of programs that includes the Nad MP3 Player (free) and the popular WinAmp ($10 or more, depending on the version).
Many MP3 players are highly customizable. Digital music aficionados seem to like to reposition the buttons on the interface where they want them, change the color and texture of the player, and so forth.
The customization of MP3 players is so common that different looks are called "skins." For example, mp3.com offers a CD-ROM containing a wealth of players and utilities, as well as 1,175 freeware WinAmp skins.
Step 2: Next you need audio tracks to play. If you can't find music you like at www.mp3.com/music, there are plenty of choices.
Audiofind, at www.audiofind.com, is a useful index of music sorted by title, artist, and genre. There are 30 different genres listed, so you're bound to find something that suits your tastes. If the alphabetical listings don't meet your needs, you can also search on any word in a title or name. Audiofind also helps you buy regular audio CDs.
If you ever wondered what the artists were actually saying in their songs, you can try lyrics.ch. This Swiss site links to the lyrics of more than 100,000 songs. MusicMatch Jukebox can download lyrics from this site to display while playing the songs.
For a listing of dozens of other music sites, go to 100hot.com Music. This Web page sorts music sites by popularity, leading you to commercial and independent sources of audio CDs, MP3 files, and much more.
Step 3: If you're noticing that it's a lot of work to download all these songs one by one, you'll want to automate the process. This is made possible by MP3-Wolf, a shareware program that searches the Web and downloads the types of music you like.
MP3-Wolf -- by Trellian Australia, which makes several good Internet search tools -- starts from a site like Audiofind and a keyword you enter, such as "rock" or "jazz." It then downloads from links that contain MP3 files with your particular emphasis. MP3-Wolf can't pick out the songs you like, of course. But it's easier to choose music this way than to download individual files.
You can obtain MP3-Wolf from Trellian Australia. The free version is limited in the number of links it can index. The $25 registered version has unlimited indexing, and it can download from 20 Web sites simultaneously.
Next week: A technical review of the Diamond Multimedia Rio, the portable player for MP3 files.
Brian Livingston's latest book is Windows 98 Secrets (IDG Books). Send tips to email@example.com. He regrets that he cannot answer individual questions.
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