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March 2006

This chapter is from the book

FRIDAY: MARCH 31, 2006

THIS WEEK’S FOCUS: Windows Media Center

MEDIA CENTER MY MUSIC

I primarily use my Media Center PC as a digital music jukebox. I’ve ripped my entire CD collection to hard disk and now can play back any album in any order at any time, using Windows Media Center for navigation. It’s like having a giant iPod in my living room—but with true CD-quality sound.

The first thing you need to do is tell Media Center to store your music in WMA Lossless format. Using any other form of compression will dramatically affect the audio quality of the recordings; with WMA Lossless, a CD only takes up about 250MB of disk space and you retain the original audio quality. Unfortunately, you can’t make this selection from within Media Center. You have to exit the Media Center interface, start up the Windows Media Player software, and make this selection from the Tools, Options menu.

After you have WMP configured, you can start ripping your CDs. It takes a little less than five minutes to rip each CD in WMA Lossless format, so if you have a large music collection this could take some time. About 98% of the time Media Center downloads the correct track information and album art, which means every now and then you’ll have to do a little manual tweaking. To retype album and artist info, select the album in My Music and press the Info button on your remote; to retype individual track info, select the track and press Info. To change album art, you’ll have to use a third-party utility, such as Album Art Fixer (http://www.avsoft.nl/artfixer/).

Playing back your music is easy. You can select music by album, artist, or genre, or create your own playlists. Unfortunately, creating a playlist from within Media Center is tedious and somewhat counterintuitive; it’s easier to exit Media Center and create your playlists from within Windows Media Player, instead.

ON THIS DAY: DAYLIGHT SAVINGS TIME BEGINS (1918)

On the last day of March 1918, the United States first observed Daylight Saving Time. The concept had already been introduced in Great Britain as a fuel-saving measure during World War I; the idea was introduced in the U.S. by the Daylight Savings Association and New York Senator William M. Calder.

WEBSITE OF THE WEEK: THE GREEN BUTTON

If you’re a Windows Media Center user, you have to visit The Green Button, a website devoted to everything Media Center. Here you can find answers to all your questions, as well as links to some of the best Media Center add-ins and utilities. Bookmark it at http://www.thegreenbutton.com.

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