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Tech View
Kiman Wong

Got a question? I might
have an answer

I love to get email from readers. You guys have great questions and I try to answer the most popular ones. What Im going to do is an occasional series that answers some of these terrific questions so that a larger number of people can see them. So here goes:

Question: What's the best type of software to store and play your CDs onto a PC? Is there a faster way to go about this than what meets the eye?

Answer: The good news is that there's a ton of free software on the Net that you can download that will allow you to copy CDs onto a PC. These include include Microsoft Corp.'s Windows Media Player, Yahoo Inc.'s Musicmatch Jukebox, Apple's iTunes, and RealNetworks Inc.'s RealPlayer.

If your aim is to transfer your music collection to an iPod, iTunes is the best bet because it was built to integrate with the iPod. If you have a different brand of portable music player such as the Rio unit from D&M Holdings or any of the "Zen" MP3 players built by Creative Technology Ltd., you're better off using Yahoo's Musicmatch Jukebox or the Windows Media Player rather than the iTunes which wasn't really designed for those items.

Now the bad news: Ripping (converting the CD audio to MP3 format for computers) CDs is a time-consuming process. It reminds me of the old days when wed make copies of our old fashioned hard drives by popping floppy disks into our computer and stacking them up like a deck of cards. If you've got a large collection of CDs you can either hire a middle school kid to do the work or hang around your computer and wait the six to 10 minutes per disc as the computer rips the songs.

Another alternative is to use a commercial service such as RipDigital, which will copy CDs onto DVDs in the MP3 format. The DVDs, which have a much higher storage capacity, can then be more easily copied onto a computer. The downside is that this is not cheap.

Figure on paying $130 for copying 100 CDs and $250 for 250.

Ripshark provides a similar service.

Q: Should I give away my desktop PC to my nephew and replace it with a laptop?

A: This is a question that people ask me all the time and my answer is unequivocally "No."

Just the other day I was talking to my friend John who works downtown and he was not a happy camper. His laptop, which was purchased at Costco, was out of commission and he had no option but to send it to the mainland. The upshot is that he'll be out of luck until he gets it back.

Sure, laptops have a lot of advantages. They are portable and nowadays every bit as powerful as desktops. They have also dropped in price over the past few years and many have huge screens.

While these developments are all fine and good, most of them aren't being repaired locally. Desktops, while klunkier, all have interchangeable parts so that many hobbyists can even fix their own if a power supply or a VGA card goes on the blink. You simply can't do this with laptops. Laptop parts are generally proprietary and it's not a good idea to go poking around their insides trying to fix them on your own. Naturally, laptops are also more likely to be stolen.

Kiman Wong is general manager of digital phone at Oceanic Time Warner Cable. He can be reached at kiman.wong@oceanic.com

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