CDs are disappearing fast.
Al Fasoldt's reviews and commentaries, continuously available online since 1983

T e c h n o f i l e
CDs are so '90s! Give them up for good

Nov. 2, 2008

Ripping software listed below

By Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2008, Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2008, The Post-Standard

   My family room used to be lined with CDs -- on shallow shelves along each wall, on top of books, on the brick ledge behind the wood stove platform, on just about every surface that was flat and at least 4 inches deep. There were thousands.
   But the family room is now the computer room. The family TV is now a big HD job that hangs on the wall upstairs. The family room couch is still there, but it's occupied by dogs.
   And our CDs are disappearing fast. Over the last five years, we've been converting our music CDs to music files -- to MP3s, in other words. MP3s are special if you're like me. For one thing, they can be played on something you can stick in your pocket and hold in your hand.
   You know that already, right? You know about iPods and other little music players. The Constitution requires it. Or something like that. Nobody I know is unaware of iPods. Or admits it.
   But the best thing about MP3s is the fact that they are just files. And that means a lot. For example, it means you can store them on your computer or send them to someone else by e-mail.
   But wait. There,s something else. Since MP3s are just files, you can play them on your computer, on your PC or Mac. Are light bulbs going off? If your computer is hooked up to your sound system, you can play all the music that was once on your CDs just by cueing up the MP3s on your computer.
   Doing this is one thing that separates 20th Century technophobes from 21st Century technophiles. You might say, in a simplification, that there are only two kinds of people in the world -- those who listen to music on their stereo receiver and those who listen to music on their computer. (You in the back there, put down your hand. I said "computer" when I meant it. Little music players like iPods are computers, too, but in a limited sense. So if you listen to your music on an iPod, you,re listening on a computer.)
   So how do all those technophilliacs do this? What do they know that the rest of us don't?
   They rip.
   They rip and rip again. "Rip" doesn't mean they tear things in half. It means they turn their music CDs into MP3 files. ("Rip" also covers turning DVDs into movie files, which we,ll talk about next week.)
   You can do it, too. And it won,t cost you $800 billion. Or even a penny. You simply run the appropriate software and slip your audio CD into your computer,s CD slot or tray. Close it, and the software does the rest. It will even find out the name of the CD, the songs on the disk and the performers and put all the info into a special file when it saves the MP3.
   By far, the best CD ripping software is iTunes, available for both Windows and Macs. If you have a Mac, you,ve got iTunes already. If you have Windows, go to Apple's iTunes Web site, www.apple.com/itunes/ and download iTunes for Windows. It,s free.
   There are other rippers, of course. A simple one might be more to your taste than iTunes, which sometimes seems to take over your computer, your time and your life.
   What software ranks as my favorite for CD ripping? For Macs, as I've already pointed out, it's iTunes. Windows software that's simpler than iTunes includes Nero 9, from www.nero.com/enu/downloads-nero9-trial.php, and NTI Ripper 2 Suite from https://secure.ntius.com/ripper_estore.asp?p=Full.
    There are other rippers, of course. Here are a few others I like:
    For Windows:
     Audiograbber, from www.audiograbber.com-us.net. Free.
    Express Rip, from www.nch.com.au/rip/index.html. Free.
    For Macs:
    Dragon Burn, from www.ntius.com/dragon_burn.asp. $40.
    Max, from http://sbooth.org/Max. Free.