Category: Software


Buying music on iTunes may sound like an easy task. However, there can be some decisions to make before clicking that buy button. Here are some tips to consider when buying music on iTunes so that you don’t waste your money.


Buy Remastered Music

Older music that was originally recorded on tape or analog media is usually remastered for better quality sound. Since several copies of a particular song may exist on iTunes, it is important to listen to each preview carefully to determine which one sounds the best. Here are some things to listen for when comparing a song that is not marked as remastered:

  • Treble and bass response (should be crisp and clear, bass should stand out)
  • Dynamic range (variation in the volume, should not be flat/dynamically compressed)
  • Loudness (Remastered songs are usually louder compared to their original releases)

Note: A good speaker setup is required for best results and accurate comparison. A high quality 2.1 (two speakers + sub woofer) setup is recommended.


Buying The Right Version
Different versions of a song might exist on iTunes. They can include album version, single version, radio version/edit, explicit, clean, etc.

Single versions are usually album versions that have been edited for time, though sometimes can contain a different mix of music. Radio versions/edits can also be edited for time, but for content also. Because of the 1:30 preview that iTunes provides, it’s sometimes not enough to determine if the song you’ll be buying is the version that you want. A good way to verify is to take note of the song’s playing time and do a search for the song on YouTube. Find a video with a playing time that’s the same or close to the desired song on iTunes. Listen to the song on YouTube as it can help you take note of any time edits. If time edits are present and you want a “fuller” version, repeat the process comparing another song on iTunes with a longer playing time.

Explicit and clean versions of songs can also be hard to compare due to the 1:30 preview. iTunes usually has explicit markings on songs to warn buyers of inappropriate content, but that may not always be the case with clean versions. If you want to verify a clean version of a song, you can try searching for the song on YouTube by adding “clean” in the search box.


Buy Your Music When It’s On Sale

iTunes occasionally marks some popular music down to 69 cents, which is half of the original price. The discounts happen several times a year and usually last for 2 weeks. When another sale occurs, different songs are marked down, though it is possible for songs previously marked down to go on sale again in the future. If you don’t mind waiting for a song to go on sale, you can add it to your wish list. Check your wish list next time iTunes has a 69 cent sale to see if your music is marked down.

Note: When a song does go on sale, it is usually selected from a single album. This makes it difficult if you are looking for a particular version (described above) as the hosting album is either picked at random or by agreement from the record company. There’s a small chance that a song might be discounted on multiple albums, resulting in one that contains the version you are looking for.

Advertisements

On April 24, 2012, Microsoft updated its free anti-virus software from version 2 to version 4, jumping over 3 in the process. Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE)  has been a good alternative for Norton. It is very fast and uses very little resources. Version 2 has been my favorite so far, and after the update, it still is.

That’s because I am disappointed that Microsoft degraded the look of MSE in version 4. The background image is gone, leaving a rendered gray to blue background in its place, similar to the first version.  The icons in the tabs are now gone, and the status bar at the top is now a solid color bar, with no gradual fading or “glossiness”.

  

Under the history tab, the same options remain. They are, however, moved around a bit.

   

Under the settings tab, the real-time protection section is now left with one setting; turn on real-time protection. The scan all downloads, monitor file and program activity on your computer, and enable behavior monitoring have all been removed. I don’t know if the removed options are integrated into the real-time protection option. The Microsoft SpyNet has been renamed to MAPS.

  

Finally, MSE now refers “computer” to PC. Other then that, MSE 4 works the same as version 2.

Activation is a technology used by Microsoft to ensure that you are following the end-user license agreement (EULA). Activation makes sure that the software is installed on the number of computers allowable and minimizes piracy from copying and lending installation CD’s. Here are some questions about activation.

Can I install a Microsoft product that has already been activated?
Yes, but you have to uninstall the software from the original computer and wait at least 90 days from the last activation before activating again. If activation fails, you can try the activate by phone method. (OEM copies are NOT transferable).

Can I activate a Microsoft product on more than one computer?
That depends. You should read the EULA to determine how many computers that product can be installed and activated on. Windows 7 and some Microsoft Office editions offer a 3-user license which entitles you to install the software on up to 3 computers at a time. Some editions of Office allow you to install a second copy on a portable device, as long as you ae the primary user of that device.

What happens if Microsoft detects the same activated product key on two or more computers?
The software may “phone home” at times to make sure that the same product key isn’t actively being used on more than one computer or what the EULA/product key allows. If it does find a violation, the software may ask you to re-activate the software on both systems. At that point, you must decide which computer you wish to activate the software on.

Is Windows Genuine Advantage the same as activation?
No. Windows Genuine Advantage verifies that you are not using a counterfeit copy of Windows, although it can send activation status of Microsoft products verifying that the software isn’t actively being used on more than what the EULA/product key allows.

You may have an audio CD in your collection that has some type of content at the beginning or end of a track that you wish to exclude before importing (ripping) it to your computer. An option in iTunes allows you to modify the start/stop time for each track so you can remove unwanted content before you import the song to your computer.

In my example, I’ll be using a Radio Disney Jams CD. Despite the album name, the disc contains some good songs such as Get Ready for This, Ghostbusters, U Can’t Touch This, and I Got You (I Feel Good). The downside is that some tracks have Disc Jockeys talking after the song has ended, and track 1 (Get Ready for This) starts off with the station’s theme song. Using iTunes, the “useless” content can be trimmed from these tracks, and then imported to your computer where your time modifications will apply to the AAC/MP3 file.

(I’ll be trimming off the theme song from track 1. Get Ready for This starts at about 0:30.100 – so this will be my start time).

  1. Open iTunes and insert your audio CD.
  2. Right click (command + click) on your desired track and select Get Info.
  3. Click on the Options tab.
  4. Change the values for when you want the song to start/stop. The format is Mins:Seconds.Milliseconds
  5. When you are finished, click OK.

Listen to the track and make sure it starts/stops where you want it to. You may have to repeat these steps several times and increase/decrease values in small increments to fine tune the positions.

Once you have your times set for the desired tracks, import your CD into iTunes. Once importing has completed, find your song(s) in your iTunes Library. The time modifications should have been applied to the AAC/MP3 file and the trimmed content should not be present in the file itself.

In June of 2010, Adobe released a new version of Adobe Flash Player, version 10.1. Most users will see a pop-up window from Adobe asking if you want to update Flash Player while Windows starts. Most users like me typically go ahead and install the update since it takes less than a minute to download and install. However, as of now, DO NOT UPDATE ADOBE FLASH PLAYER TO 10.1!

I have three computers currently affected by this update. The problem: online videos on YouTube, Hulu, etc. are now plagued by choppiness and screen tearing- full screen viewing or regular webpage viewing. One computer will not display YouTube videos in full screen mode anymore since it has an outdated video card. All you see is a “white screen of death” instead. Pressing the escape key usually will get you back.

A forum on Adobe’s website claims that Adobe Flash Player 10.1 now uses Direct3D to render video instead of DirectDraw. I’m wondering if this is the problem with the screen tearing. Turning off the hardware acceleration option in the Flash Player settings will fix the white screen, but video quality will suffer. Updating outdated video cards to the latest version may also solve the white screen problem, but is not a guarantee.

I will try to contact Adobe with my problems. As for now, I will not install Flash Player 10.1 on my other computers. I will also try to downgrade Adobe Flash Player back to version 10.