Some music fans hide shameful little secrets in their basements, garages, and crawlspaces: pleather carrying cases and shoe boxes filled with audio cassettes the sad jetsam of the digital media revolution. I used to run across my own water-damaged box about once a month while I searched for places to stash the latest haul of diapers from the warehouse store. Whenever I tossed it around, my music tapes rattled in protest, and I felt a little pang of regret that I had let my high school memories slowly degrade on magnetic tape. Before my cassettes joined my black Chucks and suburban teen angst in 80’s slacker heaven, I decided to grant them immortality by converting them into digital media files.

You might have your own fading memories trapped on cassette tapes, but now there is something you can do about it. There are a variety of tools you can use to convert analog recordings to digital sound files external sound cards, encoding software, even USB tape decks. Before you begin, however, you should know that any conversion process you use will take some time and will ultimately sound, well, like an old cassette tape. It doesn’t really make sense to convert a commercially released album that you can easily buy on CD or download as an MP3, but if your old recordings have personal value to you, it might well be worth the effort to convert them. More »

msdos

If you try to run an old DOS game on Vista, you’ll probably get an error “This system does not support fullscreen mode.” Fortunately, this isn’t a dead end. Download a copy of DOSBox, the greatest MS-DOS emulator for any platform (Windows, Linux, Mac OS X, and more), and try running your game under DOSBox. Not only will you get support for old-school graphics like CGA and EGA, you can even run it in a window!

Microsoft raves about how Media Player plays DVDs. But that’s a lie. Windows XP can’t play DVDs right out of the box. See, even though you’ve bought a Windows XP computer, a DVD drive, and a DVD, you need something else: special software called a decoder. This bit of software, called a codec because it converts one format to another, enables your computer to translate numbers on a disc into videos of galloping horses on the screen.

Unfortunately, Windows XP doesn’t come with a DVD codec, so you must pick up one somewhere else. Where? Well, most computers with DVD drives come with DVD-playing software a little box with its own little controls. That software installs its own DVD codec in Windows, and Media Player simply borrows that. But if you don’t have DVD-playing software, there’s nothing to borrow, and Media Player ignores your DVDs.
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