Adventures in MP3 - A Diary.

By Helen McGovern- 3/6/00

We are proud to present to you a first in a new series by Helen McGovern. An MP3 newcomer, she has generously allowed us to follow her first foray into the world of digital music on the Net. We hope this diary will help all the beginners out there who are looking to start their own collection of downloaded music. - Editor


The Rio Volt SP250 has an FM tuner and is available on Amazon

Well, here I sit at my computer in preparation for my first MP3 experience. I have been asked to write an article on ease of use for the first time MP3 user. My friend Rich, creator of the MP3 Newswire website, thought I would be the perfect candidate to chronicle the thrills and frustrations of the average first-timer based on my qualifications….

  1. I am a moderate technophobe…I like my answering machine, hate my vcr, think my cell phone has way too many functionalities, and frequently use a computer with great success all the while knowing absolutely nothing about why or how it works.
  2. I know nothing about MP3 short of the fact that it has to do with downloading music from the web for my personal enjoyment.
  3. I readily admit I have the attention span of a tsetse fly

Rich says I am a first-rate guinea pig (that charmer).

I have decided on three goals:

1. Find and download whatever program I need.
2. Find one song and get it to play.
3. Do it within a short time frame and spend no money doing it.

Time limitation is important on my MP3 adventure, since I assume that one of the reasons for MP3's popularity is its ability to save you time. I have been told it is relatively easy, even for a novice, to master. I figure that two and a half hours of my valuable time is plenty to spend learning this stuff. Anything more than that and I might as well hop in my care and drive to the store. The no-money part is a no-brainer.

I will be using MP3 Newswire as my base of operations. From here I will travel on the web to learn the what, whys, and hows of MP3. I feel the adrenaline rush as I prepare to join the truly techno-savy. I am off!

Thursday, March 2nd - 1:15

I start off at the MP3 Newswire homepage and quickly spot the beginner's link which prompts me to the Lycos "How To Download" page. Seems simple enough, I first need to download a "player" program, but how do I know which one is best and does it matter at all? Hmm. Luckily, MP3Newswire lists links for various "players" and gives a word or two about them. Sonique looks truly slick, but also a bit daunting for me just yet. Some are free downloads and some cost a few dollars, I'm going with a freebee (I'm not just a technophobe, I'm a cheap technophobe).

FreeAmp looks like a good choice. Seems to have a relatively easy user interface and true to its title…is free. I choose a download of FreeAmp 2.0.4 Installer for Windows 95/98/NT from their site and save the 2.27 MB file in a temp folder. Then, using the defaults, install it in almost less time that it takes to type this sentence.

Everything looks great and suddenly I am confronted by an odd prompt box that asks "music files normally associated with FreeAmp have been associated with another application. Do you want to reclaim these music files?" Nobody has been putting music on my computer so what is it talking about? My personal approach to computer prompt boxes I don't understand is to click no and ignore it. The box goes away and since my computer doesn't blow up, I assume all is well. Now suddenly appears a little gadget on my screen that looks like a cross between a pager and a cassette player. Buttons for forward, reverse, volume, etc. and buttons for My Music, Options, Download, and Files. All this and it only takes me 40 minutes from log-on to finish.

That was relatively painless, but now what do I do with it? I need a song!

Back to the MP3 Newswire homepage.

Now is the time to let my naivety show. I foolishly believe that if finding and loading the player program had been relatively easy, finding a simple song and downloading it should be easy too…HA!

Thankfully, MP3 Newswire lists Top Search Engines right at the top of their site page---convenient and easy. I finally find "The World is Not Enough" by Garbage after searching four music sites. Good MP3 has it. MP3 Newswire lists Good MP3 as "a good site for the easily frustrated" and by the time I get to it, I am frustrated all right. All in all, it takes me about 30 minutes to find the song and download it and another 10 to 15 minutes futzing around with FreeAmp to get it playing.

In conclusion (I'm writing while listing to my song), I find my first adventure in MP3 a success. Getting up and running is pretty easy, even for the technologically inept with low frustration thresholds such as myself. MP3 has a lot of potential for enhancing personal enjoyment while working on the computer, and I am definitely going to put together music for my own listening pleasure. But I think the trick is finding the music you like and that might be a bit more challenging then one would expect. Ah, fodder for another adventure.

Read: Adventures in MP3 Part II - A Diary

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