Q: I want to burn some music from my old records and tapes. How can I do this? — unklee@hotmail.com A: It just struck me how "burn"...

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Q: I want to burn some music from my old records and tapes. How can I do this?


A: It just struck me how “burn” has become a verb meaning to copy music onto a CD or other media. I guess altering the dye on a plastic disc is sort of like burning, since it does involve intense light, though nothing is combusted. But I digress.

There are four things you need to turn those LPs and tapes into digitized music. First, you need a digitizer, which can be either your sound card or a dedicated piece of hardware. Second, you’ll need an appropriate cable to get the music from your stereo to your computer. Third, you need the software to do the recording. Finally, you’ll need a good bit of disc space.

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If your computer is relatively new, you probably have an adequate sound card already in your computer. But keep in mind that with sound cards, as with most other things, you generally get what you pay for. If you’re demanding of your recordings, a low-cost digitizer may not deliver the quality you want.

As for the cable, you can pick one up at an electronics store for around $30. Just make sure what kind of audio outport you have on your stereo (probably RCA) and check the audio in port on your sound card.

As for the software, your sound card may have come with a jukebox program that supports digitizing from LPs and tapes. If not, or if you want something with more features, you can buy a program. A low-cost solution is MusicMatch JukeBox. There’s a free download version, which doesn’t digitize, and a $19.99 version that does. Find out more at www.musicmatch.com.

Using a computer that has a good amount of memory can make the process easier. And remember that you’ll need a good bit of free space on your hard drive. A single song recorded at the highest rates can chew up multiple megabytes.

Most recording software, by the way, allows you to choose from a variety of digital-file formats and recording rates. The most popular format is MP3 and the most common recording setting is 128-bit. The higher the bit rate, the better the recording. Unfortunately, higher bit rates also make for larger files. I’d recommend starting at 128-bit and seeing if the quality is good enough for you.

Q: I am using Outlook Express for my e-mail. Last week I noticed that there was a contact entry to my contacts list that I had not entered. I am the only one who knows the password to my account, or at least I think I am. I thought maybe you might be able to shed some light on the subject. Maybe it would be a good idea to change my password. The folks at Comcast did not know how the entry got on my contacts list. They said to delete it, and if it happens again be sure to call them.

— Donald Minch

A: Sure, it would probably be a good idea to change your password frequently. There are, however, two other possibilities. First, you may have a virus. Second, and somewhat more likely, you or someone else may have inadvertently clicked on the “Add Sender to Address Book” option when a received e-mail was highlighted. This option is available when you right-click on an e-mail.

Q: I get a lot of PDF files, but many times I don’t want to save all the pages. Is there a way to save just some of the pages in a PDF file to a new PDF file?

— Gary Zeune

A: The answer is … it depends.

If you’re using the full version of Adobe Acrobat and not just the Reader, and if the PDF file you have open is editable, you can delete or extract pages by going to the Document menu.

If you’re using Acrobat Reader you can’t do this. It is, after all, just a reader.

Questions for Patrick Marshall may be sent by e-mail to pmarshall@seattletimes.com or pgmarshall@pgmarshall.net, or by mail at Q&A/Technology, The Seattle Times, P.O. Box 70, Seattle, WA 98111. More columns at www.seattletimes.com/columnists.