Apps of Interest: Audacity

Use : Audio editor and recorder
Platform: Microsoft Windows
Current version:  1.2.6 (stable) , 1.3.13 (beta)
Website:  http://audacity.sourceforge.net/

Audacity for Windows

Audacity 1.2.6 on Microsoft Windows

Audacity is a freeware audio editor and recorder. It supports importing and processing of mp3, wav, ogg audio files. You can also use it as recorder, if you have microphones and/or headsets. Working on multiple tracks is possible, as seen in the screenshot above. Various effects can be applied to the audio. Fade, normalize, amplification.

The Memory usage for me was around 20 MB and the hard disk usage is just under 9 MBs v 1.2.6. Even though the Audacity website states that 1.2.6 is not supported on Windows Vista. I am able to run, process, and save/export audio files just fine. 1.3.13 (beta) is giving me a little trouble  due to compatibility issues with LAME.

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DCT Factory OG-1050 PC speakers

DCT Factory OG 1050 (Black) front view

Package Includes:

  • Left and Right Channel speakers
  • 1 Subwoofer (holds the volume, on/off button)
  • 1 3.5 mm stereo cable (to connect to your computer or Portable device)

Everything connects to the subwoofer

  • Speakers connect to the line out via a single 3.5 mm cable
  • You can connect a Computer or portable audio Player via the line in plug via the second 3.5 mm cable in the box

This is a very basic and cheap PC speaker set.  The speakers are quite light and feel very hollow. The stands do provide some stability, but these can be knocked over quite easily. The sound is alright, nothing too exciting but it gets the job done. Don’t be fooled by the 600 Watt (P.M.P.O) listing on the box, because it’s just ridiculous. My main issue with the OG 1050 is that I get a buzzing static noises at completely random times. I don’t have a cell phone anywhere near these things and so I can’t really figure out what’s causing the problem.  I’ve doubled checked the audio cables. The power cable is attached to the subwoofer and it is really short, and that’s something to think about.

I’ve found this unit going for around $10-20 (US). I got it for free when helping someone get a new pc. You should  look into a better set of speakers if possible.

Update (2/20/2011): After a few  days of continuous use the left channel speaker has lost some audio loudness. This creates an unbalanced stereo sound experience.

Additional Info:
DCT Factory OG 1050 product page

-Tony


Apps of Interest: foobar2000

Use: Audio Player
Platform: Windows
Current version: 0.9.6.9
Website: http://www.foobar2000.org/

Audio Playback

This piece of software plays the usual formats MP3, WMA Wav and Audio CDs. It also supports Ogg, FLAC, MP4 (Audio only) and AIFF. It can be extended a little farther by adding components (plugins) to the components sub-folder.

User Interface

It’s simple and straightforward (for the most part) with the standard playback functions you would expect. Play once, repeat and shuffle functions are available. One of the main features that I really like about this app is that you can setup multiple playlists into tabs that you can organize to your liking. There are various playlist view sorting options and “Drag and Drop” is also supported. Playlists can be imported and exported in M3U format, which really helped me out when I first switched over from Winamp. Hotkeys can be customized if you use them. It also comes with some visualizations but I like to stick with the VU Meter.

Another nice feature is that you can customize the layout of the UI by using an included preset or by setting it up from scratch.
View>Layout
It took me a little while to get it to my liking. Lots of trial and error on this one:

foobar2000 custom_layout

Custom layout example

Media Library
This is the weakest feature of the entire app in my opinion. I only have it set to monitor a specific list of folders and then I filter through the library index by using the search box. Album Art is supported but I recommended having them embedded to the file (like how podcasts do it), otherwise you would have to put each album or song inside its own sub-folder. Windows Media Player, iTunes, Songbird all have a way more usable Media Library.

Components
There are plenty of plugins available here but the only really plugin I ever add is Pause On Lock.

What it does:When you “Lock” your computer via Windows Key + L or switch to a different user, it automatically pauses the audio at that instant. It will resume the moment you “Unlock” your computer or switch back to that user account.

To use a different plugin all you have to do is download corresponding file (usually a zip file) extract the contents to the components sub-folder and then restart foobar2000.

System Resources

It actually doesn’t use that much in term of CPU cycles and system memory.  I was only seeing it use 8-16 MBs of RAM and the CPU hardly even took a hit.  I don’t use any of the DSP (Digital signal processing) plugins  so your own experience may vary.

Other Notable Features

Audio CD Playing/ Ripping: File> Open Audio CD… (Play or Rip)

Listen to Shoutcast Streams: File> Add Location… (insert the url of the shoutcast station playlist)

Edit ID3 Tags/Metadata: Highlight a playlist item and hit Alt+Enter on keyboard

Convert Audio files to different formats: Highlight a playlist item, right click and select Convert…


Additional Info:
Official FAQ
Forums
Wiki

-Tony