Ask Rick Maybury 2012



Ask Rick 212 07/07/12


Only A Matter Of Time

I am thinking of buying an MP3 player but I cannot find out how much music, in terms of time, I can store on one with a 4Gb memory. I have been told it could be as many as 900 songs but no one can tell me how long one of these songs is. I wish to record classical music, which are definitely not songs!

Alan Jeal, by email


With so many variables to contend with this is one of those how-long-is-a-piece-of-string questions. There no simple correlation between the capacity of a digital storage medium and the amount of music it can hold but we can make a few assumptions and do some simple sums to get some rough and ready figures.


The two key factors are the length of each track or movement and the bitrate of the encoding system. The latter is determined by where you get your music from, such as a download website or software on your PC used to ‘rip’ or record tracks from CDs or vinyl albums),


Bitrates for the most widely used digital recording formats used by personal music players ranges between 64 kilobits per second (kbps) and 320 kbps. For this example we’ll use a bitrate of 256kbps, which is widely used and yields moderate to good audio quality. Popular music tracks are usually reckoned to be between 3 and 5 minutes, so for the sake of argument and simplicity we will say that classical music tracks are 10 minutes, or 600 seconds long. To work out the file size of a 10-minute track in kilobits all we have to do is multiply time by bitrate (i.e. 600 x 256 = 153,600). Kilobits are not very convenient, so we have to convert them to kilobytes and megabytes. There are 8 bits in a byte we divide 153,600 by 8, which comes to 19,200kb, or 19.2 megabytes. Finally, to find out how many 10 minutes tracks you can get on a 4Gb (4,000Mb) drive we divide 19.2 into 4000, and get 208.3, which is 2083 minutes, or almost 35 hours worth of music. 


It’s All In The Detail

I have read that TVs can work as computer monitors, so I tried connecting my Windows 7 computer to a 21in Sony TV, which has a resolution of 1024 x 768 pixels. The TV picture is good, but as a monitor it leaves much to be desired, with text somewhat blurry. Is it my imagination?

Alfred Martin, by email


Flat panel TVs and PC monitors are now very similar but it’s still a case of horses for courses. In general computer monitor screens have many more pixels, packed closer together, which is better for close-up viewing, displaying finely detailed static graphic images and to cover a wide range of resolutions. TV screens are optimised for distance viewing, of less detailed moving images, over a much narrower range of resolutions. Whilst many flat screen TVs can handle the most widely used PC display resolutions you will normally find that they work best at their native resolution (in your case 1024 x 768). In order to display higher resolutions the image has to be re-processed or up-scaled, which result in the reduction in sharpness that you have noticed.


Protection Racket

I and a colleague have a mobile recording unit mainly recording brass bands and amateur orchestras. The end product is audio CD’s; do you know of any way to copy protect our recordings?

James Cowburn, by email


The cleverest minds in the recording industry have been working on that problem since CDs first appeared in the early 1980s but to date no system has ever worked properly. The main stumbling block is the need for audio CDs to conform to a common technical standard, known as the Red Book. This ensures that discs will play on any device, whether it’s a dedicated CD player or a PC with a CD drive. Any deviation from the standard, such as adding spoiler signals, changing the file structure or table of contents or fiddling with the data, runs a high risk of the disc not playing and lots of disgruntled customers. In the end, though, even if a way was found to prevent digital copying there’s nothing to stop anyone making high quality analogue copies of your recordings. The law is on your side and copyright infringement carries stiff penalties but getting a conviction can be a difficult and costly business.


Tour Guide

I would like improve the website I have created to market my holiday property by including a virtual-tour. Is this something I can do with a conventional digital camera or does it require expensive equipment and software?

Peter Kent, by email


No special equipment is needed and you can use virtually any digital camera, camcorder, even a smartphone to shoot basic images or panoramas for use in your tour. You’ll find dozens of programs if you Google Virtual Tour software, though some of them are fairly expensive, but there are plenty of trial versions available. However, to get an idea of what’s involved I would begin with some of the freebie offerings and here’s a few to get you started: YouVR, 3DVista, Clevr


Change of Address

I recently switched my phone and broadband supplier, and at the same time, in case I switched again, decided to have my own portable mail address. So far so good. There is one slightly annoying issue, however. Whenever I fill in forms on web pages, as soon I start to key in my email address, it automatically inserts my old mail address. Is there anyway I can tell my computer that it has changed?

Gordon Fox, by email


This is your browser’s autofill or auto complete function trying to be helpful. On most popular browsers (IE, Firefox, Chrome etc.) you can switch off it altogether, check the options under Privacy or Content on the Tools menu. Otherwise you can usually remove an old or erroneous entry by highlighting or hovering the mouse pointer over it and click the Delete key on your keyboard.




© R. Maybury 2012 1806


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