Convert your WMA Files to MP3

Recommending Windows Media Player 7 (WMP7) a couple of issues back resulted in quite a bit of email, much of it rehashing the conflict between WMP7 and Adaptec's EZ CD Creator 3.5. We covered that problem in our WinInfo Daily UPDATE, and both Microsoft and Adaptec have released fixes to deal with the problem. Several readers have asked how to switch between Microsoft's Windows Media Audio (WMA) format and the more common MP3 format. A number of readers, including myself, use WMA because it provides more efficient compression at the 96K and 128K encoding level (fewer artifacts than MP3 encoding at the same rate). These readers want to know whether they can convert their store of WMA files to use on hardware devices designed for MP3 playback. I suppose they also want to trade music with friends running platforms that don't yet support WMA (Linux comes to mind).

A Web search discovered the Shuffler Music Converter program. This neat little application appears in the Windows Explorer context menu as a Convert To option and lets you convert between WAV, WMA, and MP3 file formats. The current version includes a nice tool for selecting which files you want to convert, if you like to work in a batch convert mode. I've successfully used this feature on both Windows 2000 and Windows NT 4.0 to convert files from WMA to MP3 and vice versa. Converting from WMA is tedious because the conversion happens at the same speed the music plays (a 4-minute song takes 4 minutes to convert), but using the batch mode as a background task makes the application very usable. Converting MP3 files to WMA is a lot faster. The program is free, and the code is open source. The Web site offers a few other audio file tools and players and is worth visiting.

This week's tip:
Last week's tip about a method for quickly shutting down a system prompted some readers to ask how to force a system shutdown without saving any in-process data (That's what Win2K/NT is doing during that long period after you tell it to shutdown). This trick is also known as the four-finger salute because it uses the keystroke combination control-alt-shift-delete. You can enable the feature on any NT 4.0 Service Pack 4 (SP4) system or later.

  1. Launch regedit.
  2. Go to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\WindowsNT\CurrentVersion\Winlogon.
  3. In the right pane, right-click and create a new string value EnableQuickReboot and set the text string to 1.
  4. Exit regedit and reboot.

Some descriptions of this process indicate that it writes an unexpected event shutdown message to the system log. When I tested the procedure while writing this tip, it generated no system log message. Remember, if you have open applications with unsaved data, you'll lose that data if you enable this feature.

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