Jewish World Review Jan. 21, 2004 / 27 Teves, 5764


Other products on market to clean up audio; Is there some kind of program running in the background needed to shut down before trying to defrag the C drive?; problem when booting up computer

By James Coates

http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | (KRT) Q. Regarding your recent column on the Microsoft Plus Digital Media add-on to record music and get rid of noise like scratches, pops, clicks, etc., I checked the Web site at Microsoft (www.microsoft.com/mediacenter) and it seems like that software is only for Windows XP. I have Windows 2000 Professional.

I just kind of wished you had mentioned that in the column to save me getting interested and wasting time going to the Microsoft Web site. I think some of the CD-burning software (Nero, Roxio) might have the audio-editing/cleanup software. Any ideas?

David Strom @speakeasy/net

A. This kind of confusion occurs as Microsoft works behind the scenes making software exclusively for XP to force upgrades on a world it already dominates. In this case the title itself is Microsoft Plus for Windows XP Digital Media Edition, but just because it has XP in the name doesn't let me or Microsoft off the hook for causing you inconvenience, Mr. S. Sorry.

More important, let's talk about alternatives to the roughly $40 one pays for the $20 Plus for Windows XP and the required $20 Digital Media Plug-in. Let's start with the superb Roxio Easy CD and DVD Creator 6.0 that costs $80, after a $20 mail-in rebate, at www.roxio.com and usually less at stores. This software offers an absolutely first-rate module that lets users plug the line out from a stereo player (LP turntable, cassette, etc.) into the line in on a PC sound card and transfer analog recordings into digital files that can be burned onto CDs. It also includes a sound-editing module to remove pops, hisses and crackles and equalizes sound to simulate such environments as a studio, a theater or a concert hall.

This software runs on Windows 98 and Windows 2000 as well as XP and is an expanded version of the Easy CD Creator software from Roxio bundled with a great many Windows 98 and Windows 2000 machines but usually not with XP.

I must caution that my own tests and reviews by other computer writers found that Roxio 6.0 could cause problems if loaded on machines that also have other CD recording software (such as Nero) onboard.

Nero Ultra Edition 6, the other major product for CD burning on Windows 98/2000/XP, also handles this analog-music recording function admirably but costs $100 instead of Roxio's rebated $80.

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Both of these packages go far beyond just recording analog music and can handle everything from ripping songs from store-bought CDs all the way up to creating, editing and burning DVDs.

There is a bare-bones product called Music CD Recorder 3.0 that I can recommend from the low-cost, high-quality software house of Data Becker Corp. (www.databecker.com) that handles only the rudimentary tasks of recording analog music and tweaking sound files to fix hisses and such.

This down-and-dirty software works great but lacks the wonderful range of sound-fixing features included in Roxio and Nero. On the other hand, at $20, it is far cheaper and works great with Windows 98 and 2000 as well as XP.

Q. I've heard that it's a good thing to defragment one's hard drive periodically, so I tried to do it the other day. My Windows XP Sony Vaio is equipped with two internal hard drives--C and D.

Most of the programs are on the C drive. The D drive has substantially less information on it, and I defragged it with no problem.

When I tried to do the same with the C drive, the progress bar showing the status of the operation would get only as far as 3 percent and then start all over again at 0 percent. No matter how long I let it go (hours), it would keep resetting to zero once it reached 3 percent. What gives?

Is there some kind of program running in the background that I need to shut down before trying to defrag the C drive?

Paul Gonzalez, Augusta, Ga.

A. Consider your suspicions about background programs running confirmed, Mr. G. Programs that run at startup are stopping Windows from defragmenting your drive.

Here is the deal: Defragmenting refers to using software to reorganize data that gets written willy-nilly on the hard drive's surface during normal operations. The fix is to copy that scattered data into orderly tracks along the drive surface, thereby greatly speeding the time it takes for the computer to call up something like a text file, a picture or a movie. But since the defragmenting software must continually write data to the drive, it must stop if other software tries to write data, which usually is the case with the startup tasks that run on a PC.

The best solution is to restart your computer in what is called Safe Mode, a state in which all of the drivers and startup software usually opened at boot-up remain unused. This prevents any software writing to the hard drive during defragging.

Windows XP goes into Safe Mode if you hold down the F8 key during a restart. Other versions of Windows use different key strokes, such as holding down the Control key, the Shift key, F3 or others. Folks with other versions should check the manuals that came with their machines if the Control or the Shift key does not work.

Once in Safe Mode, you just run the defragment module in Windows at Start/Accessories/System Tools, and there will be no stopping until the job is done. You then restart the computer as always.

Q. I am having a problem when booting up my computer. I run Windows 98 SE, and when I start the computer, I get these error messages: "Cannot find file `vi(underscore)grm.exe' (or one of its components.) Make sure the path and file name are correct and that all required libraries are available."

I click OK and get this message: "Could not load or run `vi(underscore)grm.exe' specified in the WIN.INI file. Make sure the file exists on your computer or remove the reference to it in the WIN.INI file." Have I somehow downloaded a virus on my computer that is causing all these problems, or do I just need to get Windows 2000/XP/ME?

Larry Underwood @yahoo.com.

A. Forget viruses and hang on to your wallet, Mr. U., because you don't need an upgrade. Your specific problem involves a tiny program called a driver that creates a small icon in the system tray at the bottom of your screen that can be clicked to make changes in your monitor's display.

Most computers come with a set of CDs that include one disc for all of the drivers. If you can find that driver CD, you'd best follow the instructions. This almost always can be done without affecting any programs or data.

Lacking a driver restore CD, another fix would be to simply stop your computer from running the vi(underscore)grm.exe file, which is what that error message you get is telling you. In Windows 98 and XP, a subprogram called msconfig.exe can be run to call up a menu that includes a tool to edit the win.ini file, where your bad driver is summoned. Win.ini holds a collection of instructions telling the machine which programs and drivers to run at bootup.

Click on Start and Run and then type in msconfig and hit the Enter key. Look for win.ini in the tabs on the menu that appears. Click on it and check the top item called Windows to see if there is a "load=vi(underscore)grm.exe" command. If so, click on the Edit command at the bottom of the msconfig menu and type in REM in front of the "load=vi(underscore)grm.exe" command. Otherwise, look for a vi(underscore)grm.exe check box and remove the check. Then click Apply, and when you reboot the error message will be gone.

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James Coates is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune. Let us know what you think of this column by clicking here.

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