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The job debate continues

And are MP3s really CD quality? a reader says so

I read the letters in the January 2001 issue of ComputerUser and I couldn’t disagree with them more. Although I have a university degree (and a doctorate) not related to technology, I’ve changed my career and become a MCSE. I had good training and passed my exams with very high scores. I’ve done everything possible to find a job, but without any results. Many people complimented my résumé and combination of skills and experience, but that was all.

Everyone wants people with a lot of experience. But one has to start somewhere. And, of course, many of us in such positions are looking for entry-level jobs. Who mentioned senior-level positions? Who mentioned $100,000 salaries? Most of us are willing to work for very modest wages, to say the least. And location? I live in Reston, Va.–often called the Silicon Valley of the East.

One reader wrote that an MCSE is “just piece of paper that shows one’s knowledge of MS stuff. … it doesn’t replace experience.” Well, to get that piece of paper, one has to go through a good training program and endure lots of tests–well known criteria. Would you say to a doctor or a lawyer fresh from passing board or bar exams, “Your piece of paper means nothing, because you don’t have experience”? And, of course, we want to continue our training as technology advances. Many of us have great advantages: good education, lots of skills and experience, strong work ethic, dedication, etc., and we can get experience fast in technology as well if given the opportunity. Everyone was a beginner once. I do agree with the November 2000 letter about the IT industry being rife with false promises and outright fraud and abuse. Something is wrong in the IT industry, and that should be corrected. -Name and e-mail withheld upon request

I don’t believe you were fair on the audio format of MP3 (Tracks, January 2001). I’m going to focus on your opening statement, in which you discuss a test. In this test you put a disc in and checked the file sizes between the two formats. This is supposed to show you somehow that the file couldn’t possibly hold the same amount of information. This supposedly causes the not-quite-so-near-CD-quality sound. However, I have to ask you if you’re aware of what exactly an MP3 is? I can tell you: It is a compressed audio file. This compression is no different from that of a file titled generic.zip. When you zip a file or use any number of the other compression utilities available, you don’t lose any of the information or compression simply wouldn’t exist. Now let me pose a little test for you; this test should be followed in this sequence.

A. Download 10 or so MP3s of your favorite music. It is best to download 160KB format for this experiment.

B. Now download Winamp. The remainder of the experiment will be explained using Winamp as a stencil.

C. Then switch the output plug-in (in the program’s Options/Preferences tab) Nullsoft Diskwriter Plug-in.

D. Then configure the plug-in (this allows you to choose a directory in which the disk-writable tracks will be placed), make sure you have about 700MB of free space.

E. Play those MP3s you just downloaded, making sure that repeat is not on.

F. Now using your file-managing utility (i.e., Windows Explorer), open up the directory containing your disk-writable files, and tell me what you see. Those small 5MB MP3s are now uncompressed and back to 50MB again as uncompressed .WAV files. Where did this extra information come from? It was stored in the makeup of the compression format, but it’s still there.

I have a lot of experience with the two formats and have had people often tell me that they can’t tell the difference. The difference in sound quality is negligible, barring one exception. Occasionally a song will be encoded into MP3 format using a bad program or a program the user simply doesn’t know how to use. This can result in an MP3 that is distorted because the recording levels are off, or there are other glitches, usually due to memory loss or something along those lines. These again are exceptions, and user error at that. The format itself is, as they say, near-CD quality. – Gordon Kion III, [email protected]

Gordon: Good argument, but compression without some data loss is rare. That might be especially true with lossy compression schemes used in bitmapped graphics or video images, but I think it also happens with MP3s–usually due, as you said, to inexperience or incompetence on the part of the ripper. All I know is that my ears don’t lie: There is a difference between CDs and MP3s. -Dan Heilman

To start a discussion or ask a question, e-mail [email protected] computeruser.com. Letters may be edited for style, length, or content. No anonymous letters will be published.

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