Hassle-Free PC: Hassle-Free PC: Fixes for audio, video hassles

Are your CD- and DVD-burning jobs giving you a headache? I have solutions for fixing various problems and even for eliminating annoying ads at the beginning of videos.

Hassle: I want to record a Web show that is not podcast. How do I do it?

The Fix: Two tools will do the job. Audacity is a freebie and is easy to use. Just click the red button to start recording and the orange one to stop it, and then from Files, choose Export as MP3. Plenty of editing tools are built in, so you can, say, remove silence. One drawback: It also records PC sounds, so if you're not careful, you'll hear error sounds and new-message "dings."

I like the US$18 Total Recorder better than Audacity because of its additional, useful features. My favorite allows you to set up multiple daily and weekly recording schedules. (The $36 Pro version automatically does everything--opens the browser to a designated URL, starts and stops recording, saves the file, and closes the browser. And yes, system sounds are turned off.)

Be aware, though, that copyright laws may apply. If you're doing more than recording a show for later listening, that may be illegal, says Fred von Lohmann, senior intellectual property attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

The Hassle: My wife wanted to burn a bunch of files onto a CD. She right-clicked them in My Documents and chose Send, but the CD drive was nowhere to be found. My computer, which is identical to hers, shows the drive. How does she get it back?

The Fix: Fortunately, the solution is easy. Simply open My Computer, right-click on the CD drive, select Properties, choose the Recording tab, and then check Enable CD recording on this drive. VoilA .

Power Tip: If you try burning to a DVD and get a 'power calibration' error, it's probably because the disc is a cheapo. Best bet is to grab a firmware upgrade for your drive; you'll find an extensive list at The Firmware Page. Even some brand-name DVD discs aren't made by the company selling them; download the free DVD Identifier utility to see the real manufacturer.

The Hassle: I stuck a music CD into my drive, and surprise--instead of Windows Media Player, Explorer opened. What's up?

The Fix: Someone (not me) might have accidentally clicked 'Open folder to view files using Windows Explorer' when the Audio CD Properties dialog box appeared. That someone also might have clicked 'Always do the selected action.' You can undo that choice by resetting Windows' AutoPlay feature: From My Computer, right-click your CD drive, select Properties, click the AutoPlay tab, and click the Restore Defaults button. In the same Properties dialog box, you can reset the AutoPlay options for video files, pictures, and other media file types as well.

Power Tip: Download Autoplay Repair Wizard, a freebie that fixes most AutoPlay problems that occur with removable devices.

Save and manage your videos

Want to find a video you just viewed online? The file is probably already on your hard drive, in your Internet cache folder. CacheSort offers an easy way to dig up all of the videos--and JPEGs--stored in the cache. This free tool automatically moves (or copies) files from the cache into folders you specify. The downside is that the application is a bare-bones affair; in fact it's downright geeky. For instance, it lacks an installer--you simply double-click the file, and the tool appears in your system tray. To view your collection of movies and images, right-click the program icon and select CacheSort. You can safely ignore Settings (it's an old-fashioned INI file).

Contributing Editor Steve Bass writes the Tips & Tweaks blog and is the author of PC Annoyances, published by O'Reilly. Contact him at hasslefreepc@pcworld.com.

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Steve Bass

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