Once again I’ll take the take out this week to help out with any problems that my readers have been experiencing.

My question is that I have a Nokia 7650 and I am trying to find out the file extension that makes files the most compressed (smallest) as MP3s appear to be huge! The phone has 4mb of total memory but that's to share with all other functions of the phone such as the calendar so there’s not much room really. I do have a .ZIP program for both my PC and Nokia 7650 and was wondering if this format could be used to compress the music.
John Mander, Torquay

The standard size for a file stored in a format that is readable by home CD systems is around 40mg, which is why you can typically only store one album on a compact disk which holds 600-700mg depending on the disk specification. If you compress a file into MP3 format, the files are usually around 4mg so if standard home CD systems could read MP3’s then it would be possible to store approximately 10 albums on to a single compact disk. Although MP3’s may seem to be huge when you only have 4mg of memory on your phone to play with, in reality, they are tiny.

Since they have been compressed so tightly, the fact you have a program that can read ZIP files on your phone will not help you unfortunately as it is not possible to double compress a file. For those of you not in the know, ZIP files are used for sending files over the Internet in order to speed up download times and for making the files on your hard disk smaller either just to save space or for aiding transport of the files on floppy disk and other formats. Files aren’t compressed on computers by default, as it is slower to read data that has been compressed than reading those that are uncompressed and so to make a ZIP file you need a special program such as WinZip (www.winzip.com). If you were to attempt to compress an MP3 file into a ZIP file, it just wouldn’t actually get any smaller as this would be a physical impossibility.

There is one format known as WMA (Windows Media Audio), which compresses audio in to an even smaller file format without having to resort to double compressing the music. This file format has been introduced as a standard file format into all new versions of Windows Media Player although whether of not your phone will be able to read this format or not I am not sure. I’m not even aware as to whether the Nokia 7650 (the new camera phone) can play audio files at all so I’m just assuming that you want to use the phone to transport data from one place to another; if this is the case then the .WMA format would be perfect for you.

Since all Windows users can use the .WMA format, I thought I’d just give a brief overview on what it has to offer those that store music on their computers. Although not nearly as popular as MP3’s, the .WMA format is gathering support primarily since it can compact files to such a small size without any discernable loss in music quality – Some actually rate the .WMA format as having a superior sound quality to that of MP3’s. You will need a recent version of Windows Media Player in order to be able to read these files but apart from that no additional software is needed.

Although you can rip music straight off CD’s into the WMA format using Windows Media Player, you may be best downloading a utility to convert all your existing MP3’s into WMAs in one go. There are many available from the website www.audioutilities.com as doing so will save you a lot of space on your hard disk that could be used for other purposes. You’ll find that the format isn’t well supported on the peer to peer network programs such as Kazaa so don’t assume that you’ll never have to use an MP3 again.

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