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Software Review by K. Joyce McDonald

Bad Pun, good utility: I am referring here to the Windows 95 Audio CD Player Utility. When I got my first CD ROM machine, it was a Phillips single speed (read: 600 millisecond access speed) with a proprietary interface card and a different set of drivers for each CD you inserted. It was also about half the size of my CPU, which, on my 486, was not dainty. Being an external CD, however, it led a dual life. 

Part of the time, my CD ROM machine served as window into all sorts of reference libraries on compact disks. It even had a rudimentary form of multimedia, being able to play a little tune for each of several musical instruments (or birds) that were covered in my ROM encyclopedia. When not using my reference library, I could plug a set of earphones into the CD-ROM player and use the buttons on the front of the machine to play a music CD while accomplishing other computer tasks. 

 As CD-ROM machines became smaller and integrated themselves into the box that housed the CPU, the little buttons on the front disappeared, and so did my music. Perhaps software audio CD players existed all along, but I was too busy or too ignorant to notice. 

 One recent day, I was enlightened while reading a hint in a Windows publication about a Windows 95 Audio CD Player. I marked that hint and took it along to work with me to see if I could indeed listen to some Albinoni while updating the Amended Budget manual. 

 As it turned out, my version of Windows 95 did not possess an audio CD player, but I was able to download it easily from Microsoft's web site. I was guided by simple, easy-to-follow instructions through each step of the download and installation process. 

 Running the CD player is even easier than installing it. I place my Rachmaninoff CD in the CD-ROM drive, plug in my earphones (I don't have sound card or speakers), and Windows 95 does the rest. "CD Player" appears on the task bar. When I click on "CD Player", controls for Play, Stop, Fast Forward, Reverse, Skip Forward a Track, Skip Backward a Track, and Eject appear on the screen. 

 Even more intriguing are the customizable features on the Disc menu which allow you to identify each CD that you play and list the tracks that you want to hear, and in what order. You can save a list by artist and title for each CD in your collection if you wish. 

 Do you have the Audio CD Player with your version of Windows 95? It's easy to check. First, if you have the CD-ROM version of Windows 95, you probably do. The easiest way to check is to insert a music CD in the drive, close it, and, if you don't have a sound card and speakers, plug in a set of earphones. 

 If you don't have a CD, earphones, or speakers handy, you can check your software through Windows Explorer. Look for cdplayer.exe in your C:\WINDOWS\ folder. If so, you can feel safe to go buy you some earphones and Pearl Jam CD's. 

If you already possess a hundred CD's but not cdplayer.exe, don't despair. If you can hook up to the internet, you can download it. It is currently available at the Microsoft Web site on the page indexed as:

 On this page, select Multimedia, then CD Player. Download instructions will appear to the right of the file offerings. Make sure to download it to a floppy disk or an empty directory on your hard drive, since it will have to decompress and install. The README.TXT file will guide you through this process. The file is short and contains a caution regarding NOT running the file from your \WINDOWS\SYSTEM folder, so print it up and follow it closely. Then join a CD music club. 

 As a technical writer for Education Service Center Region 20, Joyce produces computer manuals for the Regional Service Center Computer Cooperative. The RSCCC provides Personal Computer, System 36, and AS/400 software and training to 700 school districts throughout the state. A former teacher, Joyce holds a BA in Russian Language and an MA in Educational Psychology. She later returned to school to take 49 semester hours of training in Computer Science and Information Systems.