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This FAQ text is copyright dslreports.com
Reproduction of all or part only with our permission..
This FAQ is edited by: KeysCapt See Profile
It was last modified on 2013-03-22 08:56:19

1. About MP3

Are MP3's Legal?

MP3 as a file format is probably legal, or at least tolerated, when used to encode music from your own CDs if you keep that music to yourself. It is illegal to encode MP3s and trade, sell or otherwise make them available to others unless you have the permission of the musics copyright holder. In other words, if a record company or band makes MP3 files available for download, they are yours for the taking (but not to give or sell to others). However, converting your new CD to MP3 and then offering that as a way for people to get the music without buying the actual CD is illegal.

There is a great deal of debate and discussion on these matters, some of it frequently on our own front page: »RIAA Says You Canít Copy Music To Your Computer

One member offers this commentary:

MP3 format is not legal without a license. It is a patent encumbered format which requires royalties to be payed [sic] both to create and listen to the format. People that use "Lame" to encode mp3 may have infringed on patents. If you have used a software which encodes or decodes mp3 files, and that software does not have the necessary license(s) from Thomson (»www.mp3licensing.com/) you [may] have committed a patent crime. A license is required to create, play, and one for hardware + one for software. If you only use iTunes, you're in the clear. If you're using EAC to rip/encode to mp3 with LAME, then playback with foobar, you [may have] broken the law as those 3 companies do not have a license to create nor play mp3 files. Which is why LAME is only distributed as source tar balls for the main site. Much in the way as the Xvid codec.

What Exactly Is An MP3?

MPEG layer 3 is a type of audio codec where processed by significant compression from the original audio source, very little loss in sound quality occurs. The compression, up to 12:1, produces very little degradation. Tighter compression can be achieved, but the possibility of audio quality degradation increases.

To obtain certain compression, we must adjust the bit rates. The standard bit rates (near CD quality results) is 128 or 112 kbit/s. Many people claim that low-rate MPEG layer 3 files sound better than Real Audio files with similar bit rates.

The advantage of MP3 is that it can be broken up into pieces, and each piece is still playable. The feature that makes this possible (headerless file format) also means that MP3 files can be made to stream across the net real-time (assuming the playback bitrate and speed of the Internet connection are compatible).

The disadvantage of MP3 compression is that lots of processor power is required to encode and play files, also a sound-card is required (16-bit sound card).

How Do I Get MP3's?

Many websites offer allegedly legal MP3's such as MP3.com. There are also numerous allegedly legal, search-able online MP3 libraries and directories that you can find. Though, by far the most popular ways of getting MP3's are through separate programs, often called person-to-person file sharers such as the traditional Napster or some of the alternatives that have sprouted up since Napster's arrival, one of which is WinMX. These programs not only let you download MP3's, but they also let you share your current library with everyone on that particular server or network. The many file sharing programs can be found here. Amazon is a good source for purchasing and downloading MP3's, by the album or the individual selection.

Unfortunately, the amount of illegal copies being distributed on these file sharing networks is quite large and that is one of the major disadvantages to using a peer-to-peer program. As with any new technology, there are drawbacks that still have yet to be dealt with.

Always remember that it's completely the user's responsibility to decide which MP3s he/she will obtain, share, and distribute! DSLReports in no way condones any engagement in illegal activities!

How Do I Play An MP3?

Minimum Requirements: A 486 based computer is a minimum requirement, but Pentium is recommended.

Once you've verified that your system meets the minimum requirement, grab an MP3 player such as Winamp (Winamp review here), or Yahoo Music. A rather large list of various media players can be found here or here.

2. Basics

What Do 'Sampling Frequency' and 'Bit Rate' mean?

The sampling frequency is basically the number of times per second audio is sampled and stored as a number - CD audio is sampled at 44.1 KHz, which means 44,100 samples per second. CD audio uses 16 bit samples, so the bitrate of uncompressed CD audio = 44,100 x 16 bits per second (well x 2 actually, because it's stereo).

The "bitrate" on the other hand, when talking about MP3 files, refers to the transfer bitrate for which the files are encoded - i.e. an MP3 file encoded "at a bitrate of 128 kbps" is compressed such that it could be streamed continuously through a link providing a transfer rate of 128 thousand bits per second but most of us don't really use MP3 as a streaming medium (except for Shoutcast, etc.) so really what the MP3 "bitrate" is a measure of is how severely the files is being compressed. The lower the bitrate, the more the file has been compressed and the more you compress a file, the more of the original data is lost, and so the worse the playback sound quality will be. It's almost exactly analogous to compressing a JPG image with a higher compression ratio - you get a smaller file, but when you view it, it doesn't look as good.

PLEASE NOTE: The feedback comments below are considerably beyond the knowledge of those editing/revising FAQs but are left for the information they contain. However they would be far better in one of our forums where their exposure would be greater and others could contribute or learn from them.

What Is A 'VIV' file?

A file with the .VIV extension or a VIVO file is a proprietary video format from Microsoft. To play a video in .VIV, simply use Windows Media Player or VLC Player.

Can I Get A Virus From An MP3 File?

Unfortunately, yes. Well, in a sense.

You MAY get a virus through a hole in your email client or by opening/executing an attachment, just like you MAY get a virus through an MP3 player with a hole
in it or perhaps by clicking on a file you THOUGHT was an MP3. Computer
literacy and due diligence is required. Keep your MP3 player (and email
client) up-to-date to prevent things like this.

Various forms of malware can be hidden in a supposed MP3 file, including worms, viruses, and trojan horses. The numerous person-to-person file sharers are breeding grounds for these undesirables so it's rather important to know and become familiar with the warning signs:

•Distorted File Names
•Unusual File Sizes
•Multiple or strange file extensions (.exe)

A strong and frequently updated anti-virus program may be considered by some an absolute necessity these days. A good free one can be found by checking our security or software forums.
For additional information, visit the Security Forum.

Can I Run An FTP Server Myself To Share My MP3's?

Not a good idea. You can run your own FTP server to share your MP3 library but there are a number of issues that must be addressed beforehand such as copyright violations, the big one: »acomp.stanford.edu/info/dmca/

Make sure to check with your ISP before you go ahead and operate your own FTP server. Running servers is often a violation of your ToS (Terms of Service) and can result in them disabling your account. Many providers have now instituted CAPS which would also be a major concern.

Alternatively, you could always pay for FTP hosting on a commercial server but the sanctions against this now would most likely make it unwise.

What is a Skin?

A skin is used to change the look of your MP3/media player. Some skin utilities are here. Most skins for a particular player can be found at the developer's website.

What Is A Plug-In?

A plug-in is an extra add-on that offers optional features such as visualizations, output enhancements, effects, etc. A few plug-in utilities can be found here similar to skins. Most plug-ins for a specific player can be found at the developer's website.

What Is VBR And Is It A Good Thing?

VBR stands for Variable Bit Rate. It's a method of encoding audio to MP3 that allows for different sections of the file to be encoded at different bitrates, depending upon the demands of the source audio (some type of sounds require a higher bitrate, others encode well using a lower bitrate).

Edit: Updated info ... the good LAME MP3 encoders(version 3.90.3, I think) can control the size of the VBR MP3.

--alt-preset standard is the default VBR mode with around an average bitrate of 205-240k per song,

--alt-preset standard -Y will make it around an average bitrate of 170k-200k.
[These presets and LAME settings were developed at hydrogenaudio.org]
VBR is quite flexible with LAME, and it doesn't have to be a bloated filesize to give better quality. Usually the encoders that had those bad artifacts with VBR were xing and blade, but good encoders do VBR very well.

------
Thanks to Thasp for this updated info.

The advantage is that VBR encoded MP3s are generally smaller than standard MP3s of the same sound quality and generally sound better, especially in the high frequencies.

What is LAME?

LAME is a high quality MPEG Audio Layer III (MP3) encoder licensed under the LGPL. Latest LAME release: v3.99 (October 2011)

LAME is considered the best MP3 encoder at mid-high bitrates and at VBR, mostly thanks to the dedicated work of its developers and the open source licensing model that allowed the project to tap into engineering resources from all around the world. Both quality and speed improvements are still happening, probably making LAME the only MP3 encoder still being actively developed.

More about LAME

2.3 How do I ... ?

How Do I Transfer My MP3's Onto A CD?

This process is referred to as "ripping" and "burning". To convert MP3's into an audio CD, you can generally just copy your MP3 files right onto a CD using burning software. Most players of all types today recognize the MP3 format. If your application requires a different format, the converters here can accomplish that for you. Decoding if necessary can be achieved by using one of the MP3 utilities such as RealPlayer or Winamp. Other popular burning software: Alcohol, Roxio or AShampoo. Of course, either a CD-R drive or CD-RW drive is also required, a standard CD-ROM drive will not do. A blank CD-R or CD-RW is also necessary.

There are several factors that influence the all around quality of a burn such as the amount of free system resources, drivers, and of course the MP3 itself. Though, in most cases, your actual CD or DVD-RW drive has the most influence, along with the blank CD-R/CD-RW you choose to use. Nearly all optical drives come with a list from the manufacturer that lists which CD-R's/CD-RW's they have tested and decided work best and most the efficiently with that particular drive. This should be a starting point to deciding which CD's to purchase and use.

How do I edit my MP3's?

It is possible to edit your MP3 files, using software such as Audacity. You can break up, or split an MP3 into two separate files, add your own sounds into your MP3, mix two MP3 files together, combine two separate MP3 files, remove some part of the instrumentation, etc.

Decent discussion with more details here.

How do I play my songs on a regular stereo?

To actually play on an audio CD player, the music has to be recorded in standard audio CD format, which is different from the format used for data CD ROM disks. The audio data is actually stored as uncompressed PCM data at 44.1 KHz sampling rate, 16 bit stereo samples. This is similar (although not exactly the same) to the format of uncompressed WAV files on your computer. To play songs on an audio player, you will have to burn them to CD-R disks using burner software that supports the creation of audio CD's (most do). For many burner programs, you will first need to convert the MP3 files to WAV files, which can be done using Winamp (select the Nullsoft Disk Writer plug-in as your output and then play the songs).

How Do I Record From Vinyl Disks?

You can convert your vinyl discs to MP3 by using software such as Audacity.

Connect your turntable to the computer with an RCA cable into your sound card line-in input.

Launch Audacity and create a new project by clicking "File" then "New." Change the recording input to "Line-in" from the drop-down menu next to the volume faders. Make sure the volume for the microphone input is set to max by sliding the fader.

Click on the "Record" button to begin recording in Audacity, then start playing the vinyl on the turntable. When the album is finished, press the "Stop" button. In the "File" menu select "Export to MP3." Name the file and save it. That's all there is to it.

How Do I Record My MP3's To A Tape?

If you want to record the songs you have in MP3 format onto an audio tape for playing in your walkman, car stereo, etc., you just need to connect the line-out socket of your sound card to an input that can feed your tape recording deck and then set the record levels.

How do I change the ID3 tags on my MP3's?

Certainly, you can change the ID3 tags on an existing MP3 file (so long as it is not a read-only file, for example something burned onto a CD-R disk, in which case you obviously can't write to it). A simple way to change the tags on a file is to select the file in the Winamp playlist, then press Alt-3 ("File-info"). This brings up the ID3 tags for editing.

How Do I Make An MP3 From The Audio In An AVI File?

GoldWave has an option to extract the audio from an AVI file to WAV audio. Use this option, save the results as a WAV file, then use an encoder to produce an MP3 file. Unfortunately, the audio in many AVI files is rather shortcoming, so the results may not sound very impressive.

How Do I Convert MP3 Files To WAV Files?

Most MP3 players will convert MP3 to WAV. With Winamp, press CTL-P to bring up Preferences, From there, select Output in the left hand window, then select Nullsoft Disk Writer Plug-In in the left window. Press the Configure button to choose which directory you want your WAV files saved in. After you do this, every time you "play" a file in Winamp, it will actually be output to a WAV file in your chosen directory. To go back to actually playing files, bring Preferences up again, and select Output and Nullsoft Wave Out plug-in, which is your normal sound playing output plug-in. If you're using something other than Winamp, check the menus and look for "Options" or "Preferences".

How Do I Record MP3's From Cassete Tapes?

Just plug the output from your tape player into the "Line In" socket on your sound card, plug one end into the earphone socket of the walkman, and the other into the sound card line in. Then, turn the volume on the walkman all the way down, fire up your system volume control and choose Options / Properties / Recording and select the the "Line" source. Then press play on the walkman and gently turn up the volume until you get a level which registers well but does not clip (shown by the red "lights" in the volume control level indicator) during the loudest parts. To record the WAV files you'll need a program capable of recording large files such as GoldWave. If you want "CD Quality", be sure to set the controls in your WAV recording program to 44.1 kbps, stereo, 16 bit. Be warned that you'll need about 10Mb of hard disk space for each minute recorded. Once you've recorded the file, use the WAV recording /editing program's "cut" function to trim off any excess before the beginning or after the end of the song. If you just want to put it onto an audio CD, you can do that directly from the WAV file. If you want an MP3 file, you'll have to use an MP3 encoder to process your WAV file.

Another option is "HarddiskOgg".
HarddiskOgg takes a wave input stream from any Windows 95/98/2000/XP compatible sampling device (including microphone input and line in) and converts it to an Ogg/Wave/MP3 (optional) stream. This happens in realtime, so basically it is a harddisk recorder in Ogg.

MP3 Splitter?

mp3DirectCut is a small tool for editing MPEG audio directly. You can remove parts, change the volume, split files or copy regions to several new files. All without the need to decompress your MP3 into a PCM format. This saves work, encoding time and disk space. And there is no quality loss through any re-compressions! Screenshot

Trim your CD grabbings or directly to MP3 recorded vinyls or tapes. Cut favorite songs from long MP3 radio or live recordings. Make multiple cuts and fades. mp3DirectCut is very fast and gives you extensive control over your MP3s.
o Several pre-listen functions
o MP3 visualization and VU meter
o Easy navigation
o Fading, volume setting, normalizing
o Direct recording of MP3 (ACM and Lame encoder supported)
o Layer 2 support
o ID3 Tag support (v1 editable)
o Supports Cue Sheets (as used by EAC or Feurio)


Submitted by USR56K

How do I put together an inexpensive, easy way to backup my DVD collection?

Many of our members agree that the combination of DVD Decryptor, DVD Shrink and a regular DVD burning program such as Nero Burning ROM or Roxio EasyCD/DVD is hard to beat. There are two tutorials available to help you get started. One covers transferring larger DVDs to a single DVD and the other shows how to transfer all the files from the original to an archive copy without losing anything when the source is small. While these examples use Nero Burning ROM at the end, you could use any similar program that you prefer to finish it up.
Large/Long movies to a single DVD transfer
Single Layer DVD to a single DVD copy

What are some free programs I can use for organizing and tagging my mp3's?

Here are two excellent freebies for organizing your music.

The first is MediaMonkey, available here: »www.mediamonkey.com/
MediaMonkey is excellent for tagging and organization. You can manage a library as large as 50,000+ files. The program allows you to move and rename files and folders from the MM interface. You can organize, browse, or search music by Genre, Artist, Year, Rating, etc. or by location on your hard drive. It will synchronize with iPods, MP3 phones and other Portable Audio Devices and has a built-in ripper and player or you can configure it to use Winamp for listening. The tagging info comes from Amazon. It handles a variety of files such as OGG, MP3, FLAC and WMA files.

The second recommendation is The Godfather available here: »users.forthnet.gr/the/jtclipper/
It has many of the same capabilities as above but may be a bit more difficult to use. One of the highly usable features is the ability to rename several files at once with one click.

2.5 About Streaming MP3s

How Do I Listen To Streaming MP3's?

Shoutcast is currently the most popular streaming audio system on the Internet. To listen to Shoutcast, Winamp is required, the latest version is recommended. Once you have the software installed, you will need to find an audio server (think of it as a radio station) that broadcasts the music. Shoutcast currently hosts over 2000 servers and certainly is the place to look for streaming audio on the Internet.

How Do I Broadcast Streaming MP3's With Shoutcast?

To broadcast streaming audio using Shoutcast technology, first you must download and install Nullsoft Shoutcast source plugin. Once you have the plug-in installed, configure it according to Winamp's Wiki.

You might also be interested in Winamp's comprehensive discussion on creating your own Shoutcast radio station.

Can I stream MP3s like I do in RealAudio?

Yes, using widely available technology you can. If you'd prefer to stream directly from your computer, SHOUTCast is one possibility.

If you'd like to upload MP3s to another server and have them streamed off of that with nothing required of you, check out Live365.com.

2.7 Ripping

How do I rip a CD and save it as MP3 to my hard drive?

Almost all computer audio software now includes the capability to rip CD's and save audio files in MP3 (or other) format. Winamp, Itunes, Windows Media Player and many others have built-in processes to accomplish this. Most will save the music in album form, complete with artwork and other info. You may then copy the MP3 files to your portable MP3 player or create playlists on your computer.

Do All CD-ROM Drives Support The Ripping Of Audio Tracks?

Unfortunately, no. Any CD drive can play audio CD's, that's true but the term "ripping" is mostly used to refer to Digital Audio Extraction (i.e. extracting the audio data digitally to the computer, rather than converting it to analogue data in the drive and playing it through the sound card directly, which is what happens when you "play" an audio CD on your computer drive). Not all CD drives support Digital Audio Extraction and even for those that do support it, the speed and reliability vary enormously from drive to drive. If your drive absolutely won't do DAE, then you can fall back on "analogue ripping" (i.e. just playing the CD and then recording the analogue signal back through your sound card) but the results won't be as good as a proper digital rip. MusicMatch JukeBox supports analogue recording from CD's, for example, or you can just play the CD and then record using a WAV recording program such as GoldWave.

How Do I Tell If My Drive Supports DAE?

Well, if you have Roxio's Easy CD Creator, it has a nice little option in it (under "System Tests") for testing your drive to see if it performs DAE, and if so, at what speed. Also other ripper programs, such as CDEX and Exact Audio Copy, give various diagnostic messages if there are problems with the ripping process.

How Do I Get My Ripper To Recognize My CD Drive?

If you're using Roxio, head on over to their official site and download a small program entitled "aspichk.exe", which should be available in the Download portion of their website. This program will check on your installation and report back. If this program identifies errors or version mismatches in your ASPI installation, you may need to reinstall these programs to get your burner working properly. The driver files themselves are also available from Roxio's website.

Update: Apparently Roxio's website does not have the aspi layer. It can be obtained from Adaptec's site: Adaptec
---------
Thanks to Frosty for the updated info.

How Is The Volume Controlled When Ripping From A CD?

If you're using Digital Audio Extraction (which is what is usually meant by "ripping"), then I don't believe anything "controls the volume". You are simply taking the digital PCM data from the audio CD and transferring it to digital PCM data in a WAV file on your PC (well, you may also be doing MP3 encoding, but that's actually a second step). The "volume" is simply a direct transfer of the sample amplitude from the CD.

3. Help

Why Will A Burned CD Play Fine On My PC But Not On My Stereo?

Check and make sure you are burning as "Audio CD" format. Many older players cannot handle CDs burned in MP3 format regardless of type of disc they were burned to while newer car stereos should play CDs burned as MP3s. Additionally, many players cannot handle CD-RW discs. If you have one of those old players you must use CD-R discs.

If neither of the above is your problem, it may just be that the brand of CD-R disk you are using does not work well with your audio player. This happens sometimes and is quite normal. Try a different brand of type.

Another thing to try is to burn at a slower speed. Try burning a disk at 1x (rather than 2x or 6x or whatever speed your burner drive supports). Very often audio CD's burned at slower speeds will work in audio players while disks burned at higher speeds won't. It's been said that the laser encoding is somehow "clearer" when burning at slower speeds and this helps audio players, which often have a problem with home-burned CD's, to cope with the disks.

If your CD won't play at all, this probably isn't your problem but another tip is to try and record all your audio CD's in "disk at once" mode, meaning the whole disk is burned in one pass without turning off the laser. Audio players like disks burned like this better. If you burn the disk "track at a time" the laser is turned off between each track, and audio players often cannot find any track other than the first one on such disks. Although, if you just start them playing at the first track and leave them, they'll usually play all the way through fine.

How Do I Stop Winamp From Skipping When Playing Files?

There may be various causes and some may be difficult to get around (some video drivers conflict with audio output in some circumstances, as do some modem operations, and these problems may be hard to fix, other than by updating your device drivers). Here are a few suggestions...
Turn off stuff in Winamp that's unnecessary, such as the scrolling title display and the graphic frequency analyser (Right click on the corresponding part of the Winamp window to control these options).

Get rid of any programs in memory that you don't need. Use CTRL-ALT-DELT and then "End Task" anything that shouldn't be running. Don't kill Explorer or Systray, or anything you're currently actually using for that matter.

If you have more than one hard disk, make sure you're using the fastest one for Windows virtual memory. This can make a significant amount of difference. Windows will default to using the C: drive usually, but if you've installed a second hard drive later it will probably be faster, and using it for your virtual memory instead will give you better performance. Go to Control Panel/System and select the Performance tab, then press the Virtual Memory button, and do Manual Configuration.

Go to Winamp.com and download the Nullsoft Cross-Fading Plug-in (Experimental). I believe it can be found under both "Best Plug-ins" and "Output Plug-ins". Despite its name, cross-fading (bringing a new song up as the previous one dies away, rather than having a gap in between) is only one feature of this plug-in (and oddly enough, despite the name, the cross-fading feature is turned off by default). It seems to do a better job of managing output than the standard Nullsoft Wave Out plug-in, and it gives you more control. If you select it as your output plug-in under Preferences and then press the Configure button, it allows you to set the buffer size, the thread priority, the pre-buffering percentage and the block-size. Actually the default values seem to work well but if you still have skipping problems, tinkering with these parameters should help if you know what you're doing. Also, if you actually want the cross-fading feature, turn it on by checking the "No gaps on stop or next" box in the configuration window.

I'm Getting Errors When I Try To Burn A CD. What Can I Do?

There are numerous things you can try:

•Reboot your PC before burning a CD.

•Remove any unnecessary programs from memory (use CTRL-ALT-DELT to bring up the task list, and then use the "End Task" button to kill everything except Explorer and Systray, including your virus protection software, since this can interfere with CD burning).

•Unplug your printer before restarting your PC to burn disks. Printer drivers that communicate with the printer can intervene with burning.

•Disable your screen saver before burning. A screen saver firing up can easily wreck a burn. Go to Control Panel / Display and click on the Screen Saver tab to turn it off, if there is one as the default.

•Burn at a lower speed than normal.

Of course, all these precautions may not be necessary but I'd try them all if you're having persistent difficulties. If you get things working, you can discontinue them and see if the problem(s) return.

Why Does My Burning Software Reject WAV Files?

The problem is almost certainly that while they are indeed valid WAV files, they are not valid files for CD audio. CD audio only supports a sampling rate of 44.1 Khz and a sample size of 16 bits, in stereo (two channels). If your WAV file does not correspond with these parameters (most commonly because the sampling rate is different, ex: 48 Khz), then a CD burning program will not accept it.

The process of converting MP3 to WAV simply undoes the MP3 compression. It does not change things such as the sampling rate. To make these WAV files you have produced suitable for burning to CD audio, you will need to perform an additional step: use a WAV editing program (such as GoldWave) to "resample" the WAV files. Convert them to 44.1 KHz, 16 bit, stereo, then, your software should accept them for burning to CD without a problem.

Why Doesn't My Stereo Skip To Specific Tracks With My Burned CD's?

If possible, when burning an audio CD, you should try to use the "disk at once" option. If your CD burner software has it and your hardware supports it, "disk at once" causes the CD to be burned all in one continuous pass without ever stopping the laser, whereas otherwise the laser is turned off after each track and then started again for the next track. This starting and stopping of the laser causes slight discontinuities between the tracks, and while this generally should not stop an audio player playing the CD through, it often will stop an audio player from being able to find individual tracks on the CD when you try to use things like programmed play, random play, or even just to manually skip to a track other than the first track on the disk.

Why Am I Getting Static And Skips When I Rip CD's?

It sounds as if you're having some problems with your digital audio extraction (DAE). Exact Audio Copy is a good, free ripping program which seems to be, perhaps, the best at producing good, clean rips in difficult situations (tricky hardware, CD's in poor condition). It may be a little slow, but if you're getting poor results with other programs, you may wish to try it.

4. WinAmp

Where to get it?

How Do I Create A Winamp Playlist Containing All My MP3's?

Just click on the "+file" button and hold down your mouse button. You'll see that two other buttons appear above it labeled "+dir" and "+url". Slide the mouse cursor up to the "+dir?" button while holding down the mouse button and then release the mouse button. A selector window will come up - navigate through it until you find the directory with all your MP3 files in it. If you want to put all your files in all the sub-directories into one playlist, then make sure the "Recurse sub-directories" check-box in the selector window is checked, then select your directory. All the files in that directory and in all the directories underneath it will be added to your playlist.

How Do I Put Files In My Winamp Playlist?

If your playlist isn't already displayed, click the "PL" button to display it. Then on the playlist window, either click the +FILE button and add the files one at a time or click the +DIR button (click +FILE and then slide up) to add a whole directory (and optionally its sub-directories).

To start a new list, click the Load List button, and slide up to New List.

How Do I Get My Winamp Playlist To Play In Order?

Make sure that in the main window, the small green light in the "Shuffle" button is not on. If you find that it's on, simply click it to turn off Shuffle mode. Your list should now play in order since Shuffle mode plays the list in random order.

Here's some more info from one of our members, first-hand experience that might help someone else. (What this site and its FAQs are all about)
"If you drag a group of say, 10 songs labled 1.mp3 - 10.mp3 into the playlist window, you would think that they would play in order...but the actual file that you clicked and dragged on will be first, example. 1-10 are highlighted, and you click on file #3 to drag the list in, well your playlist would be arranged 3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,1,2...so if you drag a list of files in the correct order into the playlist, always drag by the first file in the list that you want played.
that might be useless info, but it bugged the hell out of me for a while, so i figured i would share."
---
Info provided by oxyprazolam

How Do I Use Winamp Skins That I've Downloaded?

Winamp media player includes the ability to apply new "skins". Skins provide a new look by changing color and/or the shape of the player, sometimes with new buttons and other features.

In Winamp's drop down menu, click on 'skins' and then 'get more skins'. This will open a browser and allow you to choose new skins.

Place the downloaded zip files into the "skins" section under your Winamp directory (ex: C:\Program Files\Winamp\Skins) and then when Winamp is running, press Alt-S to browse your skins. A list will pop up and you can just click on each name and see the skin applied to Winamp.

I need more help!

Winamp has a complete FAQ on their website.