Category Archives: How to

How to Integrate Facebook into a WordPress Blog

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Following up on my surprising, even to me, change of heart regarding Facebook, I’ve added some more Facebook integration at Newsome.Org.  Here’s what I have done, how you can do it with your WordPress blog, and how your picture can instantly appear right over there.   ——>

Sharing

I’ve used the AddtoAny plugin for some time.  It appears at the bottom of each post and allows readers to instantly share my posts to Facebook (Friend me if we are), Twitter (follow me via that link) and just about every other social network, with just the click of a button.

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A couple of caveats.

I hate the way the plugin adds the marketing plug to the end of items you share on Twitter.  I always delete it before hitting the final Tweet button.

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Finally, be sure to add this important code to the Additional Options blank in the plugin settings, to avoid an annoying privacy glitch.

1. Open the AddtoAny Settings menu (found under Plugins)

2. Scroll down to the text box labeled Additional Options

3. Add the following text:

var a2a_config = a2a_config || {};
a2a_config.no_3p = 1;

Facebook Likes

It is much, much easier for a reader to Like a post via a one-click button than it is to go through the Sharing process.  For this reason, I think a Facebook Like button is a mandatory addition to blogs.

It’s not easy to manually add the required code to the various WordPress files.  Fortunately for WordPress users, there is a handy plugin that does it for you.  Why not test it out at the top of this post.  Come on!  It will be fun.

Facebook Activity

The third prong of my Facebook implementation involved adding a Facebook Activity widget that will show who has Shared or Liked my posts.  See the box in the right hand column?  If you click the Like button at the top of a post or Share any post via the AddtoAny plugin described above, your name and photo will appear in that box.

Right now, it’s all me, which is sort of lame.  So add your picture there and help beautify Newsome.Org!

It’s really easy to add this feature.  Just go to the Facebook plugin page, get your code and add that code in the desired place.  With my WordPress theme, it’s a simple matter of creating a text widget called Facebook Activity and inserting the code.  If you run into any problems leave a question in the Comments and I’ll try to help.

That’s it, for now.  Do you have any ideas for adding Facebook connectivity to a blog?

How to Create an Awesome Custom Sharing Domain with Bit.ly Pro

OK, get ready for a big helping of awesome.  Here’s how to create a custom sharing domain.  In about 15 minutes.

Step One: Get a Cool Domain

Maybe you already have one you want to use.  If not, pick one out and register it with your preferred registrar.  I use Network Solutions, but any service will do.  I chose newsome.cc.  Get it?  Like copying you on a an email or one of those old timey letters.

Step Two: Get a Bit.ly Pro Account

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I’ve been using Bit.ly as my default and preferred link shortener for a long time.  Their new Pro Accounts, which is required to make this process work, are free, but still in beta.  I signed up on Sunday and got my acceptance email this morning.  Excellent.

Registering for a Pro Account doesn’t affect your previously shared links.  All existing data remains in place.  The Pro Account merely adds features.  Once you have the Pro Account in place, you are presented with a Settings page, where you insert your custom domain name, and receive instructions on configuring your domain.  This is an easy process that consists only of changing your domain’s A-Record.  Make note of the IP address Bit.ly provides.  You’ll need it in a moment.

Step Three: Configure Your Domain

As noted above, I use Network Solutions, but the process should be very similar for all domain registrars.

Go to your Account Management page or dashboard, and select the applicable domain (in my case newsome.cc).  Select the link to edit your DNS settings.  At Network Solutions, it is “Edit Advanced DNS Records.”

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Then the link that allows you to edit the domain’s A-Records.

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Then replace the “www,” “@ (None),” and “* (All Others)” records with the IP address Bit.ly provided you on the Settings page.

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The editing form will tell you that it can take hours for the DNS change to take effect.  In my case it happened instantly.  Literally.

Go back you your Bit.ly Settings page and confirm your custom domain by clicking on the button.  Easy peasy.

Now, when you shorten a link via Bit.ly (I use the Bit.ly Chrome extension), instead of the bit.ly domain, your shortened links will use your custom domain.

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Very, very cool.

Step Four: Set Up a Google Reader Send To

Now that we have our custom sharing domain up and running, we need to create a way to share links from within Google Reader.

From Google Reader, go to Settings.  Then Send To.

Click on “Create a custom link,” near the bottom of the page.  Fill in the blanks as follows.

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I put “Interesting” before my shared links.  You can change that to whatever intro you’d like, or delete it altogether.  If you don’t want any intro, the last part would read “&s=${title}”.

Bit.ly Pro rocks.  I love, love, love it.  In a day or so, I’ll tell you about some of its features.  And being a good beta tester, a couple of features I’d like added.

Why not set up a custom sharing domain right now, and test it out by sharing this post!

How to Make Your Crappy Netbook Awesome with Jolicloud

I have bought some stupid gear in my time.  Really stupid.

Now I’m never going to top this, which was undoubtedly the stupidest thing I’ve ever wasted my hard earned money on.

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Yes, I actually bought a Samsung Q1

Honestly, I can’t believe that someone who can get through grade school, much less college and grad school, would be dumb enough to buy one of those.  But this isn’t about that.  Thankfully.

This is about what could be the second stupidest thing I’ve ever bought.  An HP 2133 netbook.  After I was overcome by its itty bitty screen and general lameness (and that was before the iPad rendered all netbooks null), I quickly hid it in a cabinet in my study, hoping that no one would know.  As luck would have it, Cassidy found it the other day and asked me if she could have it.

I previously tried to install Ubuntu on it, specifically the Netbook Edition (which looks really, really cool), but was once again foiled by the Broadcom wireless card incompatibility, which kills Ubuntu buzzes the way sledgehammers kill gnats.  So I reinstalled Windows (let me say again how much I love TechNet).  And handed it to Cassidy, telling her she could have it as long as she told people she found it in a dumpster, and not in her daddy’s study.

It took about 3 minutes for her to declare it unusable.  With any version of Windows, the screen is just too small to do anything other than, maybe, read an email.  Opening programs is a crap shoot, with the success rate at actually opening the program you’re aiming for with the touchpad and tiny screen at around one in three.  Cassidy tried to work on a short story she is writing, and quickly gave up.  Just about anything drove the netbook to a screeching, time draining, hour glass spinning halt.

So she gave it back.  Emphatically.

Since it’s been sitting on the counter in my study, taunting me, I decided to try and save it.  And I decided to use Jolicloud to do so.  Jolicloud is described as “a super-optimized Linux that makes the most of your netbook hardware, battery, graphics and connectivity with a cool interface that will make your life easier.”

Let’s see how it goes.

Before

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I’d turn it on, but I’d die of old age before it booted into Windows.

Getting Jolicloud (Harder than it Should Be, But Worth It)

I almost abandoned this experiment, and turned this post into an anti-Jolicloud rant when I found out you can only get Jolicloud via a BitTorrent client.  I don’t know anything about torrents, and I don’t want to know anything about them.  This pissed me off, but I was invested so…

I went to download uTorrent.  And look at this little gem:

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Really?  Are you serious?  How completely bush league is this?  I must have been right to avoid all this torrent business.  How desperate must Ask.Com be to sneak onto computers to have to resort to semi-trojan status?

I was getting madder by the minute, but nothing is as bad as seeing that useless netbook on the counter, so I unchecked the boxes and proceeded. 

Torrent movies must be really fun, it’s telling me I have 11 hours to go to download a 689 MB file.  This is almost as fun as typing on a netbook.  At the end of the day, it took something less than 11 hours, but a long time nonetheless.  At a screaming 1.x kBs a second.

Creating a USB Installer

Next you download the USB Creator, thankfully without uTorrent.  Hopefully, now that I have the iso file things will be back to sane.

To create the USB installer, you install and run the USB Creator, and point the application to the downloaded iso file and an inserted USB stick.  The approach is identical to other USB installations I have done, including the lamentable Windows>Ubuntu>Windows installations on this netbook.

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Other than Microsoft Security Essentials asking about the Jolicloud files and whether I wanted to send them for a risk assessment, things went smoothly.  It took about 3 minutes to create the USB installer.  After uTorrent, this seemed like warp speed times infinity.

Installing Jolicloud

This is where things took a turn for the good.

I stuck the USB stick in the netbook and fired it up.  Well, maybe not fired.  I turned it on and it slowly chugged to life.

Jolicloud recognized and connected via the wireless card.  A+ for that!  Ubuntu still hasn’t gotten that part right.

Full installation is a 7-step, easy process, during which you choose your language, set your local time, pick your keyboard layout, decide if you want to delete any existing partitions (yes, in my case, as I want the netbook to be Jolicloud-only), decide if you want a single or side by side installation (single in my case, for the same reason), and pick a user and computer name.  This process seems really well implemented and takes just a few minutes.

You then create an account.  I used Facebook Connect, and was connected with my Facebook account instantly.  Then you create a Jolicloud name and password.  Easy peasy.

You are given the opportunity to connect with any of your Facebook friends who are already using Jolicloud.  My pal Rick was already using Jolicloud, and I was prompted to connect with him.  I’m not yet sure what happens after you connect, but it’s a cool feature.

Did I mention that I’m happy about the wireless card thing?

After the installation process is over, you restart and you’re ready to go.  And go you can.  Jolicloud boots up quickly and has the chops to perform all the usual tasks- only this time without pulling your hair out.

There are a ton of apps available, with more to come.  You can even see what your Facebook friends like.

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After

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Very nice.  Now if I can just keep Cassidy from taking it back.

How to Create a Life Stream Page on Your Blog, With Posterous

We’re really rocking the blog development lately.  Yesterday, I showed you how to point a domain to one of your blog categories.

Today, we’re going to create a life stream page, on your blog, using Posterous.

You can use the life stream page we’re about to create for just about anything.  You could send all of your life stream content there, autopost it to Twitter, Facebook, etc. and end up with a great, chronological and searchable archive of all of your content.  I have Twitter already integrated into Newsome.Org, via the widget in the right hand column, so I’m going to do something a little different.

I want to create a page where I can automatically upload and share impromptu iPhone photos, and maybe some other tidbits from time to time.  Notwithstanding the limited chops of the iPhone camera, I find a lot of iPhone photos really compelling, partially because of those limitations.  Plus I almost always have my iPhone with me.

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But, as part of my ongoing content consolidation and simplification project, I want my iPhone photo stream to be available here, as a Page.

Let’s get started.

Get a a Posterous Page

If you don’t already have a Posterous page, go sign up.  Learn how to use it- it’s about as easy as it could possibly be.  Theme your Posterous page to have the same look and feel as your blog.  You’ll probably have to start with a canned theme and then customize it to your liking.

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Make a Content Plan

Next, decide how you’re going to use your life stream page.  Posterous makes it really easy to autopost content to the social networks and other sites.  With a little work you can make Posterous your content hub and control panel.

Get Any Ancillary Apps You’ll Need

As noted, I want to use my page primarily as a place to upload and share impromptu iPhone photos.  A great way to do this is via the iPhone app PicPosterous (iTunes link).  It will make sharing iPhone photos via Posterous easy and almost completely automated.

I’m not crazy about the way it forces you do use albums, but it works OK.  I do like the fact that photos from each album are posted together.  I’ll just do an album for each day.  That seems burdensome, but it’s not really.  You’d need to name the photo anyway, and this means you only have to name the first one (e.g., 02/28/10) you post each day.  Any others can be sent directly to that album.

Embed into a Blog Page with an iFrame

Now to embed the Posterous page you have crated into your blog via an iFrame.

In WordPress

I use WordPress.  Here’s how you do it with my theme.  The process may differ slightly from theme to theme, but the basic concepts should be the same.

Create a new Page, and name it.  I called mine iStream.

If you have columns on your main blog pages, you’ll probably need to use a full width template for this page.  Many WordPress themes have this option for Pages.  If yours doesn’t, you’ll have to create a Page template.  Or change themes.

Add the iFrame code.  Here’s mine:

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In Blogger

If you use Blogger, simply create a new Page, via Posting>Edit Pages>New Page, and include the iFrame code.  Be sure to select the Edit HTML tab first.

I don’t know that many, if any, Blogger templates have full width templates available for Pages.  If not, the resulting life stream Page may require horizontal scrolling, which is not good.  If I find (or someone provides in a comment) a solution for this, I’ll add it here.

The best bet if you really want a life stream page in Blogger might be to select a wide, one or two column template.

Add the New Page to Your Page Navigation

Once I created my new Page, I added it under the Media tab at the top of the Newsome.Org blog pages.

That’s all there is to it.  Looks great.  Easy to use.  Consolidated.

I like it.

Brother, Can You Spare a Word?

I’m working hard so you don’t have to.  If you like what I’m doing here at Newsome.Org, please spread the word via Retweets and links.

How to Point a Domain to a Blog Category

One of my long-time and oft-stated problems with all of the so-called social networks is the brand and attention dilution that occurs when content producers cast their content across numerous networks, sending readers on a wild goose chase as they try to keep up with everything.  While I’ve done a lot better than most when it comes to keeping my content centered around my web site (Newsome.Org), I too have been lured into spreading myself too thin, network-wise.

I’m going to fix that.  I am in the process of consolidating most of my content and much of my applications.  When all is said and done, I will be a power user of this blog and a small number of ancillary networks (maybe as few as two: Twitter and Facebook).  Additionally, I intend to shrink my cloud toolbox down to a manageable size.  More on that later.

Today I want to take the first step, which is to consolidate our music recommendation blog, which was previously hosted at Tumblr, into Newsome.Org.  Specifically, I want that content to be included here- under the Music category.  But I want to continue to use the cool and valuable top level domain (GoodSongs.Com) that I have been using for song recommendations.

Here’s how that can be done.

What You’ll Need

To have this need and to make this work, you’ll need a blog platform that includes categories, tags or some other naming convention that has a URL.  I use WordPress, and I have a Music category (see the menu at the top of the page).  The URL for that category is http://www.newsome.org/category/music.

You’ll also need a domain (or a sub-domain) separate from the one that you use for your blog, that you want to point to the category.  As noted above, I am going to cause GoodSongs.Com, which previously pointed to a custom domain at Tumblr, to be redirected to my Music category here.

Use a Redirect

One way to redirect a domain to a blog category is through URL redirection  or a refresh meta tag.  A redirection makes sense if you have a long-standing or popular site that you want to move, so you can preserve links and Google juice.  If you, like me, just want to use your domain as an alternate address for a blog category- or if you don’t have the technical chops or server access to do a redirection, web forwarding might be your solution.

Configure Web Forwarding

I use Network Solutions as my primary domain registrar.  Here’s how you configure your domain for web forwarding via Network Solutions.  The process is probably similar at other registrars, but you may need to explore the configuration dashboard and maybe the help files to find the right pages and settings.

From your primary Dashboard, select the Web Forwarding option.  At Network Solutions, it’s under the Domain Names tab at the top of the page.

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From the resulting page, select the domain you want to forward, then click on “Continue with Web Forwarding.”

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On the next screen, fill in the URL of the category in the blank.  Web masking won’t work if your URL is a directory or database, but that’s OK.  The purpose is to get the readers to the new location at the blog category page.  You can brand the forwarded domain from within the category.

It Might Cost a Little

I don’t know what other registrars charge for web forwarding.  Network Solutions charges $12.00 a year.  A buck a month doesn’t seem too bad for a little consolidation.  Particularly consolidation that can be accomplished (or changed) via a few clicks on a web page.  Simple is good.

Don’t Forget to Feed Your Feed

If you have an RSS feed at the domain you are forwarding to the blog category, don’t forget to update the feed once you make this change.

In my case, I already had an RSS feed for GoodSongs.Com, which I publish via Feedburner.  My WordPress theme creates a feed for each category, so all I had to do was change my feed location for GoodSongs.Com to the category feed.

From the main Feedburner dashboard for the applicable feed, select Edit Feed Details.

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Then replace the current “Original Feed” with your new one.

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That’s It

Once you’ve taken those simple steps, your domain will be forwarded to the blog category you selected.  Notice how GoodSongs.Com now points to the Music category here at Newsome.Org.

That’s step one in my consolidation and simplification process.  Stay tuned for more.

How to Set Up Email Subscriptions for Your Blog

image There are a lot of nerds out there- like me for example- who think that RSS and feed readers are the only way online information should be consumed.  We feel bad about being nerds, until we remember there is a whole class of uber-nerds, who think that not only information,  but every part of life, is derived from Twitter.  Or, God forbid, via Google Buzz(kill).  Just kidding, both of those guys are smart dudes and friends of mine, in addition to being uber-nerds.

But enough about those so-called social networks.

Because today I want to show you how to do a subscription service that someone with tan lines might actually use.  An email subscription.  You remember email, right?  That service that millions of people who either (a) have never heard of or (b) laugh hysterically at those who use Twitter use every day.  All day.

So let’s assume that (1) you’ve been outside in the past 48 hours and (2) you’d like to put together an email subscription service for your blog.

Step 1: Pick a Service

If you use Feedburner for your RSS feed, this is pretty easy.  Use Feedburner.  The other major choice is Feedblitz.  I used Feedblitz for a while, but its navigation structure makes Facebook’s byzantine navigation system seem downright GPS-like.  Plus, Feedblitz wants you to to (cover your ears webkidz) pay for its premium service.  So as a part of my forced march to WordPress and Blogger Custom Domains, I decided to take my email party back to Feedburner.

Step 2: Configuring Feedburner

Here’s how to configure your Feedburner account to permit and manage email subscriptions.

From your Feedburner dashboard, click on Publicize and then Email subscriptions.

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From the Subscription Management page, you can get code to embed a form or a link on your blog.  You can also enable a notification feature that will inform you when someone unsubscribes.  I wish Twitter had that feature.

Next, go to the Communications Preferences page.  From here, you can set up your email address and the subject line and message for your email confirmations.

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The next stop is the Email Branding page.  Here’s where you can really customize the look and feel of your emails.  You want the email to have the same branding, look and feel as your blog.  Note that you can create and upload a custom logo that will appear in your emails.

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Finally, you can set your time zone and preferred delivery time via the Delivery Options page.

Step 3: Displaying the Subscription Option on Your Blog

Once you have configured your email subscription service, you’ll need to make potential subscribers aware of it.  Many WordPress themes and Blogger templates are pre-configured to display email subscription information.  See the top of this blog (WordPress) or Err Bear Music (Blogger) for examples.

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Even if your theme or template doesn’t come pre-configured, you can easily add a subscription form or link, by adding the code that Feedburner provides on the Subscription Management page.

In addition to displaying the option on your blog, you should consider adding a link to your email signature, as those who would be most interested in an email subscription may not visit your blog, but do use and see email.

Step 4: Post as Normal and Let the Service Do the Work

After setting up your service and displaying a subscription form or link, your email subscribers will receive one email each day containing your blog posts for that day.

Here is a sample, from one of my recent subscription emails.

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Step 5: While You’re Thinking About It, Subscribe to Newsome.Org Via Email

By clicking here.

That’s it.  Let the emailing begin!

Record LPs to CDs Without a Computer

As most of you know, I’m a big music fan, having bought records, 8-tracks, cassettes, CDs and MP3s pretty much non-stop since I bought my first LP (Glen Campbell) back in the mid-sixties, and having been a songwriter and (starving) musician for years.

The combination of music and evolving technology means I often find myself with some great records on outdated media.  Generally, this means great LPs that aren’t available on CD or MP3.  I’ve converted quite a few records, and did a tutorial that remains one of my most viewed posts.

The approach I describe in that tutorial is as workable today as it was the day I wrote it.  But recently I decided to try another approach.  I wanted to bypass the computer altogether, and record directly from LP to CD.  Then, and only then, do I want to move or rip the songs to my MP3 library.

The tool I chose to do this is an Ion LP2CD turntable.  This is one versatile turntable.  It will connect to your receiver or your computer (via USB), and it has a built-in CD burner that will burn the LP directly to CD.  Or, actually, to its internal flash drive, and then to a CD.  This intermediate step is a good thing, since you can trim the song files, correct any glitches in the automatic song splitting and even reorder the songs, before you burn the CD.

Sweet, huh?

Unboxing

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The turntable is fairly compact for one that includes a built-in CD burner.  I was able to put it together without reading the instructions.  Two hints: look closely for all the small pieces (the 45 insert, the counter weight for the arm, the needle, etc.), which come taped to various parts of the packing styrofoam; and don’t forget to pull the rubber drive belt around the spindle (see page 5 of the Quickstart Guide).  It took me less than 5 minutes to get the turntable put together,  plugged in and ready to rock and roll.

Picking a Test Record

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One the the best records you’ve never heard is The Charlie Daniels Band’s 1974 record, Way Down Yonder.  This is pre-Devil Went Down to Georgia Charlie Daniels, and sounds much more like the Allman Brothers or good, early and bluesy Elvin Bishop, than later era Charlie.  Sadly, it’s not available on CD or MP3.  But I have the record, and decided to use it to test the turntable.

Recording

The turntable has a handy headphone jack, so you can hear what you’re doing.

To record an album, put it on the turntable, play it a bit to get the sound levels right.  There’s a recording level knob and a level indicator on the led screen.

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Once you’re ready, put the turntable in “INT” mode (internal flash drive), put the needle where you want to start, press Record button (the red light will come on), press the Play/Pause button, and then immediately the Start/Stop button, to begin the recording.  The turntable will attempt to automatically split the tracks based on gaps.  It does a good job, unless the record has a fair amount of scratches.  Fear not, it’s easy to manually split tracks once you’ve finished the recording.

In my test, Side A, which had a few scratches, didn’t split perfectly, but Side B did.

Splitting and Trimming

After you’ve recorded the record onto the flash drive, you can split tracks by navigating via Fast Forward or Reverse to the desired place and pressing the Split button.  You can also easily split out and erase long silences between tracks, if necessary.

In sum, this process works very well.  It’s easy, and even fun.

Recording to CD

Once you’re ready, recording to a CD is as easy as putting a blank CD-R into the CD drive and pressing the Burn CD button.  It literally could not be any easier.

The Results

The CD sounds great.  Sure, you can hear the same scratches you hear when you play the LP, but the reproduction is excellent.  Ripping the CD to your MP3 library is quick and easy.

My only wish would be that the device record to the CD in MP3 format.  It would be great to save a step and avoid having to rip the CD.

But It Ain’t Cheap

The biggest, and just about only, drawback to the LP2CD turntable is its price: $321 (at Amazon).  If you have one or two records to convert, it’s definitely not for you.  If you have- or would like to buy- a lot of hard to find LPs, it just might be your ticket.

It’s going to be mine.  Time to browse eBay for some classic vinyl.

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The inside cover of this excellent record