The A Files soundbytes are encoded using the Ogg Vorbis audio format.
There are Ogg player applications available for all major platforms. Many are free and will only cost you the time to download and install them. Most can also play your other audio files (WAV, MP3, CD tracks, etc.), and may even do a better job than your system's default application.
Some free possibilities are:
For MS Windows:
For MacOS X:
These are merely the tips of the icebergs: the level of support for Ogg in audio software is rising fast. More comprehensive lists can be found on the Ogg Vorbis site's software page.
Unfortunately, two popular audio players for the Windows platform, Windows Media Player and RealPlayer, do not currently have Ogg support at all. There are efforts going on to provide plug-ins for at least Windows Media Player (e.g. the Media XW or OggDS projects), but as yet this is very experimental, expert-level software. For the casual user, just installing one of the alternative applications mentioned earlier will be much easier.
There are a number of reasons why we prefer Ogg Vorbis over the more popular and available MP3 format:
Potential patent problems.
MP3 is a patented technology. If we want to encode our audio in MP3, we could at any time be required to pay a licensing fee to the owners of the involved patents. With Ogg this does not and will never arise: the format is truly free, both for decoding and for encoding.
Ogg files tend to give better audio quality at smaller file sizes, even for hissy little voice recordings such as the ones we use in the A Files.
We are a Discworld web site. How can we not use a format that is called Ogg Vorbis?
"An 'Ogg' is a tactical maneuver from the network game 'Netrek' that has entered common usage in a wider sense. [...] The Ogg project has nothing to do with the common surname 'Ogg'. Nor is it named after 'Nanny Ogg' from the Terry Pratchett book Wyrd Sisters."
"Vorbis, on the other hand is named after the Terry Pratchett character from the book Small Gods."
- -- From the xiph.org Names and Logos FAQ.
The A Files soundbytes are, for the moment, available in both Ogg and MP3 formats.
This is done because -- despite the available software mentioned above -- we think that, in general, Ogg support for the end-user has not yet reached the level where we would feel comfortable in abandoning the more ubiquitous MP3 format altogether.
As Ogg continues to gain popularity, and support for it becomes more widespread, we expect that the balance will shift, and that in the not too distant future we can safely stop providing the MP3s in the knowledge that configuring one's computer for Ogg really has become only a matter of a couple of extra clicks.
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