I spent a portion of this weekend ripping my extensive CD collection onto an external USB 2.0 hard disk drive. Performing rips of multiple CDs is mind-numbingly boring. For those of you that may embark on a similar process, my advice is to do what I did -- put the computer out of your line of sight (no matter how fast the software encodes from your CD drive, it's still sort of like watching paint dry) and turn up the sound so that you can hear the noise when the software's done encoding.
My particular setup is one of those Sony Vaios with a docking station, an external USB 2.0 Maxtor hard drive, and ITunes for Windows. Everything is really fast -- encoding at about 9.0x. Have yet to encounter many problems with any of my CDs being in the Gracenote database; even most of the live imports I own are showing up, saving me from having to enter the track information in manually.
What's depressing about the process is looking at the hard drive usage once encoded; I have a 120gb drive to fill up, and after 200 songs, I'm only up to about 8gb. Why is that depressing? Because I did rough calculations up front before I bought the hard drive and I know that it is about the right size to hold all of my CDs; that's a long way to go.
I know that there are services that you can send all of your CDs to and they will return all of your CDs plus a hard drive with all the music encoded, but I am in no real rush, so it's no big deal to do it myself while reading or watching TV.
The big payoff is not only being able to fill up my IPod, but also having this computer and hard drive integrated into my home theatre system. I plan on purchasing an LCD television screen that accepts computer signal input so that I can use the computer as well as watch TV. Basically, I plan on just putting the computer on the shelf with all the components and plugging the audio outs from the docking station into my receiver.
Next task after all the CDs are done? Maybe start encoding all the DVDs . . .