4 Fantastic Things about Losing My Job

This summer my worst nightmare came true. My full-time job came to an abrupt end. Being thrown into the unknown terrified me at first. But once I got over the initial fear hump it turned out to be a blessing in disguise, despite the sudden lack of wages and predictability. Here are four fantastic things I found in this experience.

1. I had actually nothing left to lose

For the first time in almost two years, I was no longer living in fear of losing my job. The worst-case scenario had played itself out. And yes, it was very scary to be plunged into the unknown. But hey, no one died.

I actually felt like a huge weight had been lifted. My position had become so stressful in the last year that I had a long spate of migraines, and then finally a spell of depression. Having spent that last four months of my employment on anti-anxiety medication, I knew deep down that something had to change.

But when we are stuck in our cycle of ‘the real world,’ where we live from paycheck to paycheck, it is too scary to walk away from a job, even if that job is making us sick. I wasn’t brave enough to pull the plug by myself, perhaps because of my already fragile state of mind.

Sometimes, having the choice taken out of our hands can be liberating. Not always, of course! But for me in this particular situation, it gave me the opportunity to walk away from the painful loop I was stuck in.

2. I found out who my real friends are
I got to find out who was really there for me. My partner proved himself to be the rock that I always hoped he would be. I have always been a bit untrusting of people, so it was amazing for me to see how many true friends I had to lend me an ear and offer me a hand.

3. I got to re-invent myself
I had always planned to be my own boss someday. But again, I had not been brave enough to leap into the unknown. I had such strong feelings that I did not want to repeat the old cycle and possibly find myself in the same situation again, so this was my opportunity to make some changes.

I am now a freelance writer and marketer and I am building my own Marketing Business on the side. It is tough at the beginning but despite the dip in my earnings, I would not go back to my old life.

4. I promoted my personal growth
I really got a crash course in personal development that set me on the right path for my next career adventure. Losing my job made me face up to rejection and feeling a sense of failure. And making plans to move into the freelance world starting from scratch showed me just how resourceful I could be.

The most important thing I learned was that fear itself is worse than the thing you are afraid of.

I was scared of losing my job for so long. When it actually happened, having got past the initial panic I actually felt relieved. Suddenly, where there had been fear there was now an opportunity. Anything is possible if we are open to learning and growing.

7 Effective Ways to Reach a Compromise with Your Partner

f you want to have a lasting and healthy relationship, you should know how to reach a compromise with your significant other. As an important part of any relationship, compromise can help you achieve mutual understanding and it can teach you overcome the hardship of living together. Here are a few effective tips on how to reach a compromise with your partner.

1. Identify the real problem
Don’t give way to emotions, but just try to identify the real problem. If you pull other issues in, it will be impossible to find the compromise. It is necessary to reject all disagreements if you want to figure out the true issue. There is no doubt that real love can surmount many barriers. Stick to the real problem and it will be easier to reach a compromise with your partner.

2. Listen to each other
Let your partner express their point of view. It doesn’t mean that you should always agree with them, but it is important to take into account all opinions. Don’t think only about yourself, because you can also make mistakes. You need to listen to each other and make exceptions if necessary.

3. Be empathetic
When you listen to each other, try to be empathetic. Sometimes it is not enough to understand the situation and listen to each other. Try to be imbued with your partner’s feelings and emotions. Your partner can be wrong, but they might not realize it, that’s why you should handle the situation without conflicts. Try to put yourself in their shoes and it will be easier to reach a compromise.

4. Tweak your compromise
Keep in mind that compromise is a kind of agreement that you can tweak every now and then. The main point is to identify the issue and stick to other points of a compromise. There is no need to focus on a certain agreement, because you can tweak it. Try to be open to your partner and communicate freely. Both of you will eventually feel happy if you use your diplomatic skills in resolving conflicts.

5. Define what you want
It is difficult to come to a common decision if you don’t exactly know what you want to get in some kind of a disagreement. Only you know what can make you feel okay and happy. Don’t forget to take into account your partner’s ideas and desires.

6. Suggest a possible compromise
When you try to understand each other’s feelings and state what you want, it’s important that both of you suggest all possible compromises. If you have a big desire to reach a compromise, both of you should find a suitable outcome with a good grace. This new outcome will satisfy your interests to the maximum. It is necessary to suggest a great number of variants to solve your common problem.

7. Don’t fear to bend a little
Sure, much depends on the nature of your character. Don’t be very proud and fundamental when it comes to your happiness. It is almost impossible for both of you to get what you want at once. That is why someone has to bend a little to reach a compromise. Your partner should also be ready to bend if necessary. You won’t lose much, but you may have a chance to find a common ground and get rid of conflicts and live happily.

All you need is to follow these 7 rules and be reasonable if you want to reach a compromise. Life is full of situations which can ruin your love and relationship. Everything depends on your willingness to stay together against all the odds. Have you ever used the compromise as a tool to solve life problems?

10 Weird Beauty Tips That Really Work

People do some crazy things and we’ve all seen our share. Yet when it comes to these crazy-beauty tips, you’ll find some actually work! The following tips might sound strange, but give them a try and see for yourself how effective they can be.

1. Real Mayonnaise for Your Hair
All the fat and oils in mayonnaise may be lousy for your hips, but they are sure good for your hair. This is one of those old tips that never seems to go away no matter how bad it smells! The smell aside, this does work when you want to give your hair some deep conditioning. You don’t have to leave it in all night though; a twenty-thirty minute treatment will do. You also don’t need to use the whole jar – a teaspoon or tablespoon for long hair will do fine.

2. Olive Oil for Your Hair
If mayonnaise is too much for you, consider the beauty treatment that Mediterranean women have long used for their hair – olive oil! The nutrients and fat in the oil can coat the hair luxuriantly and protect it with its rich array of nutrients. Coat your tresses with olive oil for about ten minutes before rinsing. You’ll love how lusciously soft your locks will feel after this deep moisturizing treatment.

3. Diaper Rash Cream
If you are experiencing a bout of dry and cracked feet, go ahead and borrow your baby’s diaper rash cream. This gentle stuff is also magical and will repair and protect your little cutesy footsies! The brand shouldn’t matter as they all work much the same, but you might find one with a scent you prefer – with sleep-time lavender for instance!

4. Soothe a Sun Burn
If you’ve fallen asleep in the sun having forgotten to reapply your sunscreen, you might wake up with a bad burn. You’ll want to promote healing fast and also reduce the pain, swelling, and inflammation. Just run a hot bath and steep some tea; that’s correct, you’ll be taking a black tea bath to get your skin back on track. The tannins in the tea will help you feel better and allow your skin to begin to mend.

5. Lemon Loves Blonde
If you want to naturally lighten your hair, squeeze some fresh lemon juice into it before going outside to garden or hang out at the beach. The acid in the lemon reacts when struck by the UV rays of the sun. The best part about this lightening is that is looks sun-kissed and not kissed by a bottle of hair dye.

6. Preparation H
This one may not entirely take the cake as far as weirdness goes (it does take a good chunk of it however), but, indeed, hemorrhoid cream like this well-known name brand can reduce the under-eye puffiness that plagues many, especially as we begin to age. Its anti-inflammatory properties can make a big difference on your face as well as…er… you know. If this just isn’t your cup of tea, go ahead and put a couple boring slices of cold cucumber over your eyes which can also do the trick.

7. Strawberry Teeth
Want to naturally clean and whiten your teeth? Mash up a strawberry and use it as a paste. While this isn’t recommended for daily use, it can naturally whiten your teeth. Moreover, it tastes great! Be sure to rinse, though, as the acid in the strawberries isn’t something you want to leave on your teeth. Strawberries are great natural skin cleansers too.

8. Toothpaste Zit Remedy
If you want to dry out a pimple quickly, add a dab of toothpaste to it. Of course, no gels; this remedy requires plain white toothpaste. It does work and it’s even cheaper than many over-the-counter pimple remedies. Don’t coat your face with it, but if you need a fast remedy and this is all you happen to have on hand, go ahead and use it. It’s a weird remedy that many people swear by.

9. Caffeinated Body Scrub
Did you think your coffee grounds were only good for getting you rolling in the morning? It’s time to rethink your morning ritual because coffee grounds also make an effective exfoliating scrub for your body. Slough away dead skin cells and smell the wonderful aroma of coffee while you do it. Experts also say the caffeine in the grounds can stimulate new skin cells. If you run out of exfoliation products, give this a try and see how it works for you; you’ll see some cellulite disappear on top of it all which is a great benefit.

10. Say Goodbye to the Bloat
One glass of water mixed with about a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar can help you decrease that bloated feeling that makes it seem like nothing you own fits you anymore. In fact, this remedy is known to work as fast as ten minutes. On the other hand, simply adding more water can also help you get your bloating situation under control. Also be sure to cut down on carbonated beverages and consider eating your vegetables cooked instead of raw.

There are many other weird beauty tips that many women use daily, but these are the most popular. Do you know or use any weird beauty tips? Share them with us, please.

5 Important Tips for Promoting Your Business on Instagram

Instagram is a great tool for promoting your business, especially if you offer visually-appealing products such as T-shirts or fashion accessories. However, even if the products you offer don’t translate well into photographs, Instagram is still a great network for raising brand awareness. Here are five sure-fire ways to gain more followers and increase the visibility of your business on Instagram.

1. Consistent posting is key
Keep your followers engaged and grab the attention of new followers by posting to Instagram every day, multiple times if possible. If you don’t have enough unique photos for this, crosspost other interesting photos that you find online. Also, you can post images consisting of overlaid text such as interesting quotations. Quotations are generally effective because users who agree with the quote tend to tag their friends in the comment section, thus increasing the visibility of your profile.

2. Use the power of the Hashtag
Categorize all of your posts by including numerous hashtags in the caption box. Research trending hashtag phrases and incorporate them to increase your content’s visibility. Also, create a unique hashtag for your business and include it in your posts periodically. Doing so automatically generates a unique category for your content and allows users to easily find your tagged photos via Instagram’s search feature.

3. Offer special promotions
Occasionally offer special promotions to your followers such as free or discounted merchandise. Require users to share your photos or use your business’ unique hashtag to be eligible for each promotion. This strategy basically generates free marketing for your business: participating users will be advertising your profile to all of their own followers. Also, new users will be compelled to follow your profile in order to take part in future promotions, giving you a larger base of potential customers.

4. Crosspost your Instagram profile
Instagram’s search feature lacks the advanced functionality of other social networks such as Facebook and Google Plus. Therefore, it can be difficult for users to find your profile unless they already know your username. To mitigate this effect, share your Instagram profile on all of the other social networks that you use. Set your photos to automatically crosspost to Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus so that your followers on those sites can easily navigate to your Instagram profile. Also, set up an Instagram widget on any blogs or external websites that your business uses in order to compel visitors to follow your profile and receive future updates.

5. Advertise in the real world with stickers and business cards
Invest in inexpensive stickers and business cards that feature your Instagram username and/or your business’ unique hashtag. Give them to customers who purchase your products or services so that they help you advertise in the real world. Advertise locally by placing your stickers in public places that get a substantial amount of pedestrian traffic. Doing so will inspire users to look up your profile on their mobile devices during their commutes.

Every successful social media marketing campaign should take advantage of Instagram’s vast user base. Regardless of what type of business you are promoting, Instagram offers an easy way to increase brand awareness while acquiring new customers in the process. Are you going to use Instagram to promote your business?

Things You Need to Know about Ebola

Now that there have been a few confirmed cases of Ebola in the U.S., the fear of Ebola is palpable: it’s all over the news, social media, and on the top of everyone’s minds. It’s concerning that people who are very knowledgeable on the disease, like the doctor who was recently diagnosed in NY, who has been over in Africa working with victims of Ebola, didn’t follow the guidelines to protect those around them. It is even more important for you to know the risks of exposure, what that actually means, how to protect yourself, and your ACTUAL risk!

The Ebola Virus:
Very simply, Ebola is a virus that is very severe and most often fatal in humans and some primates, which first showed up 1976 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. When the first outbreak occurred, the virus was not understood and it shocked the world of medicine, yet the virus was contained and treated. Ever since then, there have been smaller outbreaks on and off in various parts of Africa, allowing the world of medicine time to study the virus, learn the symptoms, and create treatments.

What is considered an “Exposure”?
I keep hearing from people, “how do I know if I have been exposed?” Because Ebola is transmitted by direct exposure to body fluids such as blood, mucus, vomit, stool, or saliva from an infected person, for the most part, outside of being a healthcare worker, you would know if you have been exposed. The good news about that is you cannot be exposed merely by walking near a person who is infected, you would actually have to come in contact with some form of bodily fluids.

That being said, the reason why there are so many more exposures in African area hot spots and a high rate of transmission is due to a lack of personal protective equipment (face masks, gloves gowns, etc when caring for infected persons) and the lack of knowledge of all facts about Ebola. For example, many do not know that the bloody fluids of infected persons can transmit the virus for up to 61 days after they have passed away (which is a very scary thought.) Many times in the smaller African villages, these patients are cared for my family members when they first become ill, and without knowing they are infected with the virus, the family members then become infected…and thus the infectious cycle begins!

What should I do if I have been “Exposed”?
Immediately wash the area, if you have visibly been in contact with body fluids, using antibacterial soap and warm water. Contact your healthcare provider or the Center for Disease Control (CDC) to report the possible exposure and follow the directions that they give you. As we are learning more and more about the virus and it’s transmission, the CDC is updating their suggestions for prevention and treatment. They do suggest that all people with possible exposures should be quarantined for 20 days in their homes, check their temperatures twice a day for any changes, and if there are, go to a medical center for treatment. Once in hospital, you can be tested for the virus, and while the tests are in progress, you will be quarantined within the hospital to limit any other possible exposures. If your test is positive or you have any of the symptoms of Ebola, you will be treated for the virus early and rather aggressively.

The best way to prevent transmission is to stay away from people with known Ebola infections and if you are caring for someone with the disease, take proper precautions if exposed to their bodily fluids, as healthcare workers do and cover all possible exposed skin, including the face (mouth and eyes.)

The Symptoms:
The virus can incubate from anywhere from 2 to 21 days, which means that an infected person might not know that they are infecting others because they might not even notice the symptoms, which can be subtle. The first few days can feel like a cold coming on, and after 3 days, the symptoms become more like the flu: sore muscles, fever, headache, sore throat, and generalized weakness. Usually on day 4-5 patients then have symptoms more serious symptoms, such as bloody diarrhea, vomiting (which usually contains blood), and severe stomach pains.

The following stage becomes more intense with a visible skin rash, hiccups (from diaphragmatic contractions), and both internal bleeding, like bloody vomit or diarrhea, and external bleeding, such as nosebleeds and/or intense bruising, and bleeding vessels in your eyes. It is difficult to understand why some patients are able to recover, but most likely, the sooner you are evaluated and treated, you have much improved your chances of a full recovery. Patients that get supportive treatment early will be better off in their fight against the virus.

Your Real Risk:
In every day life, as long as you have not been to the areas in Africa that have a current outbreak, you are at a minimal risk for exposure to Ebola. To prevent infection from everyday bacteria and viruses, you should wash your hands frequently, especially when around people with colds or other illness, just as you normally would.

If you go to a hospital, and you have been possibly exposed, please be honest with us and let us know! Healthcare practitioners have been well versed in looking for signs and symptoms, early diagnosis of patients, and ensuring that the patients will not infect other patients… but we need to know that you’re at risk for infection.

5 Reasons you don’t need to worry about Ebola:
1. You should not be worried about the movie ‘Outbreak’ happening. The few cases of infected people who have been treated successfully with experimental drugs, have worked exceedingly well, which is amazing in the fight against Ebola!

2. Ebola is NOT spread through breathing the same air as an infected person, so there is no need to walk around with a mask on.

3. Ebola is NOT lurking around every corner. I have seen articles about people so afraid they are walking around small towns in full body suits; that is not necessary!

4. The exhaustive media coverage will certainly keep you informed of possible case locations…and give frenzied updates until they are ruled out as not having Ebola!

5. Your risk of having a stroke or heart attack much exceeds your risk of contracting Ebola, so it’s better to spend time living healthy and leaving stress at the door, than wasting emotion and time on an infection that will not affect you. (Not intended to be morbid, just putting things in perspective!)

The Real Truth About Why Taylor Swift Deleted Her Social Media Posts

The world is astonished by an unexpected Taylor Swift’s activity on her social media accounts. Without any hint or warning, Taylor Swift deleted lots of her posts and pictures. She deleted all of her Instagram posts and her Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube have become half empty (if not entirely empty, too).

The Real Truth About Why Taylor Swift Deleted Her Social Media Posts
While the fans start worrying about what Taylor Swift is doing right now and planning to do next, there might be the great news for you. There is a probability that Taylor Swift is working on a new album and planning to announce a tour. There is no official confirmation of a tour or an album at this time, but we are sure something great is coming…

Bipolar Psychosis: I’m Not Real, My Life is a Movie and I am Going to Save the World

Psychosis is common for people with bipolar to experience during episodes of mania or depression.

Bipolar disorder is characterized by episodes of mania and depression. Some of us also have psychotic systems during these episodes.

It’s especially common for people in a full blown manic episode to have psychosis.  Sometimes we have psychotic thoughts that stay inside and we act on them, but don’t say them out loud. Sometimes we will say the thoughts out loud and really scare the people who care about us! Here are a few examples of psychotic thoughts:

I am the devil and I should die.

The world is not real and these people around me are my enemies.

My husband is trying to poison me. I can only drink bottled water bought when no one is watching.

They are all rat bastards at work who are working with the man upstairs to have my head.

The next person who comes near me gets a swift kick in the swingers with the baseball bat of my mind.

The garden is full of pests and worms and needs to be purged.

I have a secret I can’t tell you, but it is so explosive it will expose the world for what it really is and I will be seen as the savior of us all.

I am not real and my life is actually a movie being filmed by a director who can’t show his face.

I am holding the world between my fingers. If I move my fingers, the world will blow up.

The number three is here to give me a message that I really need to get a grip and count to three each time I have a sexual thought.

Psychosis is a break with reality that involves hallucinations and delusions. People with bipolar disorder only have psychosis during a manic or depressed episode. If a person with bipolar disorder has psychosis when not in a manic or depressed episode, the diagnosis is schizo affective disorder.

Do you experience psychosis?

8 Things a Real Man Is Always Ready to Do

What is the difference between a guy and a real man? Is it his beautiful body and face or the size of his wallet? Or maybe it`s the amount of women he can make go crazy about him? In fact these things mean nothing but the way he treats you and himself really matters. A real men isn`t afraid to make his woman happy and here are the things he`s always ready to do for her…

1. Start a new relationship

It often happens so that a man can be single for a long time. There may be a long-lasted break from relationship so he may forget how it`s to be with someone you love. However, it`s not a reason to feel diffident when he meets a woman he likes. If he realizes that this woman is a love of his life, he should be brave enough to ask her out on a date and to make her a happy wife in future.

2. Show his tears

Women can cry and everyone knows that but why men can`t? Showing emotions is natural and a real man isn`t afraid to do that when it`s needed. Everyone encounters serious problems in life like being fired or feeling disrespected, for instance. Thinking that only women can spill tears out is silly because men also suffer from negative emotions and they can cry not only at the funerals. Hiding emotions is unhealthy and can cause serious mental disorders.

3. Say he loves you in public

There are shy guys and some of them don`t like to speak about private life in public. Even though it`s not obvious to shout about your relationship to make everyone around listen to you, your boyfriend shouldn`t be afraid to say he loves you in public. If he hides your relationship from his friends and family, it means he has no serious intentions. A real man is always ready to show everyone that you`re a happy couple.

More: Are You Dating a Womanizer?

4. Do some feminine things

Nowadays gender doesn`t mean as much as it was earlier. Your guy shouldn`t try to seem like he`s interested in men`s activities only and doesn`t care about those shows you want to watch together. If he likes to dance, why not do that with you? If he likes to wear bright juicy colors, why can`t he let himself do that? A real man always does what he wants and doesn`t worry about what others think about it.

5. Be a homebody

Dish washing, cooking, house cleaning and baby sitting shouldn`t scare your boyfriend. If you earn money while he takes care of your child, it`s totally okay. Sometimes we may exchange our life roles with a guy when it`s needed for comfortable living. If he really loves you, he wouldn`t care about what he should do to make your life better and if he has to be a mother, he will be a mother and a real man at the same time.

6. Listen to your opinion

Yes, a man should be confident and make crucial decisions himself. However it doesn`t mean he shouldn`t listen to his girl`s opinion. A man is the one who accepts his woman`s world view and asks her to help when it`s needed. He shouldn`t decide everything without you because he shares life with you. He needs to make you feel equal and he shouldn`t be afraid to show everyone that your words mean a lot to him.

7. Be romantic

Guys tend to think that being romantic isn`t a trait of a real man. Even though your boyfriend may like to make some romantic things for you, he may be afraid to be judged by his friends for this “soft behavior.” But a real man is always ready to do something pleasant for his lovely girl and he doesn`t pay much attention to others` point of view about those sweet deeds.

More: 7 Rarest Qualities of a True Gentleman

8. Follow his dreams

Being always ready to fight with anyone isn`t the thing that makes a real man brave. Being really courageous means being ready to make your dreams come true. Whether he wants to become a famous writer or a singer, he shouldn`t be afraid to follow his dreams. When a guy tries to do everything to become happy, he makes his woman happy as well.

A real man isn`t all about having a perfect shape of the body and manipulating his girlfriend. He is sensitive, romantic, strong and confident at the same time. He`s not afraid to show everyone that he loves you and he always does everything possible to make you happy even if he has to neglect some principles. If you realize that your boyfriend isn`t ready to take advantage of your relationship the way you want, he`s not the one you`re looking for. Try to find a real man who`ll treat you like a queen and help you become a better person at the same time. What other traits of a real man do you want to see in your boyfriend`s character?

10 Ways to Tell If It’s Real Love or Bipolar Mania

Is it love when you’re swept by euphoria, a special connection, erotic stirrings, constant thoughts of another or are those signs of looming mania, with a reckless lack of judgment and over-the-top impulsive actions? Experts from the Human Sexuality Committee of the Group for Advancement of Psychiatry offer this mental checklist:

#1 What is love for you?

Can you identify differences between your experience of love when healthy and when manic? For individuals with bipolar disorder this knowledge may be elusive and change with different stages of life, but reflection should provide you with some guideposts.

#2 What qualities would a loving partner have?

Who would make a compatible mate? Ask yourself this question for three time points in your life: when you are depressed and needy, manic and invincible, and at a point when your mood is even. You will need a partner to all three states.

#3 What about sex?

What is your normal comfort level and how does that change during mania? Sexual discussions are often uncomfortable within families, but should be part of a clinical assessment. Talk frankly with your doctor and therapist about the whole range of your sexual experiences and desires, past, present, and future.

#4 What characterizes your manic states?

Although it may vary somewhat, there’s generally a pattern you can identify when it comes to relationships. Do you embrace romance? Start a friendship group in your apartment? Pursue sexual encounters in person or online? Note other tell-tale symptoms, such as changes in sleep patterns or excessive spending.

#5 Have you evaluated your judgment/impulsivity?

People in love are often impulsive but their judgment remains relatively intact. Have you neglected important value-based issues because your mind is racing and concentration is destroyed? It would be wise to question whether grand impulsive plans, like flying off to get married after the first date, might not reflect the disinhibition or spirituality of manic symptoms.

#6 Do you have the three Cs?

Consider if you have these three things with your new partner: chemistry, compatibility and commitment. There is a tendency for people with bipolar disorder to use romantic relationshipsas a kind of antidote, at least in the first flush of happiness. You may feel that life is so great and your depression is cured.

#7 Bought anything recently?

Lovers’ gifts, even if expensive, tend to be intimate—a diamond watch because she loved it in the window, a CD that you mixed just for him. In contrast, manic purchases are more likely to be status driven, such as a Porsche you can no way afford, or multiples, such as six similar purses in a day.

#8 Is this about you?

Do you think you are super talented and special, or is it your new lover that is the most perfect thing? People who are manic become full of themselves, or “grandiose.” Lovers are infatuated with the beloved.

#9 Have you done a mental check during a period of stability?

Answer significant questions: Are your feelings for everyone more intense, both good and bad? Are you thinking a mile a minute about just this one person, obsessed and preoccupied or are you just thinking a mile a minute? Do you share the interests of this person only when manic? Is a new love affair the only new thing in your life, or have you started new projects in other areas of your life as well?

#10 What’s up with your personal clocks?

If your appetite, energy, sleep cycle, and response to the season are in your manic pattern, try to be suspicious of yourself, something obviously hard to do as mania takes hold.

The Real Differences Between 16-Bit and 24-Bit Audio

iPods are the most ubiquitous music-playing devices on the planet, but are they the best sounding? Not exactly. iPods tapped into the boom of the MP3, and with iTunes and its own AAC encoding system, Apple quickly grabbed control of the lossy audio world and never let go. That position is what makes a recent statement from the chairman of the A&M record label so intriguing–he claims that Apple is interested in offering hi-fi 24-bit audio files on the iTunes music store.

That would give iTunes better than CD-quality audio, but the move might not make sense for Apple. Users go to iTunes for quick downloads of compressed lossy files, and 24-bit implies a brave new world of audio that many portable devices can’t fully take advantage of.

Deep Bits

When it comes to judging digital music quality, the discussion usually begins and ends with bitrate. A song encoded at 320 kilobits/second is going to sound a whole lot better than a song with a 128kbps bitrate, right? Well, sure, but it’s a bit more complicated than that. Bitrate stems from two different elements: bit depth and sample rate. Here’s where we can understand the difference between 16-bit and 24-bit audio.

Bit depth is essentially the number of bits you have to contain a piece of audio–the range from the imperceptible whispers of virtually no sound to the loudest noise a piece of audio gear can crank out. The difference between 16-bit audio and 24-bit audio isn’t just a matter of eight bits. As TweakHeadz explains,

“The easiest way to envision this is as a series of levels, that audio energy can be sliced at any given moment in time.  With 16 bit audio, there are 65,536 possible levels.  With every bit of greater resolution, the number of levels double.  By the time we get to 24 bit, we actually have 16,777,216 levels.  Remember we are talking about a slice of audio frozen in a single moment of time.”

sample rate. Sample rate refers to the number of samples or measurements taken each second from a recording. The typical CD sample rate is 44.1kHz, or 44,100 samples per second. High-end audio gear often samples at an even higher rate, and DVD-Audio quality–which employs 24-bit audio–sample at 96kHz or even 192 kHz.

Without turning to compression formats, those sample rates mean big file sizes. A 16-bit, 44.1kHz song requires a bitrate of 1.35 megabit/second of data, and a single minute of stereo audio takes up about 10 megabytes of space. A 24-bit song with a 96kHz sample rate, by contrast, requires a bitrate of 4.39mbps and requires 33 megabytes of storage for a single minute of stereo audio. Now you can see why MP3 filesizes are so appealing.

But How Does It Sound?

24-bit sound is a tricky thing to gauge. Does it provide for a greater resolution of sound? Definitively. It has room for 256 times the data, remember. Are you going to be able to hear that difference? Harder to judge. Human hearing supposedly tops out at 20kHz, but that doesn’t make higher sample rates useless. According to the Nyquist rate, to fully capture a wave, it should be sampled at twice its highest frequency. In other words, a higher sample rate, and a greater bit depth, gives your sound more wiggle room, meaning sound peaks are less likely to be truncated and the subtleties of the music are less likely to be drowned out.

Lossy, Lossless and EAC

Lossy audio–your MP3s, AACs and (blech) WMAs–offer far more compression by sacrificing quality. A technique called variable bitrate (VBR) can improve compression quality by doing exactly what the name implies: varying the bitrate of a song. With VBR, more complicated portions of a song are allocated more bits, while simpler segments take up fewer bits.

Even with lossless compression, achieving perfect fidelity isn’t easy. Popular CD ripping tool EACdemonstrates exactly how complicated the process of reproducing sound bit-for-bit can be–it will read each sector of a CD several times, perhaps dozens of times, compensate for errors, and present you with a dizzying range of compression options to give you the perfect rip.

More Bits, More Problems

Hopefully at this point you have a handle on what separates all these file formats and types of compression, so let’s get back to the original topic: Apple and 24-bit audio. As we’ve clearly demonstrated, 24-bit sound files are big–something like 100MB for a regular song, though FLAC compression can cut that down to something more manageable. Even if we assume Apple is interested in 24-bit audio, will there be a market for it? After all, their most popular music players have taken a step backwards in terms of capacity, opting to use flash memory over physical disks. You sure couldn’t fit many lossless files on an iPod nano.

a company like SanDisk or Samsung. But until the price of flash memory has drastically lowered, 24-bit audio on portable media players will remain a space-hogging luxury.

Thankfully, we don’t face those same constraints on our desktops–cheap terabyte harddrives are voluminous enough to hold hundreds of uncompressed albums. If you feel like trying out some awesome lossless FLAC music, check out Archive.org’s selection of 24-bit music. It’s free! foobar2000 is an excellent (and skinnable) music player that can handle FLAC, and dBpoweramp on the Windows side and Max on the Mac side can help you convert between FLAC and ALAC. It takes a bit more work than downloading a 99 cent AAC song off iTunes, but just remember: 256 times as many bits!