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Buffers are often used in conjunction with I/O to hardware, such as disk drives, sending or receiving data to or from a network, or playing sound on a speaker. A line to a rollercoaster in an amusement park shares many similarities. People who ride the coaster come in at an unknown and often variable pace, but the roller coaster will be able to load people in bursts (as a coaster arrives and is loaded). The queue area acts as a buffer: a temporary space where those wishing to ride wait until the ride is available. Buffers are usually used in a FIFO (first in, first out) method, outputting data in the order it arrived
I imagine the entire track that is being ripped is read into memory
When first introduced, 3 seconds was the maximum buffering time. As of 2006 times range from 10 seconds to "skip-free," where the player will rarely skip.