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November 2000, Week 5 -- CDs: Read Em Their Writes

backpack cd-rewriter

   Just as there was a rush to buy digital cameras last holiday season, it seems likely that cutting your own CDs will be the hot choice this year. Prices for CD recording units are running $130 to $350, well below most digital cameras.
   Like the cameras, CD recorders are useful for business and pleasure. Businesses like them for backup and an easy and attractive way to hand out company and product information. Home users also use them for backup and often burn their own music and photo CDs. Recently we've even seen resumes on CDs.
   CD recording drives come in two types: those that record to a blank CD once and drives that can rewrite the same CD many times. The latter are called "rewritables" and nearly all new drives are of this type. The blank disks are a different matter, however, and still come in two varieties: CD-R (record only once), and CD-RW (rewritable).
   It might seem like you would always want rewritable CDs -- in case you want to change things later, but in fact that's not the best way to go for most purposes. CD-RWs usually won't play in the kind of CD players you find in homes and cars, CD-Rs on the other hand can be played on any CD player. So if you burn a CD-R disk -- that's "record once," you can send it to someone or carry it somewhere and be reasonably confident it can be played on any CD player you come to. For burning music or photo CDs, you would almost always want to use CD-R. If you make a mistake when burning it in, just throw it out; the disks are cheap.
   Another choice to be made is whether to get an internal or external drive. I nearly always prefer external for these purposes because you can then switch it between computers and carry it when you travel.
   We've been trying out a "Backpack" CD rewriter from Micro Solutions, which has a list price of $269. The advantage here is that it is portable (weight, three pounds) and can be plugged into either the parallel or USB (Universal Serial Bus) port on Windows 95/98/NT/2000 machines. Setup took only a minute or two and everything went smoothly. The drive comes with the market leading Adaptec software: Easy CD maker and Direct CD. The current buzz for the best internal drives leans toward Plextor and Panasonic.
   Though the Adaptec software is packaged with many of the new CD-RW drives, we also like two new programs from NTi (Newtech Infosystems). Their CD-Maker Professional 2000 was reviewed here a couple months ago and is great. If the CD writer is being used primarily for backup -- and it should be for business users, then their new "Backup Now" would be our choice. A new version is out and like their CD-Maker is easy to use and terrific.
   Phone info for Micro Solutions: 815-756-3411; web: www.micro-solutions.com. NTi phone: 714-259-9700; web: www.ntius.com.
 Music to somebody's ears

Club Tracks

   Since recording music is a major reason for burning your own CDs we thought we better take a look at two new programs from Cakewalk, long-time maker of the best-selling music programs for PC and Macintosh.
   First up is "Club Tracks," a $49 program that creates a mixing studio on a PC. The aim is to let you mix music tracks to turn just about any melody or rhythm into dance music. The user can add their own vocal or instrumental and build layers of tracks by recording samples from CDs. About 900 ready-made "loops" of music are already on the program CD. Users can readily take any tune and turn it into Hip-Hop, Drum N' Bass, Techno, etc.
   Club Tracks comes with a CD burning program called "Pyro," which will later probably be sold as a separate. Pyro lets you turn CDs into MP3 files for the Web or burn a CD from MP3, WAV files LPs or audio cassettes.
   Cakewalk phone: 617-447-7870; web: www.cakewalk.com.
Internuts: Let's put the "X" back in Xmas.

-- www.christmasmouse.com  Tons of Christmas tree ornaments and collectibles, including Harry Potter and Looney Tunes ornaments. Also has sing-along cassettes, games, dishes, angels, gnomes, etc.
-- www.christmasballs.com Victorian ornaments, stockings, etc., plus many links to other sites specializing in Victoriana, if you will.
-- www.childwoodproducts.com "Heirloom" rocking horses and cradles.
-- www.martyswoodshop.com Hand-turned wooden ornaments.

-- www.christmasdepot.com Claims to be the largest Christmas ornament store on the net. Artificial snow and ice crystals, fiber optic Christmas trees.
-- www.bronners.com Also claims to be the largest Christmas store. Store is the size of four football fields, has 50,000 items.
-- www.westonfruitcakecompany.com I've always liked names that tell you exactly what a company does. Weston (Canadian) makes fruitcakes.
-- www.missmelba.com The site guarantees that Miss Melba of Columbia, South Carolina, makes every "Miss Melba's Olde Timey Fruitcake" from scratch. Check fruitcake eaters' comments.

-- www.classic-fruitcake.com These fruitcakes are made by "Gloria," who guarantees their quality.
-- www.fruitcake.com The Collins Street Bakery, in Corsicana, Texas, "just 50 miles south of Dallas," claims to use an old 19th century recipe from Wiesbaden, Germany. The acrobats from Ringling Brothers Circus liked it.
NOTE: Readers can search more than four years of columns at the "On Computers" web site: www.oncomp.com. You can e-mail Bob Schwabach at bobschwab@oncomp.com or bobschwab@aol.com.