Tag Archives: Audio storage

The Brits And Storage

The Brits have succeeded in squeezing a terabyte onto a DVD disk, 10 times what the BluRay disks can  currently hold and 50 times the capacity of a double-sided, double-layed DVD.

Nature reports that the disk is called MODS, for Multiplexed Optical Data Storage, and could potentially contain 472 hours of video footage – equivalent to a terabyte, or 1,000 gigabytes, of data. It’s been developed by a team led by Peter Török of Imperial College London.

But there’s a problem: So far the researchers can’t retrieve information from their disk fast enough for video footage. It also won’t be around any time soon: Török believes that MODS disks could hit the shops between 2010 and 2015. And it will be too expensive for the layman, so MODS is more likely to be used by libraries or software companies looking for ways to marshal their huge amounts of data. “The British Library could put all their microfiches onto disks,” Török is quoted as saying. “It will be very good for archiving.”

Mind you, people said that about storage before. By then I’m guessing a terabyte on a DVD is not going to seem all that surprising, or all that expensive.

A Way To Record Lectures, Interviews and Stuff To Your PC

I have long been looking for a way to record interviews and whatnot to my computer. Here’s a program that might help: LectureRecorder, from Cyprus-based XemiComputers

 

LectureRecorder “allows you to record lectures and write summaries for them. To make a lecture summary the program provides several rich-text fields: course, subject, date, lecturer, digest and notes. There is also an option to print the summary. “

The built-in audio recorder uses real-time OGG audio compression, includes an editor and records in 8-bit, mono, with sampling rates of 44KHz down to 11KHz. The files can be converted to standard sound files.

The program costs $20. They also do some interesting other, but roughly similar software, such as Minutes of Meeting Recorder. What’s not quite clear in either is whether you can alter playback speed — a must for transcribing — and assign function keys for easily pausing the recording (a great feature of the software that comes with Olympus voice recorders.)

Eight Gigabytes Of Stuff On One DVD

In the next few weeks, expect to be able to buy DVD discs that can store up 16 hours of video or 8.5 GB of Data. Verbatim said yesterday they would this spring release “the industry’s first Double-Layer DVD+R (DVD+R DL) discs”, nearly doubling the storage capacity on DVD recordable discs (from 4.7GB to 8.5GB) on a single side. Verbatim says these discs will be compatible with existing DVD video players and DVD-ROM drives.

That ’16 hours’ bit needs some clarifying: in fact, you could only store up to 4 hours of DVD-quality video — the 16 hours refers to VHS video quality. The way Verbatim say they do this is to have the first recording layer semi-transparent with enough reflectivity for writing/reading data on the first layer, yet transmitting enough laser power to read/write on the second layer by refocusing the laser.

Verbatim expect content developers (read DVD movies, big software packages) to make use of this technology: You could fit two Hollywood movies on one of these discs, if you really wanted to. Is this the time when I can talk about how I remember how all you could get on a floppy drive was less than one megabyte, but how somehow we were happier then? (No – Ed.)

DVD Burners, Going Even Cheaper

Further to my column last week about how DVD burners may be worth investing in, Slashdotters are debating their rapidly falling prices — in some cases to below $100. The discussion is here; the original article reviewing sub-$100 burners is here.

Having just spent more of my weekend than is healthy backing up my MP3 collection (20+ gigabytes) I have no doubt about their appeal for storing large quantities of data. That collection went onto six DVD discs. If I’d done the same thing to CD-ROM it would have taken, er, a lot more.

Software: Retrieving CD Data

 Here’s an option to recover data from unreadable CDs. (I haven’t tested this.) CD/DVD Diagnostic “works to retrieve a consumer’s damaged files corrupted by a defective drive, bad software or from user error”. It works on unreadable, scratched, or corrupt CD-R, CD-RW, DVD+R, and DVD+RW discs. Unlike programs that use Windows’ file system to access bad files, CD/DVD Diagnostic bypasses Windows and ignores the original software that created the lost data file. No attempt is made to repair the damaged disc. Rather, the unreadable files are repaired and written to your hard drive. It sounds intriguing. CD/DVD Diagnostic costs $70. CD Rx Data Retriever costs $40.

News: The Dark Side of Backing Up

 From the We Should Have Known This Dept comes news that CD-ROMs degrade in months, even at room temperature without sunlight. Dutch magazine PC Active tested data disks from 30 manufacturers that were recorded 20 months ago. Several data CDs developed serious errors, or became virtually unreadable, The Register reports.
 
It’s perhaps too early to tell, but the word seems to be: different dye systems used for CD-R disks are the root of the evil and that you’re better off storing your stuff on the more expensive disks. My tuppennies’: Keep backups of your most important data on different media — hard drive, online drive, CD-ROMs, DVD — in several copies.

Column: Panic attack

Loose Wire: Read This, Then Panic

By Jeremy Wagstaff
from the 9 May 2002 edition of the Far Eastern Economic Review, (c) 2003, Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

 
Ever fire up your computer, only to hear weird whirring noises from your hard drive — or nothing at all? Only to then hear another sound, as your stomach starts churning with dread — a little bit like food poisoning, or being in love, only worse. Suddenly your life starts flashing past, only this time it’s not when your brother or sister threw a box of Lego bricks at you when you were five, but when you last backed up your data to another device, and the horrible vision of what your future would look like without any data in it. It’s happened to all of us, and it’s not as bad as it sounds. Things could be worse.
 
Yeah, right, I have to say that for legal reasons. Of course it couldn’t be worse. Nine out of 10 doofuses (read incompetent computer users) never back up their data. At least that’s my experience: in fact the figure is more like half, according to surveys conducted by Iomega, a storage company. (Sure, they would say that, because they want you to buy their stuff, but I figure that’s evened out by the number of folk who lie in these kind of surveys because they don’t want to look like doofuses.) The sad reality is that we don’t really back up often enough and well enough, so that when a computer crash does come it hits us like a locomotive. So how do you avoid this?
 
Actually, it’s relatively easy. But you have to be disciplined about it. First, separate your data — document files, spreadsheets, pictures of your newborn — from your programs and create a folder on your hard drive called “Documents” or “Data” or whatever, and then subfolders according to what the data is: Letters to Mum; Letters to bank manager; Letters to bank manager’s mum; etc. With me so far?
 
Now you need somewhere to back this stuff up. Here are the options:
 
CD-ROMs: Many PCs and laptops come fitted with CD-ROM drives that allow you to create CDs. With blank CD prices so low this is not a bad choice. The only problems are that you’ll end up having a lot of CD-ROMs sitting around, most of which you’ll have been too lazy to label properly; and also that the CD-burning process is pretty unforgiving — if you use your computer while the CD is being created, chances are the resulting CD will be unusable.
 
On-line drives: If you have a fast Internet connection you can save data at a secure Web site like X Drive (www.xdrive.com) for a reasonable fee. If you are a Mac user, there is free storage with the Apple Web site’s iDisk service (www.apple.com/idisk). This is good if you’re on the move a lot, or are afraid a burglar is going to steal all your back-ups, or you live in an earthquake/forest fire/flooding zone. No point in backing everything up, carefully stashing it in a drawer and then finding your house and drawer have burned down, been horizontally rearranged or moved a few blocks down the canyon.
 
I’d put my money on an external drive: These are hard drives just like the one inside your computer but, you guessed it, they’re outside. With prices tumbling, you can now pick up a 20 gigabyte drive that runs off the USB slot on your computer for $200 or less. About the size of a TV remote, they’re easy to stash, and they’re fast. Iomega have just launched a very sleek-looking range of drives that use USB version 2.0, which should make them even faster.
 
Now all you need is to do the actual back-up. For this I would recommend Second Copy from Centered Systems ($30 from www.centered.com), which is extraordinarily easy to use, or the slightly more complicated Network File Monitor from AAR Software (a Lite version is $20 from www.aarsoftware.com). Work out how often you want your data backed up (no harm in doing it every day if you’re the nervous type) and then let the software run — best when you’re asleep or at the gym, since it always hogs resources. If you’re really nervous, try Iomega’s QuikSync (www.iomega.com), which will monitor the files you’re using and back them up every few minutes: This definitely slows things down, so it’s advisable only for the certifiably paranoid. No, of course I don’t use it myself.
 
Hang on a minute, what was that noise?

Loose Wire: Don’t Bite the

Loose Wire: Don’t Bite the Hand That Pays

By Jeremy Wagstaff
from the 18 April 2002 edition of the Far Eastern Economic Review, (c) 2003, Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

I get hot under the collar over a lot of things, especially being forced to write this column in the sweltering tropical heat of Bali, when I could be in a cool, air-conditioned office cubicle. But one thing riles me in particular: the efforts of music, movie and software majors to restrict usage of their products because of pirating. How much sillier can things get?

It’s now possible to download whole movies off the Internet, milliseconds after they’re released (and often before). The movie industry is feeling the heat that software manufacturers have been feeling for years — the same heat that the music industry felt, too, during the brief reign of Napster’s file-sharing software.

In nearly all cases, the industry reaction has been to punish the very people it should be trying to win over: the paying customer. This is usually done by building in limitations on use of their product. In the case of DVD movies, the world is divided into zones — a DVD bought in one zone cannot (theoretically) be played in another.

Some music CDs now often have special keys or codes built in which prevent easy or exact duplication. Microsoft has been trying out ways of forcing people to register their software; if they don’t, they find the software stops working after a few weeks. All these efforts are misguided and alienate users, who feel they’ve stumped up the cash and can do what they like with their purchase, short of using it as a lethal weapon.

To find a solution that works, we need to acknowledge a few basic principles. First, piracy is no longer a backstreet occupation, if it ever was. A few metres from where I’m writing this in Bali you can buy the latest version of Microsoft Office for a fraction of its original price. Want a DVD of a new movie like Angel Eyes or Ocean’s Eleven? Join the queue in Jakarta’s main expat supermarket and you can snap them up for about $6 each, or a quarter of the price of the imported original.

The lesson from this: It doesn’t pay to look at the problem too moralistically, or legalistically. If we do, we’ve got to get tough on half the world, which spends its time making fake Rolexes, imitation Gucci bags, sports shirts and the like, and the other half, many of whom I can see from my vantage point at the hotel bar, who spend their holidays in the tropics buying them up.

Thirdly, technology is not the answer. Industry boffins can dream up new ways of restricting copying but the copiers will always be one step ahead. I realized that MP3s were no longer the province of nerdy types when I spotted a small store in an Indonesian village selling MP3 collections of the likes of Sting and Britney Spears alongside single sachets of shampoo. The lesson: Technology finds a way round every obstacle placed in its way. For users blighted by DVD-zoning, many electronics shops will happily rejig the software in the DVD player to enable any DVD to play regardless of where it came from.

In my view the answers are simple. Manufacturers should reward the genuine user. Don’t just shove a disc in a plastic box and shrink-wrap it: spend some time and effort compiling interesting sleeve notes. Offer DVD buyers a once-only code to download the sound track in MP3 form free. Enable those who register to buy a boxed set of autographed DVDs by the same director. Some of this happens at the moment, but it’s not enough.

Adopt brave measures: Reduce prices, which have stayed too high (particularly CD prices), and stop annoying the rest of us with stupid restrictions on usage. Learn from companies that do things well, like Qualcomm, whose excellent e-mail program Eudora comes in a free version. This is funded by ads, which appear in a tasteful, but visible, format (and are accompanied by a polite but firm warning should you arrange your other programs to cover up the ads).

DVD-manufacturers or CD-makers could sell cheaper versions of their products interspersed with commercials: Pay more and you can get one without the ads. Let’s face it, some people are never going to pay top dollar for these products, so stop worrying about them and encouraging us law-abiding folk to buy more. Now I’m off to buy a real Rolex. No, really.