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CD Burners: Too hot for you?

By: George K.

One of the latest and most effective products that the technology vendors have brought to their customers is the CD-RW drives, popularly known as CD burners. Most medium-range to high-end computers already come bundled with these nifty little gadgets, making them even more common in any tech-savvy home or business. Along with the new technology, these drives have also brought a legion of acronyms and tech jargon that any home-user would feel defenseless without knowing.

The most common ones of course are CD-RW (Compact Disc Re-Writable) and CD-R (Compact Disc Recordable). Other ones such as Worm (Write Once/Read Many) are reserved for the more hardcore tech enthusiasts. A few catch phrases like, “I have a 12/10/32” and “I hate those buffer under-runs” seem to scare off the average computer user as well. Don’t be flustered by the uberhaxor who deceives you; the whole concept is really quite simple. First of all, an explanation of the jargon is a prerequisite. All burners sold within the last two years are CD-RW, which means that they can write or re-write. Now you may ask what ‘write’ and ‘re-write’ really encompasses. This calls for a briefing on the different type of CD media that you can use in your CD writer.

The first type of media that you can record on is CD-R. This can only be recorded on once, and if a notorious “buffer under-run” tackles you, you might as well throw it away. The second type is CD-RW. These CDs can be recorded and erased as many times as you wish. The only drawback is that they are more expensive, and they will not work in normal CD drives or CD players. The basic rule is that if you’re going to record a music CD or important data for long-term storage, use a CD-R. If not, use a CD-RW. It is essential to make sure that you are buying a decent drive that fits all needs.

Now, there isn’t much selection, but you can choose from the various speeds, buffer sizes, and connection interfaces. Right now, most burners are at 8/4/24, which means that they can write at 8x, re-write at 4x, and read at 24x. (If you’re confused about the ‘x’, just think of it as a relative unit of speed, but 1x is really equal to 150 kb/sec.) The buffer size on your unit is critical as well; however, most burners offer a 4 megabyte buffer. A big buffer size will prevent those ugly buffer under-runs. This is basically when your burner cannot transfer data fast enough from your computer, and it halts -- wasting your CD-R and time. Choosing an interface type is a slightly more complicated process. You must take into account how much money you are willing to spend, the computer you wish to install it on , and what it will be used for.

If you wish to use your burner on several computers, opt for an external drive with either a USB (Universal Serial Bus) or SCSI (Small Computer Systems Interface). Although more expensive, these are ideal for a small business or someone with several computers. If you wish to a buy an internal burner that fits snugly into your computer (which most people prefer), you can either have a SCSI (Small Computer Systems Interface) or an EIDE (Enhanced Integrated Drive Electronics). If you are willing to blow around $500 on your new burner, go with SCSI. If not, stick to the EIDE, which is slower in terms of data transfer, but does the job almost as well. EIDE drives cost about $200 - $300.

So next time you’re confronted by a stubborn tech-freak, you can freely and confidently talk about your 12/10/32.

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