BOOT CAMP ARCHIVE 1999

  

 

BOOT CAMP 074

INSTALLING A DVD DRIVE PART 1

Trying to keep up with PC technology is a bit like wrestling with a slippery snake, it's difficult to get to grips with and there's a good chance it'll turn round and give you a nasty nip… But here's a development worth keeping an eye on, it carries few risks and promises substantial benefits. It's DVD or the Digital Versatile Disc, a new type of shiny disc – the same size as an audio CD and CD-ROM  -- that is on course to becoming the new standard for storing and transporting computer data.

Originally DVD stood for Digital Video Disc. It was conceived as a replacement for Laserdisc, as a carrier for movies, with superior picture and sound performance to tape. However, during the development phase manufacturers realised that the disc's massive storage capacity – currently 4.7 gigabytes, potentially up to 16.8 gigabytes – would come in quite handy for computer software. DVD-Video was launched as a home entertainment format last year and it has been very successful with several hundred discs now available and players selling for less than £200.

DVD as a PC peripheral has been slower to take off, computer manufacturers have been offering DVD-ROM drives as an option for some time and within the past few months they've been appearing as a standard fitment on top end systems but it has all been a bit half-hearted. The cost of DVD-ROM drives has fallen dramatically over the past year – prices now start at less than £70 – but the format has suffered from an acute lack of software consequently it has mainly been of interest to those who want to watch movies on their computer screens.

Now at last the DVD software market is on the move with several major releases announced during the past few weeks – more about those in a moment. DVD is also starting to have an impact as a re-writable data storage medium and affordable DVD-RAM drives are appearing in the shops. Like CD-ROM writers they can record as well as play back, but this time with the capacity to store the contents of an entire PC hard disc drive. This week we'll look at what DVD can do for you, next week it's screwdrivers at the ready, as we run through the procedure for fitting a drive in your PC.

One of the main selling points for DVD on the PC is that the drives are fully backward compatible with CD-ROM, so there's no loss of functionality. You will still be able to access and use all of your current software as normal moreover most drives have similar performance characteristics to CD-ROM decks. DVD-ROM drives are the same size and operate in exactly the same way as CD-ROM drives and there are no specific hardware or operating system issues, though fitting one to a pre-Pentium PC using an older versions of Windows (before Windows 95 and 98) might prove quite challenging.

Although DVD ROM drives can play DVD-Video discs there are a couple of points to watch out for. The PC in question will need to be a fairly fast Pentium model and in order to decode the picture and sound information additional hardware or software is required. DVD-Video data on the disc is compressed using a system known as MPEG 2 (see Jargon Filter). Software programs that can decode the data on fast Pentium class PCs are starting to appear but at the moment the most efficient solution is to fit a separate MPEG 2 decoder card to the PC. Suitable cards are supplied with some DVD-ROM kits, and as an added bonus several of them have multi-region playback, though probably not for much longer. This facility overcomes the regional coding that prevents discs sold in the US (Region 1) playing on DVD decks sold in Europe (Region 2). Regional coding on DVD Video was introduced at the behest of Hollywood movie studios to give them control over release dates and provide territorial control for things like soundtracks and local censorship laws. Hollywood studios have sought to close this particular loophole and decoder boards with multi-region playback are now being discontinued. In any case it's becoming less important as the number of Region 2 titles grows and more new movie releases are appearing on DVD shortly after they debut on tape.

Watching a movie, meant to be seen on a large cinema screen (or at the very least a widescreen TV), on a titchy 15-inch PC monitor isn't very satisfying so if you're still unconvinced by DVD, two recent software releases might change your mind. They are Encyclopaedia Britannica and Encarta Reference Suite. Multimedia encyclopaedias are exactly the right type application that can benefit from DVD and just what is needed to get the market moving. Both titles make full use of the extra capacity -- previous versions were too large for a single CD-ROM -- and the both publishers have been able to significantly increase the video and audio content.

DVD on the PC has taken a little longer to get going than many pundits expected but with big names like Britannica and Microsoft behind it the bandwagon has started rolling and other software companies will follow suit. It is good news for PC users, the cost of software on DVD will be no higher than CD-ROM and there are no trade-offs as far as performance or compatibility is concerned. Drives are relatively inexpensive (they cost about the same as CD-ROM drives two or three years ago), and they are easy to fit, next week we'll show you how.  

Next week – Installing a DVD-ROM/RAM drive

 

JARGON FILTER

DVD-RAM

Digital Versatile Disc – Random Access Memory, re-writable DVD system where data on discs can be recorded and erased many times

LASERDISC

Now virtually obsolete, the limited storage capacity of the LP-sized discs meant films had to be recorded on both sides of the disc or on two discs

MPEG 2

Motion Pictures Expert Group, a division of the International Standards Organisation responsible for developing digital video compression technologies

 

TOP TIP

Bored with your desktop and all those dull-little icons? Then do something about it! You can easily create your own icons in Windows 95 and 98 using ordinary picture files or graphics created using the Paint program. You could have the pictures of the family or pets representing your programs (no jokes about using a photo of the mother in law to represent the word processor please…), or design your own from scratch.

The image can be any size – Windows will automatically adjust the size and shape -- but it must be in the Bitmap (extension .bmp) format. Most paint and graphics program have a 'Save As' facility that will convert picture files from other file types into .bmp format. Once that's done open Windows Explorer, find the picture file and click once into the name field to highlight it, then wait a second and click again to insert a cursor so it can be renamed. Change the file extension from .bmp to .ico, and hit return. Now go to the Desktop and right-click on the icon you want to change and select Properties. On the Shortcut tab you should see a 'Change Icon' button, (you can't normally change the icon on Windows applications), click it and use the Browse button to find your icon picture file, press OK and it's done.

Search PCTopTips 


Web

PCTopTips

Boot Camp Index

2010

2009

2008

2007

2006

2005

2004

2003

2002

2001

2000

1999

1998

 

Top Tips Index

Windows XP

Windows Vista

Internet & Email

Microsoft Word

Folders & Files

Desktop Mouse & Keyboard

Crash Bang Wallop!

Privacy & Security

Imaging Scanning & Printing

Power, Safety & Comfort

Tools & Utilities

Sound Advice

Display & screen

Fun & Games

Windows 95/98/SE/ME

 

 

 

 

 

 Copyright 2006-2009 PCTOPTIPS UK.

All information on this web site is provided as-is without warranty of any kind. Neither PCTOPTIPS nor its employees nor contributors are responsible for any loss, injury, or damage, direct or consequential, resulting from your choosing to use any of the information contained herein.