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
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
Digital Versatile Disc – Random Access Memory, re-writable
DVD system where data on discs can be recorded and erased many times
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
Motion Pictures Expert Group, a division of the
International Standards Organisation responsible for developing digital video
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.