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Flash Drives in Comparison to Disc Media

December 10th, 2012

Computer writable compact discs have been around in the consumer sector since 1995 (when writers finally dropped below $1000) and digital video discs have been on the commercial market since 1996. Flash media, on the other hands, has been accessible since the mid 1980’s. Yet despite this fact, many people have seen discs as a storage medium in a more positive light than flash media.

One major difference between the two is that commercial media has been traditionally delivered on discs since the 1980’s when the CD audio format stormed the music world. With the advent of DVDs to drive out video cassettes in the mid 1990’s, the idea of discs as media storage was firmly entrenched in consumers’ minds.

Connecting USB flash memory stick

Flash media on the other hand has been very popularly powering small equipment for a long time. Originally consumers used PCMCIA cards to add storage to laptops in the 1980’s. Digital cameras have used varying flash media formats since they arrived on the market. Mobile phones are expanded by use of flash cards.

The perception is that media long term storage is best accomplished with discs, while recording that media is often done using flash. In recent years, flash media has become a component of high end computer storage as SSDs have been brought to market.

Now, the question is, when should you be using disc media, and when is flash the better bet? The answer is that it’s highly dependent on what you want to do.

  • If you want to store audio files in a standard CD format, you have a single choice: the writable CD disc. This is not a good bargain in terms of actual storage space, however.
  • If you are looking for easy access to your media at all times, you might choose to go flash with an SSD, but this will be quite expensive. (A traditional hard drive is a great alternative here, and if you buy a sufficiently large one it’s extremely inexpensive on a per GB basis.)
  • For larger file storage if you don’t mind swapping discs, DVDs are extremely affordable per GB. (Only large traditional hard drives will generally outperform them on price. Flash media has no chance.)
  • If you’re looking to move from place to place with highly portable, robust media, flash memory is your clear choice. From USB thumb drives to memory cards of varying sizes, many devices can read this type of memory. It’s not susceptible to wear and tear as much as discs are.

While it is clear that flash memory is more expensive than DVDs, prices continue to fall for flash, while discs have remained relatively unchanged in terms of price for a significant period of time. In the future it’s probably that we will be trading in our discs for something “flashier” but for now, DVD discs in particular offer excellent long term storage.

Packaging Your Discs Attractively

November 13th, 2012

In order to make your discs look their best, it is very useful to consider the packaging you would like to put them in. A quick list of packaging types follows:

  • Spindles. Not very stylish, but they are very space efficient, these are the same kinds of packaging as you find bulk discs sold in. About the only things you can do for labeling are placing a piece of paper (or a stick-on disc label for that matter) on top of the box, or wrapping some kind of a label around the sides.
  • Plastic disc sleeves. These are thin pieces of plastic which have a closing flap like an envelope.
  • Cardboard disc sleeves. Unlike the plastic sleeves, these are rigid and can be printed with a full-color design on the front and back.
  • Digipacks. These are a combination of a rigid plastic tray and a cardboard cover. They can be printed in full color.
  • Clamshells. Hard, clear plastic allowing the disc design to be seen while it is protected from damage.
  • Slimline jewel cases. These are hard plastic cases designed to be thin. You can place at most a small booklet in the case front, and no back material is possible.
  • Jewel cases. These hard plastic cases can handle both front and back inserts.
  • Double jewel cases. They hold two disks instead of one.
  • DVD cases. These are the standard “tall” cases that DVDs come in at the store. They can contain a book in the front, and can have a full color printout inserted into them.
  • Double DVD cases. As before, but they are able to hold two discs.
  • Blu-ray cases. These are matched to the Blu-ray standards and look exactly like you’d expect: blue, and slightly different dimensions than a DVD case. They can have wraparound printed material inserted into them, as well as a booklet inside.

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In addition to the packaging types, you can choose from a variety of book and wrap styles to match your cases. Each option can of course be easily printed in full color. Your choices include:

  • 2 sided cards. This is in essence a single piece of paper printed front and back.
  • 4 sided cards. A longer piece of paper folded in half to give the appearance of a small booklet. Twice as much space, though it must be removed from the case to read the additional information.
  • 4 page DVD booklets. Like a 4 sided card but in DVD size.
  • 6 sided cards. Even longer and folded in thirds to make a “Z” this will give you half again as much space, with the same caveat of needing to remove the card to see the extra information.
  • 8 page booklets. Two 4 sided cards stapled together allowing for a fair amount of information and a booklet format.
  • DVD wraps. These are used to wrap around a disc case (Blu-ray or DVD) and form the outer jacket. They slip under the plastic for protection.
  • Double sided DVD wraps. These are exactly like the previous wraps but have been printed on both sides to accommodate clear cases. Particularly useful for Blu-rays, which are always clear.
  • Rear tray cards. These sit in jewel cases and are printed to make a “back cover” for the case. They sit behind the plastic, under the disc tray.
  • Double sided rear tray cards. These are exactly the same but have two sides to accommodate jewel cases with a clear tray. Generally the inside is printed with an image that translates well through the distortion of the tray.

In addition it is possible to package disc cases in cellowrap. This lends a professional air to your product that you can’t get without wrapping your cases. After all, nobody in a high street shop sells unsealed discs!

In the grand scheme you can pretty much pick and choose exactly how you want your discs to appear. They can be very simple, or extremely elaborate. The choice of how to present your discs is yours, and they should reflect the character of your project.

Image Resolution vs. Dimensions vs. Size: How the Numbers Stack Up

October 8th, 2012

So when looking at an image file you have three basic numbers that you’ll want to pay attention to. The first is the DPI, which stands for “dots per inch” and is also the resolution of the image. To confuse matters, people make a very poor distinction between this number and the second, which is the number of pixels an image has in both height and width. These are the dimensions of the image, but many people call these numbers the resolution. (See, confusing!) The final number you need to understand is the image size, or how much storage space it takes up.

Now, let’s break this down, shall we? DPI is the actual number of ink dots in a one inch line. It is a physical printing term. The higher the DPI of an image, the clearer the image is when it is printed. In addition, higher DPI images will be displayed more clearly on high resolution displays, such as high end tablet and telephone screens. There is less of a difference in how an image appears from higher to lower DPI on standard computer monitors because of how such equipment is made. (This does not mean, however, that you should reduce the DPI of images to a lower level if they are only intended for web use.)istock_000020084611xsmall-1

The dimensions of an image are the number of actual pixels wide and high. Many people are used to a certain number of MP or megapixels in a specific image because of how digital cameras work. Changing the image dimensions reduces the number of MP in an image, and is a common way digital cameras can be tuned to take more pictures before running out of room. (But size is up next, remember!) An image with larger dimensions (and less DPI) can be printed out in larger format. So for example if a 5MP image that is 2338 x 3264 pixels is printed at 72 DPI you would get a 34 x 45.3 inch printout. That same image at 150 DPI would be 16.3 x 21.8 inches. 300 DPI is considered an appropriate print resolution for professional work, and that means that your image would now be printing at 8.2 x 10.9 inches. As you can see, the larger your images, the better blown up pictures you will be able to print out. (This is not the only thing that goes to quality, of course. A better camera sensor produces better images of course.)

Now, finally, we reach size. There are many factors which go into how much storage an image will take up. The larger the dimensions of an image the more space it will take up of course. But factors in the image itself have a great deal to do with this. As an example, using the same dimensions as above, 5MP images might range from as much as 4 megabytes to 0.5 megabytes. The first example would be a very complex image with a huge amount of color differentiation. The latter would be a very simple image with very little color deviation. This might be the difference between an image of a child behind a screen door on a sunny day as compared to a picture of light reflecting off of an object outdoors at night, with no flash.

So, now for these parting tips:

  • Do not reduce the dimensions of your master copies of your images!
  • When reducing the dimensions of your images, make sure you set them to a size appropriate for your medium, and no less.
  • When setting the DPI of your images for online use, always go with 300+ when possible.
  • When printing your images, go with the DPI that gets you the size of printed image you desire, while conforming to the printer’s specifications, but always use 300+ DPI for any high quality prints.
  • Never skimp on storage, and keep backups of your images. DVD discs can make a good backup because you can store them away from your PC.

You should have a good grasp of what the three numbers you need to keep track of are for your images now. Bearing them in mind can make it so you are always sharing the best quality images online, and getting only the highest quality printouts.

What’s Wrong With Digital Rights Management?

September 10th, 2012

You may have heard a lot of talk about DRM, or you may be completely new to the concept, but in either case it’s wise for us to set up a basic explanation of what Digital Rights Management is before we talk about what’s wrong with it. DRM is a form of access control, or gate-keeping technology. What DRM does is secure digital products against unauthorized use.

So from the standpoint of someone looking at releasing their work into the world, it seems to make sense to have DRM be a part of your picture, but the truth of the matter is that it is not so cut and dried as all that. In fact, DRM has major flaws.

There are a number of reasons for this, but one of the most important ones is the fact that DRM puts restrictions on the people who have paid for a product. The people who have become your customers are often the ones hurt most by DRM. Hardly a just reward for paying you, is it?drm1

A recent example of DRM that has caused an uproar due to how poor it makes the customer experience is the multimillion copy selling video game Diablo III. The way the protection on the product works that it forces each player to be logged into a game server at all times during play. This means that despite the fact that it is playable by between one and four people, the actual game play is dependent on the presence and speed of an internet connection, even if only one player is involved in the game.

Buyers of the product is that they are not only required to have an internet connection present, they need to ensure that it is of sufficient quality to reach the servers of the game reliably. In many cases, this is functionally impossible (in the cases of audiences in regions with poor connectivity, like much of middle America) or extremely cost-prohibitive.

Still, you may be thinking this is a reasonable stance, as it ensures that only people who have paid for this game can use it. Sure, it inconveniences people, but it protects the intellectual property of the company selling the product, right? You would be incorrect in that assumption. Within a week of the game reaching the market it was “hacked” to work offline. It is now possible to download the entire game and play it without paying for it. Thus pirate access has not been prevented by this application of DRM. And as we have established, legitimate consumers are being inconvenienced on a daily basis.

You need to understand that all DRM can be broken. DRM applied to audio, ebooks, PDFs, games, video, and more is not going to keep anyone who is determined from breaking the protections you have put into place. This can be as simple as retyping a book (people can pay a tiny amount to workers in third world nations to do this) into a DRM-free format, or as complex as breaking into executable code and building fake servers to fool a video game into working when it shouldn’t. It can and will be broken, so there is no actual protection offered outside of guarding against the kind of people who are very unlikely to be interested in illegally accessing your product.

In the end, the best protection you can offer your work is to make sure it is a good quality effort which has been priced reasonably. These factors will combine to make it more desirable for people to pay you for the product, and will serve to help sway individuals who have acquired your product through piracy to purchase legitimate copies in the end. One major barrier to acquisition of products is their perceived value. The better you position your product in terms of value, the better protection it is! Best of all: doing so is completely free. You don’t have to pay for a DRM solution, you simply have to make good choices regarding the content of your product, and its price point.

The underlying reason here is that people want good value in their products. They tend to “steal” things that they have no intention of buying, so the concept of an illegally accessed copy of your work equating to lost revenue is feeble at best. Most people do not have more money than they spend, and if they have already determined that your product is not worth buying, they won’t buy it, even if they can’t obtain a bootleg copy.

But that means that there’s good news when people do get to download your product for free. Since they are now in possession of your product, you have the chance to let your work shine through and convince them that they should in fact spend money on it, or on other products from your company. Many illegal downloads are converted into sales, when given the choice, the person who illegally downloaded the product in the first place would never have even tried the product had it not been available for free.

So instead of investing in costly, ineffective access control, skip the DRM and hope that people do spread the word about your products. Because nothing sells more than word of mouth, and the more mouths that are exposed to what you have to offer, the more sales you can make.

Tips on laying out a user friendly CD-ROM disc

July 2nd, 2012

As a software or multimedia developer your aim is to educate and/or entertain your user. Therefor giving them a CD which takes them straight to the contact they desire will undoubtedly enhance their user experience. Generally speaking it’s not beneficial if you pop a CD or DVD into your computer and have to guess what to do next. Here are a few ideas to consider before sending a master disc in for duplication.

layoutFirstly… Does it have autorun? It makes sense to do so, as the vast majority of Windows users expect their discs to do so. You can achieve this by popping a simple text file called autorun.inf, into the root directory of your disc.

Don’t overlook assigning an electronic volume label on the disc. Set the volume label using your burning software; alternatively try using the ‘label’ command inside the autorun.inf file. This way users navigating their PCs using Explorer can see that the CD in the drive is more descriptive then the default text ‘New’ or ‘1320982_04′.

Ask yourself…Is the root directory free of clutter?Generally speaking people do not want to be confronted with choice, especially when they unsure. Simplify the process, make the choice for them and only leave the most important file in the root directory ( along with the autorun file) To make it obvious name the file ’start’ or ‘run’ and move all other files into  sub-folders. Remember these sub-folders and files should have real names. By giving these folders and files everyday readable names it allows users to navigate and locate documents/images outside of your software.

Remember that when creating a master disc to be sure that any unnecessary files, images or templates have been removed. As well as enabling a clean file structure, it prevents the possibility of sharing your source codes or any uncompleted or unused ideas.

Finally … Is your CD going to be used on both PC and Mac? If so then make sure your disc is a true hybrid CD in order to run on both platforms. This way you can hide the PC files from the Mac and vice-versa. This makes for a clean disc.

The International Digital Media Alliance

May 31st, 2012

The International Digital Media Alliance – and it’s ever changing name

Ever wondered how or who helps govern a fair and independent assessment and education of all the digital media that is being developed and released.
Formally known as The DVD Association, the now known International Digital Media Alliance (IDMA), is committed to providing expertise in DVD, Blu-ray Disc, and interactive media.

The International Digital Media Alliance (IDMA) is dedicated to ensuring that multimedia is uncomplicated, reliable and dependable for users. IDMA exists as a not-for-profit organisation which is solely supported through membership and sponsorships from corporations.

Digital Media
Originally IDMA was established in 1990 as the Compact Disc Interactive Association (CDIA) and was formed to help creators of disc-based television programs. CDIA also helped provide information to the general public and hosted annual educational workshops and conferences as well as producing many publications. CDIA intended to educate the public about then-new video disc options like CD-I and Laserdisc.

With the dawn of the DVD, CDIA changed its name and became the DVD Association, before recently re-settling on its current name, the International Digital Media Alliance. The latest name change has come about because of HD-DVD and the advent of Blu-ray. It is clear that the DVD was never going to remain the only video disc on the market. It however would not make sense for an organization to change to another name focused on a single medium. In this ever changing frontier of digital media technology, there is no doubt that there will be more mediums in the future. Just as apparent as the death of HD-DVDs, however it would appear that DVD’s are still going strong even in the Blu-Ray era.

The official website, located at http://www.theidma.org/, offers plenty of history and public files, as well as news on the organization.

Non-standardised DVD formats

May 1st, 2012

Digital discsBesides standard DVD format, there are some non-standard DVD formats. Below is some information explaining the differences of these formats.

DVD-VCD is a DVD-Video disc that has data on it which has been encoded by using the MPEG-1 video format with the same definitions VCD has.

DVD-SVCD is also not a valid DVD standard, since the DVD standard does not support the SVCD resolution. The term DVD-SVCD is used to describe a hacked, or non-standard DVD-Video disc that has SVCD compatible content on it.

DVD-MP3 is created with and contains only digital audio files in the MP3 format. It should be noted that not all DVD players can play DVD-MP3 discs.

DVD-D is a disposable DVD format that provides a limited play time with duration of up to 48 hours after the packaging has been opened. After the designated time has passed, DVD players are unable to read the disc. The packaging of the disc is airtight and the DVD itself has a special coating that begins to deteriorate when exposed to air. The DVD-D format is currently being used for video game and movie rentals where not only can intellectual property rights be better protected, but consumers have no need to worry about the hassle of DVD rental returns. According to the manufacturer’s Web site, both the DVD-D disc and the cardboard packaging it comes in can be recycled. The DVD-D format was developed by German company FDD Technologies AG, and while no official definition of the D has been offered, many use the abbreviation to mean DVD-Destroy or DVD-Destruct.

HD-DVD which is short for high definition-DVD is a generic term for the technology of recording high-definition video on a DVD. In general, HD-DVD is capable of storing between two and four times as much data as standard DVD. In February 2008, Toshiba issued a release stating that it would no longer develop, manufacture and market HD DVD players and recorders. Several major retail chains, such as Wal-Mart in the US followed with plans to no longer carry the product, and major Hollywood studios have also dropped plans to release productions in HD-DVD format as well.

Blu-ray Discs are distinguishable for they use 405nm-wave length blue-violet laser technology, instead of the 650nm-wavelength red laser technology used in traditional DVD formats. The rewritable Blu-ray disc, with a data transfer rate of 36Mbps (1x speed) can hold up to 25GB of data on a single-layer disc and 50GB on a dual-layer disc. On a 50GB disc, this translates into 9 hours of high-definition (HD) video or approximately 23 hours of standard-definition (SD) video. The Blu-ray format was developed jointly by Sony, Samsung, Sharp, Thomson, Hitachi, Matsushita, Pioneer and Philips, Mistubishi and LG Electronics.

AOD and Blu-ray are similar in that they both use 405nm-wavelength blue-violet laser technology. While Blu-ray has a storage capacity of 25GB on a single-layer disc, AOD can store 20GB on a single-layer disc and has the capacity to hold 30GB on a dual-layer disc. AOD was developed jointly by Toshiba and NEC.

Several technologies are seen as successors to the standard DVD. These include HD-DVD, Blu-ray, AOD and HVD (Holographic Versatile Disc). With so many formats competing, it is similar to the old VHS versus Beta wars, but with one main exception; the difference in quality between VHS and DVD was extremely noticeable, and this encouraged consumers to quickly and easily transition to DVD from VHS. With these new standards, however, consumers are not seeing the drastic quality difference of, HD-DVD over DVD for example, and adoption has been slow.

Additionally, the media players and the media itself is still more expensive then standard DVD media. Overall the industry suggests that consumers are just not ready to leave DVD behind quite yet.

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CD/DVD Degradation

April 7th, 2012

istock_000005139238xsmallUnfortunately CD’s and DVD’s are not built to last. Degradation in optical media refers to this decline in the physical quality of CDs, DVDs and Blu-rays over time.  There are two main factors that this eventuality can be attributed to; material and environment.

Material factors:

-Disc Format.  A CD-ROM has a different composition than a CD-RW, therefore they deteriorate at different rates.

-The manufacturer. There are variations in the dyes, plastics and alloys used, which in turn cause divergences in quality between brands.

-The equipment used to read or write the disc itself.

Environmental factor:

-Exposure to high temperature. Increase in heat speeds the degradation process by breaking down the recording layers of discs that utilise organic dye compounds.

- Extreme humidity. Moisture can seep into the cracks and scratches of a disc which could foster the growth of bacteria and/or mould; this can affect how effective the laser’s ability is to read the disc.

- Regular contact with UV. Direct sunlight accelerates the rate of aging of a disc. It renders the disc ineffective by altering the appearance of the recording layers.

-Dust, dirt and air pollution. Any foreign particles that accumulate on the disc surface and in cracks or scratches can damage the disc and cloud reading and recording.

Inappropriate handling or storage also contributes to an increased deterioration process of CDs, DVDs and Blu-rays.

As discs have a limited shelf life, no matter how well they are treated by the user, degradation can only be controlled to a certain extent. The core recording layers of a disc will naturally break down before the outer plastic takes away layers. The outer deterioration of the polycarbonate incurs damage mainly from rough handling, and is therefore not considered when measuring the disc’s overall shelf life.

Consequently, the lifespan of CDs, DVDs and Blu-rays contain a range of testing measurements and can be conservatively estimated, with some compact discs tending to outlast DVD formats:

  • Unrecorded CD-R and CD-RW: 5-10 years
  • Recorded CD-R: 50-200 years
  • Recorded CD-RW: 20-100 years
  • Recorded DVD-R: 30-100 years
  • Recorded DVD-RW: up to 30 years
  • Recorded BD-R and BD-RE: 30-200 years

Since Blu-ray is a newer technology, it should be noted that further testing and calculations are required to more accurately narrow a lifespan.

CD Brochures - a winning format

March 29th, 2012

The conventional way of winning new or existing business is to have corporate brochures printed that are eye catching whilst getting your sales message across to your potential client. However, there are problems associated with printed matter:

  • Require large volumes to retain the quality and keep the unit cost down
  • Wastage is high as information goes out of date fairly quickly
  • You may have multiple products that are grouped in different brochures
  • Storage can be bulky and distribution costs can be high

It would appear that nowadays people are 50% more likely to keep a CD or DVD brochure than a paper brochure.  Your company or business could benefit from crossing over to this new format to promote your services.

Let’s exam some of the reasons why.

A CD brochure is practically storage free and is much simpler to find what your potential client is looking for. If your brochure contains many products and/or articles, they can be presented in an index just like at the front of a paper brochure.

Digital CD Brochures will help you to:

  • Reduce costs of printing and distribution
  • Increase sales and profits
  • Increase circulation and readership
  • Expand your marketing reach
  • Create an all-inclusive and progressive presence for your company and product.

CD brochures provide a faster and more efficient way of targeting. It is fully interactive, meaning you can promote your product(s) or service(s) in an interactive environment - with video, high resolution images, specifications, articles and even videos of client testimonials. You are only limited by your imagination as to what you can display in a Digital CD Brochure. With wonderfully clear, full colour images, you cannot fail to impress your clients.

Huge savings can be made over traditional paper distribution. An existing paper brochure can be converted into a Digital CD Brochure in a matter of days, and at a fraction of the cost can be ready for Duplication, Printing and Circulation.

Does 2012 bring the end of the CD?

February 7th, 2012

As the music industry as a whole struggles in a down economy and direct download business models like iTunes flourish, the compact disc, which was commercially introduced in 1982, has the appearance of going the way of vinyl.

In 2007, CDs accounted for 90 percent of album sales in the United States, with digital accounting for the other 10 percent. Just two years later, the sales of CDs decreased to 79 percent and digital sales increase to 20 percent, and the remaining percentage point being made up of vinyl and other media.

A report by Side-Line music magazine has cited that a number of anonymous music industry insiders who confirmed that the major labels are planning to stop pressing new CDs by the end of next year, if not sooner.istock_000009422052xsmall

The main reason is that CDs cost money to create, store, and distribute, therefore shifting to all-digital distribution will free up more resources for marketing and other parts of the business. There is however one problem with the notion of killing the CDs. Labels are still making money off of them.

It would seem that record labels have shown no desire to ditch the CD. The format still accounts for most sales revenue. It also appears that labels have been able to encourage the development of new digital business models while enjoying the considerable revenue CD sales provide.

Digital download and subscription services may indeed be eroding away at the CD’s dominance. However, a report by Gartner predicts that CD and LP sales will still amount to $10 billion in 2015. Although online music revenue is making a big jump, it is still trailing physical media, in the form of CDs, with a projected $7.7 billion. It would appear that record labels are unlikely to kill of a major money-maker just yet.


Address: Replication Centre, Gleniffer House, 2 Hall Road, Rochford, Essex, SS4 1NN.    Tel: 01702 530 357    Email: info@replicationcentre.co.uk