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  9-12-03 | This column originally appeared in the Houston Chronicle.


Burn Baby, Burn (CD burner, CD burning)


By Bob LeVitus

Once upon a time every Macintosh sold included a floppy disk drive. The first generation held 400k per disk, the second generation 800k, and ultimately, the third generation, which stored a whopping 1.4MB per disk.  

When Apple stopped including floppy disk mechanisms in Macs several years ago, some thought they were crazy. But here we are a few years down the road and the floppy disk is history, replaced by cheap, plentiful, massive-by-comparison optical media such as CD-R, CD-RW, DVD-R, and DVD-RW. And while some PCs still offer a floppy drive, they're the exception these days rather than the rule.

Though they were late to market with CD burning Macs, Apple has embraced optical burners wholeheartedly over the past few years. Most Macs sold in this decade can burn CD-R/RW discs, and many of them include a SuperDrive, so they can burn CD-R/RW discs as well as their larger brethren, (4.7GB) DVD-R/RW discs.

That part is obvious. What may not be so obvious are all the ways Apple has embraced optical media from within Mac OS X and Apple's application software.

For example, did you know that iPhoto lets you burn your Library or Album(s) on a CD or DVD with a single click? Just select the item or items you want to back up in the list on the left, then click the Burn button. Couldn't be easier, could it?

Did you know that you can back up your iTunes music to optical disc almost as easily by choosing "Data CD or DVD" for your disc format in the Burning pane of iTunes Preferences dialog box.

iDVD, included with all SuperDrive-equipped Macs, can burn a DVD just like the ones you rent at Blockbuster

If you're a member of .Mac (dot-Mac), you can download a copy of Apple's simple backup program, the eponymous Backup, which lets you back up selected folders to optical media burners with just a couple of clicks.

And, of course, if you insert a blank CD or DVD, the Finder automatically handles everything behind the scenes, so you can copy files and folders to the disc, then burn it, all without launching any other programs.

And the optical media story gets even more interesting if you're willing to spend a bit of cash on Roxio's recently released Toast 6 Titanium, the second OS X release of the venerable program.  

My favorite feature is the ability to burn Video CDs, which is to say you can burn video on inexpensive CD-R discs and watch them on your television using most recent-vintage set-top DVD players. It uses the new Toast Universal Video Converter so all you do is drag any QuickTime movie file onto Toast and it does the encoding automatically. If you don't have a SuperDrive, burning Video CDs is the next best thing, for sure.

The feature isn't new in version 6, but I just replaced my old DVD player with one that plays Video CDs (my old one didn't), and have been having a blast with this way-cool ability.

That's not all you get for your hundred bucks, though—there's much more. It also includes a re-engineered version of CD Spin Doctor (dubbed "2"), for digitizing albums or cassettes, live recording, and editing audio; Discus RE disc labeling software; Deja Vu, a bare-bones auto-backup utility; and Motion Pictures, a slide-show maker with pan, zoom, cross-fades, and soundtracks. And "Toast Anywhere," which lets networked users share a CD or DVD burner that's located on a different Mac.

If you have an optical recording device in your Mac, Toast 6 Titanium makes it even more useful.

Toast 6 Titanium. S.R.P. $100. Roxio, Inc., Santa Clara, California. 866-279-7694 or 408-367-3100.
Bob LeVitus is a leading authority on Mac OS and the author of 41 books, including The Little iTunes Book and Mac OS X for Dummies, 2nd Edition. E-mail comments to [email protected].

Copyright © 2004 Bob LeVitus




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