Long live the CD, sort of

CD life varies considerably. A disc that has been mechanically pressed — like the ones you get when you rent a movie — have an anticipated life of 50 to 100 years. CDs burned with your computer are different, however.

Making your own CDs works by changing the color of a dye layer on the disk. Heat from a laser changes the reflective index of the dye, and that spot can then be read as a piece of digital information. That information is subject to damage by heat and light.

CDs labeled CD-R (read only) tend to last longer than those labeled CD-RW (rewritable). Manufacturers claim CD-R disks can last up to 75 years if properly stored in a dark, cool place; CD-RW disks are said to last up to 25 years. On the other hand, Kurt Gerecke, a physicist and storage expert at IBM, claims that CD storage often lasts only two to five years. But disk quality varies considerably, even from the same manufacturer.

Heat and light can damage CDs, so people who rely on such stored information should be aware of the risks, like a fire nearby or leaving them in strong sunlight. Glued labels can also affect disk life, since the dye layer is usually on the same surface as the label. There’s a lot more information at www.cdrfaq.org.

At this point, we might mention that paper pages can last for centuries.

Power to the cleaner

We ran Winferno’s new Registry Power Cleaner a couple of days ago and were enlightened thereby. We know some tech types will say don’t bother cleaning the registry because it doesn’t bother anything to have old stuff hanging around. But Power Cleaner seemed to know all about that. It told us the registry in an 18-month-old HP Pavilion was fine.

But while tootling along, it found 722 file association errors, 617 component errors, 653 type library errors, and several dozen errors involving dead shortcuts, shared DLLs, system tools and meaningless items in our start menu. Phew! Clean them out, we said, and it did.

The program claims to fix errors, speed up your PC and stabilize it, ending frequent crashes and making programs run smoother. We had no problems with it, and the PC we ran it on did seem to run a little faster afterward.

Happily, the program comes with an “undo” feature in case telling it to go ahead was a bad thing to do. Finally, you can use it to stop some programs from running at start-up; running lots of programs in the background slows the system. If your system’s fine, though, leave it alone.

Registry Power Cleaner is free to try, from www.winferno.com. It also offers a free scan of your system.

Hit that Web site

FastStats Log Analyzer from Mach5 is our favourite program for counting Web site hits. We’ve tried several “hit counters,” as they’re called, and had wildly different results, but this one seems the most accurate. It counts the raw log files stored either on your computer or your Web site’s host computer. You can’t fool the log files.

There is a free version of the program, which is the one we used, and it can teach you a lot about your visitors. You can see what search engine they used to get to your site, what parts of the site they go to most frequently, what days and times are most popular, and what files they download.

A quicker Quickbooks

The top-selling program for small-business accounting just got easier to use with QuickBooks Simple Start. Everybody has heard of QuickBooks, and millions have bought one of the versions, yet many people have difficulty using it.

They might find the new Simple Start 2006 much easier to use. You can customize popular forms like invoices and receipts to suit your particular business, and share data with more than 400 other business applications.

The online version allows two users plus an accountant to access the program from anywhere. They can write and print checks, fill out forms, track payments, make estimates and customize forms. You can find more information at www.simplestart.com.


Learn to Program by Chris Pine from www.pragmaticprogrammer.com and www.oreilly.com.

The title is a little scary, but the book reads like a novel. It teaches the reader to program using a free language called Ruby. (Ruby can be downloaded from www.rubycentral.com.) You start with simple one-line programs that can calculate your age in seconds or find a date and day for any year, and you can then advance to more complex problems. Ruby can be used with Windows, Macintosh or Linux and seems easy.

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