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Ahead's Nero Burning Rom 4.0

by Joshua McDaniel

February 2000 | I broke my foot tonight. I've never seen subcutaneous bleeding like this before, except for what I did to it the day I left college. I was in that class you can find on just about any campus these days--Black Turtleneck Honors English--and I was asked, along with two other students, to reconcile Huckleberry Finn with the ponderous Realistic/Naturalistic aesthetic paradigm of Twain's day. I volunteered something about realism and began by suggesting that we take Twain's allegory to be more true and real than...

Something in the look the other students were giving me--heads cocked, eyebrows furrowed--stopped me in my tracks. Were they disgusted by my hackneyed thinking, and preparing to flay me mercilessly? No such luck. "What's allegory?" asked the first to speak. I'm not kidding. A little astonished, I looked at the other; he too asked, "Yeah, what's allegory?" I excused myself by saying, "Allegory recently became our Vice President, but I don't feel so well, I must go." I went straight to the bar; they graduated with honors, I assume still lacking rudimentary knowledge of their declared field of study.

Several tumblers of wisdom later, I realized I could not blame my peers for not knowing what allegory is. And directly before I extirpated the thick brown shard of glass that, at some completely ignored moment, had lodged itself in the sole of my shoe, and had been cutting into my foot until it had swollen so fat with drying blood that my shoelaces couldn't contain it, I realized my professors couldn't be faulted for their students' ignorance either. In order to remain a viable economic entity, a University must cater, I realized, to anyone who might spend there; then, to maintain the profit margin, expectations of the matriculated must remain very, very low. Indiscriminate Honors equals Cash In Pocket. That's it, and this is the nature of the society we inhabit.

Or is that it? Amidst all this swollen-foot nostalgia, I installed Nero Burning ROM--a full-featured premastering tool from German vendor Ahead Software--expecting that software with a name so wonderfully cool would beckon at least a little presence of mind on my part. Again, no such luck: the first thing I get is a cartoon, asking whether I want to copy a CD, or compile one. Please, for the love and betterment of humankind, stop with the cartoons, all of you. Know that the experience of your product shapes us a little, and know that if that experience is some infantilizing thing, you'll foster the kind of ignorance I encountered the last time I had a swollen foot, and ultimately contribute to the demise of our Civilization. Rise above this; expect, nay, demand intelligence from your user. Nobody likes to be patronized with cartoons and neither you nor your users will profit from it.

But no need to damn Nero with all this faint praise--it deserves much better. Exiting the Wizard is an ever-present option; exercise this option as soon as you can, as beneath the whistles and doodads you'll discover a truly excellent program.

And on Nero's behalf, I'll stake a claim never before made in these pages: Throughout the entire evaluation, not one flawed disc emerged from the test-bed recorder. In the ever-tenuous world of CD recording, a perfect track record like Nero's ought to be the stuff on which empires are built.

no coasters from this toaster

Installing Nero crashed my machine, but this is not Nero's fault at all. I failed to uninstall one notoriously territorial CD-R software package before I installed Nero (there are actually two suspects here, so I won't name names): cohabitation was summarily refused, and the house burnt down. After I bashed my way in to uninstall that other program, and finally got a chance to use Nero on a functional machine, I decided to have Nero on my machine permanently, in place of that other program. Not only is Nero arranged in a more sensible and straightforward manner, but, in my experience, Nero works every time. I'd long since resigned myself to at least a one-in-ten coaster rate with that other software package--just something that happens, like twilight--but having worked with Nero, I've come to expect constant success. Nero spoiled me, but I can live with that.

There's a lot to like in Nero; in fact, about the only thing to dislike about Nero is the Wizard, which you will be faced with immediately on launching the program. Leaving the Wizard behind (this choice can be permanent, too--you'll have to summon the Wizard if you ever want to use it again), you arrive at the slickest part of the program: the "New Compilation" dialog. Here, you select the type of CD you intend to create from a scrolling GUI in the left of the "New Compilation" interface. The whole array is there: CD-ROM (ISO, UDF, and ISO/UDF), Boot CD, Video CD, Hybrid, Mixed Mode, and, naturally, Audio CD. (A freshly tweaked version debuted at COMDEX promised more to delight audio aficianados: MP3 encoding for acolytes of that ever more popular music technology.)

Once you've decided on a format, the attributes and options associated with your particular kind of disc are immediately accessible for configuration, via a familiar "tab-" type interface: you may move straight from choosing to create a CD-ROM to filling out the Volume Descriptor and setting any unusual file-naming options you may require. No fanfare, just this quick and compact interface in which to lay the foundation of your intended disc. Everything is where it ought to be as well; there's no rifling the recesses and drop-down menus of Nero when you want to make a multisession disc. You simply select CD-ROM, hit the multisession tab, configure, and go.

Having finished with that, you move into that standard CD-R software drag-and-drop interface, the kind we've probably all seen, where you have a CD layout window and a file browser window. I don't know why this is, but it's kind of interesting: the file browser defaults to the right side of your screen, and the layout window to the left, so you end up dragging your data right to left, which is totally counterintuitive, unless you read a lot of Hebrew. You can, of course, switch the windows around, but I left them the way they were (as Bertolt Brecht would have me believe that it's good for me to be estranged from what I'm used to from time to time). We get a fresh view of our surroundings this way, he says, and we pay a little more attention to what we're doing (this may account for the lack of coasters produced by Nero).

When it comes time to burn, you simply hit a small Burn button in the icon bar. This brings up the "Write CD" dialog, which you may recognize as exactly the same thing as the "New Compilation" dialog, except the default tab is your burn option. Here you're able to review the settings you made in the "New Compilation" dialog, as well as configure the burn options (buffer, DAO/TAO, the whole bit), and actually write the CD. If my experience is true to form, this procedure results in a usable CD every time.

ahead for packet writing

Nero, too, allows you the option of installing AheadInCD, a very nice, simple piece of packet-writing software. It's super-discreet and very easy to enable and disable--I always appreciate that--but imagine my chagrin when I happened on yet another debilitating piece of goofy music, just to ruin everything. A shame, since packet writing is where CD-R is most emphatically best neither seen nor heard.

Formatting a disc for packet writing with AheadInCD is a simple matter of right-clicking on the icon that appears in your task bar, and selecting "Format." That done, you perform the customary packet-writing soft-shoe: drag data onto the the representation of your drive, or however you like to do it, and that data gets written to disc. Easy enough.

beyond the wizard: nero rules

Despite the troublesome first impression, Nero has endeared itself to me--I even like the little flaming coliseum with which it represents itself. I might even chuckle when I see it. I'll tell you what won me over, and I'm guessing that this would warm the cockles of most any CD-R user: Nero thinks a lot more of you, finally, than it appears to initially. It does assume, finally, after the hoopla that you know a little something about relaxing ISO restrictions, and that you know what you're getting into when you select mixed-mode. And it works, all the time--unheard of, at least in my experience. The fiddling does come to an end.

Ahead's Nero Burning Rom 4.0

synopsis: Today's CD-R tools serve two masters: traditional CD-R "professionals" and the fast-growing "consumer" audience, mixing powerful feature sets with cartoonish "Wizards." Disable the Wizard in Ahead's wonderful Nero Burning ROM and discover a CD-R professional's paradise, which promises a rare delight: a CD recording tool that works every time. Nero's "New Compilation" interface handles all configurations simply, but powerfully, and moves you quickly ahead to a drag-and-drop GUI. Nero also includes AheadInCD, a very nice, straightforward packet-writing tool.

price: $69

Ahead Software gmbh
Im Stoeckmaedle 6
D-76307 Karlsbad, Germany
+49 724 891 1800
Fax +49 724 891 1888
http://www.ahead.de

Joshua McDaniel (josh@simulacra.to) is an IT Solutions Provider and Webmaster of Robert Starrett and Dana Parker's http://www.cdpage.com.

Comments? Email us at letters@onlineinc. com.


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