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ahead software Nero Burning ROM 5.5

Josh McDaniel

ahead software Nero Burning ROM 5.5
synopsis: Because there are suddenly so many, it's harder than ever for a single feature in Nero 5.5 to lay claim to the software's "coolest thing" title. That Nero works unerringly will probably always stand out as its finest and best quality. But the features are great, too: you'll find everything from a relatively sophisticated digital audio editor to Nero DriveSpeed, a utility that alters the read speed of your drives according to your needs. Plus, there's little Nero won't do for you in the way of CD formats; in addition to the standard ISO/UDF ROM, Audio, Mixed-Mode, and Video, Nero 5.5 adds CD Extra and Super Video CD to the flock, and some menu authoring tools for the Video and Super Video CD.

price: $49 download, $69 airbox

ahead software gmbh
Im Stoeckmaedle 6
D-76307 Karlsbad
49 724 891-1800
Fax 49 724 891 1888

June 2001 | Every once in awhile, on a searing day in Anaheim, a couple Disney characters will remove their heads in a colorful demonstration of heatstroke, or a cooked hangover; I've witnessed this phenomenon first hand. Fortunately, at the time, the roving balloon man and his wares had the child we accompanied in thrall; no small hearts within the visual cone strollerward were broken by disillusionment–not that day. Whatever your thoughts on Disney, whether you celebrate it for its benevolent family-oriented image, or condemn it for its exploitation of children, workers–and even the management in some sense (did I leave anyone out?)–nobody should have to explain to a child why Goofy just self-decapitated, leaving a shrunken-celled teenage head in his stead.

A year ago, I would have taken this spectacle as a perfect metaphor for most PC software, if sympathy is left out of the account: software, $50 retail, was a sick, exhausted adolescent emerging from behind some cartoon. Our intrepid marketeers have evidently grown up some since then. These days, you often have to actively seek wizards and such, and when you find them, it's no problem to banish them forever, back to the infernal binary bowels whence they sprang. The reign of the smirking paperclip is drawing to a close, and, as with the death of any inbred tyrant, the people cheer, "Good."

The latest iteration of Nero is no exception. In Nero 4.0, you would encounter a wizard immediately upon firing up the program; Nero 5.5, on the other hand, has concealed its wizard very well, much to my delight. Being that this was the only problem I could see with Nero in its previous incarnation, I now run the risk of becoming known as "that Nero guy": Nero 5.5, in my humble opinion, is as close to perfect as any recording product I've seen, and it keeps getting better.

i, nero

After days of painstaking scrutiny, followed by several hours of deliberate tomfoolery in and around it in an attempt to wreck it, I can't find even a hint of instability in Nero 5.5. It even withstood McDaniel Labs' patented Triple Threat Formula, heretofore guaranteed to kill anything with its lethal combination of 27 browser instances all running Java applets, multiple 3D rendering projects, and a vintage iteration of Windows, which is usually devastating enough all by itself. Nero proved impervious to general error, at least around here, so far; I'm having to develop a new procedure by which to break software all because of Nero. High praise, to be sure.

I thought I had a pile of five coasters to whine about– Video CDs that a DVD player refused to read–but as it turns out, it's the fault of the DVD player, not Nero; those CDs play fine in every other Video CD player around here, software and hardware. Not a single coaster has issued from the test machine so far, but that doesn't surprise me: since 4.0, when Nero earned a permanent spot on The Chunk Apparatus' hard disk, I've seen maybe five coasters directly attributable to a mistake on Nero's part, about a 99% success rate. Reliability continues to be Nero's most stunning and most welcome feature.

Because there are suddenly so many, it's harder than ever for a single feature in Nero 5.5 to lay claim to the software's "coolest thing" title. That Nero works unerringly will probably always stand out as its finest and best quality–that is, until the rest of the pack sagaciously decides to make absolute reliability a priority. Almost as if in preparation for the day when everyone else decides to issue bulletproof software, thus rendering questions of trustworthiness moot, useful features have proliferated in Nero. You'll find everything from a relatively sophisticated digital audio editor to Nero DriveSpeed, a utility that alters the read speed of your drives according to your needs. That could mean applying a low setting to mute the thunderous CAV din while you're listening to an audio disc, or going full throttle for a quick extraction job.

fiddling while ROM burns

As always, Nero lavishes its user with a variety of advanced settings and tools. It's a real compliment–and a leap forward–to have something assume a great deal of knowledge on your part, but also be forgiving should you be lacking expertise. For example, Nero CD Speed, a very nice application placed outside Nero proper (and therefore outside the realm of demanding expectation), runs the customary battery of drive tests for you: Seek Time, Transfer Rate, DAE speed, Spin Up/Down, and even CPU usage at various speeds.

Though I haven't set out to defeat any copy protection schemes with Nero 5.5 yet–as of this writing, there's a new challenge on the horizon in Charley Pride's upcoming release, so I'm sort of waiting on that–Nero looks like it will remain a tool of choice in those kinds of endeavors. You may still ask Nero to ignore illegal TOCs and to copy unreadable data, cannons on a righteous Queen Anne's Revenge. Any software striking back at those who would deprive us of our right to back up our immensely expensive and fragile data automatically earns a special place next to my heart. Truth be told, if that's all Nero did–and proved otherwise only intermittently functional–it might still be a favorite.p> Outside of the new features, Nero doesn't look or feel too much different from the last couple iterations. Your project is still sandwiched, chronologically speaking, by the New Compilation windows, where you may state the terms of your project before you begin adding data to a CD layout, then change those terms again at the end of your project, just before you commit your data to disc. And you still drag files from a file browser at the right to a CD layout on the left. It is counterintuitive, but, as I pointed out in my review of 4.0, strange settings keep me on my toes, making me ever aware of potential mistakes, and therefore better able to avoid them.

the golden palace of sin

For quick and relatively simple illustration, the process of making an audio CD looks something like this: launching Nero, you'll find yourself in the New Compilation window, superimposed on the File Browser and CD Layout windows that constitute Nero proper. Here, you'll select "Audio CD" from the vertically scrolling format array to the left. Then, though a series of tabs, opt for things such as "Write CD Text on CD" and your preferred write method. You'll visit the New Compilation window again when you're finished constructing your layout, and have subsequently hit the big red button. You can either alter your earlier choices here, or simply proceed with the burn. There's little Nero won't do for you in the way of CD formats and their trimmings. For a while now with Nero, you've been able to make ISO, UDF, and ISO/UDF CD-ROMs; Audio CDs; Mixed-Mode CDs; and Video CDs–the standard bunch. Nero 5.5 adds CD Extra and Super Video CD to the flock, and even some basic menu authoring tools for the Video and Super Video CD formats.

Nero 5.5 will be available as a free upgrade for everyone who has 5.0, bundled or purchased. It's hard to say, today, how you'll acquire it, as it hasn't been released at the time of this writing. If the past is any indication, it will be available in both an airbox and as a serial number to legitimize your downloadable demo, the latter being substantially cheaper. Traditionally, ahead software offers a free demo version of the most current Nero; if you decide you like it, you simply purchase a modestly priced serial number over at ahead's Web site, www.ahead.de. You can probably count on Nero's being perpetually inexpensive, too; considering its power and reliability, and now its massive array of features, you truly cannot find more bang for your buck.

post scriptem: qualis artifex pereo

The famous things we hear about Nero's namesake in ancient Rome's emperorial pantheon turn out to be not exactly true, according to contemporary research. He set no blazes, he sheltered everyone cast out of their homes by the big fire, and early in his reign, he is said to have been predisposed toward generosity and kindness, even going so far as to ban bloodshed in the arena. He did, however, have his mother killed for criticizing his mistress, then, later, he kicked that same mistress to death; soon after, some of his legions drove him into exile, where he committed suicide. Let this be a lesson to all software vendors everywhere: don't get cocky.

Josh McDaniel (josh@simulacra.to) is a freelance writer based in Glendale, CA.. He is also co-author, with Robert A. Starrett, of The Little Audio CD Recording Book, published by Peachpit Press.

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