Monday, January 5, 2009

The Post Holiday FAQ

As a CIO, I'm asked to do many diverse things, but after the holidays the pace accelerates when I'm called by family, friends, and colleagues to give them advice about all the new complex technology they've purchased over the holidays. Here are a few post holiday FAQs.

I have new DVD player that can record DVDs. Can you explain the differences between DVD-R/DVD-RW and DVD+R/DVD+RW?

DVD's exist in two basic forms

a. DVD-ROM which includes DVD-Video, the read only media which stores commercially produced movies
b. Recordable DVD's

Recordable DVDs are divided into three incompatible formats:

DVD-R/DVD-RW - this was the first DVD recordable media released into the market in 1997. It was developed by Pioneer and then backed by the DVD Forum, a consortium of industry stakeholders. Because it was first to market, older DVD players/recorders tend to support this format. This format does not have advanced error correcting capabilities and tends to be less robust at higher speeds. DVD-R is recordable once and DVD-RW is recordable/rewriteable approximately 1000 times.

DVD+R/DVD+RW - this was developed by Philips and Sony via their DVD+RW Alliance in 2002. It was recognized by the DVD Forum as an official DVD format in January 2008. As with the DVD-R standards, DVD+R is recordable once and DVD+RW is recordable approximately 1000 times. DVD+RW had advanced error correcting features and is robust at high speeds.

DVD-RAM - this format has not been widely embraced by computer manufacturers but is used commonly in video cameras as re-writable removable media.

The bottomline - most modern DVD recorders can read/write DVD+RW. It's the most modern, robust and reusable recording media. Use DVD+RW for recording.

Should I upgrade to Blu-Ray?

First a bit about capacity. CD's hold 700 Megabytes, DVD's hold 4.7 Gigabytes, and Blu-Ray disks hold 50 Gigabytes.

CD uses a 780nm wavelength laser diode, DVD uses 650nm and Blu-ray uses 405nm. Smaller wavelengths permit a smaller pit to be etched on the media surface ( 1.6 �m for CD, 1.32 �m for DVD, and .160�m for Blu-Ray). The high capacity of Blu-Ray disks supports the density needed for true HDTV (1080p) video. DVDs play in standard TV densities (480p).

Blu-ray players are designed to be backwards compatible, allowing older DVDs to be played in the same player.

Although VCR tapes were rapidly replaced by DVDs because of their robustness and convenience, the transition from DVD to Blu-Ray has been slower. Only 3% of videos sold today are Blu-Ray because many consumers are satisfied with the performance and video quality of their standard DVDs. If you do not have a 1080p HDTV, Blu-Ray does not really offer you much.

Bottomline - At this point, Blu-Ray is more expensive than DVDs and does not offer much to the average consumer. I recommend you hold off unless you really want a really high end video player to complement a really high end HDTV and are willing to pay the higher price for movies on Blu-Ray discs.

I received a Bose Sounddock, a Belkin iPod FM modulator (for using your iPod over you're car's radio), and other iPod accessories. Will they work with my iPod?

There are more iPod variants than Carters has little pills. Wikipedia has a great table comparing all models sold to date.

Accessory manufacturers need to keep up with the ever changing collection of yearly new model releases.

For Bose, there is a hard to find online guide to iPod compatibility. Note that Bose provides a free adapter for the 2nd generation iPod that has a different connector position than other iPods.

In general, it's challenging to buy iPod accessories that keep up with the iPod product line. Plan to rebuy accessories when you upgrade you iPod.

That's it for the first round of post holiday consultations for the home CIO. I'm sure there are more to come and I'll post them here.
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