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Is DVD The Answer? 8 January 2002 Edition
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The DVD has now made huge inroads into the consumer electronics market with reports out of the USA indicating that it will soon match the ubiquitous VCR in terms of market penetration.

With its incredibly high storage density, the DVD might just be the solution to two vexing problems:

Problem 1: Data Backup
As the amount of hard drive storage on modern PCs continues to grow, many systems are now shipping with 20, 30 or even 50 GB as standard equipment, once again making the problem of backing up that storage an issue.

There was a brief period when CDR/RW with its (at the time) enormous 640MB of storage was more than adequate for backing up the 2GB-5GB hard drives we all used. Those days however, are now just a memory.

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So what can an average PC user do to protect their gigabytes of valuable data from loss due to hardware failure, some malicious virus, or even an errant mouse-click or two.

One time-honoured solution is the use of tape backups. These have been around since the dawn of the computer era and, thanks to advancing technology, now offer a huge amount of storage on small data cassettes.

Unfortunately they are expensive -- making them hard to justify for the home computer user or even many small businesses. They can also be a little slow if you just want to extract a single file.

The DVD promise of multi-gigabyte storage in a single volume is obviously an attractive solution to this problem and there are already a number of providers prepared to sell you such devices -- albeit at a cost.

Even Dick Smith Electronics offers this drive with 4.7GB of storage for the princely sum of $1691. While that doesn't sound too bad, you also need to factor in the price of the blank media at $69 a pop.

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    At that price, the cost of your backup media works out to $14 per GB and that's a lot more than the $2.80 per GB you pay for CDR media.

    Of course, the price of DVD drives and the media for them will likely drop as economies of scale come into force -- but perhaps not so much as you might think...

    Problem 2: Music Piracy
    Despite the best efforts of the recording industry, music distributed on CD is not secure -- and never will be.

    The audio CD format was devised at a time when consumer CD writers were totally unheard of and a computer system with sufficient capacity to hold 640MB was far beyond the reach of all but corporate entities.

    As a result, no thought was given to protecting the contents of CDs from duplication -- after all, it simply wasn't an issue.

    Of course now we find the recording industry up in arms over the fact that their property is being stolen in huge quantities (although debate rages over the actual level of loss that such theft produces).

    Enter the DVD!

    By the time the DVD was born, there was an awareness of the need to protect such material from theft and mechanisms were included to provide such protection.

    Of course we all know that (like all protection schemes) it was broken.

    However, if the recording industry had two clues, they'd look to the DVD as the most effective way to prevent casual copying.

    Like a growing number of people, I probably spend more time enjoying my music in the form of a music video than as a pure audio recording. Perhaps the recording industry ought to consider phasing out the audio album on CD in favour of DVDs with music video tracks. After all, the production of most videos costs far more than the production of the music tracks that go with them.

    With the average high-quality music video requiring 20-40MBs of storage (even with the latest video encoders), people are far less likely to swap music vids over the Net than tracks ripped from audio CDs. Of course they can still rip the audio using DAD techniques -- but that's also the case with copy-protected audio disks anyway.

    If the music industry were to give consumers a full album of music videos and supplementary material on DVD for the same price as an audio disk, maybe then people would buy rather than steal.

    After all -- it would be cheaper to buy an original DVD for $39 than burn one onto $69 recordable media wouldn't it?

    And that brings me to the price of recordable DVD media. Don't expect it to fall to the per-GB price we're currently seeing with CDRs. I can absolutely guarantee you that the movie industry will convince legislators to whack a huge tax on blank disks to offset the cost of piracy.

    So if you're a PC user who just wants to back up their data -- you'll be subsidising the movie and music industries -- whether you want to or not.

    Have your say (remember to select For Publication if you want to see your comments on this page).

    Are You Secure?
    As mentioned above, already this year there are already a couple of important security issues which affect Microsoft Windows users.

    Please read this story from The Register and make sure that if you're using XP, you've gotten hold of the latest round of security updates.

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