Hippo Manchester
November 24, 2005

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Techie: Make your mark

Always losing your pirated CDs? Label íem

By John ďjaQĒ Andrews  jandrews@hippopress.com

So youíve made a perfectly legitimate backup copy of your music or software CD.

Youíre adding it to your library when you realize, oh snap, how will you ever find that particular CD again? It looks just like all the others!

As with many of the insignificant problems we technologically domineering Americans find ourselves tackling, this one has spawned a variety of creative solutions. Short of the silkscreening process used on mass-produced discs, the individual user has options.

HP LightScribe

The newest, hippest and geekiest way to label your CDs, HPís LightScribe technology comes only in specially equipped CD and DVD burners. Many of their new PCs come with these burners installed. The idea is that the same drive can both burn data onto a disc and then burn a label onto the other side.

The catch? There are a few. For starters, you need to buy special LightScribe discs. They have a special chemical coating that the driveís laser zaps to produce text and images. Ordinary spindles of 100 CD-Rs for free after rebate wonít cut it. Secondly, you need to eject, flip and re-insert the disc in order to label it. Not a big deal, admittedly, but itís just annoying enough to prevent me from hailing LightScribe as the biggest thing since electricity. Lastly, LightScribe only produces black-and-white images and text. No flawless CD pirating and selling for you!

Casio CW-50 CD Title Printer

This baby looks sort of like an external CD drive. It connects to your PCís USB port and can print monochrome text or graphics on any CD or DVD ó no special brand required. Its ink comes in ribbons of several colors, but you can only use one at a time.

Inkjet Printers

Most consumer inkjet printers donít have the capability to print directly onto CDs for the simple reason that CDs donít bend like paper does. Epson offers several models with a straight-through feeding mechanism just for this purpose.

One of the most economical is the Stylus Photo R200, about $80 after rebate. With customized software for designing labels, this might be the most practical solution if youíre looking for a printer anyway. You get full color labels ó though you do need to buy inkjet printable discs. Not as expensive as LightScribe discs, but you still need to pay attention.

Inkjet Label Kits

If you canít afford to invest in a whole new printer, there are plenty of kits complete with design software, CD labels and applicators. The labels usually come two per 8.5Ēx11Ē page and any inkjet printer can give you full-color beauty. The applicator is typically a round plastic contraption that lines up the hole in the label with the hole in the CD, but you still have to be careful to get the label on smoothly, with no air bubbles and not falling off the side of the disc. Either of those can spell disaster for an unsuspecting CD player as bits of sticky paper come flying off a spinning disc. Yuck.

Sharpies

If you really donít care what your label looks like, and can read your own handwriting, the low-tech option is always there. You can even pick up a free Sharpie Mini if youíre good enough at a Breakout clone game the company has set up: www.sharpieminigame.com.