By now, anyone who knows their way around an optical disc drive knows the names Roxio and Nero. The two media-creation mavens have been on the scene since practically the dawn of CD-burning time. And through to today, inclusion of one or the other’s software is de rigueur with the purchase of just about any retail PC or optical drive. Of course, the bundled software packages are but abbreviated versions of the full-on suites Roxio and Nero offer. The stand-alone packages go far beyond the basics of disc copying, burning, and playing—and that’s never been more true than today.
Back when Roxio’s product was called Easy CD Creator, it was a favorite among enthusiast disc-makers, but over time it became bloated and buggy, allowing Nero to gain traction. Knowing this, it’s hard not to perceive a hint of one-upmanship in Easy Media Creator 10. This suite offers a whopping 29 individual apps to Nero’s 22 (whether that’s a good thing depends on your uses for such a bounty).
When you install Nero 8 Ultra, no fewer than 22 individual apps take up residence on your PC. Some cover very specific tasks, such as DriveSpeed (which, as you might guess, tests the speed of your drive). Others are much more ambitious, like Nero Home, a Media Center–like interface that serves as an entertainment hub for music and video playback, TV streaming and recording, and content sharing over a network, all via a large living-room-friendly interface.
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We sometimes get so caught up in the excitement of the “next big thing” we throw the baby out with the bathwater. Based on the performance of the Wi-Fire Wi-Fi adapter, that might just be the case with IEEE 802.11g wireless routers.
Soundcast has embedded its wireless iPod streaming technology inside a fantastic battery-powered, self-amplified outdoor speaker. It’s pricey, but building a good wired outdoor system would cost as much—even if you do the work yourself.
If you’re just dying to strap a display to your head, the Headplay Personal Cinema is your best choice. It’s comfortable, even for people who wear glasses, supports a wide range of input devices, and delivers relatively high resolution, and the only virtual-reality feature it lacks is head tracking.