Bits & P.C.s: USB, DVD, CD, cameras and free money

Bits & P.C.s: USB, DVD, CD, cameras and free money

By Richard Heller

One of the neatest little gadgets to be introduced the past year is the solid state disk drive. The device is sold under a variety of names—the Thumb Drive and USB Flash drive to name a couple. The drive is about the size of a key fob and contains the same type of memory used in a digital camera. The capacity ranges from 16MB to 128MB and 256MB, with a 512MB model to be released shortly. The prices have recently dropped, so a 128MB model is selling for $50 while the 256MB is $100.

The 128MB drive will store almost 90 floppy disks worth of data, be it documents, video, or pictures and programs. All of the devices plug into the USB port of the computer and usually do not require any driver installation. The device is fast and extremely portable; a 128MB drive holds more data than the standard Zip disc.

If you do a lot of music downloading over the Internet, you may want to consider cuting back on the number of files that you get at a time. Verizon has been ordered to disclose the name and other information on one of their subscribers who is believed to have downloaded more than 600 music files in one day.

The Norwegian DVD case may not be over yet. The prosecutor is filing an appeal after Jon Johansen was acquitted of criminal charges for writing and publishing a DVD descrambling program.

Did you buy any music CDs between 1995 and 2000? If you did, you may apply for a refund of up to $20. This is part of a settlement in a lawsuit where music distributors and retailers were accused of illegally inflating prices. All you need to do is answer a few questions at and the check may be in the mail.

If you use a lot of blank CDs you may want to lay in a supply while the prices are low. While the prices for blank DVD disks have dropped dramatically the past year to $2 or less per disk, the prices for CD blanks are expected to increase as manufacturers switch to a more profitable DVD market. The prices could double in price in March, when the price increase is expected to be implemented.

The pricing on digital cameras continue to drop while the resolution and features just keep getting better. It is now possible to buy a 2 Megapixel camera for $100 for less while a local retailer was offering a 3 Megapixel camera that was recently selling for $150. A year ago, a similar camera would have cost more than $400.

Did Santa Claus bring you one of those shiny new DVD recorders for Christmas? Digital Spy ( is reporting that Phillips DVD recorders are “riddled with bugs.” The site lists machines failing to read disks, switching off while recording, a problem with the timer, machines locking up, and a multitude of other claimed defects.

Phillips had not responded to the article at press time.

Richard Heller is an independent computer specialist who specializes in repairs, installation, upgrades, technical support, Internet sharing, data recovery and diagnostics. If you have any computer or service-related questions, please send them to The Rock River Times or e-mail

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