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                            By:  Jason Compton 

Neat gimmick or worthwhile utility?

I'm still not sure I've decided.

CD-Write's intention is not to change the laws of physics, enabling your
garden-variety CD-ROM drive to write to what by all rights is a read-only
medium.  Instead, by introducing a new filesystem and device driver,
CD-Write redirects what AmigaDOS interprets as "writes" to a hard drive, so
that added, deleted, and modified files, icon positions, and the like are
"saved" for future use.

Once the (quite straightforward and well-explained in the manual)
installation is completed, you gain a new drive (CDW0:), and all CDs
inserted generate two Workbench icons-one the original (CD0: or
equivalent), the other prefixed by "CDW-", the CDW0: drive and the one
you'll want to interact with to take advantage of the package.

Aside from this duality, the operation of CD-Write is transparent and
essentially seamless, the only snag being that any time you "write" to your
CD-ROM, you'll get an accompanying clunk on your hard drive, and any time a
new CD is inserted, your special CD-Write hard drive directory will be
scanned for information, and that information will be utilized by the
filesystem, be it icon positioning, added files, whatever.

Practical application?  Well, for the user who likes ultimate
configuration, the ability to save tooltypes, new icons or positioning, add
scripts, and remove unsightly unnecessary programs (or icons) is going to
be a welcome addition to what is probably a very custom Workbench.  For BBS
or FTP site operators (and multiple CD drives are supported, according to
the documentation), the ability to remove undesired files (for example, if
you don't offer access to Aminet's game directory to newly validated
members of your BBS, for example, you can simply let registered users
access CD0: while the newbies only get the CDW0: that is missing that
directory), integrate new versions or add software to a single directory
structure (say you get a new version of Deluxe Galaga and your users would
rather just see it in the Aminet game directory than have to scan another
filebase for it, you can simply "copy" it over), or just plain screw around
with the CD's configuration would be a plus.

The author, Ralph Babel (and you'll never forget his name since he names
all of the utilities and the filesystem after himself) also suggests that
it could be used to remove virus-laden programs from the CD.  My personal
opinion is that anybody stung by a CD-ROM virus would probably have done
far worse to the CD before they think of CD-Writing it out of existance,
but that's just me.  The concept of using CD-Write to assist in the
creation of a new revision of a CD is also one offered (and considering
Babel's association with the assembly of the Meeting Pearls CD, one
referred to in the manual text, I'm not surprised.)  I'm not one to take up
such a task, but I can see how it would be useful.

To-the-point information is included to aid the user around certain
filesystem-and-CD-ROM-standard quirks, such as the handling of RockRidge
extensions, although such incompatibilities are unlikely to raise their
ugly heads too often.

What sort of performance hits do you get using CD-Write?  The manual
diplomatically says, in effect, that speed varies depending on the speed of
the hard drive.  But CD-Write is very efficient in its usage-most deletion
operations, for example, take up less than 100 bytes, including entire
directories.  My example of deleting the entire Aminet game directory on
Aminet 7 cost my hard drive less than 200 bytes and (using a totally
unscientific stopwatch test) about .1 seconds of access time when the CD
was inserted.

Of course, all the changes are temporary.  Utilities are included to undo
changes, or by mere brute force, the entire scope of changes can be deleted
by simply deleting the hard drive subdirectory containing the changes for
the individual disc.  And, of course, the information is still accesible
through regular CD0:.

So, where has this gotten you?  An essentially seamless method to customize
CD-ROMs, with little performance loss and storage cost, is here.  Do you
need it?  That's your decision.

Published by:
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