Sunday, May 11, 2008

Burn, baby, Burn!

This week I made an out-of-the-ordinary after-work house call.

One of the folks I provide geek-support to is a former pastor of Lavie and I's.

A few weekends ago I had spend a number of hours getting him brought up to date on his software, fixed a CD ROM drive issue, troubleshooting a sound issue, and provided some ongoing desktop training.

So this call was to show him how to manage a sizable number of digital photos from his trip to Alaska, as well as showing him how to burn them to a CD for safekeeping and sharing.

I spent a considerable amount of time trying to think of one of the easiest ways to deal with this process.  While certainly a highly educated and brilliant guy, something about computers makes him hesitant.

So with a final plan developed, we sat down in front of his computer this week; spiral notebook at the ready for the copious notes he likes to take. (I am happy to see this!)


His digital camera uses SD media sticks.  And he had almost filled up two, 2 GB sticks worth.

First thing we did was to hook up a little SD media card reader via USB.  This way he could just place the stick in the reader and access them directly, instead of fooling around with connecting his camera and dealing with all the proprietary camera software.

I coached him into making a folder under his "My Documents\My Pictures" location for each of his memory sticks.  Once he gets comfortable with the basics, he can then branch out and get more creative with his picture management methods.

We launched two sessions of Windows Explorer. One was for his SD media card "drive" with the picture folder/files created by the camera.  The second was for the folder he would be placing the pictures into under his My Pictures sub-folder.

Copy/Paste was a breeze.  In no time he had gotten the hang of transferring pictures from the SD media card to his local PC.


Next we needed a way for him to manage the image files he had taken.

The only application I could recommend to him without reservation (and I know quite a few) for dealing with image file management was the fantastic FastStone Image Viewer.

I installed it on his PC and with a brief tutorial, showed him how to browse his pictures, and then copy/paste/move them into other locations to help.

I had to tweak it a bit to show the thumbnails at the maximum size allowed to make it a bit easier on his eyes.

Once he got the hang of it, he was able to quickly preview and sort them with ease.


So the final challenge was assisting him with the process of burning them to a CD.  His Dell machine came with a Sonic CD burning software, but it is a bit clunky and not very intuitive.

I needed something that was so easy a caveman could, know.

In the end I settled on the freeware application Express Burn.

It allows him to pick and burn the image files he wants in a few simple steps.

  1. Launch the program.
  2. Select "Data CD" (if not already selected).
  3. Load a blank CD in his burner tray.
  4. Drag the pictures he wants from FastStone, and drop them into the Express Burn window.
  5. Set the Disk Label name
  6. Do a last check to make sure the bar at the bottom is green (files will fit) and not red (over the cd limit).
  7. Hit the big "Burn CD" button.
  8. Wait for burning to finish.
  9. Done!

Express Burn is actually quite a bit more sophisticated than this, as it can not only handle "Data CD" burning, but also Audio CD, Data DVD's, Video DVD's, Data Blu-ray, and Data HD-DVD, but it can also do Disk copies and ISO format files (among a slew of other features).

Not much to complain about here.  It has a very simple interface and is very intuitive for basic users.

In no time he had six custom CD's burned with images from his Alaska trip.

Mighty fine work!

Other Recommended Burning Freeware

While Express Burn fit this user's need perfectly, there are a number of alternative freeware solutions for media burning on your Windows computer.

My personal favorite is CDBurnerXP.  I couldn't imaging any other "whole-package" freeware product to burn disks with. It handles everything I could think to throw at it. And the ISO support is fantastic.

AmoK CD/DVD Burning 1.00 is a really amazing tool.  It is a German project, but does include English support.  It is released as freeware both for personal and commercial use.  I particularly like the AmoK interface.  You have all the regular tools of a burner, along with great hardware support, drag-n-drop file management, multi-session disk burning support, RW management, ISO file creation, all versions of Windows are supported, audio CD and video DVD support, converts ISO, BIN, CUE, and NRG files.  Author Dirk Paehl has additional burning utilities if you want to do even more.

ImgBurn - This application has a pretty plain interface and once you get into the options, it is wonderfully overwhelming to all but hard-core media burning geeks. I really like this one! Supports CD/DVD/HD DVD/Blu-ray media. Read a disk to an image file. Build a disk image from files, or write directly to the disk.  Yes, you can burn image files to a disk. You can verify your disk media are readable. AND you can do some drive/media quality testing.  It also supports dual-layer DVD's with a great layer-break selection screen. Want to look at the raw-sectors on a disk? Yep. ImgBurn has a sector viewer. It also supports "plug-ins" from DVDInfoPro (for data graphing), Elaborate Byes Clone DVD driver, and VSO Software's Copy to DVD driver. I do a LOT of work with ISO image files, and not having this freeware tool would really add additional work to my activities.  It is simply amazing.

DeepBurner Free is a good application for all-around disk burning application and is able to handle data CD/DVD's and audio CD's.  It can create and burn ISO image files, and includes support for bootable disk burning. What I also like is that it is offered in a "portable" version, for burning on the go.

InfraRecorder has one of the cleanest interfaces for burning software I am aware of.  Nice and pure.  In the top section you have a file-explorer to help you quickly navigate to the files you wish to add.  In the bottom section you have the disk layout you are creating. Drag, drop, create folders, it's all there.  At the very bottom is a progress bar to show just how much data you are adding to your compilation. Check the download page carefully to choose the right version depending on your system. Offered in 98/ME, x64, Windows XP/2000, 9x/ME versions as well as a portable version.

StarBurn is another cd burning application I have recently become acquainted with.  Besides all the usual burning tools and capabilities, it also allows mounting of an ISO file to pre-test it before you burn.  Having this "imbedded" in the application could be quite useful.  Only "gotcha" is that during the setup process you must pay attention otherwise you could end up getting your browser and search engine defaults changed.

Bonus Tip

How to burn Bin images without cue file - gHacks points us to WinBin2Iso and Bin2Iso both utilities can convert a .bin disk image file to an ISO file if the .cue file is missing.  Good to have handy just in case. Since both are less than 60 Kb in size, keep both.

Freeware ISO Stuff

These will require another post in-of-themselves, but I'm sharing them now anyway.

Dirk Paehl's "mini" ISO file and burning tools: Burn ISO, Visual-ISO, CD DVD TO ISO, ISOBURN, Folder to ISO Win, Convert2ISO, and Easyburning.

Folder2Iso - Simply the Best. Period.

IsoBuster - All-around package for ISO file management and extraction, CD/DVD inspection, and data-recovery.

LC ISO Creator - Make ISO file from many CD/DVD's.

BurnCDCC - Terabyte Unlimited's tool to direct burn a ISO file to CD/DVD/Blu-ray disk.

MKBISO - Make a bootable ISO file from the image of a diskette or partition. Another great micro-tool from Terabyte Unlimited.

Active@ ISO Burner - Very simple-to-use tool to burn and ISO file to just about any kind of disk-media out there. Single EXE file goodness! Command-line execution supported.

Now, where is that fire-extinguisher.....



Anonymous said...

I absolutely love the FastStone Image Viewer as well as the Capture. But not that much I am willing to get the current paid versions. I have stuck to using the old but free versions.

Claus Valca said...

FastStone Image Viewer is still free for home users. Commercial usage requires purchase.

I was bummed as well when their Capture program no longer went free. But as you said, the older versions still work great and meet most all my image capture needs so like you, I still use them instead.

NISMO1968 said...

...and if you're looking for completely FREE and powerful CD/DVD and Blu-Ray/HD-DVD burning application you're welcomed to give a try to StarBurn from Rocket Division Software.

Just in case here's an URL: