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November 22, 2005

Table of Contents

The Driving Range: TEAC P11 Thermal Disc Printer
Microtech Systems Launches Xpress XL 12-Drive, Dual-Printer CD/DVD Production System
Advanced Media Set to Introduce MP4 Player at CES
Alera Debuts LightScribe Publishing Tower
Maxell Introduces "Future of Optical Storage Media" with Holographic Recording Technology
NewTek Releases Eighth Free Texture Collection
Boris Final Effects Complete AVX Now Available
Digital Foci Introduces Media Buddy Digital Photo Storage

The Driving Range: TEAC P11 Thermal Disc Printer

Synopsis: TEAC's P11 is a low-cost ($135 street price), compact, desktop thermal CD/DVD printer that delivers excellent single-color printing quickly and efficiently. There's nothing resembling "photo-quality" printing here, as you might get from a full-color inkjet unit under optimum circumstances, but for clear, concise, and simply attractive disc labeling--especially appealing for archive purposes--the TEAC is an excellent choice.

When most of us think of thermal CD/DVD printing, we think of industrial-strength Rimage systems like the Prism and Everest used in Kodak PhotoCD labs and the like. Primera's Inscripta made thermal disc printing into a desktop phenomenon, but none of these products has done much to unseat inkjet as the technology of choice for small-studio and SOHO CD/DVD printing applications. Which is a shame, since thermal printing has some nice advantages for desktop-based users who like their disc printing quick and easy: no drying time, no smudging, water-resistance, and fairly quick print times. The disadvantage of low-cost thermal disc printers is the restriction to a single color.

Which printing option you choose generally depends on the application. Many of us who put great care into CD/DVD inlay card and case design see disc-labeling as a predominately functional part of the packaging process; we want something that's neater and more systematic than a Sharpie, but don't care about extravagant designs on the one part of the package (the disc) that's usually in the case or the playback device, and rarely sees the light of day except on the road between. And many of us who are archiving our discs rather than delivering them to clients have text-specific needs and just want key information presented clearly and simply. For users in those categories, low-cost, compact thermal printers or LightScribe recorder/printers are the way to go.

Thus TEAC's P11, a new single-color thermal disc printer, makes an interesting addition to the steadily diversifying disc-printing domain. Built on the same Cal-Comp. mechanism as the Primera Signature Z1 introduced in 2004, it's a strikingly compact unit, with a footprint that's roughly equivalent to the copy of A Connecitcut Yankee in King Arthur's Court I have sitting beside it on my desk. It weighs in at 2 lbs., 1 oz. (which is a little less than A Connecticut Yankee), and connects to a PC via USB 1.1 or 2.0. The P11 ships with one black print cartridges, with green, blue, and red sold separately. The unit TEAC submitted for review came with an extra dozen print cartridges that allowed me to sample each color.

The P11 installs quickly and easily with the provided installation disc; my testbed Prostar 3.6GHz laptop recognized the printer immediately following installation, and was ready to print in under a minute. Ribbon installation was simple and self-explanatory too; just pop open the top of the case and slide the ribbon onto the print head (helpful three-step instructions printed on a sticker inside the unit get you quickly from installing the cartridge through inserting and removing a disc).

The unit ships with a simple, template-based printing utility that enables users to add text and images in four regions of a disc. You can change fonts and font sizes and curve text as desired, as well as choosing right, left, or center justification. You can also circumvent the unit's single-color limitation by switching ribbons between print jobs, but you have to be very careful to keep the disc in place to make sure the available print regions don't get out of alignment. You might, say, print the top-region text in blue, swap out the print ribbon, and print the lower-region text in red. Images are printed entirely in whatever-color cartridge you have installed. The top and bottom regions are horizontal in orientation and the left and right printing regions are vertical; in my tests, I stuck mostly to text at the top and bottom and images on the sides. You click on a region to bring it into an active window for adding or manipulating text or importing an image.

Images are easily loaded and positioned in a two-step process. After you click the image icon, the Image Attributes window opens. Import an image, and the image will automatically fill whatever print region you have open. Generally, this will distort the image to some extent; with simple controls you can re-size and re-position the image as needed to strike a balance between unused space and reduced stretching. To crop an image you'll need to open it in a dedicated image editing application like Photoshop or PhotoImpact.

One impressive aspect of the P11 is speed. Print jobs that involved both text and images occupying all four windows were achieved in less than 90 seconds for all four quadrants. Text-only jobs took about 28 seconds per region. And the print quality was clean and attractive in all cases, with finely drawn lines and no smudging. The image printing was far from "photo quality," but that's the last thing you're looking for with this kind of printing choice.

Switching cartridges mid-print job (to get the two-color effect) went pretty smoothly using the Change Cartridge wizard, although the first few times I had to tread very lightly to get the new cartridge in without getting the ribbon snagged and rumpled as I inserted the cartridge. It's virtually impossible to continue printing properly if you take out the disc before the cartridge exchange.

All in all, the P11 makes a great, simple, desktop printing option for attractive single-color disc printing in a compact package, as long as you're aware of its limitations and don't expect photo-quality image results. And with pricing around $135 at various Web outlets ($149.50 at TEAC's online store), it's a small investment to get the kind of results this unit delivers. Consumable costs are always an issue with printers, particularly CD/DVD printers. On-the-Web pricing for P11 cartridges seems to be running around $16 each ($24.99 at www.shopteac.com); with a promised 200 region prints per cartridge, that's 8 cents per region at the Web price.

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Microtech Systems Launches Xpress XL 12-Drive, Dual-Printer CD/DVD Production System

Microtech Systems is launching a new high performance CD/DVD mixed media production system. The Xpress XL is a dedicated robotic production system designed for producing high volumes of CDs/DVDs and DVD-DL recorded discs with high-quality printed labels.

The XL is equipped with 12 recorders and two label printers for the highest possible yield from a single production system. The XL features an 800-disc capacity and the ability to produce mixed media with intuitive setup controls. Each XL comes as a complete system with integrated server class PC.

system runs on a Windows XP-based operating system with a full suite of Microtech developed production software. The software suite includes all the capabilities found on the prior Xpress models for disc duplication, printing, and customization using the API. Optionally available is the widely deployed desktop software MyDisc Enterprise for submitting remote jobs to the machine from Windows workstations. "Windows XP is a logical choice for the Xpress XL to provide compatibility with most customer networks. It is possible to achieve connectivity for disc publishing in other server environments. Microtech has multiple installations in Unix and Linux server environments. The file based API requires simple ASCI II text files to initiate job requests.

www.Microtech.com

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Advanced Media Set to Introduce MP4 Player at CES

Advanced Media, Inc., (RitekUSA) is set to add an MP4 player to its lineup. The OLE 8100 delivers DVD-quality video and MP3-quality audio files, and also functions as a digital voice recorder. The OLE 8100 will be showcased in the RIDATA booth in the South Hall 4/35320 during CES. Planned availability is set for the first quarter of 2006.

MP4 is the latest compression standard developed by the Moving Picture Experts Group (MPEG). Formally known as MPEG-4, it was designed to store and deliver both professional-grade audio and video streams. The RIDATA OLE 8100 supports the following formats--music: MP3, WMA, OGG, AC3; video: AVI, MPEG-1,2, and 4, VOB, DAT; and photo: JPG, YUV (up to 4800 x 3600), support picture preview/slide function. Video and photos are displayed on an energy-efficient 2" LTPS LCD panel. It features five-mode equalization (normal, rock, jazz, classical, and pop), three playing modes (normal, repeat one, and repeat all), and both digital voice and line-in recording capability.

With its embedded solid-state NAND flash memory, the OLE 8100 can perform up to one million erase/rewrite operations. 1GB and 2GB capacities are available. The 2GB model provides up to 3.5 hours of video play time and over 3 hours worth of audio. The unit supports WIN98SE/ME, WIN2000, and WINXP operating systems. Video output to NTSC or PAL standards is by the included A/V cable. Video output ports are RCA and S-tunnel. A/V input/output ports include MIC in, line-in in, earphone out, and A/V out. A USB 2.0 PC interface is also included.

The RIDATA OLE 8100 MP4 player is packaged with an earphone, USB cable, audio output cable, S-terminal/RCA video cable, installation CD, audio line-in cable, AC/DC universal charger, and a user's manual. The compact, pocket-size unit is 2.6" x 2.6" x 0.75" and weighs less than 3 ounces. It comes with Advanced Media's quality promise and one-year warranty

The RIDATA OLE 8100 is available through selected retailers, RIDATA distributors, and at various online outlets. A complete listing of locations may be found on the Advanced Media Web site, www.ritekusa.com. The 1GB unit is priced at $229, the 2GB version at $279.

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Alera Debuts LightScribe Publishing Tower

Alera Technologies, Inc. has announced the 1:4 DVD/CD Tower Publisher LS, which supports up to 4 simultaneous DVD/CD Copies, Recordings, or produces up to 4 LightScribe-labeled discs. The 1:4 DVD/CD Tower Publisher LS is a DVD/CD duplicator with LightScribe technology that simultaneously burns custom labels directly on DVD/CD discs making it the first LightScribe desktop production disc publishing system. You can create your own custom labels, with text and graphics, using the Aleratec Disc Publishing Software Suite, powered by Droppix, which comes bundled with the tower.

LightScribe technology is an integrated system that combines LightScribe-enabled DVD/CD recorders with specially coated media and the Aleratec Disc Publishing Software Suite powered by Droppix, to produce precise, laser-etched, silkscreen-quality labels with superior sharpness and clarity, according to Alera. The Droppix-powered Aleratec Disc Publishing Software Suite, includes: the special Aleratec Droppix Label Maker, which produces up to 4 simultaneous LightScribe Disc Labels, right from your desktop, no printer required, and it's only from Aleratec; Droppix Recorder for Towers, which produces up to 4 simultaneous disc copies, recordings or creations and Droppix Management Console, which monitors your publishing process.

The 1:4 DVD/CD Tower Publisher LS (Aleratec Part No. 260150, Ingram Micro SKU No. H71760), is the only LightScribe DVD/CD Production Publisher and it is powered by Droppix. The 1:4 DVD/CD Tower Publisher LS is a remarkable value, with an Estimated Street Price of $999.

The 1:4 DVD/CD Tower Publisher LS has a 7 x 15 inch footprint and weighs about 20 pounds. The full line of Aleratec DVD and CD recording solutions, duplication solutions, and accessories is featured at 4SURE.com, AAFES, Adorama, Amazon.com, B&H Photo Video, Best Buy, Buy.com, CDW, CompUSA, Global Computer, Hewlett Packard, Insight, J & R, Mac Connection, MacMall, Micro Center, Office Depot, PC Connection, PC Mall, PC Nation, Quill, Ritz Camera, Sears, Target, Tech Depot, and Zones, in addition to other leading retailers. Government and Education customers may purchase from Government and Education Specialists including AAFES, CDW-G, CompuCom, Daly Computer, EnPointe, Fed Tek, GCI, GE IT Solutions, GovConnection, GOVPLACE, Green Pages, GTSI, Horizon, Insight Gov, Manchester, Northern NEF, PC Mall Gov, Pomeroy, Sarcom, Shi.com, TIG and Unisys. All products are available to resellers through Bell Microproducts, DBL Distributing, Ingram Micro, and Ingram Micro Canada.

Complete information available at http://www.aleratec.com.

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Maxell Introduces "Future of Optical Storage Media" with Holographic Recording Technology

Maxell Corporation of America and InPhase Technologies are bringing a new optical storage technology to market: holographic media. With storage capacities achieving 1.6 Terabytes (TB) per disc and data rates as high as 120MB/sec, holographic technology also features a long archival life.

Holographic data storage is superior to existing disc and hard drive technologies, and is also competitive against tape technologies in capacities and transfer rate. In addition, it offers a 50+ year media archive life and random data access, according to Maxell. Finally, Maxell expects the media to have the lowest cost per gigabyte of any commercial quality removable storage.

Holographic recording technology utilizes intersecting signal and reference laser beams to store data in a number of 3D hologram images capable of saving hundreds of data pages in a single location. One 5 1/4 inch-diameter optical disc can store up to 150 million pages--more than 63 times the capacity of DVD. Also, with holographic recording, a multitude of form factors, such as discs, cards, etc., and laser wavelengths (red, green, and blue) can be used.

The first generation of holographic media is scheduled for release in September 2006. For more information on Maxell products, visit Maxell's Web site, www.maxell-data.com.

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NewTek Releases Eighth Free Texture Collection

NewTek, Inc. has announced the release of the eighth edition of NewTek's free Texture Collection. As with previous editions, this new set includes fifty high-resolution images useful for textures and reference available for free download at NewTek.com.

The total number of free texture and reference images available from NewTek is now at 400. The eighth edition of the texture collection contains images in the categories Concrete, Nature, Landscape, Soil and Wood. The images are suitable for use as is, and most can be easily processed for seamless tiling as well.

All textures are unretouched photographic images. The first 250 in the collection offer a resolution of 1600 pixels x 1200 pixels. For the sixth through eighth sets, most are at a resolution of 2304 x 1728, with a few images at lower resolutions. The textures are provided in JPEG format, for efficient download.

The first seven editions of the texture collection have been overwhelmingly popular, with tens of thousands of downloads since they were originally posted. NewTek plans to release additional sets of high-resolution textures from time to time and participants can sign up for notification of the release of new sets.

NewTek's Texture Collection, Eighth Edition, is available for free download at: http://www.newtek.com/freestuff.

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Boris Final Effects Complete AVX Now Available

Boris FX has announced the availability of a new version of Boris Final Effects Complete AVX (FEC AVX). FEC AVX is a collection of native plug-in filters and transitions that streamline workflow for Avid editors. More than 100 sophisticated effects animate directly in the Avid Effect Editor window.

One of the first Adobe After Effects plug-in packages, Version 4.0 now supports all Avid systems running on the AVX 1.0 architecture, including Avid DS systems. Avid Visual Extensions (AVX) is a plug-in architecture that dynamically extends the effects supported by Avid systems. Formerly known as ICEfx, these ICE hardware-accelerated effects are now available as a software-only solution. The initial release is for Windows only. A future release will add Macintosh support.

Most filters feature less than a dozen parameters; only a few simple adjustments are required to create totally unique organic effects. Users can quickly generate full-featured two-dimensional and three-dimensional animations including ball action, explosions, distortions, jet trails, and hair, according to Boris FX.

FEC AVX also delivers a range of unique auto-animating transitions. Ranging from graceful blurs to radical warps, FEC AVX lets you easily create dramatic effects with minimal adjustment. Version 4.0 highlights include:

  • More than 100 easy-to-use organic visual effects.
  • The easy-to-use licensing includes Electronic Software Download (ESD) and a 14-day trial version.
  • Dozens of auto-animating transition effects streamline workflow.
  • Kaleida, Griddler, VideoFragment and Tiler easily create complex switcher-style effects.
  • Dual-input effects let you create reflections, flow maps and bump maps.
  • Save parameters, including keyframe animation, to an Avid bin to reuse as templates.
  • An online help system is integrated into each filter. 

FEC AVX is not compatible with the older ICE versions that ran on the AVX architecture. FEC AVX is available bundled with Boris Continuum Complete AVX (BCC AVX). BCC AVX is a comprehensive suite of native plug-in filters and transitions for Avid systems. More than 170 filters extend the visual effects capabilities of Avid NLEs. BCC AVX offers powerful integration features including built-in motion tracking and the unique PixelChooser, which creates channel or region-based masks. Hundreds of presets and integrated online help provide fast and precise effects creation with a minimal learning curve. With multi-processor and OpenGL acceleration, BCC AVX provides a powerful and complimentary feature set to Avid nonlinear editing systems.

Final Effects Complete AVX and Continuum Complete AVX for Avid Xpress DV and Xpress Pro systems are each available through the BorisFX worldwide reseller channel or direct through BorisFX for $795 US SRP or purchase both solutions for $1,295 US SRP. Xpress DV or Xpress Pro users who own Red or BCC AVX, can purchase FEC AVX for $595 US SRP. Avid Media Composer Adrenaline, Symphony™ Nitris, Meridien and Avid DS users can purchase FEC AVX for $1995 US SRP. Adrenaline, Nitris, Meridien, and DS users who own Red or BCC AVX, can purchase FEC AVX for $1595 US SRP.

www.borisfx.com

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Digital Foci Introduces Media Buddy Digital Photo Storage

Digital Foci, Inc. has introduced the Media Buddy portable digital photo storage with hard drive and card reader that lets you instantly and securely save digital photos on a hard drive wherever you go, so you can keep snapping away and not worry about running out of memory card space.

Media Buddy is the traveler's essential digital camera companion. Its built-in memory card slots let you copy and store photos directly from any digital camera card, without the need of cumbersome cabling.

A lower-cost alternative to Digital Foci's Picture Porter, Media Buddy is priced starting at $229. Both Media Buddy and Picture Porter save photos on their portable hard drives, so you don't have to bring heavy laptops on the road, but Media Buddy provides a lower price by offering a backlit LCD for text-only use, instead of the Picture Porter's 2" color LCD screen for viewing photos (check out Digital Foci's Media Buddy/Picture Porter comparison chart.

With Media Buddy's 30GB to 80GB hard drive versions, you'll virtually never run out of memory card space on the road again, says Digital Foci. Media Buddy frees up expensive memory card space and lets you reuse your memory card to keep snapping photos. Just insert the memory card from your digital camera into Media Buddy and download images into its built-in hard drive. The backlit text-based LCD screen lets users view file information and operation status, including copy progress and confirmation. You can select to save a specific folder or file from your card, or you can copy the entire contents of your memory card with the convenient one-touch Auto Copy button with no computer needed. A unique folder name is automatically created to indicate media card type and copy sequence per card type to keep you organized. When you get home, simply connect Media Buddy to your computer to retrieve your saved pictures.

Media Buddy works with many media card formats, including CF I/II, MD, SM, xD-Picture Card, MMC, SD Card, miniSD, Memory Stick, MS PRO, MS Duo, and MS PRO Duo. You can also make copies of photos taken from friend's and family member's digital cameras by quickly inserting their cards into Media Buddy for instant archival of special picture moments. External Hard Drive, Data Bridge & MP3 Player When connected to your computer, Media Buddy functions as an external hard drive.

Use Media Buddy to back up and archive digital images, digital music and important files from you computer through its high-speed USB 2 connection. Since Media buddy is compatible with both Windows and Mac, you can also easily transfer files between computers with the different operating systems. In addition, Media Buddy is perfect as a portable MP3 player for listening to your favorite MP3 songs on the go.

Media Buddy weighs 11 oz. (with hard drive and battery included) with dimensions of 5.8" (L) x 3.4" (W) x 1" (H). It comes in 3 stylish colors: Powder Blue, Arctic Silver, and Pearl Gray and 4 storage capacities: 30GB, 40GB, 60GB, and 80GB. Media Buddy comes complete with Ulead Photo Explorer image management software (normally a $30 value), USB cable, earphones, AC adapter, Lithium-Ion battery, carrying case, resource disk, and user's guide. It is available immediately at Digital Foci's online store at www.digitalfoci.com starting at $229.95. For more information, see the website: www.digitalfoci.com.

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