Monday, August 31, 2009

7 Good Reasons Why LightScribe Sucks

It's hard to believe that it is 2009 and people are still excited about LightScribe technology. For those not familiar with LightScribe, it is a technology that allows you to "Burn, Flip, and Burn" your CD and DVD discs. First you record your information, flip the disc over, and then use the same drive to laser etch your artwork directly on to the disc surface.7 Good Reasons Why LightScribe Sucks
In theory this sounds great because you can label your CD and DVD discs without buying another ink cartridge or adhesive label ever again. But after some hands-on testing, I have come up with 7 Good Reasons Why LightScribe Sucks.

7). LightScribe is monochromatic only. This one is a no brainer: you cannot print color photos with a LightScribe drive. A cheap inkjet printer and a package of adhesive CD/DVD labels would produce a far superior result.

6). Another reason why LightScribe sucks is that it is excruciatingly slow. A full disc of artwork can take up to 30 minutes to print! An average inkjet or thermal printer can do a full color disc in about two minutes or less. You do the math.

5). LightScribe cannot print to the center hub. It's true, the center hub of a LightScribe disc contains the information needed to guide the recording laser around the top surface. You'll never get a professional looking CD or DVD disc when you use LightScribe because you'll always see their huge logo branded in the center of the disc.

4). One big downside to LightScribe is that blank CD and DVD discs with LightScribe printable surfaces cost more than regular discs. This may not be a big deal if you buy a small package of 50 discs, but for high volume buyers this can really hit you in the wallet.

3). You need a special drive to record LightScribe artwork. Most desktop and laptop computers and almost all professional recording gear does not come with LightScribe drives. To use this technology, one must upgrade their hardware to something that supports LightScribe.

2). Designing your LightScribe artwork is only slightly easier than building the pyramids of Egypt. Forget about using industry standard design software such as Photoshop, Illustrator, and Quark. You have to use a cumbersome program to create a print file, and then record that to a disc. Good luck getting an engineer to figure this one out, let alone your Grandmother.

1). Finally, LightScribe sucks because the prints just look awful. Even under the best of conditions when using high-resolution artwork and recording at the Best Quality setting, you can still see horizontal bands and gaps in your artwork. It's absolutely not worth the 30 minute wait time for a monochromatic print that looks like a bad photocopy.

LightScribe would have been a cool technology had it had been invented about 10 years ago. Here in 2009 where we have color inkjet printers that print full color artwork directly on CD and DVD discs in just minutes for a few cents per print, LightScribe is simply laughable. It's the equivalent of crossing the sea in a balloon and navigating by compass while the rest of the world uses GPS-equipped jet airplanes. Sure it works, but the alternative is faster, cheaper, more accurate, and all around better at getting the job done. Don't even get me started on Disc t@2 technology!

UPDATE: HP has discontinued support for all LightScribe products in January 2014. The software, burners, and media are no longer supported. I am surprised that it took this long for it to happen!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Black Edition Is The New Extreme

Once upon a time in the mid-1980s, American Express came up with a special credit card for its most elite, high-profile cardmembers. They quietly introduced a very exclusive card called the "Centurion card" which was shrouded in secrecy during its earliest days.Rumors about this new credit card began circulating in the late 1980s, and a 1988 article by the Wall Street Journal finally cleared up the controversy. The card was discontinued afterwards, but consumer interest in the card was so strong that it was reintroduced in 1999.

To understand what all the fuss is about, I need to explain that the Centurion card is not just another credit card, it is *THE* credit card. Here are several ways in which the Centurion card is different from ordinary cards:

-It was originally not available to the general public. It was offered only to high-profile AmEx Platinum card members who met specific criteria and spending habits established by American Express. A few thousand cards were issued to high rollers such as Hollywood celebrities and Fortune 500 CEOs.

-The privilege of carrying a Centurion card came at an exorbitant annual fee of $1,000 per year (now $2,500).

-Third, the card included a 24-hour worldwide concierge service for its cardholders. The service helped wealthy cardholders make travel arrangements and other personal services including private shopping and dining.

To carry a Centurion Card was to be treated like royalty with special VIP lounges at airports and nightclubs. In addition to VIP treatment, it was rumored that the card simply did not have a credit limit at all. Customers have used Centurion cards for everything from charter jets to exotic car purchases.

When you take all of this into account, you can see that the Centurion card, or "Black Card" as it is commonly known, really is the ultimate credit card. But this isn't a rant about credit cards for people with excessively lavish lifestyles. It's about other companies borrowing from the mystique and the success of the Centurion card in an endless game of "me-too!"

In recent years, the number of consumer products being marketed with the moniker "Black" has exploded. Today, the word word "Black" comes with the implication that what you're buying is the absolute finest product the company makes; its halo product, its gleaming signature creation. This is a trend that transcends multiple industries and products. Take the following list of products for example:

Mercedes-Benz CLK-63 AMG Black Series (link)
Mercedes-Benz SL-65 AMG Black Series (link)
Audi A3 Black Edition (link)
Brabus Unimog U500 Black Edition (link)
MSI N260GTX Lightning Black Edition Video Card (link)
AMD Phenom II X4 955 Black Edition Quad-Core Processor (link)
Western Digital Caviar Black Edition Hard Drive 1TB (link)
Need For Speed: Most Wanted: Black Edition (PC) (link)
Painkiller: Black Edition (PC) (link)
Nokia N96 Black Edition (link)

Ten years after its introduction, the original Centurion card is everywhere in popular culture thanks to celebrity interviews, rap music lyrics, and even magazine ads! A wealth of information about the Centurion card is now available online. Competing credit card companies have responsed with their own versions of the card, including Visa who actually calls theirs the "Black Card."

The elite status once required to attain a Centurion card has diminished, and in its place we have just another credit card with requirements easily met by many small businesses, entrepreneurs, executives, and celebrities. In its wake, we have a wide range of products in various industries seeking to capitalize on the success of the "Black Edition" name.

I think it's time we put this whole "Black Edition" trend to rest for good, but I know that somehow the replacement catchphrase will be even worse.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Nothing Is What It Seems

We are a society of synthetic human beings with our wigs, implants, face lifts, tummy tucks, teeth whitening strips, hair dye, and botox treatments.

We buy consumer products that have photomanipulated pictures on the box (see: Photoshop Disasters).
We read magazines with airbrushed models on the cover.
We watch television commercials that feature people doing outrageous things in impossible situations.
We are entertained by television shows with simulated laugh tracks from nonexistent studio audiences.
We watch movies with the most realistic special effects we've ever seen.
We give awards to actors who rely on stunt doubles and makeup artists to make them what they are.
We pay a premium price for bottled water that is really just filtered municipal water.
We eat pre-packaged foods that are loaded with preservatives, coloring, and sweeteners.
We buy "American" cars like Chevrolets that are actually assembled in Mexico, Canada, and South Korea.
We are discouraged from buying "foreign" cars that are assembled in Ohio, Tennessee, and California.
We drive cars with faux leather, simulated woodgrain, and dual tips off of a single exhaust.
We listen to songs on the radio that were not written by the artists performing them.
We sing along to auto-tuned vocals and cleverly engineered hit singles.
We work jobs we hate to buy shit we don't need (now a major motion picture!)
We elect politicians who give speeches they did not write so they can vote on bills they have not read.
We have cell phone towers "disguised" as 190-foot tall palm trees.
We have brick-patterned wallpaper over the stucco walls at Subway.
We live in stucco castles that have stone facades and imprinted concrete patterns.
We decorate our homes with reproduction art, silk indoor plants, and reproduction art.
We have digital cameras that play pre-recorded sounds to simulate the shutter of a traditional camera.

You never think about this kind of stuff when you are young. But the older I get, the more I realize that nothing is what it appears to be. The truth is that so many things in life are false, phony, rebranded, facetious, artificial, and just plain fake. The world is full of deception, both harmful and harmless. Nothing is what it seems.