Thursday, January 09, 2003

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Invasion of the data snatchers

Several of my CDs have developed a murky sort of coating, which looks a bit like condensed steam. The disks in question have now been rendered unreadable. What is it exactly?

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but what you've got there is a reflective aluminium disk layer munching CD fungus. Usually the malicious critter attacks the edge of the disk where the aluminium is exposed and then eats its way inwards, though it is not uncommon for it to also attack the polycarbonate sandwich too. The aluminium layer is an essential component of the disk because its reflective surface provides the means of bouncing your CD drive's lasers back into the unit to allow it to read the data. Once the aluminium layer is gone, there is nothing to provide this feedback and the disk is rendered unreadable.

So, what can I do about it? Well not a lot actually. The disks which have already been damaged are probably beyond repair, but you can prevent the same thing from happening in the future by only buying writable disks which have a gold reflective layer. The data stored on these disks is protected from the fungus because the gold layer is immune to its ability to munch through the coating.

The only other option you have is to try to seal the exposed edge of your CDs using a clear varnish to prevent the fungus from getting a foothold, but this can also be problematic for obvious reasons. Diamonds may be forever, but CDs aren't.

Wednesday, January 01, 2003


ICQ, or is it? Have your cake and eat it!

Cast your mind back to a time when ICQ was actually useful. It did what it was supposed to do and nothing more, which is exactly how people liked it. As the new versions rolled off the production line, the program became more and more bloated as the developers filled it with supposedly innovative new features. These so-called features are actually money making gimmicks and merely detract from the main function of the program; to provide a quick and simple method of communication via the internet. The new versions are so atrocious that the people who have grown so attached to ICQ that they can't imagine life without it are desperately scouring the net for the very early releases since they are clearly far superior to the more recent ones.

Finding these relics, however, is easier said than done, but fear not, you can do much better than ICQ antiques. Luckily help is close at hand in the form of Miranda, an ICQ instant messenger that prides itself on a back-to-basics approach to internet communication. Happily the Miranda development team are not affiliated with the official program in any way, yet their client is nevertheless capable of connecting to ICQ servers and other clients by importing your ICQ details including your contact list. In effect, it allows you to get the best out of the ICQ communication network without having to suffer its drawbacks.

Miranda essentially strips back ICQ to the bare bones so you can see the wood for the trees. This is most apparent when you consider its size - weighing in at a mere 250kb, it is one of those priceless 'blink and you'll miss it' downloads. Also, because it's so small it uses minimal system resources, unlike the official ICQ client. So instead of giving up on the ICQ network altogether, simply ditch the official program and say hello to the miniature marvel that is Miranda.

Note that you cannot create a new ICQ ID through Miranda, you must have already registered using the official ICQ program first - if you are a new ICQ user I would advise you to register with the official program then uninstall it and import your details into Miranda.