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DVD-R is a sucky format, and some notes on torrent downloads

On YouTube recently I saw a video where someone was playing Starcraft on a netbook. I said to myself, "Hey! Not a bad idea! I have a copy of Starcraft I haven't played in a long time, and want to try that on my netbook!"

A long time ago I made ISO copies of my purchased Starcraft and Starcraft: Brood War discs just in case I ever lost the originals - which has happened before where I had to buy them again. I think I've purchased the Starcraft box set at least three times over the years.

Sure enough my original discs are long gone, but I did have the ISO backup.

I pop in the DVD-R, which was in absolute mint condition in a folder case mind you, and..

..the disc wouldn't read. At all.

Yeah, that ticked me off. I could have understood it if the disc was damaged in some way, but it wasn't. There wasn't so much as a single scratch on it, yet it absolutely would not read. It wasn't my drive's fault either because it read other discs just fine. Something screwy went wrong with the disc, which I'll talk about in a moment.

Thinking that I might have the ISO on one of my other backup discs, I dug out 7 burned DVDs, labeled "random crap" 1-7. And yes that is what's literally written on the discs with a Sharpie marker. I was hoping that maybe I backed up those ISOs on one of those.

On the sixth disc I got lucky - it had both the ISOs I needed. And even better was that I included a small text file containing my original CD key from the purchased box.

I was a happy guy after that.

~ ~ ~

There are two disc formats that at this point that I absolutely refuse to use - any disc that's a RW, and DVD-R.

The first RW I tried was a CD-RW before DVD was the norm a really, really long time ago. It was mind numbingly slow, data would corrupt easily and said honestly I don't know why anybody would use it. RWs to this day be they CD or DVD are all so frickin' s-l-o-w...

DVD-Rs are junk and always have been. The only thing they're ever good for is DVD video and that's it. With data, a DVD-R will just one day decide to stop working, and once it does, forget it. There's no way to get the data off the disc.

I think the reason the DVD-R I attempted to read failed was because of physical degradation, as in the kind you can't see. This is not the first time I've had this happen either. Other DVD-Rs I've had have done the exact same thing. They'll read fine when you originally burn them, but after sitting for a year - even if stored in optimal conditions - you'll break out the disc, attempt to read it and.. nothing.

With DVD+R on the other hand, I've never had a problem with those. They always read and write correctly, and it takes a lot of scratches and other bad stuff to screw one up. Even if a DVD+R is damaged, you can usually still pull the data off it without a problem. I know this because I've done so several times.

~ ~ ~

Speaking of crappy disc copies, here's another tale:

I also have a copy of the game Diablo II. Four discs. Three of them are the game, one is an expansion. And you have not one but two CD keys for that crapola.

One day I go to play the game and decide to start a new character, the Sorcerer. As soon as the game starts, it froze up and crashed, and it only happened with that character selection. I had the latest patch applied from Blizzard so I didn't even know what the problem was.

After searching the internet, I finally found out what was wrong - bad data from the 3rd disc if I recall correctly. The character data file was messed up - from the original disc no less that was in mint shape.

I said to myself, "Like hell if I'm going to buy another box set of Diablo II just to get a good 3rd disc; it's time for a torrent."

Shortly after that I found a torrent of Diablo II and downloaded all three discs, installed the game using my original purchased CD keys, and ta-da, now the Sorcerer character worked exactly like it was supposed to.

Did I steal Diablo II? No, because I used the original CD keys that came with my box set. If I had used a keygen or something like that, then yeah, that's stealing.

What would my other option have been other than downloading the torrent? Call Blizzard and request just the 3rd disc for Diablo II? They would laugh me right off the phone for asking something so stupid.

What you can take from this small tale is this:

As far as my Starcraft and Diablo II ISOs are concerned, oh yes, they're both going to be burned to a fresh DVD+R. In fact I'll probably burn two just to be on the safe side. 🙂

On a final note, I have entertained the idea of buying a bulk set of USB sticks because they are way more reliable than optical discs, and use them for my ISO backups. If you scope around the internet enough you can find deals now where you can buy 10 2GBs for under 50 bucks. That's still too pricy however. When 4GBs get down to a buck a stick, I'll be more than happy to buy 20 of 'em in bulk. Why? Because even the crappiest of USB stick will last 10 years assuming it's constructed half-way decent. Back of your stuff, use a label-maker to label it, toss in a shoebox, done.

USB will still be around 10 years from now. Just look at how long it took the 3.5-inch floppy drive to be phased out. That took about, what, almost 20 years to be phased out completely? Actually, that's not even true because floppy diskettes are still being made. If the floppy can last for that long, yeah, I think it's safe to say USB will have the same tenure. 🙂

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