Raise your glasses to a Toast
All Macs come with some ability to burn or play optical media. Apple's low-cost Combo Drive can play DVDs as well as play and burn CDs, and the more expensive Super Drive burns (records) and plays both CDs and DVDs. However, Macheads who have been around for a while know that whatever technology your computer can handle at the moment will be woefully inadequate in a year or so.
To highlight this, we are seeing the introduction of 50-gigabyte recordable Blu-Ray disks and the 15GB HD-DVD disks. These huge-capacity disks are needed so we can record (or play) a full hi-definition (HD) movie on a single disk. Unfortunately, the introduction of HD disks may take a while because there are many contenders for the HD-disk market (see www.digital-digest.com/highdefdvd/faq.html). The technologies are also expensive and it is difficult to choose between them. Also, whatever equipment you buy now - such as video cards, DVD burners, TVs, monitors and even hard drives - may be outrageously disabled or surreptitiously modified by the Vista operating system, under the guise of digital rights management.
I'm starting to like iTunes Store and Apple TV more as a video-download system. In the meantime, there is a solution for bringing video into your life and formatting it to your needs: Toast Titanium, a utility application that simplifies and speeds up burning. Mac users have depended on this application - now in its eighth iteration - to polish, compress and make compatible their CDs and DVDs, utilising whatever burner they happen to own.
The latest version is an incredible upgrade and worth the price for anyone who burns a lot of optical media. Version 8 comes with a streamlined interface that is simpler to use than its predecessor. With this version you can use the Toast software to burn content to Blu-Ray disks, should you have a capable hardware burner, or to burn DVDs from TV recording systems such as TiVo and EyeTV.
Toast also formats your video files so you can view them on your video iPod. Many people use Toast to back up their hard drives and this new version includes a back-up application called Deja Vu. Utilising its Disk Spanning feature, every time you fill up a disk it will divide the content and ask you for another disk to fill. Toast has a data-recovery option that reads badly damaged or scratched disks and recovers what data it can to another disk. Now that you will have dozens of disks burned with archives, back-ups and audio and video files, you may need to find out where these files are stored. Version 8 comes with a cataloguing utility that, like Spotlight, names the disk holding the file you are looking for.
If you record audio CDs, Toast comes with an audio mastering application that will polish your music with DJ-like transitions and fades. If you like to make Photo CDs with built-in slideshows that will play on PCs as well as Macs, the application Photo Disk is included. It may take a while for the hi-definition/digital rights management mess to be straightened out, but by utilising Toast you will have plenty of entertainment when and where you need it.