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The Future of Optical Drives and CDs

Vic Smith 31 Oct 18 - 12:09 PM
SuperDave 31 Oct 18 - 01:00 PM
robomatic 31 Oct 18 - 02:30 PM
punkfolkrocker 31 Oct 18 - 02:43 PM
GUEST,Some bloke 31 Oct 18 - 03:33 PM
Jack Campin 31 Oct 18 - 04:23 PM
Richard Mellish 01 Nov 18 - 06:32 PM
EBarnacle 02 Nov 18 - 10:40 PM
graham_t 03 Nov 18 - 06:33 AM
Vic Smith 03 Nov 18 - 08:05 AM
Mr Red 03 Nov 18 - 11:05 AM
Mossback 03 Nov 18 - 03:05 PM
DaveRo 03 Nov 18 - 04:12 PM
Mr Red 04 Nov 18 - 10:51 AM
Pappy Fiddle 04 Nov 18 - 11:01 PM
Mr Red 05 Nov 18 - 03:06 AM
Will Fly 05 Nov 18 - 03:43 AM
robomatic 05 Nov 18 - 06:24 AM
graham_t 06 Nov 18 - 04:42 AM
Howard Jones 06 Nov 18 - 10:20 AM
graham_t 06 Nov 18 - 10:39 AM
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Subject: The Future of Optical Drives and CDs
From: Vic Smith
Date: 31 Oct 18 - 12:09 PM

Rod Stradling is thinking out loud in his latest editorial comment on the 'Musical Traditions' website. I hope he is wrong about the future of CDs. He writes:-

    The Future of Optical Drives and CDs

    The decision by John Lewis stores to stop stocking DVD players has prompted me to consider the future of the optical drive in modern computers. Clearly, the removal of optical drives from laptop computers - and the lack of them in tablets and smartphones - means that, in the very near future, downloads are going to be the only practical way to pass music from one person to another. And that means from a producer to a purchaser, of course.
    This was one of the two main reasons that I started making the contents of our CD publications available as downloads (sound files as MP3s and booklets as HTML files) back in 2015. The most pressing reason was to try to ensure that, if I was unable to continue with Musical Traditions work, both Magazine and Records, for any reason, someone else should be able to continue to make it all available with very little input beyond keeping up the payments to our ISP and Hosting providers. The small income provided by the downloads should be able to cover these payments.
    The other reason was to do with the first paragraph above - the future demise of the optical drive and thus that of the CD. One problem raised its head as a result: what format to use for the downloads? This problem was discussed in various Editorials in 2015. That discussion focussed mainly on the format of the CD Booklets ... which I consider to be almost as important as the songs and tunes. At that time it seemed that there were so many types of E-Book, and none that were then dominant, and that the necessary creation software was pretty expensive, that the humble HTML was about the only one that was universally readable. If that situation changes, I shall have to have a re-think.
    But the choice of MP3 as the sound file format was very simple ... it was universal. But, just three and a half years later, the demise of the MP3 is being discussed by those who discuss such things. Flac appears to be the format of the day. FLAC (Free Lossless Audio Codec) is a musical file format that offers bit-perfect copies of CDs but at half the size of the .wav files that produced them. MP3s, on the other hand, are about one tenth the size of those .wav files. One may feel that, in the age of Terabyte hard drives and Broadband Internet, such considerations are of no real consequence. I'm not so sure - big is not always beautiful - and .wav files do take a long time to download, and are problematic to send as attachments.
    MP3 is a lossy format, which means parts of the music are shaved off to reduce the file size to a more compact level. It is supposed to use 'psychoacoustics' to delete overlapping sounds, but it isn't always successful. Typically, cymbals, reverb and guitars are the sounds most affected by MP3 compression and can sound really distorted when too much compression is applied. As you may have noticed, MT CDs don't feature all that many cymbals, or reverb guitars, and so our use of MP3 does not cause these problems. Rather more to the point, very few of them feature recordings made more recently than the 1970s, and so don't have a frequency range that would be better appreciated at higher fidelity. Indeed, most feature only a solo voice or instrument - so I did a little experiment. I ripped a solo voice track and a solo fiddle track from a 2018 commercial CD, as .wav, .flac and .mp3 and listened to them played quite loudly. I could detect no difference in the sound. I then did the same with MT CDs of quite old recordings ... with the same results. As regards size, an example track produced a .wav file of 42,082Kb, a .flac file of 22,642Kb, and an .mp3 file of just 4,307Kb. I did not find that big was beautiful, or beneficial. Again, if this situation changes, I shall have to have a re-think.
                                               Rod Stradling - 29.10.18
His excellent website is at https://www.mustrad.org.uk/


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Subject: RE: The Future of Optical Drives and CDs
From: SuperDave
Date: 31 Oct 18 - 01:00 PM

We've seen it before - the demise of the reel-to-reel tape recorder and the cassette recorder as a means to save and share our music or other sound recordings. Now we have phones capable of making such recordings, and MP3 (or FLAC) files for sharing them, but the CD is still widely accepted as a medium. I use CDs for music or podcasts that I want to listen to in my car. I could use USB "thumb drives" or a Bluetooth connection from my phone for the purpose, but I still find the CD preferable in many cases. But the problem remains: CD-writing drives are becoming more and more rare, and even the blank CDs are more difficult to obtain.

Which leads to another question - what will be the next medium for these files? Will MP3s and FLAC files become obsolete as well, and will those of us who have adopted this technology be isolated once more by new developments? How will we ever manage to keep up with the accelerating pace of technology?


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Subject: RE: The Future of Optical Drives and CDs
From: robomatic
Date: 31 Oct 18 - 02:30 PM

I have hundreds of reel to reel tapes, cassette tapes, CDs, DVDs, mostly purchased from manufacturers and retailers, some recorded off the air and some created for personal storage. The optical storage is of course the newest, and I think is not as good long term storage as is usually represented by manufacturers. Like magnetic tape storage it is a matter of quality in manufacture and good storage conditions. Magnetic storage has fared better for me than is usually predicted by folks, but I've long since converted reel tapes to digital.

I attended a Rickie Lee Jones performance years back and one of the things you could buy there was a rubber bracelet wrapped around a thumbdrive containing ALL her albums.

As noted above, the medium is secondary to the format. But both are subject to change and the changemaster is king.

I've started to store all my CDs in Microsoft WMA lossless format and I suspect/hope/want that they can be converted losslessly into other formats whenever necessary, and of course convertible to lossy formats where desirable. I am holding onto the CDs because I believe they entitle me to hold the lossless digital formats legally. This may not be true for everyone.


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Subject: RE: The Future of Optical Drives and CDs
From: punkfolkrocker
Date: 31 Oct 18 - 02:43 PM

Quora:

Which will fail first, a portable SSD, an external HDD or a USB stick?


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Subject: RE: The Future of Optical Drives and CDs
From: GUEST,Some bloke
Date: 31 Oct 18 - 03:33 PM

CD?

It’s over there, in the same cupboard as my Betamax player and starting crank for my Model T.


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Subject: RE: The Future of Optical Drives and CDs
From: Jack Campin
Date: 31 Oct 18 - 04:23 PM

The numbers pfr gave should make it possible to work out how long it will take for humanity's entire present corpus of digitally stored information to be gubbled into gubbish. The probability theory of systems failure is very simple and well understood.


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Subject: RE: The Future of Optical Drives and CDs
From: Richard Mellish
Date: 01 Nov 18 - 06:32 PM

A lot depends on who wants the data/music/whatever and for how long. If it's an archive of material that might be important for decades or centuries, you store it in controlled conditions, you possibly keep copies in different physical formats, and you re-copy it to new media before the old ones wear out. If it's personal stuff you make your own decision how much trouble is worth taking.

That said, I put some of my photographs into a "Camera Roll" folder on my notebook computer for a slide show at my birthday party last year, and some of them that I remember appearing in the slide show were missing when I went looking for them yesterday. The same ones are also missing from the folder (and subfolders) which, as far as I knew, contained all my photos.


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Subject: RE: The Future of Optical Drives and CDs
From: EBarnacle
Date: 02 Nov 18 - 10:40 PM

All I know is that after being threatened by a ransomware fraud, I now am backing up my data files to RW/DVD. I have also got a couple of external reader/burners in addition to the ones in my computers.
Haunt rummage sale computer departments, buy drives and disks.
I use flash drives but do not totally trust them for the reasons mentioned and linked above.
The cloud is subject to the same laws as everything else, with the additional factor of being vulnerable to attack.
Entropy sucks but is a law of nature, like gravity.


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Subject: RE: The Future of Optical Drives and CDs
From: graham_t
Date: 03 Nov 18 - 06:33 AM

The main difference between a CD and a DVD as far as I am concerned is that I rarely want to watch a film more than once, so it makes sense to have it streamed rather than have a DVD.

Music, unless I've got my choice seriously wrong is something that I will listen to many times. I haven't worked out a way of listening to a download through a hifi amplifier other than burning it onto a CD and am not even sure that my amp has got an input that would allow that to be done.

The absence of sleeve notes in most downloads is something that really annoys me. Even Bandcamp is not consistent in this respect. You don't get to learn even the composer of a track or who plays on it other than the named artist. Why this can't regularly be included as a pdf file in the download, I don't know.


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Subject: RE: The Future of Optical Drives and CDs
From: Vic Smith
Date: 03 Nov 18 - 08:05 AM

graham t wrote
You don't get to learn even the composer of a track or who plays on it other than the named artist. Why this can't regularly be included as a pdf file in the download, I don't know.

Interesting suggestion. Could it be because the thought, preparation and design that goes into selling a physical product like a CD is unlike coming out of the studio with your mixed track and up-loading it on a music site hoping it will attract attention?


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Subject: RE: The Future of Optical Drives and CDs
From: Mr Red
Date: 03 Nov 18 - 11:05 AM

The best info I have gleaned is that SSD, Memory sticks, SD, CD, DVD are no more reliable long term than rotating disc magnetics. They all have a lifetime that gives you 5 years (usually) and after that you are gambling with the fates. As for magnetic tapes they suffer frequency response before you store them and then there is "print-through" and many good audio recordings have been lost on industry standard VHS cassettes because the binder oosed out long-term at the edges and they had to be baked, and even then it was a gamble. Decca made their own system on reel-reel and didn't suffer as badly.

Cloud services are better in theory because they understand and do maintenance, but when terrorists use the service, the CIA will sequestrate the whole server and you don't get to argue with them on your piffling little collection.

If the recordings are valuable, back-up yourself and copy regularly to alternative storage devices. If they are worth it, the hassle is too.


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Subject: RE: The Future of Optical Drives and CDs
From: Mossback
Date: 03 Nov 18 - 03:05 PM

Semi-thread drift for which I apologize-

But is there any consensus that "gold" "archival" CD's / DVD's are any better at preserving data than other similar media?

Thanks,

Bill


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Subject: RE: The Future of Optical Drives and CDs
From: DaveRo
Date: 03 Nov 18 - 04:12 PM

graham_t wrote: I haven't worked out a way of listening to a download through a hifi amplifier other than burning it onto a CD and am not even sure that my amp has got an input that would allow that to be done.
Most amps have a 'aux' input that can be connected to a 'line' output from a computer. If you have laptop with a 'line out' socket then simply put a wire between them. The usual problem is that modern laptops often don't have a line output - only a headphone socket, or a headset socket - which incorporates a microphone. A headphone socket may work - it won't damage anything to try it. If not you need to add a external USB 'soundcard' with a line output - maybe £25 for a cheap one.

If you only have a desktop computer, and it's not close by, then things get more complicated. There are solutions involving bluetooth and wifi - but they can be tricky to get working. Burning a CD is probably easier. Last time I estimated - some years ago - I reckoned a CDROM cost about 8 pence.


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Subject: RE: The Future of Optical Drives and CDs
From: Mr Red
Date: 04 Nov 18 - 10:51 AM

Gold CDs
I am pretty sure the gold is a plating on top of aluminium.

Which, if the metal layer is zapped to make the recordings would be a good thing for longevity. Provided the manufacturers have used the right plastic coating. In the early days of CDs that coating was often porous enough to allow the acidic inks, used to make the CDs look pretty, to etch the aluminium. So careful what you place/paint on the disc, gold or no.
BUT
The world and his brother want fast burn discs, which means multi-layers of various chemicals, some cyanides, that react to the heat of the laser. And there is your lifetime degradation. Heat work. What the laser started in milliseconds, will continue at room temperature over years. And weeks when left on the dashboard of yer car, in summer anyway.

FWIW there is a company in the UK (I forget who) who sell lifetime CDs. Guaranteed to last 100 years. At 1GBP a pop they must be worth it for some, and as MP3 storage a bit cheaper on the wallet. Speed will not be the fastest. Anyone care to test their warranty?


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Subject: RE: The Future of Optical Drives and CDs
From: Pappy Fiddle
Date: 04 Nov 18 - 11:01 PM

Take a lesson from books. The Bible has survived ages because many, many copies were made. If it's a single printing, then a book of 40,000 copies will outlast one with 2000 copies all other things being equal. Just by attrition. But if people want more copies the copies get copied. So make your recordings really great and hopefully people will want copies and also their friends and there will be millions of copies


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Subject: RE: The Future of Optical Drives and CDs
From: Mr Red
Date: 05 Nov 18 - 03:06 AM

If you want longevity on paper - use vellum. The quill might be a huge learning curve no to mention calligraphy.

Paper will last a hundreds years if made properly. But it does deteriorate, as in yellowing. The acid in it is the reason. There are superior papers, like linen based ones. And the mechanisms are understood pretty much now.

But vellum is the king.

Which just goats to show.

I'll get my hose & doublet................


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Subject: RE: The Future of Optical Drives and CDs
From: Will Fly
Date: 05 Nov 18 - 03:43 AM

I still have all my vinyl music - on vinyl. Much of it has been digitised for iPod convenience, but I have them all going back to when I first started buying them in the early 1960s. Many new releases are now being put out on vinyl as well as on CD.

The modern deck I use to play & digitise them can play discs at 78, 45 and 33rpm.

I have a portable, wind-up gramophone for playing my 78rpm discs, and I still have my grandparents' wind-up gramophone - the volume control on that one is two doors in the front of the cabinet!

Sorry - what was this thread about...?


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Subject: RE: The Future of Optical Drives and CDs
From: robomatic
Date: 05 Nov 18 - 06:24 AM

Sounds like the way to go is quill writing digital on vellum. The beast of both worlds...will be that goat.

It's all gonna end burning up in the sun anyway . . .except for Voyager, which went for a gold LP. So at least Chuck Berry's gonna live on.


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Subject: RE: The Future of Optical Drives and CDs
From: graham_t
Date: 06 Nov 18 - 04:42 AM

Dave Ro's reply highlights the fact that downloads, which count for a sizeable fraction (I don't know the numbers) of the way people listen to music now is not really aimed at being listened to in a hifi way. I presume that many people listen mainly through headphones plugged into iphones, laptops etc. It is now extremely easy to listen to music whilst say, working at the computer or doing some other tasks ( I do this frequently myself ). This means that music becomes a background and you end up not really listening to it properly. In the days of vinyl or to a lesser extent cd you had to make an effort to listen to music and were probably more likely to really listen to it. I admit to playing newly acquired music on, say, the computer, with the intention of really sitting down and listening to it properly "soon" but realising some weeks later that I hadn't actually got around to doing so.
I don't know the figures, but my impression is that it is much, much cheaper to listen to downloads even if you pay rather that use eg Spotify than it was in the days of vinyl. This could have 2 effects, I guess; if I bought a vinyl record and was initially not impressed, because it was relatively expensive I tended to stick with it and listen over a few times and see if I could find something in it. Over the years I've often found that music I've not immediately taken to has eventually become a long lasting favourite. On the other hand I'm more likely to take a gamble on stuff I'm not sure of now that it's cheaper. I'm not sure where all this leads!


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Subject: RE: The Future of Optical Drives and CDs
From: Howard Jones
Date: 06 Nov 18 - 10:20 AM

There is clearly a trend towards listening to music which has been downloaded or streamed. I think in the folk world there is still a strong preference to have a physical product, even if it is then ripped to a computer or phone. This may be because an older demographic is cynical about the reliability of technology and want to actually own something rather than simply have a licence to listen to it. However there is also a desire to support musicians who are often making their own CDs, rather than the big tech companies.

As a counter to the decline of CDs there is a renewed interest in vinyl. Quite a few young musicians are releasing albums as LPs alongside CDs and downloads.

The biggest challenge is streaming. These are in effect free to listen to (once you have paid for the service you then forget about it), but pay very little to the musicians. A typical payment for a single stream is around $0.0005, and that's before deductions by the distributing company and Paypal. In our case there are also currency conversion charges, and what's left is split 5 ways. The costs of recording are the same whether for physical release or download, and this is the biggest element in the cost of making an album. If musicians can't cover at least a some of their costs it will become even more difficult to release high quality recordings. Of course it is now possible to do a lot with home recording equipment but it's not going to match a proper studio.


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Subject: RE: The Future of Optical Drives and CDs
From: graham_t
Date: 06 Nov 18 - 10:39 AM

Why do musicians allow their music to be uploaded to the likes of Spotify if they get so little financial reward from it? What's in it for the record labels and distributors? I use Spotify to investigate an artist who I've read about or maybe heard a single track of. I'm reluctant to buy an album on the basis of just one track. There was a site (Myspace?) on which they might load 3 or 4 tracks from an album which seemed sufficient to decide whether the album was worth purchasing. I think this can done on Spotify (ie upload a few, rather than all) tracks although I've rarely seen this done. I wonder why


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