LightScribe Technology and Why Windows Sucks

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I know every computer box needs a CD/DVD reader in order to boot the thing up under adverse conditions (and your system should always be set up so that you can do this, by the way!). But as a matter of actual functionality, maintaining a current and high-functioning version of this sort of device, or two or more of them especially, built into the box is usually a bad idea for me. My computer boxes are not ever conveniently located. For my main computer, I can reach the off on switch with my toe, which is how I start up the machine. (The button is not needed to turn it off, of course.) So I can’t really easily reach the CD/DVD drives. And, over time, these drives get old, or slow, or just don’t do everything you want, and if you have two or three computers in the household (don’t forget to count everyone’s laptop) an external DVD/CD burner/reader might be a better option than trying to keep each machine functioning in top form.

Anyway, that’s what I thought, so I bought one.

It turned out that an HP with LightScribe technology was what I settled on, but not for the LightScribe technology. It just had the functionality I wanted and was not very expensive, and happend to hae LightScribe technology. LightScribe technology is the ability to burn a label right into the disk while it is in your drive. Supposedly.

I figured that might be nice, but I did not consider it essential to be able to burn a label in to the disk after putting something on there. Besides, I know the media that allow this technology to work is more expensive than regular media, and I doubted that the technology was well implemented. (I can now verify that both of these are true, BTW.)

But, once I had the external disk reader/writer home, I figured I’d try to see if I could get LightScribe to work. I realized that the best use of this technology would be CD’s I’d burn using iTunes, which is on the Evil Windows Computer in the basement. So I skipped the part about whether or not Linux would have drivers and software to run LightScribe and went right to installing the software o the Windows computer.

That was a mistake, because it brought back all the horrid memories of when I actually used and operated and fixed and messed with Windows computers. I had to be sedated twice. I’m re-starting therapy on Tuesday. It was bad.

Do you know what it is like installing software on a Windows computer? Like this:

The machine (DVD/CD reader/writer) came with a disk with software. So I put the disk in the drive and picked “install.”

I did not know it, but I ended up installing an entire suite of software, called Nero or Neato or some such thing, which is utterly and totally redundant with about half of the software on any normal desktop computer, attempts to take over the entire computer, much of it is only trial ware, and there is now an entirely new and unwanted toolbar thing on my Windows Taskbar that says “Nero Search” on it.

This installatoin required hitting “Install” and “Yes” and “I Agree” and “OK” about 12 times in total. Compare this to installing a complex Linux application, which is done with one or two clicks at the beginning and no further interaction. With this sort of Windows install, I am commanded to “shut down all applications, save your work, back everything up” and the “OK” and “Install” and “Yes” and so on and so forth buttons come up for no good reason at various intervals throughout the install process. So, if you are not watching the whole time (and the process is painfully slow) then every time you come back to your computer it is sitting there with some dumbass message asking for you to do the only possible thing you can do … click “OK” …

And, at the end, the final “OK” button results in a cryptic error message. A disturbing and cryptic error message. Then you reboot the computers.

Here’s what I want. I want this: Every time Steve Ballmer or Bill Gates, from now on, get a medical procedure, I want them to reboot. Defib the heart to a stop, let the body rest a minutes, then defib the heard back on and let the whole system back up again.

Hangnail? Zap! Wart removal? Zap! Routine round of blood tests? Zap! Zap! Zap!

Now that the installation process is over, I am now subscribed to a newsletter or two, my hard drive is full of crap, screen real estate has been taken away from me, and guess what….

… the actual software I need was not installed. Somewhere among all the crap that was installed by the disk that came with this HP disk drive is a button I can press (when I finally find it) and this brings me to a web site from which I can install a “simple” version of a disk labeler. Or, if you happen to notice the fine print on the web site, you can install another piece of software that claims to be able to actually create labels for use with your LightScribe device.

So I made one disk that had some Indigo Girls on it, and labeled it Indigo Girls 1200 Curfew 2, selected, or words to that effect.

In order for this to work, I had to flip the disk upside down and reinsert it. The LightScribe technology does not work in such a way that you can burn music or data onto a drive then press a button and put a label on there. No. You have to design and muck around with the label quite a bit, then you have to flip over the disk so the laser in your drive has access to the label side.

For the simple case of the Indigo Girls selected songs, the software indicated that he process would take 3 minutes. It took 4.

My next effort was to use the “template” software, which needed to be installed, of course, and comes with a bunch of dumbass templates, to burn a disk with graphics and more detail (but fewer words). That burn time is listed 23 minutes. But it takes about 40.

About half way through that process you’ll be thinking “crap, did I put the disk in upside down like I was supposed to? And if I did not will that ruin the damn disk drive????”

I chose a label for a brand new Ubuntu 8.10 CD, that I will burn and give to the next Windows user I encounter.

So if you want to have a real live disk label that actually looks like something on your cd, like to make your life a bit more efficient and stuff, this technology will ad about a half hour per disk, including dicking around and the actual burn process.

Or, you can get one of these and it’s really freakin’ fast:


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37 thoughts on “LightScribe Technology and Why Windows Sucks

  1. Well, if you wait a few months and replace the evil windows machine with a new one that has Windows 7, you’ll see that adding new hardware is now painless, because it automatically downloads drivers and installs everything it needs without you having to do a thing.

    I have the beta version, and my old Dell has been upgraded many times, but after installing 7 (on the slave drive), I didn’t have to do a single thing to make anything work. It was breathtaking. I may have cried a little.

    Also, what’s a CD?

  2. There are LightScribe compatible drives in both mine and my wife’s Ubuntu machines. As in your situation, LightScribe was not one of my reasons for purchasing the drives, but happened to be an included feature. The “simple” LightScribe software for Linux isn’t the greatest. It takes me about 20 to 30 minutes to label a disc (CD or DVD). I have a template that I created in Gimp which I use to make PNG files to import into the labeling software. It shows where the limits of the label are. I just add graphics and text inside Gimp. If anyone would like a copy of the XCF file that I use, please let me know.

    As for the marker, I like the “Ultra Fine Point” Sharpie for labeling discs when I’m in a hurry. I hate to write out the titles of a dozen songs though.

  3. What a coincidence. Just yesterday I decided to finally get around to trying the LightScribe drive in my computer. I figured I wouldn’t be able to, since the first thing I do when I buy a cheap HP computer is erase every trace of anything HP ever smeared onto the hard drive.

    A search landed me at where I quickly found the required software. Then I did another search to find labeling software and I discovered a company I’ve found interesting in the past for something else makes one. (I think I could have downloaded a free one, but I figured shareware would have a few nicer features.)

    It works pretty well, was pretty easy and is well worth it for what I’m making – a nice demo CD of music for my sister who’s trying to drum up a little work. Sharpies won’t do for that. It does take a long time to make the CD (30 minutes or so) but IMO it’s worth the wait.

    Your experience was obviously quite different from my own.

  4. I sort of like Lightscribe, you can put fancy designs and photos on them. But then I like fooling around with that stuff.
    I think Sony has full color CDs but they’re even more expensive.

  5. I know every computer box needs a CD/DVD reader in order to boot the thing up under adverse conditions…

    No. Make it boot from USB. Much handier, and with the price of a laser drive you can get quite a pile of memory sticks.

  6. Another vote for Sharpie. And if you want a fancy label (we used to make large numbers of CD’s for distribution in adult ed classes) you print in full color on a paper label and use a gizmo to stick it on – works great. And it’s fast enough that you can put a couple student workers on it and do 25 of them in about fifteen minutes.

  7. The best solution for good-looking CD/DVD labels is to buy printable discs and use an inkjet printer that supports printing the label directly on the CD/DVD.

    Paper labels applied after the disc is burned are okay for audio CDs and video DVDs, because those get spun at 1X. For data discs, paper labels are a bad idea. If they’re even slightly off-center, they can destroy the disc and drive when they spin up to full speed, which is about the speed of a jet turbine. I’ve seen two drives destroyed by discs that disintegrated, both with paper labels.

  8. No. Make it boot from USB. Much handier, and with the price of a laser drive you can get quite a pile of memory sticks.

    A computer that does not have a system on it and that is not really no can’t be enticed to boot from a USB, as far as I know. For some older computers, you’ve got to mess with the jumpers on the CD if you want it to boot that way!

    RBT: You can print directly on the DVD/CD? Doesn’t it break in the printer?!?!?

  9. You can buy special disc printers that hold a stack of discs in the input tray, but they’re pretty expensive. Some inkjet printers that have straight paper paths come with a disc carrier. You put the blank disc in the carrier and hand-feed it into the printer. It’s a lot slower than a special disc printer, but a lot faster than Lightscribe. And, of course, you can use full-color images and whatever else you wish.

    Nowadays, most people use electronic music files, but back when CDs were the primary way to trade music I knew a guy who’d scan the original CD (the actual disc) and just print that scan to the printable CD. It was hard to tell the difference between an original disc and one of his copies.

  10. A computer that does not have a system on it and that is not really no can’t be enticed to boot from a USB, as far as I know.

    It is a BIOS feature – no system required. Only very old machines do not support it. You can create a “live” stick from any bootable ISO image with Unetbootin:

  11. I’m sitting in a room with four computers and two of them have bios that don’t support USB booting up!!!

    So yes, the USB is a good way to go, but a) it is more work, b) it often does not work, c) it uses up a USB unless you use an old one, and then it can’t be a full implementation, and d) where did I put that USB stick?!?!?

    But really, you should have a bootable USB and a bootable Knoppix CD and a current Ubuntu CD at all times. Maybe keep them all in a baggie taped to the doorknob so you can always find them.

  12. PhysioProf

    “HP is the fucking worst with this shit.”

    IMHO that is not even a strong enough statement. I avoid HP products for windoze unless there is absolutely no alternative. HP solution center my ass.

  13. I avoid HP products for windoze unless there is absolutely no alternative.

    The only HP part in my system is the printer, and there’s only one good reason why: Linux support. HP printers are among the few that you can simply “plug & play” with Linux. We’re lucky that LightScribe even has support of any kind from the manufacturer. The situation is beginning to change, with more manufacturers supplying Linux drivers, but it’s still not quite there yet.

  14. heh, i notice someone asking why not boot from a USB stick after you have already explained why you can’t with some of your computers. i wonder why people do not take the time to read comments in order to fully understand the conversation.

    as for me, i ditched windoze for mac in 2004 and am never going back. my printer is HP, but i only installed the driver and naught else. i just don’t understand the need for the bloatware HP wants to clutter up drives with.

  15. Never going back to Windows again. I didn’t know some machines don’t let you boot from USB. I thought it was something you could tweak in BIOS. Makes me wonder how recently booting from USB became an option. As for LightScribe…I never understood the appeal, but glad you didn’t pay extra for it.

  16. There were bios’s in use that predated the assumption of USB ports even though USB ports were everywhere. One can in some cases upgrade the bios, but it may not be worth it all the time. I was just handed down a computer with about 533mh processor, 500 megabytes of ram, and a bios that won’t let me specify the USB. I’m not sure how old it is. The fact that the hard drive is also borked makes this more or less a recycle-job, but first I’ll pull out the firewire add on card, all the DVD/CD drives (because I’m going to make a coffee table out of them when I get enough) and the funky wireless card thingie because it has a cool antenna that looks like an alien space craft.

  17. I’ve faced serious linux hijinks over the weekend though it’s more a problem with multiple vendors doing stupid things and me trying to convert a glorified Playskool Busy Box into an actual computer.

    I broke down and bought an Asus Eee PC with the 40GB SSD drive. It ships with a rebadged version of Xandros, itself a port of Debian, and it has been crippled to the point of being ludicrous.

    By juggling a few repositories and installing a few bits of untrusted code I’ve finally produced a usable familiar desktop, though still no C compiler. Seriously, as someone who’s used MacOS, OS X, Win98, XP, Linux, and Solaris desktops over the past decade, XP would’ve been a better choice on this little laptop, but only because Xandros is such a piece of Suzy Homemaker crap – it’s an insult to Suzies and Homemakers everywhere.

    That said, I’m really happy now that I finally got it working like a real linux laptop.

    I suspect I’ll eventually pave it with some flavor of Ubuntu if only because there’s a substantial maintainer base for their packages and they don’t have a lowest-common-denominator business model. I fly to Sweden tomorrow (business!) so I don’t have time to unmunge this box; I just want to offer a little contrarian perspective – there can be things worse than Windows.

    But yeah, aside from their scientific calculators, I avoid HP stuff like the plague. I had very bad experiences with one of their printers, and even the recent model 35s calculator seems cheaply made, underdocumented, and worst of all, offers algebraic (infix) mode as an option. Heresy! They’ll only get my RPN when they fingers my cold dead + + + + off + pry +. 🙂

    (Why an HP35s? It’s one of a very few allowed in to the FE/PE exam…)

  18. I think the problem is “the bundle”. When you buy anything computer related, the manufacturer feels the urge to bundle it with other software. However, they do not want to create one new installer for this software, so they create an uber-installer which just calls all the other installers. Hence, the myriad of “Ok’s”. Thus, ALWAYS do a custom install. In this way, you’ll know what is being installed and you can prevent some trial version of some crappy software from being installed. Stop the bundling!!!

  19. Just to play devil’s advocate… I tried Red Hat Linux a few years ago and was pretty damned underwhelmed. I looked at MAC’s and found that for equal computing power the price was way higher than Windows computers. I just don’t have that much trouble installing software in windows (of course I use the custom install).
    This post seemed pretty drama-queeny to me.

  20. I have to agree on the HP software. I used to do desktop support for a place that had a lot of scanner/printer combos. It would take 45 minutes to install over 500 MB of software. the worst part was you couldn’t leave. You had to be there to click ok, next, every 5 or 10 minutes.

  21. Sounds like the horror stories I’ve heard from friends who use Windows machines. I have one buddy who was a longtime Windows user who switched to Macs after his machine crashed after he tried to upgrade his video editing software. And this is a guy who’s an IT professional. I use a Mac with OS 10.5 (Leopard) and have never had a problem installing the drivers for anything. A couple of clicks and it’s done. I don’t have anything by HP so I can’t comment on what the install is like, installing my Canon printer drivers and third party scanner software were a breeze.

  22. I just had my first Lightscribe experience as well. I bought the drive to replace another after I had accidentally destroyed its tray (long story), but didn’t install the software suite since Windows recognized the drive and installed drivers automagically.

    The other day I decided to eschew the Sharpie route and actually print a label, so I loaded the suite and then cranked up Nero Label Designer. But the controls for printing a Lightscribe label in NLD were grayed out, so I contacted the manufacturer, who told me I should also download the Lightscribe driver, although the software disc label said it was included in the suite.

    Did that, still didn’t work. The Sharpie, lying insolently on my desk, silently mocked me. With nothing to lose, I checked out the Lightscribe site, and lo and behold, there was a free label designer. I downloaded that, spun it up and was printing my first disc in a matter of minutes.

    Yes, I have to turn the disc over to print the labels, and yes, they take a while. So I get one started and go do something else, and when I come back it’s time to insert another. As long as you’re not in a hurry, it’s kind of Zen.

  23. I’m with you on the permanent marker.

    Anyway, I have discovered a really simple rule for deciding what software to install on my (Linux) PCs: If the vendor won’t show me the Source Code, I won’t install it. I’d rather miss out on a bit of functionality than be held to ransom by some proprietary vendor.

  24. The machine (DVD/CD reader/writer) came with a disk with software. So I put the disk in the drive and picked “install.”

    Well, there’s your problem. Never, ever, ever install the crappy software that comes with the device. It’s worse than installing random crap off porn sites. No, I’m not exaggerating.

    As for the whole “boot under adverse conditions” thing – am I the only person still armed with a trusty box of floppies for that purpose? You can have my DOS tools when you pry them from my cold, dead hands. (Or when the discs degrade to the point of unreadability, I suppose… Whichever comes sooner.)

  25. HP/Compaq is to be avoided.
    Help centre offered me only abuse
    I bought a v6000 in HongKong, omitted to get the vendor to “install” the vista (its on the HD, not a CD, so its an unpack not an install) Sadly my hotel power went off during install, Vista permanently choked. So I installed a bootleg Vista, which lacked the HP specifics, DVD burner etc.
    HP “help” detected my bootleg, refused to help. HP email suggested a $130 DVD burner, and signed off saying they were glad to “solve” my problem

  26. re: first comment

    I wonder how badly the next os from microsoft will fall on its face when trying to find the driver for some hardware that has no published driver.

  27. I commiserate with you for your bad experience, both with an HP CD/DVD burner, and installing the official bundled software. I have a HP Lightscribe CD/DVD burner in a HP Media Center, and it conked out one day mysteriously. HP was no help on fixing it, besides several complaints in the HP forums about the same issue and how unfixable it was. I was not amused. Never even attempted the Lightscribe features with it: Sharpies are the way to go. I get them in multiple colors and get all budget creative.

    I prefer the Linux way of installing new software. However, regarding the first comment, you don’t have to wait until Windows 7 for auto-download and install of new hardware drivers for Windows. Windows XP has had that feature for awhile, and it works in most cases. It’s a good way to bypass the bundled software on the official install CD in many cases.

  28. Did you bother to use the Custom install option? For if you did you wouldn’t have had the entire Nero Suite installed, you would have had the ability to pick and choose, therefore not installing the things that your PC already has.

    Just thought you might want to know!

  29. Hi,

    I think, there is lots of software available for Labeling on CD & DVD but still I confused which too choose as I got HP PC with Light Scribe Technology in too. I had never chance to do the labeling of CD & DVD till now. So After reading this article I would like go for it once to see the result of the technology. Thanks for sharing knowledge & reviews of it.

  30. I have Nero 9 installed, (came with diy bundle form newegg) I use Lightscribe all the time. the actual lightscribe software is so your dvd drive can burn but you need a third party software to actually burn a label. I get “oohs and awes” all the time for my labels and you can use any image from the web to burn onto label as well as pics from any media. If ya spend the time to learn how to use it tits really worth it. Actually “burned label” is a lot more professional then printed stick on’s imo!

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