Hard Times for a Hard Drive

By Lance Ulanoff  |  Posted 2004-06-23 Print this article Print

A diary of one editor's efforts to save a large, dying hard drive.

My Sony VAIO Digital Studio came with two 100GB Maxtor ATA drives. This may seem like a lot, but its probably the bare minimum you need when youre editing video and burning DVDs. I was using Sonic MyDVD 5 for these tasks, and began to notice some disturbing computer activity while working on video projects.

When I first bought my PC and was using an earlier version of MyDVD, I could connect my camcorder with the FireWire cable, set the software to capture video (up to an hour at a time), and auto-add chapter points at minute intervals. The newer version of the software added auto-scene detection, making the chapters even more useful. But on the last few projects I did, I noticed that the video capture was either failing or creating essentially unusable video files.

Something was wrong, but I couldnt identify the problem. My first guess was the software. Perhaps version 5s scene detection was just a little off, not quite compatible with my system. Sonic has a free upgrade to version 5.2.2, so I downloaded the nearly 300MB file and installed it on my system.

The update worked just as well as the previous version, but did nothing to solve my problems. This was especially frustrating, because I was trying to complete what should have been a very simple DVD project—23 minutes of video and a slide show. Every time I captured the video, it would fail, either altogether or part way through the 23-minute clip. I tried dropping scene detection, but that did nothing. I closed MyDVD and perused the drive where I store captured video. For MyDVD to work effectively, Sonic recommends specifying separate locations (even drives, if you have them) for the applications temporary files and for video-capture storage. With two 100GB drives (three, in effect, if you count that the C: drive is partitioned into a 10GB system drive and 90GB of storage space), this was not a problem. Of course, I had to remember to adjust these settings every time I upgraded MyDVD, since the application forces you to uninstall old versions before upgrading. If I left the storage locations on their default settings—on the C: drive—instead of resetting them to specify locations on the other drives, the application ground to a halt upon capturing video.

Lance Ulanoff is Editor in Chief and VP of Content for PC Magazine Network, and brings with him over 20 years journalism experience, the last 16 of which he has spent in the computer technology publishing industry.

He began his career as a weekly newspaper reporter before joining a national trade publication, traveling the country covering product distribution and data processing issues. In 1991 he joined PC Magazine where he spent five years writing and managing feature stories and reviews, covering a wide range of topics, including books and diverse technologies such as graphics hardware and software, office applications, operating systems and, tech news. He left as a senior associate editor in 1996 to enter the online arena as online editor at HomePC magazine, a popular consumer computing publication. While there, Ulanoff launched AskDrPC.com, and KidRaves.com and wrote about Web sites and Web-site building.

In 1998 he joined Windows Magazine as the senior editor for online, spearheading the popular magazine's Web site, which drew some 6 million page views per month. He also wrote numerous product reviews and features covering all aspects of the computing world. During his tenure, Winmag.com won the Computer Press Association's prestigious runner-up prize for Best Overall Website.

In August 1999, Ulanoff briefly left publishing to join Deja.com as producer for the Computing and Consumer Electronics channels and then was promoted to the site's senior director for content. He returned to PC Magazine in November 2000 and relaunched PCMag.com in July 2001. The new PCMag.com was named runner-up for Best Web Sites at the American Business Media's Annual Neal Awards in March 2002 and won a Best Web Site Award from the ASBPE in 2004. Under his direction, PCMag.com regularly generated more than 25 million page views a month and reached nearly 5 million monthly unique visitors in 2005.

For the last year and a half, Ulanoff has served as Editor, Reviews, PC Magazine. In that role he has overseen all product and review coverage for PC Magazine and PCMag.com, as well as managed PC Labs. He also writes a popular weekly technology column for PCMag.com and his column also appears in PC Magazine.

Recognized as an expert in the technology arena, Lance makes frequent appearances on local, national and international news programs including New York's Eyewitness News, NewsChannel 4, CNN, CNN HN, CNBC, MSNBC, Good Morning America Weekend Edition, and BBC, as well as being a regular guest on FoxNews' Studio B with Shepard Smith. He has also offered commentary on National Public Radio and been interviewed by radio stations around the country. Lance has been an invited guest speaker at numerous technology conferences including Digital Life, RoboBusiness, RoboNexus, Business Foresight and Digital Media Wire's Games and Mobile Forum.

Lance also serves as co-host of PC Magazine's weekly podcast, PCMag Radio.


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