Category Archives: DIY
By Vlad Savov
Cooler Master’s 2011 Case Mod Competition looks to be the gift that keeps on giving. After serving up a Tron lightcycle and an architectural marvel, it’s now playing host to a mod that redefines the idea of an all-in-one PC. Peter from the Netherlands has managed to fit a pretty bombastic set of components — 4.5GHz Core i7-980X, two ASUS GeForce GTX 580 graphics cards in SLI, over 12TB of storage with an SSD boot disk, and two PSUs providing 1,500W of power in total — together with a water-cooling setup and the inevitable glowing lights inside one enclosure, which just so happens to also serve as his desk. The three-piece monitor setup is also a custom arrangement, with a 27-inch U2711 IPS panel being flanked by two 17-inchers. Admittedly, this isn’t the first water-cooled and over-powered desk we’ve laid eyes on, but that shouldn’t prevent you from giving the links below a bash and checking out the amazingly neat design of Peter’s l3p d3sk.
By Mike Isaac
CyanogenMod is one of the biggest hacks to ever hit the Android mobile platform.
It’s got an estimated 500,000 users. Many Android programmers use it as a starting point for their own coding projects. And according to the project’s founder, a number of Google employees have it installed on their Android devices.
Essentially, CyanogenMod is a tricked-out version of the software you’re already running on your Android phone.
Every Android-powered device comes running a version of the operating system, from 1.5 (Cupcake) all the way up to 3.1 (Honeycomb).
CyanogenMod replaces that stock OS with a custom build, letting you make adjustments to your phone that the official version prevents. It opens the door to more sophisticated custom wallpaper, changing the graphic that appears when the phone boots up, or more significantly, tethering your laptop to your phone’s data connection. With CyanogenMod installed, you can even overclock your phone’s CPU, so you can wring every last drop of processing power from it.
“You can customize the hell out of it,” says Steve Kondik, founder of the CyanogenMod project.
How a Hack Got its Start
Of course, it all began with a phone.
Debuting in 2007 as the flagship device for Google’s Android mobile platform, HTC’s G1 smartphone was the alternative to Apple’s immensely popular iPhone.
Steve Kondik had been waiting for a phone like the G1 for a long time.
“I had followed a few other Linux-based phones before,” says Kondik, citing offerings from Motorola and Nokia, “but they never had the sort of momentum that a company like Google could bring.”
And Google’s philosophy fit with what Kondik, a software developer working for a mobile content delivery company in Pittsburgh, was looking for: a more “open” platform for coders coming from a background in open source code, like Linux. Android, after all, is built on the Linux kernel.
fter each version of Android was made available for download to the public, Google published all of the code to an online repositorycalled Github, free for all to poke, prod and play around with. Developers could take any and all of that code and modify it to their heart’s desire.
Which is exactly what Kondik proceeded to do. “I had been using desktop Linux for ages,” he says, “and I just tried using some of those concepts to tweak the code. I had no idea what I actually wanted to do with the phone.”
After finishing his first version of CyanogenMod, Kondik posted the file to XDA forums, a popular message board in the Android modding community. “All of a sudden, my single-page thread is one hundred pages long,” Kondik says.
The Article Continues -> Modders make an Android work the way you want
University of Illinois chemistry professor Alexander Scheeline wants to see high school students using their cell phones in class. Not for texting or surfing the Web, but as an analytical chemistry instrument.
Scheeline developed a method using a few basic, inexpensive supplies and a digital camera to build a spectrometer, an important basic chemistry instrument. Spectrophotometry is one of the most widely used means for identifying and quantifying materials in both physical and biological sciences.
“If we want to measure the amount of protein in meat, or water in grain, or iron in blood, it”s done by spectrophotometry,” Scheeline said.
Many schools have a very limited budget for instruments and supplies, making spectrometers cost-prohibitive for science classrooms. Even when a device is available, students fail to learn the analytical chemistry principles inherent in the instrument because most commercially available devices are enclosed boxes. Students simply insert samples and record the numbers the box outputs without learning the context or thinking critically about the process.
“Science is basically about using your senses to see things — it”s just that we”ve got so much technology that now it”s all hidden,” Scheeline said.
“The student gets the impression that a measurement is something that goes on inside a box and it”s completely inaccessible, not understandable — the purview of expert engineers,” he said. “That”s not what you want them to learn. In order to get across the idea, ”I can do it, and I can see it, and I can understand it,” they”ve go to build the instrument themselves. “
So Scheeline set out to build a basic spectrometer that was not only simple and inexpensive but also open so that students could see its workings and play with its components, encouraging critical-thinking and problem-solving skills. It wouldn”t have to be the most sensitive or accurate instrument — in fact, he hoped that obvious shortcomings of the device would reinforce students” understanding of its workings.
“If you”re trying to teach someone an instrument”s limitations, it”s a lot easier to teach them when they”re blatant than when they”re subtle. Everything goes wrong out in the open,” he said.
In a spectrometer, white light shines through a sample solution. The solution absorbs certain wavelengths of light. A diffraction grating then spreads the light into its color spectrum like a prism. Analyzing that spectrum can tell chemists about the properties of the sample.
For a light source, Scheeline used a single light-emitting diode (LED) powered by a 3-volt battery, the kind used in key fobs to remotely unlock a car. Diffraction gratings and cuvettes, the small, clear repositories to hold sample solutions, are readily available from scientific supply companies for a few cents each. The entire setup cost less than $3. The limiting factor seemed to be in the light sensor, or photodetector, to capture the spectrum for analysis.
“All of a sudden this light bulb went off in my head: a photodetector that everybody already has! Almost everybody has a cell phone, and almost all phones have a camera,” Scheeline said. “I realized, if you can get the picture into the computer, it”s only software that keeps you from building a cheap spectrophotometer.”
To remove that obstacle, he wrote a software program to analyze spectra captured in JPEG photo files and made it freely accessible online, along with its source code and instructions to students and teachers for assembling and using the cell-phone spectrometer. It can be accessed through the Analytical Sciences Digital Library.
Scheeline has used his cell-phone spectrometers in several classroom settings. His first classroom trial was with students in Hanoi, Vietnam, as part of a 2009 exchange teaching program Scheeline and several other U. of I. chemistry professors participated in. Although the students had no prior instrumentation experience, they greeted the cell-phone spectrometers with enthusiasm.
In the United States, Scheeline used cell-phone spectrometers in an Atlanta high school science program in the summers of 2009 and 2010. By the end of the 45-minute class, Scheeline was delighted to find students grasping chemistry concepts that seemed to elude students in similar programs using only textbooks. For example, one student inquired about the camera”s sensitivity to light in the room and how that might affect its ability to read the spectrum.
“And I said, ”You”ve discovered a problem inherent in all spectrometers: stray light.” I have been struggling ever since I started teaching to get across to university students the concept of stray light and what a problem it is, and here was a high school kid who picked it right up because it was in front of her face!” Scheeline said.
Scheeline has also shared his low-cost instrument with those most likely to benefit: high school teachers. Teachers participating in the U. of I. EnLiST program, a two-week summer workshop for high school chemistry and physics teachers in Illinois, built and played with cell-phone spectrometers during the 2009 and 2010 sessions. Those teachers now bring their experience — and assembly instructions — to their classrooms.
Scheeline wrote a detailed account of the cell-phone spectrometer and its potential for chemistry education in an article published in the journal Applied Spectroscopy. He hopes that the free availability of the educational modules and software source code will inspire programmers to develop smart-phone applications so that the analyses can be performed in-phone, eliminating the need to transfer photo files to a computer and turning cell phones into invaluable classroom tools.
“The potential is here to make analytical chemistry a subject for the masses rather than something that is only done by specialists,” Scheeline said. “There”s no doubt that getting the cost of equipment down to the point where more people can afford them in the education system is a boon for everybody.”
The above story is reprinted (with editorial adaptations by ScienceDaily staff) from materials provided by University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Posted by hipstomp
Contractor Carlos Osorio has 1.5 million dollars that he can spend with seven fingers. The flooring installer severely damaged one of his hands while using a Ryobi table saw, then sued the company for “defective design” and won a settlement, causing a flurry of debate in woodworking blogs and forums: Was it Osorio’s fault, or Ryobi’s? One thing is certain: There are reportedly around 38,000 accidents involving table saws each year, or about one every 14 minutes! From now until this time tomorrow, another 104 people will have gone to the emergency room with a table-saw-related injury.
Enter Eurekazone. We first covered this New-Jersey-based company and their Smart Woodworking System back in 2008 and interviewed founder Dino Makropoulos around the same time. His is essentially the story of an inventor using clever design to replace an existing, well-entrenched system of products, and the challenges faced therein.
Since founding the company in 2000, Makropoulos has been working towards a massive undertaking: Replacing the table saw–the main workhorse of many carpentry, woodworking and model shops–with something easier to use, safer, and cheaper. At its barest, the replacement comes in the form of a “Smart Base” that attaches to any plain ol’ circular saw. The saw and base then ride on a guide rail, suddenly turning a rough device into a precision tool.
His incremental improvements and expansions to this system have led to its most developed form, the EZ One Powerbench seen in the video below.
By going through woodworking forums, you find that Eurekazone’s system has gained an Apple-like small but fanatical following, and opposition as well; old-guard woodworkers who have invested thousands upon thousands on big-ass tablesaws do not take kindly at all to an invention that promises to supplant their tool for a fraction of the price while improving the safety record.
In a bit of timely luck, Eurekazone put the finishing touches on their latest product, the EZ One Powerbench, around the time the Ryobi lawsuit started making news. The Powerbench is essentially a series of aluminum extrusions, assembled in such a way that you have slide-able stops and support along three axes; you can then attach a circular saw or router and cut virtually any size of wood in any direction. With table saw manufacturers now under fire and growing awareness of the tool’s inherent danger–and financial liability–Makropoulos seems to be getting close to his dream of replacing the table saw at last.
As many Ars readers know, iFixit has long been a source for detailed teardowns of the latest Apple gear. The company’s teardowns not only provide information about the chips and other components in each new MacBook Pro or iPhone, the company also gives users the necessary information about tools and techniques needed to get inside the devices. iFixit now hopes to build a compendium of quality, trusted online repair manuals for almost anything you own that might need fixing.
While iFixit’s product teardowns have been widely covered—here at Ars and elsewhere—those teardowns were just the first step in building complete, photo-illustrated self-repair manuals for Macs, iPods, and iPhones. The manuals are usually made available for free on iFixit’s website, while the company makes money by supplying do-it-yourselfers with the necessary tools and hard-to-find parts. “We’re widely considered the largest Apple parts company, outside of Apple itself,” iFixit CEO and cofounder Kyle Wiens told Ars. “We recently added an iPad parts store.”
Wiens said that iFixit had built a great model for self-repair for Macs and other Apple products, including step-by-step guides, troubleshooting information, and device-specific Q&A forums, in addition to supplying parts and tools. After traveling to Africa and seeing first-hand the environmental and health problems that e-waste can cause, however, Wiens wanted to extend that model to include as many products as possible.
While some consumer electronics companies (in particular, Apple) have made serious strides in reducing the use of harmful chemicals like BFRs, PVCs, and mercury, tons of discarded devices with these chemicals end up in landfills both here in the US and more often in third-world countries. These chemicals then contaminate the soil, or even the air, as many are often burned in open fires.
Wiens believes that repairing and maintaining the devices we already have, instead of tossing them aside for new ones, can do more to help the problem than even recycling can. “Repair is better than recycling,” Wiens said. “We can become vastly more sustainable by fixing things when they break rather than mining them for raw materials.”
To further that goal, iFixit is launching what it calls “Repair 2.0.” iFixit’s staff has written repair manuals for nearly every Apple product, but volunteers testing iFixit’s new platform since September 2009 have written detailed repair manuals for game consoles, cell phones, cameras, and even the brakes on recent Dodge Caravans. “In the last six months, [volunteers] have written manuals covering as many devices as we’ve been able to write at iFixit in the last seven years,” Wiens said.
Wiens is pleased with the progress so far, but the aim is to become a definitive source of information for the repair of any electronic or mechanical device imaginable—a “repair manual for everything.”
“The Internet sucks at providing repair information—it either doesn’t exist, or it’s spam-ridden, disorganized, or there’s no feedback loop to find out if the information is good,” Wiens explained. “At the same time, there is massive pent-up expertise in enthusiast forums where people are posting detailed information about repairs they’ve done. We are providing a platform for those people to share what they know, and to come together to build a resource that humanity desperately needs.”
The new platform is sort of similar to Wikipedia, in that anyone can write or edit a repair manual. The difference is that there is a built-in “reputation” system that users slowly build over time. Users earn reputation points by successfully answering help questions, writing detailed repair guides that are ranked as useful among other users, and finding and editing mistakes in other repair guides.
Each repair manual also builds a “reputation threshold” based on the expertise of those who write or edit them. If someone with a low “reputation” wants to edit a repair manual written by someone with a higher ranking, the edits have to be verified and approved by someone with a higher ranking before those changes are available publicly. The idea is that over time, repair manuals should always be high quality and “trustworthy” (important if you’re using it to fix the brakes on the van you tote your kids around in).
iFixit will continue to supply parts and tools to DIYers, though that currently is limited to tools for electronics repairs and Apple parts. “We’re especially excited about tools,” Wiens told Ars, “but we don’t have anything to announce yet.” iFixit doesn’t plan to stock parts for every gadget on the planet, but will focus on parts that can be used on a wide variety of devices. “We don’t need to sell parts for everything,” Weins said.
It’s no coincidence that iFixit launched its new initiative on Earth Day, as Wiens believes that providing people with the necessary information, parts, and tools to keep things working can have a far-reaching impact on the environment by limiting e-waste.
Even the Environmental Protection Agency is behind the idea. “The EPA would like to see more done about the growing e-waste problem, and iFixit has a novel, community-driven approach to make electronics work longer,” Andrew Fanara, product development team leader for the ENERGY STAR program, said in a statement. “We are encouraged by their solution, and are looking forward to observing the environmental impact of iFixit’s platform.”
- iFixit flies halfway around world to disassemble iPhone 3G (arstechnica.com)
- Legislation seeks to deal with growing piles of e-waste (arstechnica.com)
- Apple quits Chamber of Commerce, praised for green efforts (arstechnica.com)
- Apple reframes the green debate, backs it up with new data (arstechnica.com)
- Microsoft, Sony get serious about e-waste with refurb and recycle programs (arstechnica.com)
- Best Buy test drives new electronics recycling initiative (arstechnica.com)
We have not modified the above picture in any way — Scout’s Honor. That’s a real baby, wearing a real IR necklace that interacts with a real Wiimote. What’s not real, of course, is the view of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge. That is generated by Ryan Hoagland’s DIY virtual window, a brilliant pastiche of interior design, RED ONE footage and Johnny Chung Lee-style headtracking, all directed to your eyes by a Mac Pro feeding a pair of plasma screens. As the viewer moves around, dual 1080p images move the opposite direction, providing the convincing illusion of looking out a real pane of glass at the incredibly detailed scenery beyond. Exciting? Then you’ll be giggling like Jr. when you hear it’s for sale. After spending a year figuring out how to mount, drive and cool the whole shebang, Hoagland would like you to have one too; he plans to have basic kits ready by July for under $3000. Watch baby-powered plasma in motion after the break, as well as a sweet time-lapse video of the build process.
[Thanks, Andy, ArjanD]
Follow link for video demo -> http://www.engadget.com/2010/04/15/winscape-virtual-window-features-wiimote-headtracking-absolutel/
By Gizmag Team
When we first looked at TREXA’s open-source electric vehicle development platform late last month we were impressed by the concept, but one big question remained – how much will it cost? The answer has come sooner than expected with TREXA announcing a base price of US$15,999 for the lithium-powered, modular platform which is designed to facilitate the creation of custom “vehicle apps”.
“The only way to reduce cost of electric drive technology is through competition and innovation,” says TREXA’s CEO, Seth Seaberg. If we are to make a real difference, there must be a groundswell of hundreds, even thousands of new companies competing to develop the clean transportation solutions of tomorrow. We believe that it’s time we put the automotive industry back into the hands of the people, by offering them a cost-effective, well-supported vehicle platform to design and build for.”
While we now know the base price, the “unlimited design possibilities” promised by the platform of course means that pricing will vary depending on the components required. TREXA says it will release more detailed pricing options later this year.
For most people, vinegar brings salad dressing to mind. But for the co-founder and president of AltUse.com, it’s an inexpensive and common household item that can be used to clean windows, kill weeds, remove stains and prevent jeans from fading. Those are just some of the ideas that can be found on the AltUse website, which lists 2,000-plus alternative uses for 700 or so household items.
Designed to save consumers money and reduce waste, AltUse is the brainchild of Benjamin Goldfarb, a former interactive marketing expert for Nestle who wanted to act upon his green values and did so by setting up the site in July. Since then, between 5,000 and 10,000 visitors come to the site each day, searching for uses by product, i.e. sugar, or by need, stain removal. More than 5,000 users have also registered to receive free and daily AltUse tips and to suggest some of their own, such as Goldfarb’s faves: using instant mashed potatoes as a garden-vermin deterrent and re-purposing soda bottles as ice packs for picnics and hikes.
According to Goldfarb, up to 20% of consumer items are thrown away either partially used or unused.
“The more things are used, the less things that are thrown away, the less landfill space is used,” said Goldfarb, 50, who lives in Sherman Oaks.
Currently the site is supported by contextual advertising. Goldfarb is hoping to expand his business model with an official AltUse seal that can be adopted by manufacturers as a marketing tool to show consumers additional ways to use their products.
Note to Pampers: Some people say your nappies make for good heating pads.
– Susan Carpenter
This is the year. If you’ve been sitting on home fixes, waiting for the right time, it’s 2010. Lucrative federal tax incentives are set to expire at the end of 2010, meaning these projects will never be more affordable. The government will cover 30% of the costs, in most cases, and investments in energy efficiency generally pay for themselves over time, since you’ll be paying for less wasted energy year after year. (Except where noted, taxpayers can qualify for no more than $1,500, regardless of the total cost of multiple qualifying projects were performed in 2009 and 2010.)
Photo: Jupiterimages / Getty Images
First, Get an Energy Audit
Measure twice, cut once. A professional home energy audit can help you target the most critical fixes first, or do your own energy audit to identify the most cost-effective fixes. Before you do the work, check this database of state incentives, so you’re sure to take advantage of the full range of credits, which in some states require energy audits or installation by accredited professionals.
One of the most cost-effective home improvements, good insulation can save up to 30% on heating and cooling costs, since you won’t be paying for heating or cooling air that slips out through poorly insulated walls, floors and ceilings. If you choose approved insulation (meeting International Energy Conservation Code standards), you can have 30% of the cost, up to $1,500, taken off your 2010 income tax bill. If you have the wherewithal, install the insulation yourself, because the cost of labor does not qualify for the tax credit.
Photo: Alena Brozova / Istock
2. Replace an Old Appliance
Whether it’s a refrigerator, a furnace or an A/C unit, chances are good that 2010 will be the best year to replace an old clunker with a new efficient model. Efficient furnaces, central air conditioners, water heaters and other HVAC standbys qualify for a tax credit equal to 30% of the cost, up to $1,500.
A home “cash for clunkers” program is also gearing up at the state level, so look for local incentives to defray the cost of buying certain Energy Star appliances like clothes washers, dishwashers, freezers, refrigerators and small A/C units). Furnaces and water heaters are the biggest energy users overall, while refrigerators are typically the biggest electricity hogs.
Photo: Digital Vision / Getty Images
3. Replace Old Windows
If your home has old windows and doors, you’re paying a premium for them as hot air in the winter, and cool air in the summer, escapes to the outdoors. But replacing doors and, especially, windows, is an expensive fix that won’t pay itself off in energy savings for years. If you do the work in 2010, though, you can get 30% of the cost reimbursed at tax time, up to $1,500. You just have to choose energy efficient equipment that meets standards. Be aware that the federal government will not reimburse for any of the cost of labor.
Photo: Sue Colvil / Istock
Both Energy Star-rated metal roofs with “pigmented coatings” and asphalt roofs with “cooling granules” will cut down on cooling costs in the summer by reflecting more of the sun’s heat. It’s also a dark horse solution to global warming, since cities absorb so much heat through dark roofing materials. If your roof is ready for a replacement, then go with one of these materials, and the government will reimburse 30% of your material costs, up to $1,500. Sorry, labor not included.
Photo: Dave Pilibosian / Istock
5. Plan to Install a Solar Water Heater
Unlike the energy efficiency projects, home solar tax credits extend beyond 2010, to 2016. So plan now to take advantage of generous tax credits that will pay 30% of the cost of home solar projects, including solar water heaters. Unlike other credits, these credits are not capped at $1,500. Additionally, communities in at least 15 states are beginning to offer so-called PACE loans that are paid off incrementally at tax time by whomever owns the house. The annual cost — typically less than the energy savings provided by the investment — is shared by successive owners of the home.
Photo: Lisa F. Young / Istock
Bonus: Install a Smart Meter
A smart meter makes realtime energy usage data available so you can easily cut out waste. Before long, the meters will automatically cut waste by flipping on appliances to run only when the cost of electricity is low. Ask your local utility if it’s offering smart meters, and look for government incentives soon. The Obama Administration has set a goal of increasing the use of smart meters five-fold to 40 million American homes by 2015.
Photo: Istock / Photo Illustration
More from The Daily Green
- 19 Ways to Winterize Your Home on the Cheap
- 30+ Ways to Save Money by Going Green
- 15 Resolutions for the Environment That Actually Matter
- 7 Resolutions to Bring Your Diet Into Balance
- The Return of the Water Fountain, and 11 Other Old Trends That are New Again
We’ve all been there. You finally get around to watching Citizen Kane, and the damned DVD skips around like a failed time-travel experiment. It always happens right at the end of the movie. Before you resort to Wikipedia to tell you what “Rosebud” means (and before you entertain the thought of spending $500 on one of those nifty machines that’ll fix them for you), give these tips a whirl.
This article is part of the Wired How-To wiki. If you have some media repairing skills, share your wisdom by editing this page
For shiny, delicate-looking digital devices, DVDs are actually fairly resistant to regular wear-and-tear, including scratches. Most DVD players actually have digital circuits meant to fill in (er, fake) the information lost in a scratch, if the damage isn’t too severe. However, sometimes the scratch can’t be fudged: This is why your machine skips, and, when it does happen, it’s just about the worst thing in the world. We get it.
Check if your scratch is more like a surface wound or a tiny version of the Grand Canyon; if you hold the disc up and light shines through, you’re probably better off buying a new DVD or mourning the loss of The 40-Year-Old Virgin.
Your first instinct to rub the offending disc clean is a good one. Ideally, you’d have a jewelry-polishing cloth on hand: one that has a side specifically for cleaning and another side for polishing. Hold the DVD from the sides, so the shiny playing side is facing up.
Clean your DVD from the inner rim to the outside rim in a fluid motion, not a circular one. Repeat: from the inside, in a straight line to the outside. Radius, not circumference, as the latter will scratch your DVD even more. After you’ve cleaned the entire disk this way, try playing it again.
It’s time to bust out the liquids if the magical cloth method isn’t quite so magical. Many have reported liquid automobile wax or a can of wax furniture polish (Pledge, perhaps) does the trick; apply a bit of either to the crack. Buff the entire DVD (radius, not circumference!) with the jewelry cloth and rinse the disc under clean, cold water. Dry the DVD the same way you buffed it. Let it sit overnight while the wax does its magic: you’re basically counting on it to fill your Grand Canyon, so let it be.
There is also a commercial product by Digital Innovations called SkipDr. It can be found in stores for roughly the cost of a new release movie ($20-$30) and online (Amazon et al) for a little less. This product has successfully removed minor scratches from both movie and game CDs/DVDs, although it is *not* to be used with Blu-Ray discs. This thing automatically removes an extremely thin layer of the plastic coating found on CDs/DVDs, taking most scratches with it. Note that there is a manual, hand-cranked version as well that can be found for around $10 less.
I have used a plastic polish I got at an auto parts store, that was made for the rear windows of convertibles. It goes on as a brown liquid, dries and buffs away.
The buffing along a radius -not circular – is important because the laser can skip over small scratches perpendicular to its tracking but not a groove that is on its path.
By this point, you should have already swallowed a huge chunk of that pride and come to the realization that you’re not going to get the MacGyver Award this time around. Therefore, it might be time to head to a movie-rental store (don’t laugh, they still exist) and grovel. Sort of. These places often have machines designed to buff scratched DVDs (yeah, the same ones that cost $500 and up on Amazon.com). It just might work to ask nicely (say please and look pathetic) if they have one and could help you out.
In the future
Not to throw money at the problem… but consider throwing money at this problem. If you have a perpetual skipping problem with your DVD player, your bigger problem might be the cheapo DVD player you’ve had since college. Some machines, especially those dinosaurs, tend to be more sensitive to scratches and dirt on your DVDs. DVD players come a dime a dozen these days, but investing in a trustworthy one (scout reviews online first, and chat with any and all friends about their personal favorites — most are under $60) might save you scratch-related headaches in the future.
Not only will your DVDs play better, but newer players have the ability to handle additional file formats like MP3, WMA, AVI, MP4 and MKV.
An ounce of prevention
You might think your DVDs and CDs will last forever by themselves. They won’t. In certain hot and/or humid climates the data layer will actually degrade over time, causing problems totally unrelated to surface nicks and scratches. I’ve had several disks go bad in this way since moving to Singapore, due solely to the climate here. (I hold them up to the light and notice that the data layer has gone oddly transparent or pock-marked.) Strangely, some labels seem more susceptible than others… Must be due to the quality of the manufacturing process each company uses.
Two lessons: Store your disks like you would rare wine or expensive coffee beans: Inside a climate-controlled, darkened, cool, and dry environment. For additional protection, I *strongly* recommend making a backup copy of your current disks which still work. (Shh, you didn’t hear that from me.) I’ve now taken to storing them permanently in an air-conditioned storeroom, just to prevent them from rotting even further.