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When Drive Won't Play DVDs, Go for a Download

April 12, 2001|DAVE WILSON |

First, some fallout from last week's column, in which we declared that the display of banner advertisements in Quicken 2000 is a huge security issue. The good folks at Intuit, which makes Quicken, dispute that and challenged us to provide an example of how their secured system has led to an intrusion.

What we told them--and what we're clarifying for you--is that any computer system that is networked is less secure than a non-networked system. Security always comes down to a balance between convenience and safety. In our view, you should avoid working with sensitive documents in a networked environment.

Q: I'm having trouble getting my PC to read DVD-ROM discs. The drive will properly access CD-ROM discs, but when I insert a DVD-ROM or DVD-video disc into the drive nothing happens. Why is detecting a DVD-ROM different from detecting a CD-ROM?

A: Detection differs because the discs are based on different technologies, and, in all likelihood, you use different software to access them on your computer. The DVD can hold more information than the CD because it uses a shorter wavelength of laser light, which in turn can read smaller "pits" used to encode the information on the disc.

In addition, lots of movie DVDs encode data in two layers on the disc, one on top of the other. The top layer is semitransparent, so when the laser gets to the end of the first layer, boosting its power will enable it to read through the first layer and see only the data on the second, lower layer.

You didn't mention whether you had installed anything on your box recently, but in any event, it's likely that there's a software corruption somewhere that's screwed things up. First, make extensive backups.

Begin by reinstalling your video drivers, which you can do by starting at Dell's Web site, at Follow the instructions precisely or you'll really be hosed. Then uninstall all the DVD software, including files that say "DVD," "PCFriendly" or "Cinemaster." Reinstall and reboot.

Q: How do I move fonts from my old computer to my new one? My logo and letterhead are in Bernhard Fashion font, but the new computer doesn't have it.

A: Assuming you're using Windows 98, hit the Start button, then Settings, then Control Panel and then double-click the Fonts icon.

Copy your desired font to your storage medium of choice--such as a floppy disk--and then move it to your new computer. Get to the Fonts icon again, hit the File menu at the top left of the box and then choose Install New Font.


Dave Wilson is The Times' personal technology columnist. Submit questions to Tech Q&A at

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