Jewish World Review May 5, 2004 / 14 Iyar, 5764

Labeling DVDs raises risk of a rotten approach; program for Windows XP Home version that prevents program downloads without password protection or warning?; problem passwords on Windows XP Home 2002

By James Coates | (KRT) Q. A tech person at CompUSA told me that he has heard there is a problem with some labels used to customize DVDs. Apparently, the adhesive penetrates into the DVD and ruins the information on it. Have you heard of this problem, and is there a solution to it other than going back to using a permanent marker? (I'll assume the marker is still OK to use.)


A. Welcome to the never-ending "DVD rot" debate, Mr. H.

It has been raging since the early days of putting Hollywood movies on laser discs but has gained much more attention as more people encounter an occasional home-brewed DVD or CD that goes bad after it was filled with important things like irreplaceable family movies.

It is particularly unnerving for the complex and sensitive DVD+/-R/RW discs used for personal computers. Rather than having a powerful laser to burn holes in plastic, these home computer DVD recorders use a lesser laser to change the color of a plastic sheet of film that is sandwiched between thin, reflective plastic film, with a thicker, hard plastic on the top.

If the thin film in the middle — where the data goes — gets damaged at a section used to start the DVD, the disc will not open, or maybe some of the content won't work.

When the film layers get damaged, an irregular coffee-colored splotch often appears. Folks started calling it DVD rot.

As you have found, there is debate about what can cause the problem. One theory is that a DVD can get knocked slightly out of balance when a user creates one of those slick-looking homemade DVD labels using an ink jet or laser printer and special paper. A device called a Stomper is used to attach the labels to the disc.

As the disc spins rapidly in the DVD drive, the label can be slightly off-center and thus cause the disc to wobble and possibly warp enough to slightly separate some of the layers of plastic, thus letting the coffee stain appear.

Whatever the merits of the disc-rot debate, just about everybody who burns DVDs has had at least one disc go bad.

The lesson is clear. When you make a DVD, use your burning software to create a backup of the disc right away. Store the backup in a safe place, and you'll almost certainly save a lot of grief sometime down the road.

With a backup in place, we can use our printers and sticky labels and Stompers with abandon.

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Q. I am running Windows XP Home version. Is there a program or a setting on Windows that will prevent a program from being installed on my computer without either a warning or a protection password? Sometimes when my kids are using the computer on the Internet, a program is downloaded and installed without their permission.


A. Let's start with spending no money and just using the substantial security and privacy features built in to Microsoft Internet Explorer and Windows XP. By using these two shields, you can block all incoming efforts to run those small programs called applets often sent by Web pages to a visitor's computer. You also can deal with those cookie files that Web pages try to write on a visitor's computer.

To find these cost-free items, click on Tools and Internet Options in the browser. You will find tabs for Security and Privacy. Click on Security and you get a sliding bar that lets you set the machine to do everything from promiscuously accepting the stuff that comes in to taking an ultracautious approach, where most of it is blocked and nothing gets loaded unless you approve it first.

Likewise, the Privacy tab gives a slider that lets you set the machine to accept or reject all cookies or somewhere in between. The drawbacks to setting your Windows force field to block all cookies is that it can greatly slow down the machine and deny the user much that is desirable.

A large number of utility programs on the market include somewhat non-intrusive Internet security features designed to stop computer users from getting duped by the hustlers who trick people into downloading and running booby-trapped applets. Firewall utilities like Zone Alarm probably are the most rational and effective defenses against mistakenly downloading stuff riddled with unsavory powers, such as spying on which Web sites are visited or gathering personal data or even recording every keystroke one makes (passwords and user names included) for subsequent identity theft. (Go to for details.)

Less draconian tools such as AdSubtract ( and Ad-aware ( are designed to block the booby traps outsiders attempt to get installed on your machine. This software includes information about known offenders to protect against things like browser hijacking, as well.

Nothing is worse than having hijackers change your home page to another site, because these booby traps often prove extremely difficult to remove.

Q. I am running Windows XP Home 2002 version and am having trouble with passwords. Most bothersome is Outlook Express prompting me on initial start with a Logon window, asking me for my mail password for sending and receiving mail. I know how to go to Outlook Express' Tools, Properties and Servers to insert the password and check the box to remember, but it will not remember it. What is wrong?

Rick Bodee, Darien

A. Several things can cause this vexing problem, Mr. B., but since you are running Windows XP, it is highly likely that your computer isn't set correctly for an item called the Protected Storage service, also known as pstores.exe.

To fix the problem, you need to go to the Control Panel under the Start Menu and select the one for Administrative Tools. This will give you an icon for Services. Open it and scroll down to Protected Storage. You need to set this service to start every time you boot up. So look in the pane to the left of the list of services and select Start.

Now, to order that this service be started every time you boot the computer, right-click on the Protected Storage line in the Services list and then select Properties. Change the setting to Automatic instead of Manual or Disable.

For users of Windows 98 and ME, the fix is a bit more complicated. With these earlier versions of Windows, one needs to run by hand the pstores.exe program stored in the C:
System directory.

To do this, click on Start and Accessories and select the DOS Command Prompt icon. Then type (without the quotes) "cd c:
system" and tap Return to move to the required directory. Now type in the command "pstores -install" and tap Return. That will reactivate the Protected Storage service and permit password entries.

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James Coates is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune. Let us know what you think of this column by clicking here.



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