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June 2000

View From the End (User)

By Don Eitner ©June 2000

               Don's Homepage: The 13th Floor - http://www.tstonramp.com/~freiheit/
JJSCDROM: http://hobbes.nmsu.edu/cgi-bin/h-search?key=jjscdrom
Author: Takayuki 'January June' Suwa:jjsuwa@sys3175.com

CD Grabbing For The Masses

Last month I wrote about OS/2 soundcard support from Aureal, makers of the Vortex 1, Vortex 2, and Vortex Advantage PCI audio chips and cards. This month, following a similar vein, I wish to focus on a spectacular new CD-ROM driver which allowed me, for the first time in my four year OS/2 using history, to perform CD-DA (Compact Disc Digital Audio) grabs.

A bit of history - I bought my first 10X IDE CD-ROM in 1996 and discovered that OS/2's bundled CD Player application was capable of producing crystal clear sound using "Digital Transfer". However, I discovered that my drive was of too poor quality to maintain this mode for more than a few seconds, at which point the audio would begin to skip and jitter like mad.

In desperation to get that higher-than-ordinary CD audio output I upgraded to a nice Teac 532S 32X SCSI CD-ROM in the hopes that it would be good enough to allow Digital Transfer in OS/2's CD Player. I was disappointed to find that the option for Digital Transfer was now grayed out in CD Player as if the drive was reporting it did not support this mode. What confused and confounded me even more was that other people were using the same drive under OS/2 to perform full CD-DA grabs (using the same method as Digital Transfer but with the purpose of getting the audio file onto one's hard drive rather than merely listening to it at full CD quality). The only difference I could find was the SCSI adapter card being used. Mine was a good but inexpensive Symbios 875 Ultra-Wide SCSI while others were using the much more expensive Adaptec 2940 Ultra-Wide SCSI adapter.

I settled on the notion that my SCSI card or its driver was somehow incapable of supporting CD-DA mode. But then I got my hands on BeOS r4.5, an alternative operating system with a lot of resemblance to OS/2 as well as Linux, MacOS and even WinDOS. BeOS was able to grab CD audio using the same Symbios SCSI adapter and Teac CD-ROM. So what was wrong with OS/2?!

It turns out the Teac drive supports a specific (Sony) version of CD-DA which was not being supported by my OS2CDROM.DMD. I know this because I discovered a handy new replacement driver on http://hobbes.nmsu.edu/ called JJSCDROM.DMD whose documentation specifically mentions the ability to force CD-DA mode on many drives. I added a line for this driver to my CONFIG.SYS file, rebooted, and suddenly both my Teac 532S CD-ROM and my Yamaha 6416S CD-RW (CD Rewriteable) drives are capable of grabbing CD Digital Audio under OS/2, as well as using the CD Player's Digital Transfer mode.

So, for the first time in five years, I am able to listen to ultra-high quality audio and use programs such as leech, CD2MP3 and PMCD2WAV to grab audio CD tracks to my hard drive as WAV or MP3 files! For those unfamiliar with CD grabbing (also called ripping) it is the process of taking the digital audio stored on the CD and copying it bit-for-bit to a hard drive so that no audio quality is lost. This results in far superior sounding audio than simply recording from CD to cassette tape or CD to hard drive using more conventional "analog" recording techniques. CD grabbing is no different than copying data files from a data CD, just that these particular data files store audio signals.

Interestingly, I have also discovered that my 16X-read CD-RW drive grabs CD-DA faster than my 32X CD-ROM. I haven't been able to clock the actual grab time but I know from using BeOS that my 32X grabs CD-DA at just over 4X speed and the Yamaha CD-RW seems to grab at least twice as fast. For those using WORM (Write Once Read Many) drives (typically the magneto-optical predecessors of CD-R) JJSCDROM.DMD also claims to support using these drives as if they were normal CD-ROM drives.

Some additional features I have had neither the need nor the means to test include: the ability to give only a single drive letter to CD changers; support for discs recording using the CD-XA format; and ignoring a drive on bootup so that it gets no drive letter assignment, which the author claims is useful when using special CD writer packages such as RSJ and Pegasus-OFS.

Author: Takayuki 'January June' Suwa (jjsuwa@sys3175.com)
Currently Available From: ftp://hobbes.nmsu.edu/pub/incoming/jjscdrom_20000508.zip
Cost: Apparently free. I can find no mention of any cost nor any licensing (such as GPL or other open-source).

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