Working with Digital Video? Invest in a FireWire Connection

One reason I finally got around to buying a digital video camera (a MiniDV camera to be precise) is this class of product's ability to connect directly to a Windows 2000 system via a FireWire bus, which can transfer data at speeds up to 400Mbps. After the data is on the computer, you can easily edit it for recording back to the camera or creating mini-video snippets to send to family and friends. If you've purchased a similar product, you'll want to invest in a FireWire card, such as the one from ADS Technologies that costs less than $100 and includes software for editing the digital video. (If you've bought a Sony Vaio of some sort, its I-link connector is a FireWire port.) But unless you're using the camera for business, you probably won't be transferring huge amounts of video; so now you've got that high-performance connection available on your computer and not much to do with it.

I suggest that you send ADS Technologies $169.95 and pick up one of its PYRO 1394 drive kits. This kit lets you attach any IDE drive to the FireWire bus. If you have more than one system with a FireWire port, you can move the drive from computer to computer. You can even back up an entire system or two to the FireWire-connected drive. Add a $180 45GB drive, and for less than $350, you have a lot more storage without even opening the case.

No rocket science is involved here. The drive kit is held shut with two screws. Pop the case open and plug in an IDE drive, following the simple directions to make sure you correctly configure the jumpers on the back of the drive (both drives I tried came out of their antistatic sleeves already jumpered as necessary). Plug in the IDE connector and the power connector, use the supplied screws to mount the drive in the case, and close it back up. All told, with a deep meaningful period spent reading the instructions, this process shouldn't take more than 10 minutes.

Next, plug the FireWire cable into the computer and the drive case. Power up the drive and watch it appear as a Plug and Play (PnP) device under both Win2K and Windows 98SE (the only OSs I tested). The drive should behave the same under Windows Millennium Edition (Windows Me) or MacOS.

After the system recognizes the drive, you simply format it and you're ready to "rock and roll," which in my case, is a very fitting metaphor because I streamed 30GB of .wma music files to the drive to test the stability of the connection. Everything worked fine, and when I moved the drive from a Win98SE machine to a Win2K machine, the OS had no problems with the device, which I had formatted with FAT32. I formatted a drive with NTFS, and it also worked fine when I moved it between Win2K installations.

The FireWire-connected drive kits cost about the same as USB kits. I think it's worth spending the extra $100 for a FireWire adapter so that you can take advantage of FireWire's 400Mbps speed versus USB's 12Mbps speed. And if you're going to do digital video, the FireWire connection is a must.

This week's tip:

If you want to stop users from logging off of their computer, you can create a system policy that removes all logoff menu items and buttons. But if you want to remove only the Log Off <username> entry from the Start Menu and not let the user restore it, you can create a registry entry. Keep in mind that the Log Off entry doesn't appear on the Start Menu by default; you need to toggle it on (or off) from the Taskbar and Start Menu Properties, Advanced tab. Perform the following steps to keep it off the Start menu.

  1. Open regedt32.

  2. Go to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersionPolicies\Explorer.

  3. Using the Edit menu, select Add Value and create a value named StartMenuLogOff with a data type of REG_DWORD.

  4. Set the value of the entry to 1 to enable it.
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