Virtual CD Drives, TIFFs and PDFs

Following up on the recent Gearhead column on Virtual CD, reader Dale Wisler wrote that he needed the software “only occasionally to convert some copyright-protected Windows Media files to MP3. [Windows Media Player] allows me to burn to CD or to MP3, but it thinks my Sony MP3 player is an external storage drive (I have to use Sony’s software to copy songs).”

Following up on the recent Gearhead column about Virtual CD, reader Dale Wisler wrote that he needed the software “only occasionally to convert some copyright-protected Windows Media files to MP3. [Windows Media Player] allows me to burn to CD or to MP3, but it thinks my Sony MP3 player is an external storage drive (I have to use Sony’s software to copy songs).”

Dale, I feel your pain. Sony makes great hardware but when their software is bad, it is really bad. When Sony first came out with a memory stick-based personal music player, I bought one but took it back the same day, because the only way the stupid device would play music was by transcoding it into Sony’s proprietary format! D’oh!

Dale continues: “Virtual CD sounds great, but I can’t see plunking down $40 for software that I’ll only use a few times a year, at best. Have you stumbled across anything else?”

Dale, if you need to do this only a few times per year, then burning physical CDs at what, 15 cents each, is certainly cheaper. (I worked it out — you have to burn 266.66 disks to cover the cost of Virtual CD.) On the other hand, I’d say the Virtual CD software is much easier to deal with if you don’t need the physical media, and it is environmentally much friendlier!

Anyway, I too Googled far and wide and, indeed, there seems to be nada, nichts, rien. While there are a few read-only, virtual CD drive systems that let you mount ISO or other disk images, the only virtual CD burner I can find is H+H Software’s Virtual CD. So, if anyone knows of another virtual CD burner out there, please let me know.

Another topic I had some recent feedback on was in an issue of my Network World “Web Applications” newsletter, in which I discussed an online service called PDFConverter that converts more than 100 file formats into PDF documents. I found this service after I received an unusual document — a multipage TIFF file — that I wanted to edit rather than print out.

Longtime reader Anonymous commented in Gibbsblog: “Very interesting to learn about about PDFConverter, but I can’t help wondering what program converts a multipage form into TIFF files, and what program would you use to open it, insert images and or fill in the data fields?”

The company that sent me the file used RightFax from Captaris. Apparently RightFax defaults to TIFF even though it also can save to a PDF file. The reason the sending company didn’t use PDF might be that the RightFax documentation instructs you to open a saved “fax image file in the computer’s default TIFF image viewing application.” This seems an odd choice in a consumer world that has embraced PDF and knows next to nothing about TIFF files.

To answer the other part of Anon’s question, I could review and print the TIFF file — although I couldn’t modify it — using an old favorite, IrfanView, a freeware, multiformat image viewer and basic editor.

Gibbsblog contributor Miles Baska commented that the freeware open source utility PDFCreator might be a better solution. It installs as a Windows printer and lets any program print to a PDF document.

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