Components for Building Computers From Scratch/Media Drives

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QUESTION: This isn't so much a computer question. I was wondering when disc drives like bluray for TV started having software apps on them like Netflix etc? I am curious how streaming softwares end up coming on drives that are there to support physical media? Seems they're not working in their greatest interest. lol.

Also which brand of laptop makes the best quality? And what is the difference between flash storage and a "solidstate" drive?

ANSWER: Just to clarify, when you say "disc drives" you mean stand-alone disc players, like a machine that plugs into a TV and plays DVDs or Blu-rays? And not the internal drive that goes into your computer to read discs?

Stand-alone players and web streaming came about sometime after BD Live/Profile 2.0 was standardized (BD Live is a Blu-ray extension that some discs support, which allows the disc to connect to web content, like bonus special features) and players started to support Internet connectivity as a requirement thereof. Similarly game consoles that support HD disc playback (like Xbox360) implemented various web streaming apps in the same vein. This has all largely developed in the last five or so years. As far as why manufacturers do this, its likely based on what actually sells - physical media may be dying, but going to the movies certainly isn't, so if Sony or Panasonic or whomever can get your dollar whether its to watch a movie on Netflix or from a Blu-ray, they're likely to pursue that dollar.

Blu-ray still offers fidelity advantages over streamed content (even HD streamed content), as it offers significantly higher bitrates (especially for audio), and can also be a better choice if you have a bandwidth-capped ISP, or a relatively slow ISP (e.g. if your ISP only supports a few megabits a second, HD streaming probably won't play smoothly, while Blu-ray is only dependent on the disc). A lot of newer Blu-ray releases include digital copies of the movie (thru UltraViolet, which is free to register for and use (as in, no monthly fees), however you're paying for the movies in purchasing the Blu-ray with the included UltraViolet copy), to provide the user with more flexibility.

To the second question, I generally suggest Dell (including their subsidiary, Alienware), HP, and Apple for laptops. They all have good warranties and end-user support, and make nice enough machines. Your specific needs will best dictate the specific machine you should buy, however.

To the third question, technically nothing. "Solid State Drives" use flash memory (instead of "mechanical drives" that rely on magnetic storage), however not all flash memory is created equal - the flash memory in a solid state drive is generally of much higher quality (and performance) than what you'd find on a CompactFlash card, USB thumb drive, or (if you're old enough to remember them) memory cards for various older game consoles (like the original PlayStation). In all cases its designed as non-volatile, and is very resistant to vibration/shock, which makes it a great candidate for mobile devices. Performance for an SSD can vary from comparable-to-slightly-better than top-end mechanical drives (100-150MB/s), to competitive with system memory (multiple GB/s), and price will vary accordingly.

If you have more questions, feel free to ask.

-bob


---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: I did mean stand alone drive for plugging into a TV or projector through HDMI connection. Since it apparently requires software updates and saves password information and saved apps can a bluray player be hacked in some way or given a virus like a computer can?

What is better mechanical physical drive or built in flash drive? The kid at bestbuy was talking down to me about computers and yet clearly didn't know what he was talking about.

I want a laptop computer with at least 50GB storage after all software and OS are installed. Don't need much more. And it doesn’t need to run fast either. I basically want a computer for using software that may contain malware so I can reformat and start over without another thought of losing anything I keep on my main computer. Namely a youtube downloader and DVD to video transcriber. Beyond that likely would just use it for writing essays.

ANSWER: Theoretically any system can be compromised, but in practice those kinds of multimedia platforms are secure; they generally run on a pretty stable platform (like Linux) and only allow signed code to execute, so only software provided by the manufacturer can conventionally be run. I wouldn't worry about them "being hacked" but I would be somewhat concerned about them being used to rack up tons of extraneous purchases if the device is connected to your Netflix/Amazon Prime/Hulu/etc account with unrestricted purchasing enabled and someone else were to have access to it (e.g. if you have children who may not understand the difference between free and paid content).

On the computer questions:

- It's a matter of debate as to which is better. Mechanical drives will cost less per gigabyte, and have a more proven track-record, as a design concept, for longevity. However solid-state drives will be faster, use less power, and are more resilient for mobile use. Either is capable of making a very stable hardware platform. For the capacity you're looking at, either/or would be acceptable, as 50GB isn't so big these days, and finding a 100-200GB range SSD or mechanical drive isn't much of a challenge in a new system.

- I would look at Dell or HP if you're after a Windows-based system, or Apple if you don't mind OS X (if you aren't gaming there's usually no downside to OS X). Nothing you've mentioned indicates huge performance requirements, so you shouldn't need to spend a small fortune to achieve your goals. As far as malware goes, best practice is to avoid it in the first place; a good anti-virus suite is suggested (and this applies equally to Windows and OS X).

If you have further questions, feel free to ask.

-bob


---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Well of course I would like to avoid malware, but some softwares tend to contain some. I plan to use Kaspersky and malwarebytes for some protection. Maybe even try out sand boxie. But I need to be able to get media from DVDs and youtube for later video editing and unfortunately only the free software seems to serve that purpose well. I have a paid video converter for DVD files and it compresses the hell out of everything. I figure a system with no personal information to be stolen or destroyed on it would be wise?

Answer
Malware should not be an assumed part of computer operation, that is it isn't just something that we have to "live with" unless you're specifically studying or testing malware. Malwarebytes does not provide real-time protection, but it can provide on-demand scanning; Kaspersky is a decent anti-virus suite that can provide real-time protection for many threats. Sand boxing or other virtualization methods can be useful in certain contexts, but still are not foolproof solutions. As far as "DVD converters" in general - they violate DVD Forum's copyright and the CSS licencing, and are not legally saleable (this was upheld in the Escient case), which is why there is not generally commercial software for ripping commercial DVDs these days (prior to the outcome of the Escient case, there were a number of applications and hardware solutions available that did this). That's largely why the only options today are malware ridden "freeware" programs that don't work as nicely or smoothly as professionally finished video editing suites.

-bob

Components for Building Computers From Scratch

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Bobbert

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I have nearly two decades of experience in IT, computer repair, and related fields and will attempt to provide the most solid, brand-agnostic advice when it comes time to purchase a new computer, or upgrade an existing machine. I can answer anything from the seemingly basic to the downright complicated - and will do my best to provide this information in a clear and concise manner.

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I have been an enthusiast of PC's for many years, and can answer questions about the purchase/use of a new computer or the purchase, installation, and use of upgrades for existing computers. There probably isn't a whole lot related to the home computer that I haven't seen over the years.

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