diskMAGazine (Jan 1992) : cdrom.txt

To: harv
From: Harv
Subject: Re: CD-ROMS: Everything You Need to Know About Producing Your Own
Date: Thu, 26 Dec 91 09:28:40 PST
Lines: 339

Aw, it's the holiday season, so rather than wait for a response, here's the
``Whole Ball of Wax'' regarding producing your own CD-ROMs.  And though this
article already expired, there IS an alt.cd-rom newsgroup.  "Local", in the
context of the following, means "Silicon Valley".


Thad Floryan [ thad@btr.com (OR) {decwrl, mips, fernwood}!btr!thad ]

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Subject: Re: Producing a cd-rom: lessons learned
Date: Thu,  5 Dec 91 03:36:58 PST
Lines: 327
Here is a description of some of the things I learned while producing
my X11R5/GNU cd-rom.  If you are thinking about making a cd, I hope you
find this information useful.


	The most important thing you will need is a big magnetic disk.  You
	could do it with a 700 meg disk, but it is better to have twice that
        amount so you can have two copies.  That way you can make changes
	on one copy, and be able to recover from the other if you screw
	something up.

	You will need a tape drive for backups, and for shipping your files
	to the disk factory.  I used an 8mm Exabyte.  A 4mm DAT will also
	work.  All the disk factories I talked to will accept either 4mm or
 	8mm.  Make sure you always make a backup before you make major
	changes to your files.

	It is possible to set up all your files under MS-DOS, MacOS,
	but I wouldn't recommend it.  Unix provides much better tools
	for working with big filesystems.  I used a sparcStation1 with
	a 1.6GB Wren-8 disk drive.  I had absolutely no problems with
	either hardware or the system software.

	It is good to have a couple different types of computers and CD
	drives to test things on.  I tested my stuff on a sparcStation-1
	running SunOS with a Sony CD and a 386 running MS-DOS with a
	Magnavox CD.  These systems have different byte orders, different
	OS's etc.  I figured if things worked on both of them, it would
	probably work on just about anything.

Handling data:

	You need to get used to thinking in big numbers.  My X11R5/GNU
	CD-ROM contains over 35,000 files, and about 650 Megabytes of
	data.  It is almost impossible to do anything by hand.  You
	need to be able to automate things.  The Unix `find' command
	is very useful for traversing directories and performing
	operations on files.

Choosing the format:

	The first big decision you need to make is what format to use.
	If your CD is targeted for just one platform, then you might
	be able to use a special format.  But if you want your CD to
	be useful on different types of computers then you are stuck
	with ISO-9660.

	Besides portability, another big reason to use ISO-9660 is that
	it is the only format supported by most of the factories that
	press disks.

	The ISO-9660 format places the following restrictions on your

	The depth of directories is limited to eight levels.  This wasn't
	much of a problem for me.

	Filenames are limited to eight single-case characters, a dot, and
	a three character extension.  Filenames	cannot contain special
	characters, (no hyphens, tildes, equals, or pluses).  Only single
	case letters, numbers, and underscores.  (e.g. FOO_BAR.BAZ is ok).

	Directory names cannot have the three digit extension, just
	eight single-case characters.  I didn't know about this restriction
	until after I sent my tape to the disk factory.  They called me
	up and said the mastering software was choking on my directory
	names.  I had to make a new tape and send it off to them.  This
	problem delayed the project for about a week and a half.

	If you are naming your own files, these restrictions are not too
	onerous.  But if you are trying to shoehorn a system like X11R5,
	or Gnu where the files already have unix-type names, then it is more
	of a problem.  I wrote a program to scrunch all the filenames, and
	then created a file in each directory that maps the new name onto
	the original name.  I then wrote a program to recursivley copy a
	directory, (or, optionally, create a directory of symbolic links)
	using the original names.  If any of you ever need a similar program,
	you are free to use mine without any restrictions.  The source code
	is included on the disk.

Disk manufacuturing:

	I had my disks made by Discovery Systems (614) 761-2000.
	I shopped around a little before deciding to go with Discovery.
	They didn't have the absolute lowest prices, but they seemed to be
	more computer oriented.  Most other CD companies do mostly
	audio CD's for the music industry, and cut a few CD-ROMS on the
	side.  But Discovery had some people that specialized in just
	CD-ROMS.  They were able to answer my technical questions with
	out any problems.

	The only problem I had with Discovery was that they promised
	a five day turnaround, but they ended up taking longer.

	Another company that seemed pretty good was Optical Media
	International, (408) 376-3511, omi@applelink.apple.com.  If
	anybody has had CD's made by them, let me know how it went.

	The factory can accept your data in several different forms.  You
	can send them a `one-off' (see below), or a tape.  They will accept
	8mm videotape, 4mm DAT, or 6250bpi 9-track tape.  I used 8mm.  The
	tape can be in several formats:  tar, ANSI format, or binary image.
	I used tar because that was the easiest for me.  I don't even know
	what ANSI format is.

	In order to send them a binary image you have to have your own
	pre-mastering software.  I looked into doing this.  The Rockridge
	System by Young Minds (714) 335-1350 seemed like the best, but at
	$6995 it was way too expensive for me.

	When you send your tape to the factory, it is a good idea to have
	the following statistics available.  It will enable them to layout
	your files more efficiently:

		Maximum number of files in any one directory
		Total number of files
		Total number of directories
		Average file size
		Largest file size

	I sent two duplicate tapes.  If there are any errors on	the first
	one, they can switch to the second.  All of my tapes worked the
	first time, but if there had been problems, the backup tape would
	have saved lots of time.


	A one-off is a single copy of a CD.  You can get one made from
	a tar tape for about $300.  You can then test it and make sure
	everything is correct.  You can skip this step if you want to
	and just ship the tape directly to the disk factory.

	I had a one-off made and I was glad I did because several things
	were screwed up.  I corrected all the problems, and then I sent
	the tape to the disk factory without having a second one-off made.

	I have heard that JVC is coming out with a cheap (less than
	$10000) one-off system that will greatly reduce the cost of
	having a one-off made.  In fact, I might buy one of these myself.
	Has anyone heard the latest rumors about when/if this will be

	I had my one-off made by `On-Site CD' (408) 867-0514.  They are
	a small company, just two guys working out of a spare bedroom.
	But they are very quick.  I drove down to Saratoga and dropped
	off my tapes.  They FedExed me the one-off two days later.  There
	were some problems with the one-off, mostly my fault, but some
	of them were their fault.  But they had just started doing business
	a few weeks earlier and I was one of their first customers.  I am
	sure they have ironed out the problems.  I would use them again.

Misc. problems:

	There is a lot of buggy software in this world.  Even if your own
	software is reliable, the software used by the people that make
	your disks may not be.  Most software handles the common cases
	properly but often does not handle unusual cases well.  All of
	these things caused me problems:

	Filename that start with a dot (e.g. `.foo').  They get	left
	behind if someone does a `mv *.*'.

        Zero length files.  Some mastering programs will not create them.

	Read only files on a tar tape.  At least one tar program out there
	will `creat' the file using read-only mode, and then try to open it
	for writing.  The write fails, and you end up with an empty file.
	Make sure your files are mode 666 (or 777 if they are executables).
	The mastering software will make all your files mode 555 when it puts
	them onto the CD, regardless of what their original mode was.

	Empty directories.  Some mastering programs do not create the
	directory until they put the first file into it.  So empty
	directories never get created.

	All of these problems are pretty easily eliminated.  Files
        that start with a dot, zero length files and empty directories
	are usually just cruft that should be eliminated anyway.

Disk Label:

	The disk factory will send you the precise dimensions for the disk
	label.	You will need to create a film positive, emulsion side up.
	You can use 2 colors in addition to the silver background.  If you
	use more than two colors you will have to pay extra.  Make sure
	your artwork doesn't bleed off the disk.

	I don't know anything about this art stuff, so I hired a local
	graphics artist to do it all for me.  I just gave her a rough
	sketch of what it should look like.  She charged me $125, and
	did an excellent job.  She even drew a pretty good picture of
	a gnu.


	Here is how I figure my expenses:


		 $20.00  gasoline
		$300.00  One off production
		 $30.00  Overnight Fedex
	        $350.00 total for one-off


	       $1200.00  mastering cost
	        $875.00  pressing (500 x $1.75/disk)
		$174.00  shipping for 500 disks 2nd day UPS
	       $2149.00  total for mastering

	        $125.00  Art work for disk label
	        $120.00  8mm tapes (backups, shipping files)

	 $350.00  one-off
	$2149.00  mastering
	 $245.00  misc
	$2744.00  total

	This total does not count the cost of equipment because I can
	use it again, and it does not include the cost of my time
	(probably about 100 hours or so).

	This was only about half as much as I expected to spend.  I had
	about $5000 that I saved up for a down payment on a new pickup
	truck.  I figured I could get by with my old clunker for a little
	while longer, but my girlfriend was really pissed off when I told
	her I was spending the money to make a cd-rom.  I was happy that it
	turned out to cost less.

	It took about two months from start to finish.  Here is a rough
	schedule of how long each phase took:

	week 1	-- collect information
	week 2  -- organize filesystem, munge filenames, create index files,
		   lots of testing, compiling, etc.
	week 5  -- One-off made
	week 6  -- fix problems, more testing
	week 7  -- sent the first tape to the factory
	week 8  -- fixed directory names, sent the second tape to the factory
	week 9  -- disks are done


	A couple things that you should keep in mind when you are
	ready to sell your disks:

	Volume discounts:  Lots of people will want to buy extra CD's to
	pass on to their friends.  You need to decide what your policy is
	going to be.  I decided to charge half price ($20) for all
	additional CD's, as long as they are all shipped to the same
	address.  I think that is a pretty fair policy, and people seem
	happy with it.

        Sales tax:  You have to charge sales tax for orders that are
	shipped to the same state you live in.  You need to get a tax
	ID number from the state tax collectors office.  I don't know
	about other states, but in California the tax office goes by the
	newspeak name of `The Board of Equalization'.  Apparently there
	is something in the U.S. Constitution that says you don't have to
	pay sales tax if something is shipped from outside of your state.

	International orders:  I have been getting a lot of orders
	from Europe/Asia/Australia.  It costs a couple extra bucks
	to ship overseas so you should charge a little more for shipping.
	Canada and Mexico are cheaper, but not as cheap as domestic.  I
	guess I am doing my part to reduce the deficit.  Now I don't have
	to feel guilty when I buy a Japanese VCR.

	Credit card orders:  A lot of people will want to pay with
	mastercard/visa.  I went down to my bank and asked if I could
	charge credit card orders to my personal checking account.  After
	the laughter subsided, the manager explained to me that I needed
	to register a fictitious business name with the county clerk, set
	up a business bank account, etc.  I decided to do all this stuff,
	but I would have been a lot better off if I had thought about it
	a lot earlier.

	I originally intended to just make this CD for the people here in
	alt.cd-rom, but I have been getting a lot of orders from people
	that heard about it elsewhere.  You should be prepared to answer
	a lot of naive questions.  I have been getting inquiries from
	people who have no idea what X11 or Gnu is.


	CD-ROMs are a relatively low volume business, so I don't think it
	is realistic to expect they will ever be as cheap as audio CDs.
	But I can see no reason a cd-rom should cost any more than a good
	technical book, about $40-$50.  If you sell your disks for two or
	three hundred bucks, then you will make more off each disk, but you
	will sell a lot fewer of them.

	If everyone charged high prices, then we would all be screwed
	because no one would bother to buy cd-rom drives.  It makes a lot
	more sense to charge a reasonable price, and draw a lot more people
	into the market.  That way everyone benefits in the long run.

Making a CD is not difficult.  If you have been thinking about it, I
recommend that you go for it.  I have already decided to make several

If you have any questions about making a CD, or if you want one of
the X11R5/GNU CD's, feel free to contact me:

	Bob Bruce
	1547 Palos Verdes, Suite 260
        Walnut Creek, CA  94596

        (510) 947-5996


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