If you burn a few CDs or DVDs for yourself or family, it’s nice to have a classy label printed right onto the disk. It looks great and it wows the locals.

Primera’s cheapest CD printer, the Signature Z1, uses thermal ribbons to print black labeling directly onto a disk. At $140 you might think

this isn’t really cheap, since you can buy an Epson for less than $100 that prints in colour directly onto disks. There are some significant differences.

The primary difference is that the Epson printers handle only CDs or DVDs that are surfaced on one side with a white printable surface. These sell for around 50 cents apiece. Regular blank disks sell for around 25 cents apiece, and we’ve seen them for even less.

Another difference is that the colour printing with the Epson is not waterproof, whereas the Primera printer, using a wax-based ink, is. This may or may not matter to you, but is kind of important if you give the disks to small children.

Finally, centering the disk is a little tricky with an Epson because the printer is also designed to print regular paper pages. Since the Primera is a dedicated disk labeler, centering is precise every time.

Using Epson ink is cheaper, since the same cartridges handle disks or paper. The Primera replacement ribbons are $20 each and are typically enough to handle 100 to 200 disks.

Primera is the leading maker of professional labeling and duplication equipment for CDs and DVDs. So for $140 you can get the lowest-priced printer in a professional line; we tried it and like it.

If you want a thermal color printer from Primera, the price ramps up to $3,000. But the output is terrific. The colour is great, the labeling centers on the disk perfectly and the Bravo model handles 50 disks at a time.


Cryptainer LE is a free program for encrypting any file or folder on any PC running Windows 95 and up. The file can then be sent by e-mail or stored to disk and cannot be read by anyone who does not have the proper password. You create that password, and you better remember it, because if you don’t, there is no help.

The program uses 128-bit encryption, which as a practical matter is as high as you can go. It can be broken if someone has the use of a couple of super computers for several days, but other than that, it’s locked. To make it even harder, the encrypted files can be made invisible to anyone looking at your computer’s file list. You can make them visible again by using your password.

Encrypted files can be moved around in the same way as any other files: Save them to another disk, back them up to tape, transfer them to another computer, etc. A professional version is available for $45. The pro version can encrypt files as large as two gigabytes; the free version handles files up to 20 megabytes. More info is at www.cypherix.com.


The most fascinating thing about the Macintosh when it first came out was the ability to use dozens of different typefaces. You could even change the typeface in the middle of words or sentences, and thousands of people immediately sent out virtually unreadable notes and letters.

Long ago, the typeface trick became available for PCs as well, and there are literally tens of thousands of styles to choose from. Here’s where to find them.

  • www.fonts.com: A kind of master key to font finding. There are lots of neat typefaces for sale, and some free ones. But the real kick here is the links. Clicking on the links takes you to other typeface sites, which – intake of breath – have their own links to still more sites. Now you’re lost for the rest of the evening.
  • www.topfreefonts.com: The name tells all; links are us.
  • www.1001fonts.com: Has the wonderful Walt Disney script. It looks just like the Disney logo and can be used as a full alphabet. There’s also an explanation of how to install a new font to your computer, which some people find a bit tricky.
  • www.fonts.ro: Has typefaces for “”Farscape,”” “”Babylon 5″” and other hit TV shows and movies. This site also has calligraphy fonts. What’s cool about this site is an alphabet table; click on any letter and it shows you a bunch of typefaces, each using a word that starts with that letter. You have to register to use this, but there is no charge. Warning: This is a European site, so when you’re asked for your birthdate information, use European style, which is day first, then month and year. The site asks you to list month first, then day and year, but that sequence works only if the “”day”” numeral is 12 or less.


“”Spam Kings”” by Brian McWilliams; US$23, O’Reilly Books (www.oreilly.com). Want to know who these people are who keep sending you messages on how to enlarge body parts, link to porno sites, get bargain drugs without prescriptions, collect prizes for contests you didn’t even enter? Well, here they are. In a book that’s engagingly written, the author takes you through the histories and biographies of a half-dozen leading spammers and their great nemesis: Shiksa, a volunteer for spamhaus.org. How to grow rich selling Nazi memorial medals and other bizarre trivia. As one spammer says of the people who buy his pitches: “”These people are really stupid.””

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