If you're anything like me, your house is full of CDs and DVDs that are blank and not labeled. I remember spending weeks some years ago going through boxes of floppy disks and transferring all the data to my hard drive and tossing the disks.
Now I face that same problem with CDs. I have hundreds on spindles just waiting for me to have time. Every time I bought a new computer or hard drive, I had backed up all my data to CDs. Every time I had a batch of photos, I would back them up to disk. And now I have hundreds.
For a while I would write on them with a Sharpie marker, then my kids started walking off with my markers. Then I turned to labels. But they are sort of a pain to design and make, so I quit doing that, too.
My Epson printer will print right on the front of special disks, but that is a hassle for everyday disks, and I never did find a great price on printable disks.
That led me to my latest technology: LightScribe. This is a pretty cool idea that is available from a couple of manufacturers. I have been using a new CD/DVD burner from LiteOn that offers this technology, which is pretty slick. Basically, you burn the CD/DVD as normal, and when you're done, you eject the disk, flip it over and engrave a title or image on the top side.
You may already have a LightScribe burner (if you do, you will see the LightScribe logo on the disk tray). If you don't, they are available in both IDE and SATA versions. My LiteOn version cost less than $50 and will burn any type of disk that I can throw at it.
My LiteOn drive came with some LightScribe software, but even if you don't have any you can download some for free at LightScribe.com for Windows, Apple or Linux. (There are also tons of free designs you can download for engraved labels.)
A few things to keep in mind: The designs appear in grayscale (like a black-and-white photo). However, there are some colored disks available, too, so you can add a splash of color.
Another thing is that the blank disks are not the easiest to find and are not readily available at normal retail channels, though they are available online. I looked at many of the obvious local big-box retailers and was unable to find any. When I did find some online they were about 60 cents apiece, which is about six times what DVDs cost in bulk.
However, even 60 cents for a recordable DVD is not bad considering the coolness of the engraving factor. It would be nice to see the price drop in half at least to make the disks ready for everyday use.
Anyway, when you're shopping for a drive, add this functionality. It does not cost any more and is significantly cool, even if you only use it for special disks.