So, what do I want out of my next laptop and what must it include?
Farstone Technology VirtualDrive Network 3.1
- Straightforward interface, easy-to-use
- Poor manual
A straightforward interface and simple operation helped make this network CD-ROM drive, a winner for environments where many users need to access CD data.
Price$ None (AUD)
FarStone VirtualDrive Network is designed to run on a server machine and offer virtual CD-ROM drives to an entire network. The software supports up to 1000 virtual drives, so you can store an enormous quantity of data - and make it available to network users. The application would be extremely useful in an educational or technical work environment, where users need access to learning materials, or even reference documents or file libraries. For example, a programming house would be able to store all its reference documentation and code libraries for easy access, and it allows network administrators to use CD-ROMs killing for archiving, and make data available on hard disks instead.
The interface is extremely straightforward and employs just a few icons during operation. Administrators are able to create virtual CDs (VCDs) directly from optical discs and then manage them through a centralised maintenance screen. Volumes can be arranged into groups, and then shared across the network. The performance is impressive, and the drives can achieve a 200x data read speed - which is even potentially handy for gamers looking to reduce lag and loading time. Unfortunately, it doesn't work with all types of disc, and copy-protected CD-ROMs (as favoured by many game publishers) failed to load correctly during testing. This is bearable, though, especially given that the application is clearly designed to be used in a server-client environment. There are plenty of desktop alternatives available, including the gamer-friendly Daemon Tools.
FarStone Virtual Drive Network supports both Novell and Windows server environments and is a straightforward, simple application to help control business CD-ROMs. It installs a new virtual CD-ROM icon in the control panel, and Windows recognises the virtual drive as a real CD-ROM drive.
The only negative point is the relatively poor packaging, evidenced by the fact that FarStone only includes a printed manual in Chinese. An English version can be found on the installation CD-ROM, but the English is a little hard to follow at times. For example, a chapter listing the possible benefits for schools includes, "no need to install CD drive on clients. Students will not install their own CD titles to take up space of your system. Save money and save the earth."
What's more, the entire application is less than 9MB, so it almost seems a waste to ship it on CD-ROM. That said, if you work in an environment that demands access to countless CD-ROMs for reference material, FarStone VirtualDrive Network is a useful, stable and effective application.
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