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Q: In your column about the limited life of storing photos and videos on data disks, you indicated that commercially produced disks physically cut data into the grooves of the disk, and burned discs (using home DVD recorders) record data by lasers interacting with the dyes in the discs. As a result, burned discs degrade quickly (within two to three years). You recommended using “archival” DVDs (claimed life of 100 years), which have a gold layer that protects the dyes from corrosion.

Where can one purchase archival DVDs, and can one still use a typical DVD player/recorder to capture (burn) the photo and video images on the archival DVD? Is there a reliable (and affordable) service that can produce “commercially produced” DVDs of my photos and videos? Is there a reliable (and affordable) service that can produce burned DVDs (using archival disks) of my photos and videos?

— Jim Gudehus, Renton

A: First of all, in that column I didn’t detail the process of creating a retail CD/DVD. It’s like they are cut, in that there are actual grooves and pits created in the disc. But the process is done by creating a master disc that has bumps on it. The master is then used to stamp the data into blank discs.

And yes, there are reliable service bureaus that can produce stamped discs, as against burned discs, but the snag hangs on the word “affordable.” Many service bureaus require a minimum order of 500 to 1,000 discs to provide that service.

So unless you’re looking to really go commercial, I’d stick to burning DVDs. And while service bureaus will do that for you, there’s no reason to pay them to do so if you have a DVD burner. Any CD/DVD drive that can burn discs can burn to archival discs.

I haven’t seen archival CDs and DVDs in office-supply stores, so the easiest way to get them is probably online.

Q: I recently had to purchase a new desktop (Gateway) that came with Norton preinstalled. My trial offer is due to expire and I’m not really interested in paying Norton. I would like to use the Microsoft anti-virus and malware program. What should I do with the Norton program? Turn it off and ignore it, or uninstall?

— Jeff Peretti

A: I recommend that you uninstall the program if you’re not going to use it. You might as well reclaim that disc space. In addition, anti-virus programs often don’t get along well with each other on the same computer.

Q: I have a Dell Inspiron, with Windows 7, that is about a year old. I use Comcast for my email.

At first all was fine, but after time, things have changed. When I download a jpg attachment, it starts to build from the top but stops after building about 20 percent. If a photo is embedded in an email, it does not appear. I cannot view any photos unless I view them from another computer or forward them to a Gmail account. And now when I open an email, many times it will open the viewing pane but it is completely blank with no email.

This is the only PC that it happens on. My anti-virus is updated, and I am at a loss as to what to do.

— Bob Wolfe,
Lake Forest Park

A: You don’t say what Web browser you’re using, but I’m willing to bet it’s Internet Explorer 9. I’ve heard from a number of people who have had compatibility problems accessing Comcast email with IE9.

First, you can try using Internet Explorer in Compatibility View. You’ll find that option listed under the Tools menu. If that doesn’t fix things, you might try another browser.

Questions for Patrick Marshall may be sent by email to or, or by mail at Q&A/Technology,

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