Sony Desktop Library. (multimedia hardware and software) (Hardware Review) (Evaluation)
by Richard C. Leinecker
Here's your chance to enter the world of multimedia. With the Sony Desktop Library, you get everything you need: a CD-ROM drive, a sound card, and a collection of real multimedia software. This next-generation product goes beyond early CD-ROM products, giving consumers more of what they want and need: plenty of software and an easy-to-use front end to the CD-ROM titles and hardware.
My evaluation package had an external drive. Two other packages are available (at a reduced price, too) with internal drives. The data-retrieval speed of 150K per second was right in line with multimedia standards.
Right now these multimedia products ship with a Spectrum 16 sound card. It's Ad Lib, Sound Blaster, and Real Sound compatible. Software that supports the card in native mode sounds superb, even better than Sound Blaster emulation. A nice set of desktop speakers provides an alternative to running wires to your stereo.
Six full-blown multimedia software titles will get you started. There's so much material, it'll take several weeks before you'll have enough time for more than a brief sampling.
In addition to solid, reliable hardware, the Sony Desktop Library includes the GeoWorks CD-ROM Manager as part of the package. It's a front end to all of the CD-ROM software that's included. All you do to run a program is click on its icon. The package includes even more than front-end software, though--it's a graphical environment. Many of the GeoWorks niceties that make DOS easier are there as a bonus.
You can create icons for other CD-ROM titles as your library grows. That way, you'll always have the same easy interface when you access your CD-ROM titles.
I wasn't sure I could run CD-ROM programs from DOS until I called Sony. I didn't find any mention of running from DOS in the Sony literature, but I'm not a good manual reader, so I could have missed it. After talking to the company, I was able to install an icon and a group in Windows. I ended up spending more time running GeoWorks from Windows than DOS and had no problems.
The bundled software varied in quality, but my two favorites were Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego? and The New Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia. My kids loved them, too. If you have children, the accompanying software will provide entertainment and edification for them as well.
Some of the programs did the unthinkable and copied a large portion of themselves to my hard drive. Thinking I had plenty of available space, I tried installing an application and was taken aback when I discovered the intrusion.
The GeoWorks installation was a two-stage process requiring a Ctrl-Alt-Delete boot between stages. I wish it had done what many other installations do and rebooted itself, followed by automatic spawning of the second half of the procedure.
In spite of several small complaints, I think highly of the package. If you're seriously thinking about getting a CD-ROM drive, take a good look at this package. It may be just what you need. And Sony, one of the leaders in CD-ROM technology, will probably be in the business for a long time.