TUCoPS :: Scams :: cdromexp.txt

One man's experiences in producing two CD-ROMs.

Date: Tue, 28 Jan 92 18:43:06 PST
From: rab@sprite.Berkeley.EDU (Robert A. Bruce)
Subject: Re: cdrom publishing info, please

Here is a description of some of the things I learned while producing two
cdroms.  The first disc contains the X11R5/GNU source code.  The second
disc contains the Simtel20 MSDOS Archive.  If you are thinking about
making a cd, I hope you find this information useful.


        The most important thing you will need is a big magnetic disk.  You
        could do it with a 700 meg disk, but it is better to have twice that
        amount so you can have two copies.  That way you can make changes
        on one copy, and be able to recover from the other if you screw
        something up.

        You will need a tape drive for backups, and for shipping your files
        to the disc publisher.  I used an 8mm Exabyte.  A 4mm DAT will also
        work.  All the disc publishers I talked to will accept either 4mm or
        8mm.  Make sure you always make a backup before you make major
        changes to your files.

        It is possible to set up all your files under MS-DOS or MacOS,
        but I wouldn't recommend it.  Unix provides much better tools
        for working with big filesystems.  I used a sparcStation-1 with
        a 1.6GB Wren-8 disk drive.  I had absolutely no problems with
        either hardware or the system software.

        It is good to have a couple different types of computers and CD
        drives to test things on.  I tested my stuff on a sparcStation-1
        running SunOS with a Sun CD and a 386 running MS-DOS with a
        Magnavox CD.  These systems have different byte orders, different
        OS's etc.  I figured if things worked on both of them, it would
        probably work on just about anything.

Handling data:

        You need to get used to thinking in big numbers.  My X11R5/GNU
        CD-ROM contains over 35,000 files, and about 650 Megabytes of
        data.  It is almost impossible to do anything by hand.  You
        need to be able to automate things.  The Unix `find' command
        is very useful for traversing directories and performing
        operations on files.

Choosing the format:

        The first big decision you need to make is what format to use.
        If your CD is targeted for just one platform, then you might
        be able to use a special format.  But if you want your CD to
        be useful on different types of computers then you are stuck
        with ISO-9660.  There are a couple levels to the ISO-9660
        standard.  Most of the comments here apply to level one, the
        most generic level.

        Besides portability, another big reason to use ISO-9660 is that
        it is the only format supported by many of the publishers that
        press discs.

        The ISO-9660 format places the following restrictions on your

        The depth of directories is limited to eight levels.  This wasn't
        much of a problem for me.

        Filenames are limited to eight single-case characters, a dot, and
        a three character extension.  Filenames cannot contain special
        characters, (no hyphens, tildes, equals, or pluses).  Only single
        case letters, numbers, and underscores.

        Directory names cannot have the three digit extension, just
        eight single-case characters.  I didn't know about this restriction
        until after I sent first my tape to the publisher.  They called me
        up and said the mastering software was choking on my directory
        names.  I had to make a new tape and send it off to them.  This
        problem delayed the first disc by about a week and a half.

        Here are some examples of legal and illegal filenames:

         Legal                   Illegal                 Why
        test1c.txt              test-1c.txt             hyphen
        test_1c.txt             test 1c.txt             space
        test.1c                 test.1c.txt             more than 1 period
        readme                  Readme                  not single case

        If you are naming your own files, these restrictions are not too
        onerous.  But if you are trying to shoehorn a system like X11R5,
        or Gnu where the files already have unix-type names, then it is more
        of a problem.  I wrote a program to scrunch all the filenames, and
        then created a file in each directory that maps the new name onto
        the original name.  I then wrote a program to recursivley copy a
        directory, (or, optionally, create a directory of symbolic links)
        using the original names.  If any of you ever need a similar program,
        you are free to use mine without any restrictions.  The source code
        is included on the X11R5/GNU disc.

        The Simtel20 disc was much easier to convert to the ISO-9660
        standard.  Since the filenames already conformed to the 8+3
        MSDOS format, all I had to do was fix a few files that had
        hyphens or dollar signs in their names.

        Level two ISO-9660 allows longer filenames, up to 32 characters.
        But many of the other restrictions still apply.  Level two discs
        are not useable on some computers, especially PC's running MS-DOS.

Disc manufacuturing:

        I had my X11R5/GNU disc made by Discovery Systems 1-614-761-2000.
        I shopped around a little before deciding to go with Discovery.
        They didn't have the absolute lowest prices, but they seemed to be
        more computer oriented.  Most other CD companies do mostly audio
        CD's for the music industry, and cut a few CD-ROMS on the side.
        But Discovery had some people that specialized in just CD-ROMS.
        They were able to answer my technical questions with out any

        My second disc, the Simtel20 disc, was published by Disc
        Manufacturing Inc. 1-800-433-DISC.  They also have people
        dedicated to CD-ROM production.  Overall, I think DMI did
        a better job than Discovery. Their prices are better, they stick
        to a tighter schedule, and in my opinion their quality control
        is better.  For my third disk, I am planning to go with DMI again.

        Another company that has some good recommendations is Optical Media
        International, (408) 376-3511, omi@applelink.apple.com.  If anybody
        has had CD's made by OMI, let me know how it went.

        The publisher can accept your data in several different forms.  You
        can send them a `one-off' (see below), or a tape.  They will accept
        8mm videotape, 4mm DAT, or 6250bpi 9-track tape.  I used 8mm.  The
        tape can be in several formats:  tar, ANSI format, or binary image.
        I used tar because that was the easiest for me.

        In order to send them a binary image you have to have your own
        pre-mastering software.  I looked into doing this.  The Rockridge
        System by Young Minds 1-714-335-1350 seemed like the best, but at
        $6995 it was too expensive for me.  Rockridge provides extensions
        to the ISO-9660 format that allows full Unix filenames to be used.
        The Rockridge extensions will probably become more widespread as
        more drivers start supporting the extensions.

        When you send your tape to the publisher, it is a good idea to have
        the following statistics available.  It will enable them to layout
        your files more efficiently:

                Maximum number of files in any one directory
                Total number of files
                Total number of directories
                Average file size
                Largest file size

        I sent two duplicate tapes.  If there are any errors on the first
        one, they can switch to the second.  All of my tapes worked the
        first time, but if there had been problems, the backup tape would
        have saved lots of time.


        A one-off is a single copy of a CD.  You can get one made from
        a tar tape for about $300.  You can then test it and make sure
        everything is correct.  You can skip this step if you want to,
        and just ship the tape directly to the publisher.

        I had a one-off of my X11R5/GNU disc made and I was glad I did
        because several things were screwed up.  I corrected all the
        problems, and then I sent the tape to the publisher without having
        a second one-off made.

        I had my one-off made by `On-Site CD' (408) 867-0514.  They are
        a small company, just two guys working out of a spare bedroom.
        But they are very quick.  I drove down to Saratoga and dropped
        off my tapes.  They FedExed me the one-off two days later.  There
        were some problems with the one-off, mostly my fault, but some
        of them were their fault.  But they had just started doing business
        a few weeks earlier and I was one of their first customers.  I am
        sure they have ironed out the problems.

        JVC is coming out with a relatively cheap ($12500) one-off
        system that should reduce the cost of having a one-off made.
        I will have one of these units for testing by March or April,
        so if you want a one-off, or very low volume cd-rom production,
        let me know and I might be able to help you out.

Misc. problems:

        There is a lot of buggy software in this world.  Even if your own
        software is reliable, the software used by the people that make
        your discs may not be.  Most software handles the common cases
        properly but often does not handle unusual cases well.  All of
        these things caused me problems:

        Filename that start with a dot (e.g. `.foo').  They get left
        behind if someone does a `mv *.*'.

        Zero length files.  Some mastering programs will not create them.

        Read only files on a tar tape.  At least one tar program out there
        will `creat' the file using read-only mode, and then try to open it
        for writing.  The write fails, and you end up with an empty file.
        Make sure your files are mode 666 (or 777 if they are executables).
        The mastering software will make all your files mode 555 when it puts
        them onto the CD, regardless of what their original mode was.

        Empty directories.  Some mastering programs do not create the
        directory until they put the first file into it.  So empty
        directories never get created.

        All of these problems are pretty easily eliminated.  Files
        that start with a dot, zero length files and empty directories
        are usually just cruft that should be eliminated anyway.

Disc Label:

        The publisher will send you the precise dimensions for the disc
        label.  You will need to create a film positive, emulsion side up.
        You can use 2 colors in addition to the silver background.  If you
        use more than two colors you will have to pay extra.  Make sure
        your artwork doesn't bleed off the disc.

        I don't know anything about this art stuff, so I hired a local
        graphics artist to do it all for me.  I just gave her a rough
        sketch of what it should look like.  She charged me $125, and
        did an excellent job.  She even drew a pretty good picture of
        a gnu.


        The publishers provide several different packaging options.
        The cheapest is to get no packaging.  You just get a box of
        discs.  For an extra 35 cents you can get each disc placed
        in a jewelbox, which is the same plastic case that audio cd's
        are kept in.  You can then have the jewelbox either shrinkwrapped,
        put in a blister pack, or put in a long cardboard box like most
        audio cd's are sold in.  I had my discs put in jewelboxes, but
        did not have any further packaging done.

        If you want to put inserts into the jewelbox, you need to provide
        them to the publisher.  They will send you the specifications
        and dimensions, and then you need to work with a local printer
        to make them.  You send them with your order, and the publisher
        will insert them into the jewelbox for a small cost.  I did not
        use an insert with my discs.


        Here is how I figure my expenses for my first disc:


                 $20.00  Gasoline (to deliver the tape)
                $300.00  One off production
                 $30.00  Overnight Fedex
                $350.00 total for one-off


               $500.00   partial mastering
               $700.00   mastering
                $875.00  pressing (500 x $1.75/disc)
                $174.00  shipping for 500 discs 2nd day UPS
               $2149.00  total for mastering

                $125.00  Art work for disc label
                $120.00  8mm tapes (backups, shipping files)

         $350.00  one-off
        $2149.00  mastering
         $245.00  misc
        $2744.00  total

        This total does not count the cost of equipment because I can
        use it again, and it does not include the cost of my time
        (probably about 100 hours or so).

        The mastering had to be done twice because I screwed up the
        directory names.  The $700 was a special ``first-timer''
        introductory price.  These first-timer discounts are pretty
        standard, and many publishers offer them.  For regular customers,
        the cost is about $1400 for a standard five day turnaround.  Cheaper
        rates are available if you are willing to accept longer turn around

        The discs were shipped to me in five boxes of 100 discs each.
        I was in a hurry to get them, so I had them shipped 2nd day air.
        In hindsight, I could have saved some money by shipping only
        one box by second day air, and the other four by regular ground
        delivery.  That way I could have had the first 100 to test
        out, and meet the first orders, and then received the other
        400 a week or two later.

        The total cost was only about half as much as I had expected to
        spend.  I had about $5000 that I saved up for a down payment on a
        new pickup truck.  I figured I could get by with my old clunker for
        a little while longer, but my girlfriend was really pissed off when
        I told her I was spending the money to make a cd-rom.  I was happy
        that it turned out to cost less.

        Here is how I figure my expenses for my second disc:

                $16.00   8mm tapes
               $125.00   Artwork for disc label
                $18.00   UPS next day
               $750.00   Mastering + 50 discs + shipping
               $909.00  total for first 50 discs

                $125.00  Remount fee
                $750.00  pressing (500 x $1.50/disc)
                 $40.00  (est) UPS Ground
                $915.00  for additional 500 discs

       Total:   $1826.00 for 550 discs
        The first disc took me about two months from start to finish.
        Here is a rough schedule of how long each phase took:

        week 1  -- collect information
        week 2  -- organize filesystem, munge filenames, create index files,
                   lots of testing, compiling, etc.
        week 5  -- One-off made
        week 6  -- fix problems, more testing
        week 7  -- sent the first tape to the publisher
        week 8  -- fixed directory names, sent the second tape to the publisher
        week 9  -- discs are done

        My second disc went a lot smoother.  Partly this was because I
        knew what I was doing, but mainly it was because I pretty much
        just slapped the archive onto the disc `as is'.  There was
        very little processing that had to be done.  I started right
        after Christmas break, and I was done before the end of January.

        week 1  -- Download archive
        week 2  -- Edit index files, lots of testing
        week 3  -- Sent the tape to the publisher
        week 4  -- discs are done


Making a CD is not difficult.  If you have been thinking about it, I
recommend that you go for it.  I am currently producing several more.

If you have any questions about making a CD, feel free to contact me.
If you need any help in putting your CD together, I will be glad to
help.  I have several large discs and tape drives, and I hope to have
a one-off unit soon.


If you are interested in CD's, I still have X11R5/GNU CD's available.
The price for one disc is $40.  Additional discs are $20 each.

   All the GNU source code
   All the X11R5 sources, including all contributed software
   All the comp.sources.x archives
   Sparc binaries and libraries for the Gnu programs, and the
      X11R5 server and clients.

I also have cdroms containing the Simtel20 MSDOS Archive.  It has about
420 Megabytes of utilities, programminmg tools, source code, technical
documentation, etc.  If you want to see exactly what is on the disc, just
look at the MSDOS directory at wsmr-simtel20.army.mil or look in the
mirrors/msdos directory at the mirror sites wuarchive.wustl.edu or
oak.oakland.edu.  The price for one disk is $25.  Additional disks are
$12.50 each.

Shipping and handling is $5 U.S/Canada, and $10 for overseas.  S&H cost
is per order, not per disc.  If you live in California, you need to add
8.25% sales tax.

Here are some other discs I am planning to make:

   1.  Misc. source code disc.
   2.  Graphics software disc.
   3.  Technical documentation disc.
   4.  Desktop publishing software.
   5.  OS software disc.

The source code disc is expected to be done around 1 March 92, and will cost
$40/$20.  There is no release date yet for the other discs.

        Bob Bruce
        1547 Palos Verdes, Suite 260
        Walnut Creek, CA  94596



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