Those of us dismayed at the thoroughly mediocre performance of CD-ROM might do well to check out FWB's new CD-ROM Toolkit. Like FWB's Hard Disk Toolkit, CD-ROM Toolkit replaces Apple's driver software to improve performance. This driver works in the background and can improve CD-ROM performance by up to 1800%, although smaller amounts are more common.
CD-ROM Toolkit works its magic by caching information from the CD-ROM to your hard disk, specifically, to a file in your Preferences folder, which is a problem for those of us who work with a relatively small boot partition. You can trash that file when it's not in use, a feature that might be handy when you need some free space fast. You can specify the size of the file, from 1,500K to 5,000K, but you need that amount of contiguous free space, so optimizing your volume makes sense, especially since if you don't have at least 1,500K of free space, you can't use CD-ROM Toolkit. In that file, CD-ROM Toolkit caches the directory information, along with icon and alias data and a variable-sized read-ahead RAM cache (which assumes that after reading some data, the most likely data to be needed subsequently is the next bit of data on the disk).
CD-ROM Toolkit works with most CD-ROM drives, even the newer multi-speed ones, and supports Photo-CD single- and multi-session disks (the latter only on multi-session-capable drives), multi-platter devices, HyperCard audio XCMDs, Apple Multimedia specifications, ISO 9660, High Sierra, HFS, MS-DOS, ProDOS, and CD Digital Audio. It even comes with an audio CD player program to play audio CDs on any CD-ROM drive with audio jacks (if you play an audio CD on a CD-ROM drive without audio jacks, does it make a sound?).
John Baxter, who relayed his impressions of CD-ROM Toolkit for this article, said that there are a number of options in the CD-ROM Toolkit Control Panel, and that you will need to play with them to achieve optimal performance. One set of options gave far better performance with some QuickTime movies for John, whereas other movies showed worse performance than without CD-ROM Toolkit installed. John did note that the Developer CD and the new AppleScript CD clearly benefited from using the CD-ROM Toolkit. On the negative side, twice John inserted a CD and almost immediately started a Finder Find command, looking for a file that he knew was present on the CD, only to have the Finder report that the file was not present. Many folders also appeared empty, which led John to the tentative conclusion that issuing a Find command immediately after inserting the CD interrupts the directory caching in such a way that the CD-ROM Toolkit didn't go back and finish creating the cache properly. FWB didn't respond to our query about this. When I spoke with him last, John said that he had stopped using CD-ROM Toolkit due to an apparent conflict with Stacker, which he had just installed as well. Nothing definite about that, but be warned. FWB just released an updater to version 1.0.1 of CD-ROM Toolkit, and it's possible that John's difficulties were addressed in that release.
CD-ROM Toolkit is only $49 mail order, so if you use your CD drive heavily, it's worth checking out, although I'd recommend ordering from a vendor that accepts returns if possible, just in case your applications show little or no benefit.
FWB -- 415/474-8055 -- 415/775-2125 (fax)
-- Information from:
John Baxter -- firstname.lastname@example.org