capsule review

PowerFile C200

Shiny silver discs are everywhere, and they all look alike. Whether your office is full of CD-ROMs, CD-Rs, or DVD-ROMs they can be easy to lose and hard to share. PowerFile Digital Storage Solutions has the cure in its PowerFile C200 network-attached CD carousel. The C200 stores and catalogs up to 200 discs and can share any two discs simultaneously with an unlimited number of networked users.

The hefty microwave-oven-size unit sports a translucent front panel with a single slot for loading discs. An LCD panel and a handful of buttons give you easy access to loading and unloading CDs. You connect the C200 to a host Mac (or PC for PC-only networks) via a single FireWire cable; then install the CD200's special host software and reboot to gain access to discs loaded into the carousel.

Once you fire up the C200's MediaFinder utility, you have instant access to any two discs in the carousel from the host computer. MediaFinder lets you label and index your CDs, accessing them by name from the MediaFinder's list. MediaFinder then mounts the selected disc onto your desktop, just as if the CD were local. The C200's FireWire interface makes disc access very fast.

If that were all the C200 did for its price, it would be amazingly useful. But the C200 also includes client software that lets you share discs among an unlimited number of users, using TCP/IP over Ethernet. Remote users run their own copy of MediaFinder and can access any disc in the carousel as long as a drive slot is available, or they can share an already-mounted disc with other users. Drive slots are served on a first-come, first-served basis. Networked users cannot change a disc until all users have unmounted the title.

The C200 supports a bevy of disc formats: DVD-ROM, DVD-R, CD-R, CD-RW, and a variety of CD-ROM formats. Notably missing from this crowd is DVD-RAM; the C200's drives are incapable of reading this format. You can, however, play DVD movie discs if your Mac has the necessary DVD decoder hardware.

You can daisy-chain multiple C200s together to increase the size of your disc library, essentially without limit. MediaFinder automatically collects disk indexes from multiple drives and presents them as a single directory to users.

The product has a couple of rough edges that the vendor says will be addressed in a future release. You can't protect CDs or the unit itself with passwords -- any user on the network can install the C200 software and access the unit. And you can't share the unit on a heterogeneous network between Macs and PCs; it's either one or the other.

At a Glance
  • Pros

    • Multiple unit chaining
    • DVD-ROM streaming video support
    • Dual CD/DVD drives

    Cons

    • Lacks heterogenous network capability
    • No DVD-RAM support
    • No network security
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